The eighth generation of video games is known for many things. One of the most notable is the proliferation of ports, remakes and remasters. Companies bring games back, even if they are only a few years old, so a new audience can enjoy an improved and upgraded experience. But this is not such a rarity. Years ago, the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color had a similar situation with a specific game: Quest: Brian’s Journey. Except in this case, it was a demake that offered people a chance to take a better version of the adventure on the go.
Quest: Brian’s Journey is a take on Quest 64. Imagineer had Atelier Double develop a more portable version of the console game and release it worldwide about two years after its original release. It was in an odd situation to be in, when you think about it. The Japanese version of Quest 64 was expanded upon and made more difficult, based on feedback received when the game launched in North America and Europe, so the Game Boy Color version had to take into account the extra information and situations.
One of the biggest changes to Quest: Brian’s Journey was a greater focus on actually showing players what Brian is going through. The Nintendo 64 game was a rather barebones affair, with a surprisingly small amount of dialogue for a RPG. The Game Boy Color release goes out of its way to remedy this. As an example, the console version begins with the Grand Abbott seeing Brian off as he tries to find both his father and the missing Eletale Book. The handheld version begins with Brian fighting a monster, encountering the two people who stole the Grand Abbott’s tome before the theft, then engaging in a bit more exposition before being tasked to aid in the search.
It is quite a change, and might change players’ opinions of Brian. In the console release, he is talked to as though he is a child clamoring after his more capable father to get in on the task. In the handheld version, we are presented with someone who does seem more capable and is charged with his own responsibilities in this search. This fleshing out extends to other characters, like Shannon, making for a story that can make more sense than it did originally.
The whole “making more sense” thing does not just apply to the story. Quest: Brian’s Journey alters the UI to make things more clear. In both games, you create spells by combining elements. If you wanted to make a Homing Arrow attack, you would use fire and wind together. To kick things up and make a Compression spell, you combine two fires and one wind. On the Nintendo 64, the number of elements Brian had were represented by red, orange, blue and green colored gems, which were tied to fire, earth, water and wind respectively. The Game Boy Color release made things a bit more obvious with icons that had slightly different colors and shapes. Fire looks like a red fireball. Water is a blue drop. Wind is a green breeze. Rock is a yellow stone. It makes it easier to understand what spirits Brian has at a glance, something I found helpful when acquiring spirits.
Quest: Brian’s Journey is more intuitive in other ways. In Quest 64, you could only save when you were in an inn. The portable version keeps inns for healing purposes, but lets someone save anywhere. Enemies drop items now, something that is more helpful since the original Nintendo 64 game limited item acquisition to things you found in chests or along the way. (Brian never acquires money; even if he did, there are no shops in either version.) It is easier to find your way around, since there is a fixed overhead perspective of a 2D area, rather than winding 3D spaces with a finicky camera.
It can be easy to become overwhelmed when games keep getting ported. But every once in a while, a game like Quest: Brian’s Journey comes up. This is a demake that makes a real difference, altering significant portions of the experience to make things clearer, easier to understand and maybe even more interesting. Having the additional adaptation of Quest 64 benefits people who enjoyed the original, but maybe felt it wanting, or those who never experienced it in the first place.