I just played the first level of Quest for Camelot, the latest addition to the Nintendo Switch Online's Game Boy Color library, and I'm in pain. This addition was so substantial that Nintendo deemed it worthy of being the only English language NSO game in that batch (other titles: Kirby’s Star Stacker, Joy Mech Fight, Downtown Nekketsu March Super-Awesome Field Day!).
This is not meant to serve as a "recommendation" article. And, although it isn't clear that this site still produces that content format, I could conceivably do the most punk rock thing imaginable and do one anyway. But, if I do engage in such an act of teen rebellion it will not be part of this article.
This is meant to serve as a manifesto. This is the kind of article, crudely hewn using an IBM Selectric, where a person driven mad by modern society makes philosophical proclamations dripping with sophistry and delusions of grandeur. I, unlike those people, am fully in possession of my faculties, and I am the most clear-eyed in the darkness of modern society. Quest for Camelot is a fraud, and by failing to denounce it you help perpetuate it.
Quest for Camelot, no definitive article, is a movie tie-in from the late 1990s. On a handheld. From Titus. There is nothing here to insinuate that this game was going to have redeeming qualities in abundance, but this is a late Middle Ages depiction of famine as a skeletal rider on horseback in game form.
There's no shortage of Zelda clones on the market and this sure is one of them. Possibly the worst of them, which is an accomplishment assuredly worthy of some kind of title belt. Let's examine some of the problems!
The art is poor, even by Game Boy Color standards. The sprites have massive craniums, usually a tactic to make a low-pixel sprite have enough detail to be recognizable. However, in this case our hero looks more like a Mr. Potato Head. The shape of a human head isn't even recognizable. Enemies fair marginally better, except the bosses. They're hilariously worse.
And the dog, oh my word, the dog. There is a dog you have to lead back to his owner, in order to get a shield. You cannot progress any further in the game until you get a shield because Merlin wont let you go into the room where your mother is being held until you do. Depending on the angle, this "dog" looks like either a pig, a gargoyle, or a person in fetish attire. But never a dog. It looks so far from a dog that I'm not convinced the artist had ever seen a dog. It reminds me of early Renaissance nature guides where some Genoese artist drew a giraffe based only on third-hand descriptions from North African merchants.
As an aside, Merlin - the powerful wizard - is standing right outside the door where your mother is held hostage and vaguely encouraging a teenage girl to go and fight the enemy instead. Gandalf the Gray looks on this and thinks it lazy. He should know; he's got at least four more hours before those goblins eat Thorin and co.
What's a map anyway? Or a stage? Or a door? Who can say? I spent a full 30 minutes lost inside a castle because I couldn't figure out where the exit was. It's true that the level layout was confounding but the bigger issue was the door looked exactly like other surfaces on the wall that weren't doors. Better yet, an "opened" crate was covering part of the door's non-door sprite.
The dungeon layout is amateurish, showing less care and logic than a randomly generated Mystery Dungeon stage. Halls twist and turn in on themselves ending in dead-end rooms that serve no purpose but to hide one of the game's many mandatory-kill enemies. Yes, this game is brave enough to replace Zelda-mainstay kill rooms with kill stages. Wander a labyrinth killing every single enemy in it so a door "locked with a ghostly power" will open. Does it tell you to kill all the enemies in the stage? Does it even tell you those enemies are ghosts? Of course not. Does it tell you how many there are? Kind of, after you get the map which is actually the prize behind the door.
And by map, I mean compass. Because the compass is the map. And its an item. Just like the Game Boy Zelda titles, you have two action buttons to work with, and if you desire to see the map you need to pause the game and put compass into one of those slots, un-pause, and then use it. It's baffling they stole Zelda's inventory system but not its map. Oh, and saving is also an item. You have to equip the power to save.
Saving Is An Item
My God. This is parody. There's no way someone could play Link's Awakening and determine that the map and saving should be items. Imagine a speedrun category where its Compass/Save only. Except then we wouldn't get to experience all the kill stages. What a world.
It's okay, I'm not mad. I have the dulcet tones of the music to calm my frazzled state of mind. By now this is an obvious lie, so let's just say the music sounds like it was composed entirely on two instruments: a Casio drum machine and an ice cream truck. If that seems like it would be unpleasant, you're right. Don't worry, it only runs in an eight second loop, so that probably classifies this game as some kind of MKUltra experiment.
Let's talk fonts. Did you ever see a non-recommendation non-review manifesto proclaim that a video game's font is so poor that the non-recommender had to use emulator rewind to simply read the in-game hints? Video games from past eras were accused of having inscrutable hints, Quest for Camelot explores unintelligible hints. What does this text say? Why is it scrolling? Why is there so much on a single page. Is that an N, D, or V? Have you ever contemplated a character could look like that particular trio of letters? How is that even possible? Thoth is displeased, and rightly so.
So, if this were a recommendation, this is where I'd let out an exasperated sigh and declare "Not Recommended." However, it isn't. It's a manifesto.
So Nintendo, what in the fresh hell is Quest for Camelot doing on this service? 25 years ago Nintendo of America opted to publish this feted imitation of your own products because Titus either couldn't or wouldn't. I wont demand answers for that clearly flawed decision, but why would you remind us of your own bad decision-making? It's frightful from the bootup screen, and the situation degrades from there. Did someone find this in a filing cabinet and get it up on the service without playing it?
Quest for Camelot is subtraction by addition. It's inclusion in the service just goes to show how little the product is being maintained. Nobody cares when other digital services add garbage, because they are consistently adding new and interesting content to deep backlogs. Here, Nintendo exalted Quest for Camelot as the rare Game Boy release on the service. They proclaimed "Look at this product that you have paid for." I have thought more about how much is missing from the Game Boy selection of NSO after Quest for Camelot than before it.
If you have to give us a Zelda-like for GBC, why not your own port of Crystalis? I know it is functionally inferior to the NES original, what with enemies shooting at you from off screen and other downgrades, but it's better than Quest for Camelot. And I get that the superior NES version is already on the NSO service, but there's already about eleven versions of some Kirby games on the service.
I never contemplated adding a game would actually make the service worse, and yet it has. Thankfully Nintendo never published any other Titus developed games, or we'd be looking down the barrel of Blues Brothers 2000 for the N64 or God forbid Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.