The passion of the collector is both pure and corruptive in nature. While it is admirable and, at times, downright amazing, to see the lengths people will go to complete vast sets of trinkets, baubles, comics, cards, and the like, it can sometimes lead the obsessive down a path of total sacrifice to fulfill every single omission on their wall. Thankfully, Nintendo Quest is far more American Pickers light-hearted and much less Hoarders morose.
This video game collection documentary follows Jay Bartlett on his journey to obtain every North American video game for the iconic Nintendo Entertainment System. An exhaustive list of 678 titles in just 30 days (why 30 you ask? So did I.), using only shops and private sellers – no internet/eBay purchases allowed. Rob McCallum, director and fellow video game enthusiast, as well as a small filming crew, help Jay reach his goal and share in reinforcing why the NES is such an important system in the every-growing gaming industry.
It’s this truly old school approach to the quest itself that makes this film entertaining, and we begin to realize there’s much more to this narrative than just a guy buying a loads of cartridges. Bartlett is a seemingly genuine person who is extremely passionate about games, but most importantly, he’s one of us. I think as passionate gamers, we can all see a part of ourselves in Jay, and by the end it’s hard not to cheer him along; but this isn’t a blithesome road trip funded by producers just to see a shelf filled. Some of Jay’s inner demons become as much a part of this journey as anything else, as we learn more of his formative years through friends and family.
The quest itself is presented in a clear and simple on-screen graphic akin to HUDs so often used, somewhat ironically, in today’s modern games, detailing how many games have been purchased, how many days of the challenge have elapsed, as well as how much of Jay’s budget is left. This is shown as an energy bar, as the financial aspects of such an endeavor are never really detailed, which does seem like a glaring omission considering the value of some of these games. Everything is filmed in a down to Earth manner, as we see the crew interact with shop owners and even other rival collectors that are looking to complete their own NES collections.
To my disappointment, there isn’t a lot of talk about the actual titles themselves, even the rarer ones. The film is paced quite well, however, edited in a way that doesn’t concentrate too much on the footage of shelf rummaging, cutting away to other topics to keep the documentary flowing at a good speed. At 94 minutes, the documentary doesn’t waste time trying to be something grander than what they set out to show, and remains quite on-point.
It doesn’t break news or uncover some long-standing corruption, but Nintendo Quest is, quite simply, just as advertised; a quest of two friends showing their love for all things retro and Nintendo, only with some decent camera footage and editing. If anything, it proves yet again that there are some very cool gamers out there that I wouldn’t mind running into at the local swapmeet – or even gaming store.