The “definitive” version of the retro adventure is here for handheld gamers.
For months after its initial release on Wii U, I was told repeatedly that I would love Elliot Quest. A Zelda II style throwback with open world exploration and Metroid style dungeons, it seemed to be a game that would land squarely in my wheelhouse. Even so, I put it off, even after purchasing it on Wii U. Now that the game has been ported to 3DS by PlayEverywhere, I finally picked up my 8-bit bow and arrow and headed into the world of Elliot Quest.
Most of my time spent playing Elliot Quest was a mix of frustration and exhilaration that is perfectly paired with the classic style of adventuring plated here. On one hand, you have a game that starts you off without any sort of idea what you should be doing, or where you should be going. The enemies are overpowered, and still earn cheap victories over you even as you gain abilities and powerups. Because of the level of difficulty, every time you unlock a new tool in your arsenal it is immensely rewarding. The double-jump in particular filled me with exhilaration as I began immediately revisiting old areas and seeing where I could go.
The game is broken up into four dungeons, split across gated areas of the overworld. You will frequently run across a platforming challenge or obstacle you are not equipped to deal with.It can sometimes be frustrating to not understand (given the minimal assistance the game lends you) if you are meant to tackle this challenge now, or after you have collected some future power-up. With the way you stumble across side-scrolling explorable areas on the overworld map, it can be easy to lose track of where you have and have not been.
The story in the game wasn’t particularly gripping, but the tone of the storytelling is appealing. Unfortunately, most of it just feels open ended and you’re forced to guess what is happening for much of the duration of the game. Brief cut scenes help fill in the gaps, but mostly it felt nonsensical. Regardless, the charm of the game is felt more firmly in the overall presentation; the pixel art and animation. The visual style is an obvious throwback, feeling even more primitive than early NES games. The 3D feature makes the backgrounds pop a bit, but it’s not quite as nice of an effect as something like Shovel Knight. Still, it’s better than nothing.
The 3DS game was recently patched, which is good because I spent 15 hours playing the game with intense slowdown. For a version of Elliot Quest that’s billed as “definitive”, the slowdown in the game at launch was unforgivable. The lateness of this review is mostly due to the fact that a patch was submitted to Nintendo shortly after launch to address the slowdown, but not released until almost a full month later. Once released, the patched game runs much much more smoothly, but I did notice a few slowdown hiccups after the patch. Closing the game and reloading from your last point resolves the issue, but that’s not an acceptable workaround in my book.
All in all, the post-patch version of Elliot Quest is a fun, but imperfect game. The challenge can be overwhelming, and occasionally the save points are spaced a bit too far apart. Still, the skill development, open exploration, and side scrolling bow-and-arrow combat is worth checking out. It’s not quite up to the level of other recent retro revivals like Shovel Knight or Blaster Master Zero, but if Zelda II is up your alley, Elliot Quest is worth a shot.