King’s Quest V

aKings Quest V USA 208x294 188x266 Kings Quest V NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Novotrade
Publisher: Konami

Released: June 1992
US Cartridge ID: NES-8Q-USA

Players: 1
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 4 megabit
Mapper: MMC3 (256k PRG, 256k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Originally developed and released in 1990 by Sierra On-line for the PC, Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! marked a turning point in computer game development. As the follow-up to the groundbreaking King’s Quest IV: TheKings Quest V USA 004 256x224 Kings Quest V NES Nintendo Review Screenshot Perils of Rosella  (published in 1988 as the first commercial PC game to support the Adlib soundcard), King’s Quest V benefitted from a massive million dollar budget (which was unheard of at the time), hand-painted VGA graphics produced under the direction of Emmy award winner Bill Davis, digital sound, a fully mouse-driven interface, and a fully voice-acted CD edition release in 1992 (following the 3.5″ and 5.25″ disk releases from 1990), all helping to establish its place as the best selling PC game of its time.

As an ambitious port of Sierra On-line’s landmark 1990 game King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!, the NES rendition of this PC classic admirably keeps the story and game play of the original largely intact. While King Graham is out on a walk in the forest, the evil wizard Mordack appears and spirits away Castle Daventry and its royal family in a magical whirlwind. When King Graham returns and sees what has happened, a talking owl, Cedric fills him in and suggests that his friend, the wizard Crispin, might be able to help. Trusting Cedric, the odd pairing sets off together for the land of Serenia.

King’s Quest V plays like most graphic adventure games from the early 1990’s. King Kings Quest V USA 077 256x224 Kings Quest V NES Nintendo Review Screenshot
Graham explores his surrounding environment through an icon-based system (adapted from the PC’s original mouse-driven control scheme) to look at, pick up, speak to, and use inventory items on different objects and people that he comes across. The majority of the game play is comprised of object-based puzzles, requiring an item from one place to be used in another for a result that furthers the story (for example, Graham can stop a cat from killing a mouse by hurling an old boot at it, which in turn ensures that the mouse will save Graham later on when he is tied up in a basement). Saving options have mercifully been included, and are indeed necessary given the sheer number of unexpected deaths and dead-ends that the player will encounter. The game can be saved to memory temporarily, preventing the need to write down lengthy passwords during play. Passwords do need to be recorded at the end of a playing session, however, as the temporary save disappears the instant the NES deck is turned off.

Kings Quest V USA 151 256x224 Kings Quest V NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotWhile the story is largely the same as the PC version (save for a few censored scenes due in large part to Nintendo’s heavy-handed approach to keeping games inoffensive), the game has been severely compromised in the attempt to make it playable on the 8-bit NES. The control scheme that replaces the mouse and icon interface is functional, but far more awkward and unwieldy than it should be, with horrible delays between the press of a button and the display of the corresponding action in some scenes, and the game’s tendency to completely ignore the player’s button presses at random while in the menus.

The graphics are absolutely hideous, replacing once gorgeous 256-color VGA backdrops with garish splashes of primary colors and ugly graphic tile sets. The downgrade in graphics also serves to make the game harder, since necessary quest objects are often small and easily obscured by the heavily dithered background graphics. As expected, the speech of Kings Quest V USA 659 256x224 Kings Quest V NES Nintendo Review Screenshotthe CD version is missing, and though the music obviously had to be downgraded, the arrangements and sound quality on the NES’ port are nothing short of cringe worthy.

The original King’s Quest V is a fantastic game, and the NES version, mangled as it is, still manages to retain the heart and spirit of the original. The fact remains, however, that there is no reason to play this when such superior versions exist.

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Konami, 6/1992