Disney’s Beauty & the Beast
ORIGINAL SOURCE LINK
Developer: Software Creations Publisher: Sunsoft Release: 1993 Genre: Adventure
Beauty and the Beast was the Disney movie event of 1991 and one of their highest grossing animated films ever. But unlike your traditional licensed titles it took a little longer for games to capitalize on its success. Sunsoft took a two pronged approach for the Genesis: an action game starring the Beast for boys and a relaxing adventure game for girls. It is actually not a bad idea all things considered. Unfortunately neither title is satisfying with Belle’s Quest being the worst of the two. It is too bad as there are some good ideas here that could make for a better game.
Belle’s Quest roughly follows the story of the movie and expands on certain segments for gameplay purposes. These do not contradict any of the events of the film. Belle longs to see the world outside of the tiny village she lives in. But caring for her ailing father and her love of books keeps her satisfied. But a series of events is about to unravel her idyllic life and unexpectedly give her the adventure she seeks.
The controls are simple. Belle can jump, duck to avoid enemies and obstacles and has a special button. This button is context sensitive depending on the situation. Most of the time it picks up objects or interacts with the environment. There is no combat in the game although that does not mean there is no danger. Random small enemies like bats, rats, and birds can damage Belle and your only recourse is to avoid them. That being said they are a minor nuisance. The gameplay is focused on the various activities that make up the game.
Belle’s Quest does not belong to one specific genre and changes constantly. There are four levels and each focuses on a different objective. In the village the game takes on a light adventure tone as Belle must use items to solve simple puzzles and avoid Lefou and Gaston. Stage two is a maze as you try to find your way to the Beast’s castle. Once there the following level is also another maze as Belle tries to find her father. The finale is a horseback ride through the countryside fraught with danger as you make your way back home. Aside from the main quest there are a few mini-games that are diversions just for points.
It is not so much that the game is boring and bad because of its low stakes. The problem is that nearly every aspect of it has issues. The first level could have been the framework for a good console adventure game as you must find clues and trick Gaston into moving a boulder for you. But once that is over it leads to a bad platforming segment that the game can barely handle. The next two levels are mazes that offer only the vaguest hints as guidance. But even with that the repetitive labyrinth of corridors and passages becomes tedious in short order, robbing them of whatever fun impact they could have had. The final level is the least offensive with its only flaw being dodgy collision detection.
If all of these flaws did not exist Belle’s Quest could have been a decent if inoffensive title. Instead it is a frustrating mess that is harder than it should be for its intended audience. Even with that in mind the game is over far too fast to warrant a recommendation. A few more levels would have done wonders for its entertainment value. As it is the game feels like a collection of mini-games that belong in a larger title.
For as much as I slag the game for its gameplay faults you cannot say that Sunsoft were slacking the visuals. Just like its sibling title Belle’s Quest is a beautiful game full of great art. By virtue of the fact that you start out in the village there are more diverse and colorful settings throughout. But that does not mean it is not afraid to go dark. The interior of the Beast’s castle looks just as great as in Roar of the Beast. There are often multiple layers of parallax scrolling as well as foreground objects that help set the mood. The only part of the package that is lacking is the music and sound effects which are quiet. Overall however the developers have put in a near first class effort. I just wish it were accompanied by a better game.
I can respect what Sunsoft were attempting with their two Beauty and the Beast games. But it does not change the fact that they feel like one game split in two and they both suffer for it. Belle’s Quest could have been a decent adventure for the younger set. Instead it is a lackluster game in search of an identity. There is nothing here that warrants your attention.