Nintendo Power's (V8, 1989) lengthy feature on Fester's Quest looked rather like a guidebook compared to the one or two page article I read in our Swedish localization Nintendo Magazinet (#1, 1990). I wonder if the that was the case in general - American coverage being more guide-like.
Fester's Quest coverage by Nintendo Magazinet #1 1990 (Swedish). Tiny blurry printed screenshots and tight crops left many details up to interpretation.
At any rate, back then game magazines were fascinating and a springboard for the imagination, though of course the games never lived up to that. I remember spotting Fester's Quest in a VHS movie rental store that I frequented.
This exact copy in fact (though the cartridge appears to have use an invisibility potion here), as I later bought it when they phased out old NES stuff. I also picked up MM3. The cartridges sit in a special cradle. Rented for 35 SEK /day and eventually bought for 69, according to the tags.
I liked Zelda type overhead games and would always check out similar looking titles (like e.g. Druid). So I rented Fester's Quest. Didn't take very long to die, but then I quickly beat the game without dying. That combined with the mysterious theme of the game made the experience very strange and memorable. Much later I tried to beat the game in an emulator and could barely make headway. Maybe I had just gotten too old for games.
But, it turns out there are two versions of Fester's Quest: the earlier North American release which is much harder than the tweaked European release. In the NA version Fester's bullet are blocked by walls and do much less damage (esp. so since the enemies regenerate HP). The game might run faster too I suppose. They tried to hype up the difficulty in Ads but must've eventually realized it was a mistake.
The game references the black & white 1964 Addams Family TV series. That was over 20 years ago at the time, and an American thing. Yes, this was before the 1991 Addams Family movie (though it supposedly had a long and winding production). It's hard to say if there's any connection at all, like the game being in production helping the movie pitch.
There's no Japan release that I know of. The Addams Family was likely largely unknown over there. Here in Sweden it did air at various points. I do have very vague memories of the intro. Maybe I caught the reruns as a baby person. There likely wasn't much demographic overlap with NES-age kids. I didn't understand any of the game's references, then.
MGM uploaded the 1964 series on youtube for free viewing. Here's the "Vice Grip" in action curing Fester's headache (scene from the end of the "VIP" episode).
Even with the explanations it's weird that Fester would carry a giant book press around just to cure instances of mosquito bite drowsiness. While the Addams Family often uses various torture instruments to cure ailments I think maybe a witch potion might've been a better choice, with torture apparatuses being in houses functioning as workout machines (health boost). The invisibility potion is actually an invincibility potion. A spooky talisman which cracked after use could've worked there so the slow cure could've been a potion instead.
As for the other items, the Noose is a reference to how it summons Lurch, who presumably is the one who wipes out all on-screen enemies with his great power. The Light Bulb is a reference to Fester's exotic ability to power it (and other stuff) using his mouth. He can also recharge using AC power and ear anything (like mercury thermometers), but this mechanic was not used in the game where he instead ate hot dogs to replenish health.
Some obscure info in this interview: http://www.kidfenris.com/2014/11/interview-festers-quest.html
Maybe interesting to no one: the PAL/Swedish Fester's Quest YAPON rental box manual; a single sheet collecting all of the booklet pages. It was glued to the inside of the VHS sized cartridge box. Only 11.9cm wide (I scanned at 600ppi but that's too large to upload here). Content order and page layout matches the English manual. The screenshots are really dark... I suspect they just photocopied the pages down.
"Vice Grip" was not in my vocabulary at the time and the icon didn't make things clearer. Some sort of box? I don't think the illustrator here knew what it was either.
There is a mention of a Giant Scorpion (Jätteskorpion) but the picture shows a sort of 4-legged alien spider. There is an unused scorpion hidden in the tile table however, along with bits and pieces of discarded bosses.
VHS box cover slip-in. It is quite blurry close-up and seems blown up.
Some raw mech pencil scratchings in a iny booklet, awaiting cleanup, 300ppi. Frogs and other Blaster Master stuff? The games were both developed by Sunsoft around the same time. Fester's Quest was developed under direction of some NA people who kinda forced Sunsoft to do a licence game. There wasn't much (if any) time to polish it.
Another pass on some old sketches. I thought it would be fun if the whole family was playable Turtles-style, but it would've required an SRAM and additional work. If certain powerups are limited, there could be some replay value in choosing which character to fully power up as a main. The drop system would need some limits to it, localized drops and such, to encourage travel and character switching.
Character select screen, NES Turtles. Never before has a game been ruined so by a single level. A pity as the topdown city segments are kind of neat and enemies quite interesting. I generally like robot enemies I guess.
Fester's Quest bosses were these humanoid big aliens, almost demonic. A strange juxtaposition. I'd rename them to stuff like Commander X, Overseer Y, Lieutenant Z, to imply a power structure and alien culture.
With playable family members, other ones would have to go in the houses. There are a few fun ones, like the hair-person Itt and the carnivorous plant Cleopatra (African Strangler). I'd replace the clue cards with some sort of access crystals for a teleport pad light beam. Maybe gradually open up the city map (gates, TNT, initially dangerous enemies) so if you die, going back to the start is less of an issue. The game has just 3 maps: City, Sewers and Ship. Well, there's the barren 3D mazes too. I think that effort could've been better spent elsewhere, some other way to vary play, like a Turtles vehicle level for city presentation (and definitely not an underwater level).
Pixel test, half the size of normal. Used mostly for moving between areas but there could be a few minor enemies and on-foot segments.
Back of box featuring the mansion shot with the 1964 title overlaid. Not mentioned by The Cutting Room Floor tho... https://tcrf.net/Fester's_Quest
The box/manual uses the same font to spell out FESTER (with e.g. the F coming from Family - only the R is original I believe). It's the 1964 font (not the swirly fraktur used now) as the game came out before the revival movies.
The ingame title screen featuring the... colourful kids graffiti logo appears to have been a rush job, maybe done/directed by a separate NA team and not Sunsoft? I'm imagining a scribble sent over fax to Japan sometime in the late '80s. The EU version just says "Licensed by Nintendo" at the bottom but otherwise has the same design.
I did this sloppy quick test just to see how it'd look with box logo ingame. Didn't account for the non-square pixels. Moons and planets are often oval in raw square pixel screenshots. Notice that the moon is round in the magazine scan at the top.