Games | Nintendo Entertainment System | NES MacVenture Ports

The 1984 release of the Macintosh introduced most people to a new method of interacting with the personal computer: an amazing input device called the mouse. This revolutionized PC gaming, allowing adventure games to move from a parser-based interface to a point-and-click one. The first company to create a point-and-click adventure was ICOM Simulations, who released Déjà Vu, the first in the MacVenture series of games, in 1985.

Not requiring a full keyboard to interact with the game also meant that adventure games could now be ported to home video consoles. With the NES developing into a runaway hit, Kemco (and its U.S. partner Seika) decided to bring these games to the console-loving masses. Of course, given substantial differences between personal computers and the NES, significant changes had to be made to these ports. Some were for the better, but most, probably for the worse.

The biggest difference was seen in the gameplay. These NES ports are certainly all workable, but using the control pad to move the pointer around is far more annoying than the using a more precise mouse. And the slow control method is hardly the only interface quirk in play here. The translation from Mac to NES changed various gameplay elements that made certain commands completely useless. The SPEAK command is never technically needed in any of the games, though at least Déjà Vu tries. The TAKE and LEAVE commands were added for the NES because you could no longer drag and drop items to and from your inventory -- but Déjà Vu is the only port to actually require getting rid of items that you may have picked up.

One must remember that these games (both the originals and the NES versions) were released during an awkward period of transition in the graphic adventure genre. Game designers hadn't yet realized just how few commands were actually necessary for a good adventure game. While the NES versions obviously demonstrated substantial changes from their source material, they could have done with considerably more streamlining to better fit within the limitations of the console. All the superfluous commands in the NES games only serve to get in the way as you're searching for the buttons that will ploddingly scroll through your inventory.

Despite these interface issues, all of the NES MacVenture ports retain the charm that was present in the original games. Shadowgate has become a cult classic and received many more ports beyond its NES ones -- and sequels, too. Déjà Vu still stands as a great graphic adventure today. The NES MacVenture ports served to bring point-and-click graphic adventures to the masses and their legacy deserves recognition.

Shadowgate: This swords and sorcery adventure lives on in the hearts of many, though it's hard to fathom why.

Déjà Vu: A MacVenture game that's logical and doesn't feature random deaths? It was early -- they hadn't quite worked out their formula yet.

Uninvited: This step in the evolutionary path from Déjà Vu to Shadowgate was more boring than scary.