Developed by id Software and released for home computers in 1996, Quake was a fast-paced first-person shooter seen as the successor to the Doom series. The game became extremely popular for its addictive gameplay and a remarkable soundtrack by Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. Thus far it has received dozens of ports on everything from the Sega Saturn to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, and all of them are for hardware that natively supports 3D graphics. Well, except for one.
The year is 2002, and Randy Linden is hard at work porting Quake to a little handheld system called the Game Boy Advance. If that name rings a bell, Linden is a veteran game developer best known for the creation of the BLEEM emulator as well as the groundbreaking SNES port of Doom—the latter of which was considered impossible by id themselves. Given his prior experience, a GBA port of Quake seemed like a logical step in his career. This unreleased prototype we present to you today was recently discovered on a 256M Flash Card in Linden’s storage, and is certainly a far cry from anything else developed for the handheld.
(For those who are unaware: Developers often used third party unlicensed flash cartridges thanks to their ease of use and low price point. This was common with several developers, most notably WayForward).
Upon booting the game, we can instantly see how impressive this demo is for the hardware, with its capabilities effectively managing to outshine just about every 3D game out there that was released for the system. Not only that, it feels exactly like a Quake game. From the guns to the environments. You can even dive underwater! The game is fully 3D rendered, rather than the ray casting method most GBA games are known for. It has 3D enemies, animations, and point lighting effects (even on pre-rendered objects like weapons, which use a clever palette-changing trick to achieve the illusion of dynamic lighting). The camera and movement work is equally as incredible; it travels very cleanly, as opposed to being jittery.
As for the soundtrack, the demo makes use of public .S3M files. The sound mixer handles stereo music plus sound effects – basically any .S3M / .MOD music. The tracker songs featured in this demo are “Aryx” and “Cream of the Earth” composed by Karsten Koch and Romeo Knight respectively.
As usual in builds this early, the build we have here contains a handful of debug features! For example, holding the R button upon bootup will bring the player straight to the second map, and holding left on the D-pad will bring you to the third. These map swapping features can also be accessed once the player is dead. Enemies will also not attack the player unless you shoot first.
One thing to note, however, is that the game doesn’t use any assets from Quake. According to Randy, he hadn’t yet reached out to id about the possibility of using their assets. A version with these assets does infact exist however, as of writing, it has not yet been found. By the time the engine was in a working state, the public interest in the GBA began to slowly fade as newer hardware was developed. However, instead of letting all of that dedicated work go to waste, he decided to repurpose his engine into his own game: Cyboid.
Initially starting out titled as “Meat”, Cyboid was created to be a small and fast paced game that you could come back to over and over again. Initially it was very similar to Quake but during its development it slowly began to become its own thing! After playing this Quake prototype, we highly recommend giving it a try! The game can be downloaded from Randy’s website here.
Make sure to download it; it’s a lot of fun! Just like with the older Quake port Randy made, this game also evidently has a lot of passion and hard work put into it. It’s a more realized vision of the game it’s based on. It has split screen multiplayer support and runs exceptionally well on Android. It’s still being updated to this day!
As for the Game Boy Advance port of Quake, it’s an absolutely incredible feat, so we are proud to preserve this amazing port of a godlike game! Massive thanks to Randy for contacting us and being so willing to preserve his work, it’s not every day that we come across something like this!
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