As I dash up a spiraling staircase, I do my best to avoid the stream of bullets that are spewing forth from a machine gun that's trained on me. Not too hard. As I pass the massive, and thankfully unarmed, turret gun, I turn a corner and make my way down a hill. As I take in the war torn surroundings, I whip out my katana. After a deep breath, I spring into the air. As my trenchcoat billows in the wind, I do several somersaults and land on a slope, sliding the rest of the way to the Earth, where a squad of rifle toting enemies wait. I flip through the air, and casually behead them one by one.
Now...if I told you to guess which game I'm describing, I'm willing to bet that you wouldn't think that it's Conkers Bad Fur Day, the latest edition of platform excellence for the Nintendo 64. But the action filled description below does in fact apply to our game of discussion. Bursting at the seams with its mature elements, rich gameplay and innovative approach for console entertainment, Conker's Bad Fur Day truly should be heralded as the best N64 game to date.
Conker started out as seemingly existing among a long assembly line of well made, but cutesy platformers from Rare. But somewhere in Perfect Dark - and things were quiet for a while. Then, Rare released a video teaser that featured a blue eyed, bushy tailed squirrel joining a large group of fellow squirrels in what appeared to be a bloody battle on a beach that resembled the chaotic battle in Saving Private Ryan a bit too authentically. Limbs were blown everywhere. Pretty intense stuff for what was going to be yet another cookie-cutter cutesy platformer, eh?
Personally, I am quite pleased with Rare's tenacious spirit. Instead of developing yet another uninspiring title eminating the typical "scavenger hunt" elements, Rare delivers in a radical fashion, which by far, puts Conker's Bad Fur Day among the acclaimed finesse since the debut Goldeneye impressed the gaming community. VIVA LA CONKER!
Our story begins with our hero, Conker, drunk out of his mind. He heads home...well, tries to head home, but ends up in the middle of nowhere with a hangover that could kill lesser animals. And from there, Conker must make his way home...and maybe pick up a little cash along the way.
Of course things are rarely that simple in videogames, and as it turns out the dreaded Fairy (y'know...ephemeral, legendary, as in probably doesn't exist) Panther King has a broken table that needs a replacement leg. Of course, rather than fashion one out of wood, the Panther King's head scientist comes to the conclusion that a red squirrel would be the perfect tool to bridge the gap in the table.
It's gonna be a bad day for Conker. But a very good day for gamers.
Graphically, Conker's Bad Fur Day has the best graphics on the 64, without the aid of the expansion pack. Vivid colors, excellent environments, good character animation, it's all there. The only problem is the game's inherent low resolution, the bane of many a 64 game. But quite frankly, once you get into the game it becomes barely noticeable. The visuals never boring or repetitive, as they have in even some of the finer 64 games (Zelda comes to mind), and the best part, the best part is the beautifully consistent frame rate that barely stutters, even when the entire world seems to be going to pot as explosions rock you and machine gun fire is everywhere.
Soundwise, the game pushes the 64 in ways it's never been pushed before. Conker's Bad Fur Day has tons of voice samples; all of which is put to good use. The quality is a little dingy compared to the CD based systems, but it's easily the best voice samples to date to come out of N64. For those of you who are concerned about the characters speaking in the annoying babble that affected Banjo Kazooie, don't worry--the only characters in this game that speak in their own language are cavemen. Even then, a seasoned Star Wars is likely to compare it to being Huttese. All things aside, the music is the least notable feature to highlight. While the various themes are very nice, and compliment the game exceptionally well, it's hardly anything that will have you head-bopping and rushing out to purchase the soundtrack.
If there's anything Rare can do well, it's gameplay; and Conker's Bad Fur Day has this in abundance. One of the problems that plagued Banjo Kazooie was its redundant nature. After all, does running around, collecting 100 music notes, 5 jiggies, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree...(well there's no partridges of couse) is simply a rigid objective for fun, and thankfully, it's not present in our game of discussion. While there is still an element of "Scavenger Hunt" gameplay, it's no longer the sole element, which is a refreshing change of pace. Furthermore, Rare cranks it up several notches by including all sorts of delicious things you typically don't find in a platformer. From hoverboard racing, to riding a dinosaur, flying around as a vampire bat and zombie-killing; and these are tough zombies, mind you, not the inbred rejects who move at maybe 1/5 of a mile per hour that the Resident Evil ensemble encountered. These are crack zombies who will eat you alive if you so much give them a chance to breathe. Yes avid gamen fans, Rare definitely did an excellent job of keeping things fresh and appealing.
If that wasn't enough, the game also has dynamite multiplayer modes, that offer all of the more juicy elements from the single player game in a juicy competitive package. Honestly, some of these modes are better than whole games that try to do only one thing, and if you take into account that it's just a "fraction" of the power Conker wields...well by crackey, it sure says a lot.
Complaints? A very minute, yet significant quip - the camera; which most of the time succeeds in capturing all of the action occassionally tends to become a bother. To be more specific, during the majority of the game, you're able to control the camera and position it for optimal use much in the same fashion as Mario 64. However, for whatever reasons, this feature on occassion tends to be unavailable to the user, and thus you're forced to depend on the camera's AI...which can sometimes cause complications (and leave you a very flustered gamer). Yet I digress, I think I only died once because of this minor shortoming, so it's barely an issue to detract from the gameplay and appeal of the entire package.
While the gameplay and graphics are very solid, the most significant feature that truly makes the game distinct and rise above the lot of games on the market is its unique and (arguably) mature theme. Quite frankly, I love it. For the longest time games have held back in regards to anything other than violence, and Conker takes that bolds step to offer other genuinely "adult" material; and boy howdy is it funny. This game has the best sense of humor since Skullmonkeys, and that's saying a lot. Everything from the toilet humor, the simply delicious pop culture references are to die for; as to how "mature" it is, well...let's just say it goes places where no console game has ever gone before - and revels in it.
Overall, Conker's Bad Fur Day is an amazing experience on terms of gameplay, graphics, an immersive enviroment and loaded with humor. Each blend together in a manner that it's enough to compel you to storm England and force Rare to postpone production of its future projects for GameCube and burn the midnight oil for the sequel. Hopefully, Rare's latest addition to the N64 will be met with much success because this game clearly is a breakthrough, if at the very least, in a class by itself. At last, it would seem that someone finally realized that games aren't targeted just for kids and that titles which consist of mature themes aren't all laden with violence.
· · · Riisuke