Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Conker's Bad Fur Day

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Released on March 5, 2001, by Rareware Studios, Conker's Bad Fur Day is the development house's final work for the Nintendo 64, and the final marquee release for the system. Conker's Bad Fur Day features gameplay across a multitude of genres, as Rareware takes the once subtle potty humor of their past games, and brings it to the forefront of Conker the squirrel's quest for cash.
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The Personal Story:
After playing through Goldeneye 007 and Banjo Kazooie, I was sold on any project in which Rareware was involved. I checked IGN and Rare's own website daily, eagerly awaiting any news on upcoming games. While Rare developed and released many games, one title, Conker's Quest, seemed to be forever stuck in the process of creation. The game looked impressive, featuring changing emotion on the title character's face according to the particular situations he found himself. After years and years of development, Rareware created a new website specifically dedicated to Conker. It featured a construction sign, and a foul-mouthed old man voice, which derided the visitor for clicking on the screen. Apparently, the all-ages platformer, Conker's Quest, was dead. Conker's Bad Fur Day, a foul-mouthed game for adults, had taken its place. After gaining a reputation as a developer of cutesy kid's games (despite its greatest seller being a violent, first-person shooter), two of Rareware's final Nintedo 64 games, Conker being the latter, were M-Rated games for adults only. I scooped up the first, Perfect Dark, a first-person successor to Goldeneye, on the day it was released. By the time Conker rolled around, the Gamecube was soon to come, and I was moving into a tiny apartment and fairly broke. One day, I saw Conker on sale at Babbage's for $19.95, but I skipped on it. My Nintendo 64 soon went into storage. Unfortunately, by the time I pulled the Nintendo 64 back into daylight, Conker had become the most sought-after non-limited edition Nintendo 64 game in existence. Ebay prices were ridiculous. Though I wanted to play the game more than ever, chances looked slim. Thankfully, a generous cousin swooped in and purchased a copy for me as a Christmas present. After years of waiting and lamenting a lost chance to buy a rare and revered classic for such a low price, Conker was finally mine!

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Graphics: Conker's Bad Fur Day is one of the most beautiful Nintendo 64 games ever released. The only game that surpasses it is Banjo Tooie, which features slightly better overall texture work. Other than a blurry texture here and there, Conker's Bad Fur Day's visual presentation is flawless. Character work and detail is outstanding. Conker's animation routines are magnificent. The attention to detail is stunning. If the player sets down the controller, Conker will find ways to keep himself busy. This one aspect of the game, essentially a screensaver, features more animation routines then some Nintendo 64 games do in their entirety. Game environments are huge and feature little pop-up. Colors are vibrant, but appropriately muted during the game's later levels. Conker's greatest visual strengths, though, are its real-time lighting, and the portrayal and sheer amount of motion on screen. Take for instance, an underground boss-fight against a malfunctioning robot. Lights dangle overhead, and ropes swing back and forth from the ceiling. Everything casts an appropriate shadow, all while the boss is firing away at Conker, and Conker is running for dear life. Moments like these look more like Full Motion Videos than actual in-game Nintendo 64 graphics, a remarkable achievement. None of this is overkill. What's more, finally, at the end of the Nintendo 64's life cycle, Rare is able to produce fully 3-D graphics comparable in quality to the pre-rendered ones they created for the Donkey Kong Country series on the SNES, seven years before. Conker's Bad Fur Day is an incredible display of the graphical quality the Nintendo 64 was truly capable of, proof again that Nintendo 64 games' graphical limitations were more often the fault of developers, and not the fault of the system itself. On top of this, Conker's Bad Fur Day features only a minimal amount of slowdown, which never once negatively affects gameplay.

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Sound: Without mincing words, Conker's Bad Fur Day features the best overall aural presentation of any Nintendo 64 game in existence. Robin Beanland's well-deserved BAFTA award-winning sound work for the game is on-par with games of the modern day. Every foul-mouthed denizen of Conker's twisted fantasy realm talks, and talks often. Hearing Conker speak is a joy, and Chris Seavor's voice-acting is hilarious and excellent. Robin Beanland's score fits each area of the game perfectly, whether it is the jazzy, upbeat music of the game's earlier portions, Latin-flavored music for a bullfight, creepy music for a graveyard full of zombies, or all-out action music for the game's latter battle chapters (reminiscent of his stellar work for Jet Force Gemini). The true kicker is the high sound quality of Beanland's music. The horns for the jazzy-sections actually sound live, not midi. Whether they are or not, their realistic sound is quite a feather in Beanland's cap. The score sounds like it is running off of a CD, as opposed to its cartridge of origin (the game's early, sunnier chapters, along with the more upbeat music, is actually pretty evocative of a Sega Dreamcast game). Finally, Conker's sound effects are completely immersive. Whether it is the noise of bees buzzing, farts ripping, or bomb's exploding, Conker's sound effects put you there...considering the player doesn't actually have to smell the farts, this proposition is acceptable. Also, as will soon be mentioned, there is a full-on, musical based battle against a giant, opera-singing mound of crap. This is, without a doubt, the best opera-singing giant mound of crap of all time.

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Gameplay: Conker's Bad Fur Day is essentially the anti-platformer of its day. The player does little collecting, so to speak. Conker is divided into parts, which are then divided into chapters, an innovation from a time in its development when it was titled "Twelve Tales." Every chapter features a different style of gameplay. Conker does feature times when the titular, alcoholic squirrel has to run and jump amongst obstacles in order to acquire something. With that said, it also features racing, swimming, puzzle solving, third-person shooting, and action-packed boss battles, among other things, and many variations of the previously listed. Conker's tasks are often unique and off the wall. For instance, one particular section of the game, which will be euphemistically described as a waste treatment facility, features a confounding situation. Conker enters to find various anthropomorphic sweet corn kernels hopping around. The player must locate each kernel, then figure out what to do with them. Once the player discovers their task and completes it, a giant mound of opera-singing feces rises from the center of the enormous room. The player must then square off in a duel that involves not only hand-eye coordination, but musical timing as well. Conker's Bad Fur Day is loaded with these kinds of moments...unique situations, many of which have never before or since been duplicated. The only downside to such open-ended gameplay is...figuring out what to do. This would not be an issue, but certain sections of the game are a little touchy. An example is the game's prehistoric area, which features a boss battle against a large cave man, who fights Conker over an insult to his...manhood. The player must discover on their own that the only way to win the battle is to cause the velociraptor Conker is riding to bite the caveman in his netherregions. However, this is a difficult task, and if the velociraptor does not bite in the exact spot the game wants, nothing happens. As a result, the player can decipher the proper path of action, attempt it, not achieve the desired result, and move on to attempt something else. Unfortunately, nothing else will work. These over-sensitive play mechanics cloud the solution to several puzzles throughout the game. Another problem area are Conker's jumping sections. For some reason, the mid-air squirrel's shadow does not always quite line up correctly, or the perspective the player is given does not quite lend itself to accurate maneuvering. This can lead to a bit of frustration, particularly in the Bat Tower area, where a fall from any height often means death. Overall, though, playing through Conker is quite a joy, as the humor is ribald and lively, and the player is often eagerly awaiting whatever insane situation the developers have thought of next. The game's many film spoofs (especially the sections modeled after Saving Private Ryan and The Matrix) are particularly satisfying.

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Lasting Value: While Conker is relatively short compared to an average Rareware masterpiece, about twenty-hours of total gameplay, there is something to be said for not overstaying a welcome. Despite this, conquering Conker's quest often registers at about fifteen hours on the game's internal clock. This is because of a simple fact: the player will send Conker to his death, over and over again. Certain laser-dodging sections are difficult enough to deplete a phalanx of cat lives. Conker's Bad Fur Day is a challenging game, which also makes it a rewarding one. This in itself is worth the inflated EBay price, but the game does offer a decent multiplayer mode to sweeten the pot. The player won't be buying the game for this reason, but Conker's multiplayer is diverse, featuring many of the single player's multitude of gameplay options. A final element adding to Conker's Bad Fur Day's value is something that doesn't occur very much in this age. When this game was newly released, Youtube was half-a-decade away. If someone wanted their friend to see something funny, they would have to show them personally. Viewing the epic battle against the Great Mighty Poo online is one thing. Sitting next to a friend as the fecal mountain's frightful tenor is snuffed is much, much better. This is a game whose best parts players will want to show to anyone they know with a juvenile sense of humor, in person. Replayable chapters make this an easily done proposition. Conker's Bad Fur Day belongs in any reasonable, well-rounded discussion of the funniest video games of all time. Finally, for a game that features CD-quality graphics and sound, Conker suffers from no load times, whatsoever. This was the cartridge format's greatest asset, why Nintendo chose to use cartridge-based games for the Nintendo 64 in the first place. With a cartridge-based game, the player does not have to wait between levels, or after turning the N64 on for a game to load or boot up. Conker's Bad Fur Day is the rare game to feature the best of both worlds.

Outside a few ugly, blurry textures, some of the Nintendo 64's most beautiful visual work, along with the greatest portrayal of motion and light ever seen on the system.

Music and Sound
The best auditory experience on the N64. Full, hilarious speech and perfectly placed music and sound effects add up to a BAFTA award-winning package.

Nearly every video game genre is represented, some better and more intuitively than others, but the game never ceases to be challenging, fun, or funny to the end.

Lasting Value
A quest of decent length, coupled with a multitude of simple, yet fun multiplayer modes, plus, replayable chapters to show friends the game's most outrageous moments.  


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