Platform: Nintendo 64
Oh, C’MON. Those of you who played anything on the Nintendo 64 just HAD to know that we had this one waiting in the wings!
We haven’t really talked about any Nintendo 64 games here in Ghosts of Games Past, so we thought we would start with a bang. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was one of those games in 2001 that kids who were just getting into the Nintendo 64 either had to trick their parents into letting them play, go play it at a friend’s house, or be left out in the cold. With its “vulgar” and no-holds-barred adult humor, the depictions of alcohol and tobacco use, and really absurd stages, this one still holds a special place in my twisted little heart.
If you’ve never heard of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, or if you’ve heard of it but never played it, allow me to break this down for you. This game is the story of a red tree squirrel, Conker, who wakes up after a night of binge drinking with his friends, and has to get back to his girlfriend – a scantily-clad chipmunk named Berri (Woo! Inter-species romance!). Along the way, he gets accosted, distracted, and wades through some serious sh** (literally). What follows, was some of the goofiest, crassest, and laugh-inducing video game content that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
Aside from the humor of this title, the way the story is told really hooked me. You (probably) can’t go wrong with a videogame that opens with an homage to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, in which Conker proceeds to talk directly to the player and tell them the story of his “bad fur day”, after proclaiming himself to be “king of all the land”. The game also includes some aspects that have come back to being part of our current zeitgeist, like the Squirrel High Command (SHC) drafting Conker into a war to fight against the militant Tediz (who were created by a mad scientist to serve the Panther King), who are clearly a reference to WWII-era Nazis. In addition to that, you’ve also got fourth wall breaks where Conker talks to the “programmers” at Rare, as well as nods to other great movies like Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and even Return of the Jedi. All of this crazy storytelling really adds to the experience of Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Control-wise, this title is relatively simplistic. It is a platformer, after all. Jump, attack, etc. An interesting aspect about this one (for the time, anyway), is the fact that it uses what Rare referred to as “context-sensitive” button presses. This works by showing a light bulb icon above Conker’s head when he’s in an area where one of these button presses exists, then pressing “B” allows him to do something (usually outlandish) to get through the area or defeat enemies. Out of all of the abilities bestowed on our squirrel friend in this game, I think my favorite has to be the ability to pee on certain enemies while using “drunken power”. No really…that’s a thing in this game.
The soundtrack to Conker’s Bad Fur Day is wonderfully indicative of its time. Featuring everything from the “beepy” sounds that 64-bit kids’ games were known for, to epic boss battle music, and even some stuff that sounded like early EDM. It’s the kind of game soundtrack that I tend to go back and listen to just for fun. The songs really feel like they were properly set to match the tone for each section of the game, and wonderfully add a good “oomph” to the boss fights.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day also contains a multiplayer aspect – which makes sense, given the fact that the Nintendo 64 could support 4-player split-screen play. I didn’t really get back into the multiplayer this time around, so I’ll spare you that speech. Sufficed to say, the game has seven multiplayer modes:
Beach (which is basically a riff on the Allies storming the beach at Normandy), Heist (a clever Reservoir Dogs parody involving robbing a bank without taking damage)
Race (pretty self-explanatory)
There’s also Raptor (which revolves around dinosaur eggs and baby dinosaurs), Tank (basically just a free-for all with tanks), Deathmatch (the pre-requisite mode for most multiplayer games), and War (in which players can choose Deathmatch on a large-team scale, or Capture the Flag…but with weapons everywhere). If you’re a fan of multiplayer options, Conker’s Bad Fur Day has a bevy of them from which to choose.
If you’ve still got access to a Nintendo 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is one of those gems that you really must play. It’s funny, absurd, and absolutely genius for those of us who love poop jokes, foul-mouthed characters, and poking fun at Nazis (who’da thunk that this would become topical humor?).