The N64. Back in its day, the system gave rise to the first real 3D platformer, Super Mario 64. An actual three-dimensional space for your character to interact with that wasn’t plagued by broken gameplay or indistinguishable graphics. Today, we take games such as this for granted, but things were different back then. The thrill of being able to play a nice-looking, fun and entertaining game on a 3D scale was a brand-new experience, and it opened up a world of possibilities within gamers’ hearts. Enter Rare’s tongue-in-cheek classic, Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Released in 2001, near the end of the console’s lifespan, Conker was a bright and colorful, charmingly animated game. The game is a 3D platformer, but that is where the similarities between it and the countless games like it that have since been made end. Conker, the titular anti-hero, was a lewd, rude and somewhat selfish squirrel. The traditional definition and sensibilities of a hero don’t apply to him. He’s not out to save the world; he’s not trying to rid society of an evil menace. He’s trying to beat a hangover and keep from becoming the evil Panther King’s new table-leg. Seriously.
The game is basically a flashback; Conker is King, and he proceeds to tell the story of how be came to be in that situation. “It all started yesterday…” Twenty-four hours earlier, Conker’d been drinking a might too heavily at the pub, and was then too smashed to even walk straight. The player’s first objective, thus, is to cure Conker’s hangover by finding some Alka-Seltzer for him, just to be able to play the game! This opening sets the stage for the irreverent and hilarious insanity that follows. Rest assured: you’ve never played a game like Conker before!
The cast of characters of Conker’s BFD is seriously unparalleled; this is evident right from the start, when Conker, drunk out of his gourd, meets the equally inebriated alcoholic scarecrow, Birdie. From the horny-toad bum King Bee, to the fire imps who shove things up their rear, to the well-endowed sunflower who uses…parts of her anatomy…to bounce you to a high ledge, to the boiler with the brass bollocks that you have to smash using your frying pan, to the killer Tediz who break character to enjoy an intellectually stimulating conversation – the parade of inventive characters doesn’t stop. This is easily a contender for the most memorable cast of characters in any videogame, hands down!
The rest of the game is pretty much par for the course. Conker’s Bad Fur Day is to platform games what The Naked Gun movies were to police dramas, or what Hot Shots was to action/war movies: the game is like a big sack stuffed full of sexual innuendo, adolescent toilet humor and violence. A large number of genres and popular culture of the time is also lampooned throughout the course of its story in various ways.
The opening level is set in a kind of cartoon forest, populated by suitably cute and innocuous creatures. But even here the game adds its unique flavor, as the boss for the area is an epic yellow-toothed mountain of poo, who belches out sing-along versions of opera songs. The Great Mighty Poo (that’s his name, I’m not making this up!) will regale you with hearty arias sang in a tremulous tenor throughout the encounter, while you dodge dung balls he flings at you.
Later levels have you re-live the storming of Normandy Beach from Saving Private Ryan, save hapless villagers from the fangs of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and don a trench-coat and your hater blockers to stage a slow-motion, machine-gun-spewing, running-along-the-walls Matrix-style bank heist.
A sequel for Conker’s Bad Fur Day was not only planned, but was actually in the works after the original game debuted. But after Microsoft’s purchase of Rare, the planned sequel was officially cancelled in 2008, to the outraged cries of legions of cult-like followers of this great game. Online petitions to get the sequel back on track have so far not produced any success, but it’s obvious that the game enjoys a large post-mortem fan-base, and maybe Microsoft will see fit to grace us with the previously slated continuation of Conker’s misdeeds in the not too-distant future.