Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts

 


 

 

GoldenEye

 

The name is Bond. James Bond.

There's only a handful of games that I would be willing to admit I would actually play "in character" with. Well, truth is there's few games that really immerse you in such a way where you truly feel like some fictional character in the first place, but even fewer where I would talk to the screen and belt out one-liners in my best Sean Connery voice. 

The first, and really only one, I can admit I was transported in such a fashion was a James Bond game, but it didn't have Sean Connery as Bond. We got the Bond known for being an awesome Bond but with a slew of sub-par Bond movies. Not that it mattered. It was a first person shooter, which means you didn't see Mr. Bond all that much in the first place. You just saw a fancy watch, a gun, and the trail of dead bodies in your wake.

 

 

And some well-manicured hands! Now Die!

  

It's kind of hard to believe just how successful the Nintendo 64 was. Considering it had only a handful of games when it launched in 1996, was far more expensive to buy the hardware and software than the CD-based Sony Playstation or even Sega Saturn, had numerous write-ups in magazines going over how third-party developers were jumping ship or, at least, not really behind it entirely due to high manufacturing costs and limited memory capacity for cartridges and really didn't have any must-have exclusives save for Nintendo's own titles, it probably should have been dead before it arrived.

But this was Nintendo. That name still carried weight.

Plus, in this era, kids and teens were obsessed with graphics, and those 64 bits of polygonal splendor were gorgeous. 64 was a big number and everything. 64 bits of what, exactly, nobody really ever knew. It was just a marketing tool...but it worked.

But truth be told, for a good year, there wasn't anything spectacular on the system. You had Mario, sure. It was great. But it felt as though the N64 was running behind, which is why I'm actually glad I didn't buy mine until much later. Almost a year, actually. By this time there were more to choose from, but none more infamous than the game that, to this day, is considered one of the best all-around packages, balanced in both single-player and making full-use of the N64's multiplayer capabilities, game to be made.

Goldeneye came on to the scene in a fury. This game from a then completely unknown developer, Rareware, just took the world by storm. Hell, in my mind it helped salvage the N64 for a little while longer so it could build up its library and Nintendo could release their own games (notably Zelda: The Ocarina of Time) and Rare could get more done with the system themselves. If it weren't for Nintendo and Rare, the N64 would have amounted to nothing. If it weren't for Goldeneye, I probably wouldn't have bought one myself.

Well, at least until Ocarina of Time came out. But I'll leave that for another time.

 

 

 Bar...set....too...high...

 

I was pretty content with little Playstation as others went out to buy an N64. In fact, I remember standing at the counter of a local video game store literally trying to make up my mind. In the end, though, my love of Role Playing Games and Squaresoft won out over my love of Nintendo, only because I was desperately in love with the hype building in 1996 for Final Fantasy VII. I didn't regret it, though, deep down, I still wanted to save some princesses as a moustachioed plumber. 

A year passed, the N64 sat pretty quiet for the most part, and I ended up working at that very same video store I debated at the counter of a year prior. It was late 1997 and everyone was talking about one thing: Goldeneye. 

Oh, it got the jump on Final Fantasy VII's hype, and quick. Final Fantasy VII wasn't going to be out for a month or so, Goldeneye was here and now...and we sold a ton of consoles as a result of that one game. Far more than Mario ever did. I should know. I was one of them.

The fact I got it at cost probably helped a bit too.

So I bought the N64, yet I didn't buy Goldeneye just yet. Sure, I started to notice the popularity building and just pulled the trigger, but it wasn't time for Goldeneye just yet. No...I wanted Mario. Mario was the man. Plus...those graphics. Let's face it, most bought an N64 more the graphics than anything. Nintendo brand name aside, there wasn't anything else that looked as good on the market.

 

Amazing grafix! 

 

Eventually I did buy Goldeneye. Much later. You know, like a month or so. I think that's what it was.

Well, this is where the title "Not/Quite Remembering" is all the more relevant. Truth is, I can't quite recall when, I just know I did as my second game after Mario 64 and I played it far more than the game staring Nintendo's long-running mascot. I know a lot of people did.

My experience with First Person Shooters were fairly limited. I think most console-exclusive videogamers of that era probably were in the same boat. FPS games were  primarily found on the PC. You collected guns and ammo, shot aliens (usually they were aliens, or strippers in the case of a few games) and fought bosses. Goldeneye didn't do that. It had mission objectives, focused on stealth and sneaking, gave you secondary objectives and didn't really have your typical Hitler-head-on-Mecha-body bossfights.

I think what really set Goldeneye separate from the pack, though, and made is so incredibly memorable as a result, was how it set itself up in this fashion and the natural memories that developed from the experience of being "Bond." It structured itself less on run-and-gun/kill-everything style that was popular at the time and used the idea of it being based on a film as a way to make it more unique. It lined out a plot, specific objectives and movie-moments and from those we ended up with something that played out in a manner of being memorable (probably more than it was polished). For example:

 

There was a time when blurry = awesome.



If you recognize the above screenshot, then you've not only played the game, but you probably remember the satisfaction of actually feeling like James Bond. Moments like this were spread out throughout the game. There was variety in locations and mission objectives. Sometimes you run and gun, sometimes you snipe and then walk into a place, other times its setting bombs or driving a massive tank. Goldeneye is a game where you remember the big moments mixed with the smaller ones. Though, I admit, everything in between is a bit of a blur...as blurry as an N64 textured wall.

 


I would throw escort mission into the variety mix, but let's keep it all good memories, okay? In fact, this pretty much explains the massive frustration and tumor of said frustration.

 

Of course, Goldeneye is best known for its multiplayer modes on top of its amazing single-player. The thing is, I never really got to experience that. Welcome to the world of most gamers of this era: we were loners. I would be lucky enough to play a two-player deathmatch once in a while, much much later when I was in college, actually, and this game was still getting massive amounts of play, but as far as getting the amazing four-player screen with four controllers and four friends all punching and climbing over each other to get an advantage and sneaking peeks of the other players' screens to cheat...only in my dreams.

That mulitplayer mode really was a catalyst of mulitplayer gaming at home. There were a plenty of two player games in the past, some even had more players allowed using multaps and the like, but Goldeneye was just the right game at the right time. The N64 found its new market: shared gaming. That would impact Nintendo for the next console, and the ones after that as "group gaming" seemed to become a focus for them - sometimes better sometimes worse.

Goldeneye has not aged well, however. It was something so new and fresh that, in our nostalgic eyes, we see it as the same. Going back now, the frame rate was pretty awful, character models even worse, gameplay far more simplistic and easier than I think most of us remember and controls way more clunky than we want to admit. But it made us feel like Bond. James Bond.

 


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