Conker's Bad Fur Day

Developer: Rareware
Publisher: Rareware / THQ (PAL)
Released: March 5 2001
Regions: NA, PAL
Genre: Platformer
Multiplayer: 1 - 4 Players
Cart Size: 64MB / 512Mb
Saving: On-Cart
Rumble Pak? Yes
Expansion Pak? No
- Required? No
What an oh so pettable tail!... Why is this rated M?

If there was one word that could sum up the thoughts of the entire hardcore gaming fanbase on the subject of N64, that word would be "kiddie". Despite all the first person shooters and fighting games, the N64 for a long time has been best known for housing supposed piles and heaps of games designed to appeal to children. Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, the two Elmo games and a selection of kart racers are often the only games ever spoken of in the same breath as "Nintendo 64". However, in 2001, the venerable stalwart of the N64, Rareware, would release a game to remind everyone that the system was more than capable of game intended strictly for adults. That game, was Conker's Bad Fur Day.

While today Conker's Bad Fur Day is reasonably well known around the internet and even among non-N64 fans, it's not a bad idea to give a little re-cap on the game's history. As the story goes, Rareware announced a sequel to Conker's Pocket Tales for the N64, initially titled as Conker's Quest for the N64, during E3 1997. Publications and fans felt the game wasn't as good and original as the simultaneously previewed Banjo-Kazooie, even though Conker wasn't as finished. Even as Conker's Quest furthered in development, retitled as Twelve Tales: Conker 64 sometime in 1998, reception wasn't good. People felt the Conker was too much of the same old kinds of games from Nintendo and Rareware had yet to be and had already been released. Rareware started to become quiet about the game's development at this point. Over the course of 1998 and 1999, Conker was delayed a few times and fans speculated whether it had been canceled. In October of 1999, Rareware updated it's online FAQ concerning the title by saying, "No, it hasn't. It's still being worked on by a full team and with the same level of dedication as when it was first announced." In early 2000, Rareware announced an updated name for the wayward Conker sequel, Conker's Bad Fur Day, which was still scheduled for a release. Rareware had spent all those delays turning the once cutesy Banjo-Kazooie clone into a very controversial game. It had poo jokes, foul mouthed characters, plenty of pop culture references, a decidedly different take on Conker who now had a penchant for cash and booze, along with an M rating from ESRB to top it all off. The game was eventually released in March of 2001, right in the twilight of the N64's retail life.

Although Conker's Bad Fur Day deviates greatly from the appropriate-for-all-ages content of it's earlier incarnation, it doesn't seem to differ too much in how the game itself plays. The story mode of Conker's Bad Fur Day is driven by a narrative instead of the collect-a-thon drive of it's alter-ego, Banjo-Kazooie. Different sections of the game are separated into chapters, along with further divided segments acting as checkpoints. During the game however, you never know what chapter or segment you're currently in, this information is in it's own part of the main menu, which is updated alongside whichever of the three save files is the most completed. Instead of collecting stars, jiggies, bananas, music notes, jinjos and everything but the kitchen sink, you simply collect cold hard wads of cash. In fact, that's the only collectible item in Conker's story mode. The entire game is driven by situational objectives and the rather off-the-wall writing. Along the way are plenty of memorable characters, very clever jokes, quite a few cheeky video game parodies, including pokes at Rareware's own titles and some instances of gore and poo, but not much more can be said without totally spoiling the experience.

In a rather stark contrast to the Rareware platforming games which preceded Conker, such as Banjo Tooie and Donkey Kong 64, there are hardly any moves assigned with a dedicated button combination in Bad Fur Day. Instead of pressing the Z and C Buttons in a variety of ways to activate a move, it has all has been condensed into just the B-Button, which is context sensitive, as explained at the start of the game. Basically, depending on what you're doing or where you are during the course of the game, you will have to press the B-Button to perform a specific function, which usually triggers a cutscene. Explaining further or in more detail would probably ruin the story, so there isn't much else to say. Bad Fur Day even includes brief instructions for when you obtain a new skill that is more complicated than pressing B. There is one thing that should be mentioned here though. To do a high jump, you have to hold the Z button down, then press the A button. This is never mentioned during the game and makes certain parts quite a bit easier to deal with.

The multiplayer mode of Bad Fur Day, often considered to be the game's other half, really does need a separate explanation. In the cellar of the pub (which is the main menu) are 7 different mutliplayer games. There's some okay stuff like Beach, Heist and Raptor, along with less memorable modes like Tank and Race. However, alongside the more straightforward War mode, is Deathmatch. A rather simple mix of a few different maps, plenty of weapons, A.I. controlled opponents and up to four human players is really spiced up with the cheeky sense of humor and the particularly morbid enjoyment of blowing the heads off cute and furry characters. All of the multiplayer modes are based off the single player adventure, so some of the silliness and jokes might be lost on newcomers.

Quite easily, and without much of a sweat, one of the most impressive aspects of Conker's Bad Fur Day is in it's graphics. There is no fog at all and many areas have an impressively long draw distance. The textures are all quite detailed and some are even pre-rendered ala-Donkey Kong Country, which really gives Conker an edge in graphical quality over other N64 games. Dynamic lighting and shadowing effects have been implemented, such as Conker's shadow when near a source of light. Conker himself even features a real time facial expression system which changes where appropriate. Being a story driven game, it features a lot of cutscenes, which are all animated using the game's engine which show off the game's technical achievements more. Many of these effects were an uncommon sight on the N64, especially all at once. Even on competing systems, such effects weren't really commonplace either. Further adding to the sheer impressive-ness Bad Fur Day shows off is it's complete lack of support for the Expansion Pak. Even on a stock N64 with the jumper pak, the game still runs circles around most Expansion Pak-enhanced titles. Sometimes the amazing graphics are just a little too much for the N64 to handle though, there's instances of noticeable slowdown in places, such as the part of the main menu/pub intro outside of the establishment.

The other most impressive part of Bad Fur Day, was in it's sound. Unlike previous Rareware games which had text dialog laced with incomprehensible sounds, Conker instead featured full voice acting. Yes, quite a few other N64 games had voice too. In fact Perfect Dark, released a year earlier, had a rather impressive amount. Conker however, bar none features the most audible speech in any released N64 game. The amount of dialog is somewhere between Banjo-Kazooie and Ocarina of Time, which is still a lot of voice clips! The music and sound effects deserve a hearty mention too. Both of which are very high quality and fit the tone and direction of the game like a glove, both in it's light-hearted and silly nature, along with it's dark and sinister side. Even just by listening to the music and watching the cutscenes, it's easy to tell that Rareware's brand of quality shines brightly in Bad Fur Day. The sound effects in particular play a role larger than in most other N64 games, considering the single player mode is stringed together with many cartoony cutscenes. Both the audio and video of Bad Fur Day equally contribute to the massive size of the game's cartridge data, which weighs in at a whopping 512 Megabits, or 64 Megabytes for those more familiar with Windows or Mac data measurements. Few other released N64 games used a cartridge of that magnitude. In fact, the only other N64 game released in the US that big is Resident Evil 2, a very impressive port of the PSX version.

In keeping with the neutral and fair tone of 64, some problems with Bad Fur Day will be thumbed over. The story mode may be witty and have some impressive sound and graphical design, there really isn't much substance to the gameplay itself. The most the player ever does is perform fetch quests, shoot at things, fight simplistic bosses and sometimes deal with rather monotonous sections where it's easy to die or takes far too long to complete (like the escape from the castle in the Spooky chapter). The game is reasonably generous with lives though and you never have to start over at the beginning, so at the most Conker will only test your nerves. There's also the issue of the game's censorship, which is surprisingly inconsistent for a Nintendo game. Sometimes the S-word is censored, other times it isn't. The F-word is for the most part completely censored, but "twat" isn't at all.

That about sums up Conker's Bad Fur Day, without delving into sensationalism or spoilers. Is it offensive? Sort of, but it sometimes feels like a gimmick and much of it is in fact very childish. Is it impressive? Yes! The graphics and sound are utterly incredible. Every N64 fan should play it to see what the system was truly capable of. Is it not without it's flaws? Yes, the story mode can drone on a bit during the less interesting gameplay sections, but outside of that there isn't much else to complain about. Bad Fur Day sets out to do what it paints itself as and it meets that goal rather well, a game with lots of twisted humor and charm along with a heap of movie references and game parodies. Will it appeal to everyone? Of course not. That's a very silly notion. But most importantly, is Conker's Bad Fur Day fun? Yes, I think so at least. A lot of other people think so too, which is why the game has such a strong cult following. It has witty jokes, fantastic graphics and sound, a wickedly fun selection of multiplayer modes and a charm that probably won't ever be seen in a video game again.

Presentation: 9.5
The production values of the story mode and the overall game are exceptional. The game is very charming and has "labor of love" written all over it, which isn't much of a surprise coming from Rareware.

Graphics: 9.5
Without a doubt one of the N64's best looking games, featuring high quality textures, long draw distances and no fog, dynamic lighting and shadowing and even individually rendered fingers for some of the characters.

Sound: 9.5
Bad Fur Day is filled to the brim with voice acting and a lot of it! The music and sound effects are excellent as well and very befitting of the game's style.

Gameplay: 8.0
The story mode is a bit lean on the gameplay quality, sometimes consisting of boring fetch quests, monotonous bosses and easy deaths. The multiplayer mode is fantastic though. There's sometimes bouts of slowdown but usually the framerate is consistent.

Lasting Appeal: 8.5
The jokes make the single player mode a memorable experience the first time around, but the lacking gameplay makes it more of a one-time thing unfortunately. The multiplayer mode however more than makes up for it.

Overall: 9.0

Written by Aaron Wilcott
June 12 2012