Okay, so it’s time to delve into the notorious Conker’s Bad Fur Day. This was a curious swansong title for the Nintendo 64, with the console’s leading stalwart developer Rare landing this on the bemused public in 2001. First called Conker’s Quest and a cutesy 3D platformer, Rare took a different route after feedback about the banal premise. The result was this thing.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Whilst Nintendo cultivates a family-friendly image, it’s a misconception to say its games are only ever “for kids”. The Metroid and Zelda series are often pretty brutal. And Rare’s output on the N64 ranged between all-out gore, twee lunacy, and inspired madness.
The British studio was of the world’s leading games developers at the time, but no one was quite expecting this. A foul-mouthed, profane, leering, sexualised story about a squirrel called Conker who has a night on the town, gets wasted, and wakes up hungover with no memory of anything. Into a murky, volatile world he staggers to try and make some sense of it all.
Hearing such rampant swearing in any game was shocking back in 2001. For it to happen on the N64 was something else (above us the Xbox adaptation, with censorship in place – the N64 version didn’t have that).
But unlike many modern games that throw in f-bombs just for the hell of it (so edgy etc.), Rare’s stroke of genius was to play Conker’s Bad Fur Day for laughs. It’s a funny game. There aren’t many of them – LucasArt’s The Curse of Monkey Island is our pick of the best. But Rare’s cranky cog aside, the most astonishing moment surely arrives in the form of a giant operatic turd.
The Great Mighty Poo has since gone down in legend. It’s as if Rare knew the N64’s days were up and so threw out whatever depravity entered its mind for the hell of it.
But as it was so late in the day, the game wasn’t much of a success. Although it gained increasing notoriety over the years. Whilst it’s a decent title – as you’d expect from Rare at that point in time – the crass elements dominate over the gameplay. And, to some extent, that makes for an interesting change.
Now, the sad thing about Rare is 20 years ago it was arguably the world’s leading games developer. After Microsoft essentially bought the company in 2002 – with what should have been an enormous coup for its Xbox consoles – nothing has come of it. Only Sea of Thieves (2017) is noteworthy. And it’s not exactly amazing.
We read N64 Magazine whilst teenagers and the great artistic magazine cover designer Wil Overton. He actually left the magazine to join Rare for a spell, but it was after the developer’s heyday.
And now, as we’ve sadly reflected in recent times, Rare’s genius has become something else. We’re not sure if we should blame Microsoft for that decline. But it’s remarkably disappointing all the same.