Wednesday, June 26, 2024

GoldenEye N64 - A Retrospective

I love going to boot sales and flea markets, you never know what you are going to find. My hopes are always on video games (other than sports and The Sims games, they seems to be the only thing I find) and nostalgic stuff from the 90's. I was over the moon when I found a handful of Mighty Max stuff once. Or the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Board Game.

A while back I went to a boot sale and actually found some interesting video games. Wetrix and GoldenEye for the N64. Wetrix I had only heard of (and trying it out it didn't seem particularly interesting) but GoldenEye... we go way back. I already own a copy, that I got as a kid and played to bits with my friends. I only own the cartridge though, and this copy was complete with box, manual, inlays and all. Of course I had to have it. As I was deciding to buy it, the seller - a man about my own age - came up to me and started chatting. It was obvious he was very reluctant to let go of the games, but I tried to ensure him they were going to a loving home.

As I came home I wanted to see if they worked. I have often thought back on all the fun I used to have with this game back in the day. We had all kinds of unofficial playing modes, like "Terminator" where one of us played with +10 health and everyone else was -10. With proximity mines or grenades there could be so much clutter effects you'd get serious slow downs. But thinking back I was still unsure how much it would hold up today. I had actually avoided revisiting it so that my memories of the game wouldn't be spoiled by the reality that it just wasn't very good anymore.

I thought maybe the graphics, the controls, the gameplay overall just weren't up to what I'd enjoy now, or maybe especially what my kids would enjoy coming to it without the rose-tinted goggles. I've revisited other loves of my youth and come out disappointed (the Narnia-series is an example).

But now I had to test my new copy, there was no reason to avoid it any longer. I sat down with my 10 yo and gave it a go. And we had so much fun.

Everything was just like I remembered it. If I had thought my modern self would have trouble with playing a shooter on the console I was dead wrong. The controls are just great. Sure aiming isn't perfect, but in multiplayer that just adds to the fun. The levels are well designed, the music is awesome. The weapons are fun and allow for fights that are more on the serious side or completely bonkers "let's blow ourselves and everything else up too"-type. My kid absolutely loved it. He never wanted to stop playing it. He hasn't wanted to play anything else with me since we tried it - this game has trumped Minecraft, Lego Jurassic World, Mario Kart 8, you name it.

My first console, but not my last.

This game hasn't even aged, it is just as good as it was when it was released and if you're sitting on a copy I really recommend you break it out with some friends. I still consider this one of the very best multiplayer experiences out there.

But I have a confession to make - I have never once played the single player mode of GoldenEye. I vaguely recall trying the first stage, but never even made it through that. With the multiplayer being as fun as it is, and considering how many hours I put into that part of the game I was a bit confused as to why I never got further into the main campaign. It's James Bond after all, one of my favorite franchises.

Revisiting the game made me want to give it another, or more honestly a first, real go. So I started up the first stage, The Dam, put it on easy and ran out to do some spying. Or so I thought. The controls are completely different from multiplayer and I struggled to move anywhere. Whereas you use the joystick to move and the L/R-button to target in multiplayer, in single player you use the joystick to target and the yellow buttons/D-pad to move. My brain could not wrap itself around this control scheme and I constantly aimed into the sky while I got shot in the face. 

No wonder I gave up so early. The control scheme is so bad I had completely scrubbed the experience from my brain. I just can't understand why they would go with two completely different ways of controlling you character, and then use the weird one for the main campaign. In a way I am glad they did though because I am sure we would've never spent all those hours playing multiplayer if it had used that way of controlling the characters. Playing old games, or PC ports of console games, I have had to get used to a lot of odd control schemes and I usually don't mind (having to use IJKL on Moonlighter recently was a new experience).

But this one wasn't just odd, it went contrary to endless hours of hardwiring in my brain and I realized I wouldn't be able to break through that muscle memory any time soon. I guess I am going to have to watch a Let's Play of the campaign instead.

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