Conker's Bad Fur Day Hands-On
We had a chance to sit down with the game and found that Conker is easily one of the most shocking and humorous games to ever appear on a console.
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At a raunchy press event held in a broken down English pub on the wrong side of town in Las Vegas, Nintendo showed off an almost final version of what could be Rare's last N64 game, Conker's Bad Fur Day. Starring a foul-mouthed and cranky English squirrel named Conker, the 3D platformer tells the story of one horrible day that begins after a long night of binge drinking. We had a chance to sit down with the game and found that Conker is easily one of the most shocking and humorous games to ever appear on a console.
Conker is a crude but friendly squirrel with an English accent who opens the game as king of some unknown land. In a voice-over, he explains that it was only yesterday that he came to be king, and apparently it was a terrible day--what he usually calls a bad fur day. From there, a series of flashbacks shows Conker brushing off a night with his attractive but ditsy squirrel lady-friend to spend some quality time tossing back brews with his mates at his favorite pub. Conker drinks a few too many, and he stumbles out of the pub in a drunken haze. He stops to vomit on the shoes of an evil looking turtle, then meanders home. In the process, he ends up taking a wrong turn, and he eventually finds himself hungover, tired, and far from his home. It's here where the game begins, as Conker must make his way through various levels and solve plenty of problems in an attempt to collect as much cash as he can before he finally makes his way to bed.
Mixed in with the cutscenes featuring Conker are flashback cutscenes featuring a panther king, who is sitting on the same throne that Conker recently claimed. The panther king appears to command an army of cartoon weasels. A cutscene shows two weasels bringing the king a glass of milk, then it shows the glass falling from a table with one broken leg and spilling. The king becomes upset and orders his scientist to solve the problem of the broken table leg. Though these scenes were definitely amusing, it wasn't clear exactly how they tied in with the story of Conker, and Nintendo wouldn't reveal further details about the game's plot.
Conker runs on chocolate. His life bar is composed of six chocolate squares that make up an entire bar. When Conker gets hurt, he'll lose chocolate. When his chocolate is all gone, Conker dies. Once dead, you're treated to a funny sequence showing Conker conversing with a pint-sized grim reaper who has a squeaky, girlish voice. The reaper explains to Conker that squirrels have as many lives as they think they can get away with, and offers Conker a deal: Conker can rise from the grave in exchange for a squirrel tail, which are hidden throughout the game. Once you've completed the deal, you're zapped back to the start of your particular scenario, and you have to redo any steps you may have completed before your untimely demise. Enemies will usually only take one of Conker's chocolate squares, but some enemies, especially boss characters, can take more. Conker can usually find chocolate floating about in the corners of the levels or relatively close to a boss character.
Nintendo claims that Conker is an entirely different beast than past Rare 3D platformers. Instead of spending your time collecting items like in the Banjo series, Conker presents you with a series of problems that have a definite solution. The solution often takes some creative thinking, and it usually requires some savvy moves, but each problem has a defined start and finish and rewards you for solving it. The reward is usually cold, hard cash. Conker is indeed a greedy squirrel, but the money also allows him to purchase special items and moves from other characters. The game has large pads that are context sensitive--if you press the B button when Conker is standing on a pad, he'll perform whatever action is appropriate in that scenario. Some pads will allow Conker to pull out special weapons or items, and some will allow Conker to perform special actions. In one scenario, Conker stands on a pad and pulls out some Alka-Seltzer to cure his hangover, while in another scenario, Conker stands on a pad and pulls out a slingshot to take out some bully dung beetles.
Conker moves about in an extremely similar fashion to the main characters in other Rare 3D platformers. The camera looks down at Conker from behind and slightly above him, and it can be rotated manually using the C buttons on the controller. The game has a fairly tight control scheme, and it expresses a good sense of momentum and motion when Conker moves about. Conker runs and jumps, and he can even use his tail to glide in the air by doing what he calls a "funny helicopter thingy." Additionally, Conker can crouch and crawl around, which is useful for sneaking up on enemies or passing through small areas. Conker also attacks things with his frying pan, and he can whale on opponents with his trusty nonstick skillet. Conker can also pick things up and carry them around, and he often has to knock something out with his frying pan before he can take it where he wants. He'll have to be quick about carrying items to their destinations, though, because if the item wakes up and decides it doesn't like where he's taking it, it will struggle free.
The graphics in Conker's Bad Fur Day are arguably some of the best graphics seen on the N64. The characters themselves are extremely well drawn and animate in a very realistic manner. The textures that make up the characters and the backgrounds of Conker's world are very clean and colorful. Lighting effects and shadows also add to the realism of the game. Almost every object in the game is animate, and each character interacts with Conker in an extremely funny way. Conker's world is bright and detailed, and it exists without a trace of fog or pop-up. The game's cutscenes are rendered using the in-game engine, and they feature a great range of facial expressions. Visually, Conker is at the top of its class.
The sound in Conker is top-notch. All of the text in the game is spoken by a cast of dynamic voice actors. Each of the characters has a unique voice that really brings out the personality of that character. Additionally, the lines are witty and well written, and Conker himself is a blast to listen to. The game features some very addictive music, and it has dramatic overtures that cut in and out of the soundtrack at crucial points in the game. The sound effects are right on the money, with plenty of convincing audio bytes to really sell the whole package.
The game's obvious selling point is its offbeat and often raunchy humor. Conker often finds himself in humorous situations, most of which involve some sort of toilet humor. In one level, Conker travels to Poo Land, where he must bring kernels of sweet corn to a mysterious figure sunk in a large puddle of muddy brown liquid. Once Conker is done fetching the sweet corn, the figure emerges from the puddle as a large fecal log, complete with sweet corn teeth. The poop monster then introduces himself through a musical number, complete with scrolling lyrics and a bouncing smiley face to help players sing along. The monster has some funny but vile lines, telling Conker that he's going to "ram [Conker's] head up [his] butt," calling Conker a "little sh*t," and even asking the squirrel to kiss his "chocolate starfish." This is only a small example of the truly adult tones found throughout Conker's Bad Fur Day. The characters are extremely foulmouthed, and they toss around all sorts of words and expressions you wouldn't hear on network television. Additionally, the game touches on several adult themes. Drunken characters express the desire to commit adultery, a few of the characters attempt to commit suicide, and some of the characters will die extremely gruesome deaths. Nintendo claims that Conker isn't completely about toilet humor and will have some funny bits for everyone. However, it's painfully obvious that the focus of Conker's Bad Fur Day is to be as obscene as possible under the guise of cute cartoon characters. This is demonstrated not only through the single-player game, but also in the multiplayer game. One of the multiplayer games features an arena with a restroom. All combat in the restroom area is done through urination--your character will put away his weapon and whip out his piece, using his exaggerated stream of pee to harm enemies. These sorts of themes are found throughout the game.
The other bit of humor found in the game is the immense number of tributes and references to popular culture and film. The game is filled with stolen movie lines, and it even features some levels completely built around spoofing a popular film. In one instance, Conker has to fight a gigantic haystack, and after harming the haystack a few times, the stack catches on fire and reveals a robotic skeleton beneath the burnt hay. The game then pays tribute to The Terminator, complete with a spoof scene shown through the perspective of the robot haystack that shows him locking on to Conker, then scrolling through a list of possible taunts, only to settle on "Screw you, a**hole." Later, the robot will say, "Suzi, nine millimeter" in reference to the female rocket he's about to fire at you. Another level is completely based on the lobby scene in The Matrix. An introductory cutscene will show a black-leather-clad Conker walking into a lobby, putting a bag on the conveyor belt of an X-ray scanner, and passing through a security gate. He then pulls out a pair of machine guns and starts blasting away at the weasel guards. This sequence is an almost exact camera angle for camera angle duplicate of the scene in the Matrix. Actually playing the level is fairly true to the spoofed scene itself. Conker will have to hide behind the pillars, then activate the game's version of bullet time--the slowed-down effect featured in the Matrix. In bullet time, Conker is extremely fast and agile, and he can launch himself across the room in a flying somersault while unloading his guns at the guards. In bullet time, the guards react extremely slow, and the bullets fired from their guns travel slowly across the screen, creating a mimicked version of the rippling air effect seen in The Matrix. The game even goes so far as to spoof the scene where Neo dodges a barrage of bullets by leaning back on his legs in an extremely unrealistic pose. These and other movie references, including a spoof of the name-assigning scene from Reservoir Dogs, a cinematic opening that spoofs the original trailer for Scarface, and the use of a famous quote from Full Metal Jacket, make Conker's Bad Fur Day a treat for any movie buff.
The game has several multiplayer modes, and it introduces some brand-new multiplayer games. In addition to your standard deathmatch and capture the flag games, Conker's Bad Fur Day also features a new game called beach and a new game called heist. Beach simulates an attack on a fortified beach, where one side fires sniper rifles, a heavy machine gun, and a bazooka at the other, and the other side simply runs for their lives. Heist has four weasels all scrambling to get one bag of money and then escort the money to the drop-off point. Heist is made more interesting by the introduction of weapons--the weasel with the money cannot hold a weapon, but the three other weasels can wield bazookas, rifles, and other fun toys.
Conker's Bad Fur Day is definitely an interesting title. Easily the most technically sound of any of Rare's games on the N64, Conker is a treat to see and hear. Still, its incredibly obscene and lewd humor make Conker's Bad Fur Day something of a shock, especially considering that it's a first-party game that's highly endorsed by Nintendo itself. Mature gamers who aren't easily offended will definitely want to keep an eye on the game, but the strong adult themes and often excessive jokes, combined with the general difficulty of the game, make Conker's Bad Fur Day a poor choice for kids.