It’s taken me fifteen years, but I have finally finished a Nintendo 64 game.
I didn’t manage to finish a single one of the eleven games I owned for the thing when I actually owned the original hardware, which has always been a topic of personal shame, so I am rather grateful to Microsoft and Rare for getting an upscaled re-release of Perfect Dark on to Xbox Live Arcade and giving me the chance to redeem myself.
Back when I owned the cartridge version, I had come very very close indeed to finishing the game. I’d managed to get to the last level, and to the very final boss fight, and I had taken several cracks at it, and eventually I just had to admit that I wasn’t going to get it done.
The thing that finally made me admit defeat back then was that, well, in 2000 Rare hadn’t heard of checkpoints, or had heard of them but didn’t want to put them in, so failing said fight meant playing through the entire last level from start to finish every time.
This got old after a few tries.
Perfect Dark XBLA is a very faithful rendition of the original, so naturally it has all the weird design quirks of an FPS from 2000, including the fail-any-objective-play-through-the-entire-level-again quirk. You would think that it would, therefore, be just as frustrating. On the other hand, rather than playing with the godawful N64 controller, you get to use a dual-analog Xbox 360 controller, and I will tell you that it makes a WORLD of difference.
I really liked Perfect Dark – barring the end level – back when I played it on the N64. I had particularly fond memories of Elvis, your grey alien sidekick for the latter half of the game, and I was a bit worried that my fond memories might be just a BIT rose-colored and that replaying the game might rather ruin them for me.
Turns out, nope. Elvis is still pretty awesome, and the game, for all of its clunky bits, is still a blast. It’s very easy to get lost at times – even though the levels are pretty small, there aren’t a lot of cues as to where you should be going to get to any given objective and there are some levels were it can be rather confusing what constitutes a door that you can open and what is simply decorative paneling.
The final boss DID still manage to kill me.
Perfect Dark Zero, the native Xbox 360 followup, has always been my go-to example for why prequels can be a really bad idea at times. When you start the first game, Johanna is, well, she’s a pretty bad-arse secret agent and all that, but by the end of that game she’s befriended an AI and an alien, gone to another planet, and shot a lot of nasty, non-human, things.
In Perfect Dark Zero, she just kind of shoots guys. It can’t get TOO crazy or the way the character behaves in the original game wouldn’t make sense, so it all kind of comes off as rather flat.
Maybe Rare will resurrect the character at some point and actually write a proper sequel. In a world where we’re getting Shenmue III, anything’s possible.