64 Bit Memory Lane: Conker’s Bad Fur Day
When I think of some of my fondest gaming moments as a child it still feels a little odd to think that some of them were explicitly created to exclude audiences such as I. Violence, sex, and worst of all, swearing, were those unknown elements that only existed in the world of grown ups, so why would a naive, twinkly eyed child possibly want anything containing any of those things? Wasn’t I happy enough playing games made for my age group? Wasn’t Digimon World enough?
All these questions and more would fly back and forth in my home as my parents shook their heads at those gosh darn video games rated anything higher than a 15. And yet, as previously stated, it was those bundles of unadulterated entertainment that still make the child in me squeal with glee. You know, until I tell it to shut up and drown it with rum.
I’m sure I’m not alone with this sentiment. Well, maybe the dark approach to my own innocence, but still, I’d bet a thick wad of talking green bills that every modern gamer holds at least one completely age inappropriate game close to their heart. I’d also wager that that reference struck a chord with many people reading this, as like you, I vividly remember my burning love for Rare’s raunchy, foul mouthed masterpiece; Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
At a Glance
To put things lightly, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was somewhat of a surprise to the gaming world upon its release. After all, the red squirrel’s first introduction was in the phenomenal Diddy Kong Racing, where he was simply one of several anthropomorphic animals that somehow had access to, and the ability to pilot, a variety of vehicles. Conker blended in with Diddy’s friends quite well, from the docile turtle to the excitable tiger, (whom’s names are buried somewhere deep in my childhood memories, I’m sure) as they engaged in friendly races and explored the world looking for balloons. Yeah, it’s as U rated as it sounds, and although it was indeed a brilliant game my point still stands that Conker would have fit in well with the likes of Pikachu and Mickey Mouse.
Or at least, that’s how it seemed. You would have had to have the mind of an Arkham patient with the gambling problem of a North Vegas washout to have put money on that cute, unassuming squirrel one day having his own game; let alone what kind of game it would have been. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was the mature, unapologetic adult version of platformers like Super Mario 64, leading people like myself to fathom how those talented bastards, or nowadays simply ‘bastards’, at Rare convinced the PG powers that be to bankroll it.
The game was ripe with adult pop culture references, unnecessary gore, drug and alcohol abuse, and crass humour, but not just that groan worthy American-esque scatological style of cheap jokes. No, it was the kind that only we British can cook up. So let us begin discussing this fantastic abomination of 90’s gaming, where we see that adorable red squirrel behave less like the Disney mascot he first appeared to be and more like the kind of guy who’d get utterly hammered and pick a fight with a Disneyland employee in a Goofy suit.
One of the best things about Conker’s Bad Fur Day is the simplicity of the story, as well as how very relatable it is. We first see the ginger go getter perched upon a gargantuan throne, a crown resting on his head and a glass of milk in his hand. If that’s not relatable, I don’t know what is. The shot pans out from his irritated scowl to reveal an eclectic ensemble of odd characters, all of which surely conjures a myriad questions; who are these creatures? Why are they here? What’s with the A Clockwork Orange reference? While we may have these questions, Conker certainly doesn’t, as he tells the camera that he fucking hates the court that stands before him, before launching into a recollection of the events that led him to his current situation.
It begins, just as every great epic throughout history has, in a pub. Our furry protagonist is getting completely slaughtered because, well, why not? Whilst in an utterly intoxicated state he calls his girlfriend, blathers on about being drunk, and continues to drink the night away until it becomes clear that he has to get home, judging solely by the fact that he can’t see clearly. He staggers into the darkness in the pouring rain, wanting nothing more than to get home safely.
Well, that doesn’t work out as he wakes up, with a hangover that could kill a fraternity house no less, in the middle of a random field. As I said, relatable. Almost arbitrarily, the antagonist is shortly revealed to us, the audience, while throughout most of the game Conker has little to no idea he has such an enemy lurking in the shadows. The original owner of the throne, a gigantic panther king, orders a lowly peon to serve him some milk only to find, to his enraged dismay, that his side table is missing a leg. To solve this issue he demands that his top scientist, a comically cliche evil genius, figure out a way to keep the table propped up, to which the solution comes clear; a red squirrel. Because of it’s height, it can perfectly prop up a small, wooden table, and so the hunt begins.
From this point on it’s Conker vs The World as he attempts to get back home, encountering everything from horny bees to nazi bears along the way. And then there’s the infamous titanic singing turd…And no, I swear I don’t have a fixation on shit.
Ahem, moving on from yet another sentient piece of shit, let’s look at the gameplay of this marvelous monstrosity. It’s essentially like playing as a drunken Tails in a Banjo Kazooie world, where all the magical and memorable creatures have gone on a cigarette break, as much like that aforementioned Rare game the mechanics are more or less the same. Run around, jump, float slightly with Conker’s aptly named ‘Tail spiny..thingy’ ability and collect things to advance throughout the world. Although unlike Banjo Kazooie it’s not golden jigsaw pieces you’re collecting, nor is it floating musical notes or coins, it’s not even those enchanting little Jingos, it’s something far more fundamental that everyone playing can get behind hunting down; cold hard cash.
Yes, your tickets throughout this vivid and colourful world, complete with cartoonesque music and innocent looking creatures, are compressed wads of smart talking money. They’re obtainable through several means, be they simply hidden around the world or found as a reward for tasks such as, say, robbing a bank. What’s most satisfying about them though is that when you find them they’ll run, or jump, or whatever, away from you, and how do you subdue them? By smacking them with Conker’s frying pan, which serves as a primary form of attack, and cramming them into his pocket, causing single bills to burst from your pockets when you run off, like an opulent ticket tape parade. Virtually every time you ‘spend’ them as well, for reasons such as bribing a doorman, they liberate themselves from their new owners and come hopping back to Conker, making them essentially the same as keys.
Money acts as means for getting from one location to the next, which varies wildly thanks to the writer’s free reign over the story. Although the references, and thus reasons for the locations, may be somewhat outdated, like The Matrix parodies, the overall areas are pure genius. One chapter will see Conker storming the beaches after being drafted into the military, resulting in a WWII style shooting section, while another will land him in a pre-historic world where he can ride around on, and subsequently control, a goddamn raptor. It’s not just these stark contrasts in scenery that changes throughout the game either, it’s also the tone and the genre that often gets warped. I still remember playing the game as a kid and being terrified by the horror level, where you’re thrown into a zombie infected, vampire plagued old castle that, although still rich in humour, genuinely chilled my blood.
It’s this maddening scope of variety that really brings the game to life, never allowing the audience to grow bored or deem it as predictable. No more is this apparent than with the bosses, which go considerably further than your standard “Oh, you know how to attack, right? Well, just keep doing that” encounter with a slightly bigger enemy. Nor do they particularly demand that you know the game and it’s mechanics inside out, providing the perfect balance between creative, engaging and difficult battles. Allow me to present two examples which display this diversity; the Little Girl and the Great Mighty Poo.
Alright, alright, disclaimer first of all, I mention this because unfortunately it seems that after being buffeted by the sands of time people still seem to remember the latter boss, and it was fun so yeah, talking about shit again. For those not so familiar with this moment in the zeitgiest, the Great Mighty Poo is, as the name so subtly suggests, a titanic pile of faecal matter, yet what isn’t so clear from the name is that he’s an opera singer as well. This means that the boss fight is also a musical, where not only is Conker subjected to hunks of crap flung at him but some baritone based music about how he’s going to be buried in shit. This fight is endured and won by utilising one of the most endearing concepts of the game; the ‘Context Sensitive Pads’, which when the action button is pressed causes Conker to retrieve an oversized item from his pocket that’s required in his current situation, and in this fight that’s a roll of giant toilet paper. So defeating this boss requires evasion, timing, aim and, more than anything, patience, while for the Little Girl fight it’s considerably different. Essentially, for reasons I won’t even attempt to explain, the Little Girl is a hand puppet for ‘The Experiment’, a massive freak of nature equipped with lasers, heat seeking missiles and those creepy steel spider legs that that doll’s head thing in Toy Story had. Remember that thing? That was messed up…And why couldn’t those hybrid, stitched together toys talk? Why were they okay with being a mash up of garbage? Why did they still wake up in the morning?…But yeah, anyway, that’s kind of what this boss is like. However, unlike the aforementioned boss fight, you’re in a friggin’ tank for this one, which you’ve got to pilot, for both the artillery and the movement, and you’ve got to systematically destroy the onslaught of weaponry, shoot off the fucked up little girl off the monster’s hand and then blow his back to pieces while he’s looking away.
See? Like night and day, Conker’s Bad Fur Day never sticks to one theme for long, and that process is also reflected in the fantastic multiplayer mode, which is naturally fucking amazing thanks to it being made by the old Rare team. Covering almost everything seen in the single player, you and up to three others, along with bots, can engage in a death match, a bank heist, races and even a game of cat and mouse, albeit with cavemen and dinosaurs.
Those Finishing Touches
I could talk about this game all day, from the hilarious characters like Gregg the Grim Reaper, a stunted personification of Death who brandishes a megaphone and repeatedly mutters about hating cats, to the intelligent use of humour, such as the myriad times that Conker or anyone else will break the fourth wall, everything in this game is friggin’ excellent.
It’s even been re-released a couple of times, first on the Xbox as Conker Live and Reloaded and then as part of Rare’s dying breath on the Xbox One known as Rare Replay, so it’s still possible to enjoy this gem. And if I weren’t so adamantly a PS4 gamer then that’s exactly what I’d be doing right now.
By Tom Simpkins