Happy Daze : N64 GoldenEye 007

The much-hyped release of Spectre, the latest James Bond offering from the actor-director dream team of Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes, has received rave reviews from most quarters. But one Bond think piece, in particular, stood out – The International Business Times’ article “What Spectre and the whole Bond franchise can learn from N64 classic GoldenEye 007.”

GoldenEye the film was released in 1995, the game followed two years later. For an entire generation, it remains one of the formative experiences of their youths – hours spent huddled away from natural sunlight hunting assorted foes around Soviet bunkers. The game was revolutionary for many reasons – its immersive gameplay, its cinematic feel and its terrific multiplayer mode (a late addition by the developers) which in those pre-wifi days meant having your pals in the room with you, everyone hypnotised by their quarter of the split-screen.

GoldenEye 007 – to give it its proper title – was developed by a young team of programmers at Rare, a games company based in the Leicestershire town of Twycross (previously only synonymous with its underwhelming zoo). Eight of the ten developers who worked on it had never produced a game before, but this may actually have been an advantage – one of the teams David Doak said there was a “joyful naivete” about the process.

For teenagers who had never seen anything like it before, the graphics and gory killings were all part of the allure but Nintendo executives were less convinced. They wrote to Rare suggesting that maybe at the end of the game, Bond could be seen shaking hands with his erstwhile enemies in a hospital. Rare, mercifully, ignored the suggestion and GoldenEye would go on to amass huge commercial and critical success.

Which brings us back to that International Business Times article. Its author Edward Smith – who found the newest Bond outing dull and affected – sums up why, for an entire generation, the N64 game came to define what Bond could and should be.

“GoldenEye 64 is never still, never bland, never pretentious – it has an energy and enthusiasm that, since Quantum of Solace and probably before, has been absent from the films.”