For me, the Nintendo 64 era was short-lived. Sure, the hype leading up to its release was strong; and the time spent flipping through the Sears Wish Book putting together the 'Ultimate Christmas List" of games is forever ingrained in memory - but the timing was just a little off.
It was Christmas 1996 when I got the N64 along with Super Mario 64. I still have the home-video of myself, dramatically rolling on the ground as if on fire, thanking everyone my 8-year old self could think of. Just pure joy. And that joy continued for an entire year. But unwrapping the shiny new Playstation on Christmas 1997, had us relocating the N64 to the dusty closet. Sure, I went back for the heavy hitters like GoldenEye and Ocarina and Mario Party - but Rare's Perfect Dark was not on that list. So when the Cartridge Club announced that they'd be playing this as the Game of the Month for May 2017, I was all in!
Popping the first-person shooter into my N64 for the first time had me giddy with excitement. I fumbled around with the TV inputs, finally found the right audio settings, sat down on the couch and.....dammit, need the Expansion Pack. Fast forward 20 minutes and a few choice words later; I'd sifted through my drawers of '64 peripherals and found one to use.
Now where was I? As yes, I sat down on the couch and started the game. Immediately upon hearing the first voice-overs, although laughable these days, I knew I had missed something BIG from my childhood. But I was eager to drive on and experience this game to its fullest at the ripe old age of 29. And experience it I did. Just like 8-year old Round2 on a roller-coaster, when the ending credits were rolling, I was ready to start it back up and do it all over again.
So let's start with the story. It was wildly enjoyable. Playing as resident badass and fellow ginger, Joanna Dark, you work your way through 9 key missions, uncovering the dastardly secrets of dataDyne, with the help of sentient laptops, high-tech gadgets, and patriotic aliens. Soon you find yourself in the middle of an ancient war between two alien races, the Maians and the Skandinavi....err..Skedar! It kept me hooked from beginning to end.
The espionage action takes Jo from a Research Facility high atop the Lucerne Tower skyscraper, to the sniper-infested Carrington Beachfront Villa, to a future-Chicago's Chinatown district, right into the heart of Area 51 and beyond. Heck, you even fly aboard Air Force One. Each unique and detailed setting really puts you in the mindset of a Carrington Agent. Crouching to avert detection...dropping from the ceiling for that perfect killshot...jumping to avoid...oh wait, no jumping in this game. Worry not though, they make up for this lack of this basic human action, with an impressive armada of weaponry. After all, who needs to jump when you have weapons named "The Super Dragon" and "The Devastator"? And with a healthy amount of government conspiracies and plot twists, you're guaranteed to have a great time.
Perfect Dark also plays strong in the music department. A difficult production run resulted in a few composers being juggled on and off the docket, but between Grant Kirkhope, Graeme Norgate and David Clynick, there'll no doubt be tunes that hit just the spot. Just listen to the famous Menu Screen theme, which tells you exactly what type of game you can expect - like James Bond meets the X-Files. And hey, if you've exhausted the official 2-disc soundtrack, then just hop online and check out any of the millions of remixes that fans have composed over the years.
While it's often compared to it's more popular predecessor, GoldenEye 007, there's a lot to love in this action-packed game. So it's easy to see why it consistently receives high rankings amongst the community Top 100's. If you haven't yet, definitely check out the Cartridge Club episode on it; and if you have, head on over to the forums to share your thoughts! I'd love to hear them.