Is Conker's Bad Fur Day actually good?
Love it or hate it, Conker's Bad Fur Day has achieved an even higher cult status than other Rare games. I'm here to figure out why, and I'll be doing it in *puts on monocle* proper English.
When people are talking about this N64 classic, the first thing that comes to their minds is the game's fresh take on humour in videogames.
Characters swear, get drunk, beat the 4th wall into a puddle and the poo jokes and sexual what-ever-comes-after-innuendoes are all over the place. Now, some people, including myself, have absolutely no problem with that, but I could see why it might turn some people off.
Aside from excretions and insertions, pop culture is also very frequently referenced. Clockwork Orange, Saving Private Ryan and Matrix are just three of the many parodies and references you'll find. These range from one liners all the way to one to one reimaginings of iconic film scenes.
Whether you enjoy these or consider them to be 'lazy' is for you to decide.
Ultimately, I cannot call Conker's Bad Fur Day objectively funny, because nothing is. It is intended to be funny and in my opinion, it does a pretty great job. But again, if that's not your type of humour, you're beyond help anyways.
So, Conker's Bad Fur Day is only good if you like it? That doesn't get us anywhere, now does it?
There's already plenty of things to love (or hate) about Conker's Bad Fur Day and I haven't even talked about the whole game-aspect of the game yet. Which is weird, considering that that's what we're here for.
What makes Conker's Bad Fur Day special is its variety: At first it looks like just another N64 3D platformer, a solid one, but nothing special. Just give it some time and before you know it you'll be riding a latently homosexual pitchfork into battle against a Terminator-haystack, getting into hoverboard death races with a cave men gang and shotgunning your way through some of my favourite Zombies in gaming history.
Zombies can be shot to pieces, but will not stop trying to attack you until their heads are popped.
"It's the only thing that kills them. Shot through the head. Nothing more, nothing less."
Conker's Bad Fur Day is not your typical platformer. It looks like one, it plays like one, but it so much more than that. The whole platforming part is like walking from one attraction to the next in an amusement park. The real fun is in all the chapter specific features(like riding a raptor or flying around as a literal vampire bat), many of which are designed and polished well enough to base entire games around them.
There's one thing that really annoys me, though: Conker's weapon of choice for the majority of the game is a frying pan which serves only one purpose: Stunning enemies and animate googly eyed objects(keys, cheese, cogs, etc.). Literally my only complaint about the gameplay is that you have to hit a few too many of these a.g.e.o.'s and then carry them somewhere, backtrack, hit another one and carry it back to where ever you need it. And then one more time. It's not hard to do, just tedious.
That being said, you won't even remember those parts unless you're playing through the game actively looking for things to criticise. You probably won't even remember this paragraph by the end of the article.
Bad Fur Day's story is stupid. And I love it: Conker got really drunk one night and forgot how to get home; meanwhile the evil Panther King is trying to capture him so he can put him under his desk to replace a broken leg. The rest just...happens.
With a premise this dumb, you could think that the fine folks at ye olde Rare(as opposed to "Rare*facepalm*") put all their eggs in the poo joke basket, but let me tell you this: No one has ever put so much work and passion into something this enjoyably idiotic.
The first thing you'll notice is that instead of being greeted by a boring screen that says stuff like "Load, New Game, Options" you'll find yourself in the (fully animated) bar Conker's story starts in, repurposed as an actually interesting main menu. On top of that, the weasel band is playing the menu theme and the musicians' movements are on time with the music(easily visible when looking at the drummer). That's already more devotion than 'the haters' give it credit for.
Going into the game you'll find that it's very pretty for its time, and it still holds up today. While all characters have memorable designs, the most effort was clearly put into Conker himself. He's simply beautifully animated. I especially love the way his running animation changes into a cartoonishly hectic sprint whenever enemies are about to attack him, and the way he conveys his emotions through his facial expression. He does it so well, he could have been mute and you would have still known what's going on inside of his head. Especially towards the very end, I strangely enough found myself just as invested in Bad Fur Day's (for lack of a better word) plot as the one of, say, Windwaker.
Speaking of which:
Another thing worth mentioning is the strict “it has to make sense” policy the developers had. With the word 'sense' used lightly, of course:
While these question are answered I still would have liked to know where the money jumping about everywhere(it works kind of like the Jiggies in the Banjo-Kazooie games) comes from and why it can talk. I guess I'll never know.
There's too many nice little things scattered in the game to comment on all of them, but here's the one that impressed analyst-me the most: One of Conker's many idle animations has him smoking a pipe for a moment. When he's done, he throws it over his shoulder. It will eventually hit the ground and shatter, unless it lands in water, in which case it will disappear with a splash. They even polished the idle animations, which are polish in themselves. If that doesn't show how much they cared, nothing does.
I would go on about how small the development team was compared to those today, and how much more impressive this makes Bad Fur Day, but as we all know:
The reason why there's 4000 people on them [games] is 'cause 3950 of them are fucking redundant cunts.
Now that you know everything you need to know, let's answer that one question:
Would a BFD without its humour be a good game?
Does that mean there's nothing more to it than songs being put together from various farting noises?
You see, Conker's Bad Fur Day wouldn't be any good without its humour because it could not even exist without it. Saying that BFD would suck without its humour is like pointing at a balloonless nacelle and complaining that it doesn't fly.
Now that that's out of the way, what exactly does the humour do?
BFD is constructed similarly to, for example, Animaniacs: We have the character/s, now what do we do with them? Let's put them in a haunted house and see what happens. We could also have them travel back in time or rob a bank without any real motivation or worries about repercussions. Because that's fun to watch.
Rare took this concept, added gore and diarrhoea and made it into one of the most immature mature-rated game of all time.
Mixing Cartoon-logic and adult themed humour freed them of any restrictions: You can fight Teddies in a kids' game and grown-up gamers have been shooting virtual Nazis for ages, but there hasn't been any other game in which Nazi-Teddies just make sense.
They have created a world in which they could do literally anything they pleased. That alone is quite a feat, and lesser developers would never have managed to make full use of the shear endless possibilities.
While you may or may not enjoy the Great Mighty Poo(I had to bring him up at some point) or the big breasted sunflower, no one can deny the strong variety in settings and gameplay that would not be possible in any other game. Combine this with excellent game play design, some seriously impressive polish and one of the best multiplayers ever and we reach the final verdict:
Like it or not, Conker's Bad Fur Day is a fantastic game.
If you now, understandably so, want to know absolutely everything about Conker's Bad Fur Day, either because you already love it, or just realised that you've been missing out, check out the Developer's Commentary. They just uploaded the second batch of videos, which I'll go watch right after I managed to proof that I'm not a robot.