9.9 tech score Conker for me was everything that is great about Rare. Great sounds and music. Great visuals. Good quality Comedy, which was and still is rare to see in games. Since Conkers release Microsoft really have misused the brand and it is hard to not let that leave a bad taste in your mouth, but looking back at Conker is a good way to remember the good Ol' days when Rare were under Nintendo and had some freedom of expression. The only reason I can't give conker a solid 10/10, which it does really deserve, is that the innovation of the game led developers to think crudeness was a replacement for humour, and took a lot of the charm from modern gaming.
Let’s go back to the 90’s, Nintendo are soaring past their competitors and Rareware are playing a huge part in that: Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie, Killer instinct and many more, but there is one game that seemed to truly dawn in the new millennia.
Conkers Bad Fur day, released 2001, was that game.
Conker the Squirrel was already somewhat of a developed character, not only featuring in Diddy Kong Racing, but also having his own game for the Gameboy and Gameboy Colour called Conker’s Pocket Tales. This being said, in these games Conker was a rather base character, simply a cheery, family friendly squirrel. Bad fur day was slightly different. Conker’s Bad Fur Day completely changed Conkers persona, making him something the game industry had yet to really see. An asshole. The character of Conker is that of a foul-mouthed drunk, who would rather spend time at the pub than spend time with his girlfriend, which ultimately leads to him embarking on a wild adventure, whilst nursing a terrible hangover.
At the time Conker’s Bad Fur day was a commercial failure, with Nintendo failing to promote it effectively, yet it has since became a cult classic, dividing opinion on whether it’s a charming masterpiece or a crude attempt at comedy; and for the most part, it’s both. Around 20 different characters have voice lines that contain curses, with both the base/grunt enemies, Tediz, and the in-game currency, Cash, blasting swears at Conker/the Player. The naming and design of the some of the characters is also something that could have caused offence, such as The Great Mighty Poo or the probably more insensitive, Dr. Kriplespac, a Nazi-esque scientist who lost his legs in the war. And even with these points, that in modern day would make it seem like an extremely poor attempt at making an adult targeted game, at the time the game was quite revolutionary with no similar games really coming before and nothing really being able to capture the same magic since (although you could argue a case for the Duke Nukem series).
Since Conker’s release there have been a lot of games and franchises built around trying to work vulgarity and humour into videogames much in the way that Conker did however in many cases it falls pretty flat, not having the same charm or even the shock factor that Conker offered, and to a degree this is society’s fault rather than Devs. An example of this is the fact that Conker swearing at the time seemed shocking, however current generations are desensitised to cursing thus devs have to take it one step further, and this cycle continues until you have a Saints Row game in which you beat people to death with a giant marital aid, as well as the games at the other side of the spectrum such as Naughty Bear, in which the Devs tried to make something shocking, yet failed because of poor gameplay.
With Microsoft buying out Nintendo’s stakes in Rare studios, Conker fell under Microsoft’s IP, allowing them to remake Bad fur day (originally a Nintendo exclusive title) for the original XBOX, calling it Conker: Live and Reloaded (I imagine Nintendo has some copyright on the “Conker’s” naming). Other than this Microsoft have all but ran Conker into the ground, firstly with Project Spark, which was initially shown to be a Conker sequel, and was later announced to be a community sandbox for which Microsoft would periodically release Conker DLC, which could be played together to make a Conker sequel, however this promise was under the assumption that A) People would buy Project Spark and B) Project Spark was actually capable of making a full game. I was sadly one of the idiots who bought Project Spark on release as I liked the idea of being able to make and share games with friends quickly, but was also excited to see what Microsoft would do with Conker beyond a remake. After around a month of being on the market Project Spark went free to play,
placing paywalls on almost everything needed to build games, creating the obvious Catch 22 of failed community games (need a player base to be good/needs to be good to have a player base). This meant that the Conker DLC was completely scrapped, meaning Microsoft has basically wasted an IP on a project that went nowhere. Since this Microsoft have teased the AR (Augmented reality) application Young Conker, using what seems to be the Conker from Conker’s Pocket Tales, meaning a more kid/family-friendly Conker, which in my opinion is a pretty throw-away character, and the game itself just seems quite poor, which admittedly would not be a surprise given the current state of Rare studios under Microsoft (although their current W.I.P title Sea of Thieves may offer some redemption).
Overall, I think Conker may have caused a very negative effect in some ways in that developers who didn’t really understand the nature of the game would just think crudeness and childish humour could sell a game, and I believe it genuinely has lowered the bar in terms of charm/comedy within videogames. However, I still believe Conker was one of the most creative and in fact one of the best platformers ever made, especially in the 3D era, and shouldn’t be judged for the failings of its successors.