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Best of the Decade: Conker's Bad Fur Day

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Platform: Nintendo 64

Release Date: March 5, 2001

Publisher: Rareware

Developer: Rareware

As I was browsing my memories for candidates to place on this esteemed list, I came across a game that holds a special place in my heart. I lamented that it had the misfortune of being released at the tail end of the 90s, thus depriving me of my opportunity to recognize its brilliance.

Then I looked up the release date.

Turns out, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, despite being on the seemingly ancient Nintendo 64, was actually released in 2001. Who knew? I certainly didn’t remember.

No matter! This realization marked a glorious day for my memories and me. Forget being one of my favorite N64 games or one of my favorites of this decade, the delightful humor of the drunk, furry squirrel and his ridiculous pals is one of my favorites of all time.

Even better, it holds up well even today. You certainly can’t say that about many N64 games. It obviously shows its age, but the vibrant color palette and Saturday-morning-cartoon-gone-rogue art style make it perfectly playable.

That doesn’t make the notoriously sketchy N64 camera issues any easier to deal with, but take my word when I say it’s well worth wrestling with those C-buttons. The humor in Bad Fur Day was cutting-edge when it first game out. I listened to the bleeped out cuss words with a stupid childish grin on my face. The uncensored words elicited even more of a giggle. The writing had its fair share of toilet humor to be sure, but it’s almost universally well done. Thankfully, there are many more clever moments as well, and some parodies that work clever gameplay sequences into the humorous fun.

The laughs aren’t the only reason to play. The mechanics themselves were ahead of their time and have aged quite well. Giving Conker an array of actions using the context-sensitive B-button at appropriate spots made for lots of unique moments. It’s a familiar old-school platformer at heart to be sure, but still a darn good one.

All this is unimportant babble next to one simple fact, though. Conker’s Bad Fur Day features a boss battle with a giant opera-singing pile of shit. The Great Mighty Poo is one of my favorite boss battles of all time for his theme song alone. The singing poo may be one of the best moments the game has to offer, but you’re bound to find yourself laughing out loud with enjoyable regularity. Rarely has a game managed to more consistently produce genuine humor than in Conker’s Bad Fur Day. 

There’s a part of me that’s saddened as I watch Rare drift into increasing obscurity while Microsoft forces them to toil away on useless avatars, Kinect titles, and cutesy games aimed at kids that are doomed to fail. I’m sad because I desperately want a sequel to this brilliant interactive comedy. Perhaps this is for the best. Gaming is not well-suited to comedy and the games that can pull it off are few and far between. Odds are Rare couldn’t deliver the same delightful level of wit and surprise twice.

The gaming landscape has changed. Part of the reason Conker worked so well was its subversiveness. At the time of its release, cutesy platformers like Banjo Kazooie were still at the height of their popularity. Conker’s brilliant riff on this familiar theme turned the adorable critters on their head and delivered a pitch-perfect parody of the lighthearted romps we were used to in this era. Hell, half the fun of the game at the time was that this foul atrocity was released on a Nintendo platform, the home of all things pure and kid-friendly. To make such an effort work again, you’d surely have to change it for the times and, with the abundance of profanity and shock tactics the industry sees these days, it would be damn hard indeed to make a game resonate as strongly again as Bad Fur Day did in its time.

It’s a shame this game was released so late in its platform’s life cycle, as the abandoned N64 left this masterpiece with no one to purchase it. I can at least be thankful that its delayed emergence gives me this chance to relive my fond memories of it and celebrate the drunken squirrel’s bad day as one of my Best of the Decade.

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