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Feature: Nintendo and Bond Through the Ages

Posted by Gaz Plant

A license to thrill

While film tie-ins are expected these days, few games can attest to having their origins found in novels, and fewer still can claim to have outgrown those origins and become a success in their own right. But that is exactly what the James Bond franchise has done. What initially began as a series of novels by Sir Ian Fleming, James Bond has gone on to become a cinema sensation, most recently with the record-breaking Skyfall; as any good publisher knows, where there’s a film, there’s the potential for a game.

What makes the James Bond franchise unique, however, is the way that it has transcended the traditional movie tie-in role and become a series of its own; a game series that has its own set of fans and features its own stories within the cinematic universe. The tale of how the Bond franchise became a gaming landmark involves many publishers and developers, but over the years two names have continued to be important – Nintendo and Eurocom.

With Skyfall continuing to break records and the cinematic franchise recently celebrating its 50th Anniversary, we’re taking a look back at how Nintendo home consoles helped shape one of the biggest franchises in the gaming world, and how a little developer in the UK continued the legacy of one of the N64’s biggest games.

The Commodore Is Not Enough

The story of Bond’s appearances in games does not begin until 1983, much humbler times. With the Commodore 64 and early Atari systems dominating the early gaming market, it was only a matter of time until the Bond juggernaut made the transition to the small screen, and it did that thanks to the Parker Brothers. The first Bond game, creatively titled James Bond 007, took elements from many of the early Bond films, and its simple platform-shooter approach would lay the groundwork for a variety of films tie-ins over the coming years.

Now defunct developer Domark took up the mantle from the Parker Brothers after the first game, with the focus shifting from platforming to text adventures, and back to platforming over the next decade. And while SEGA’s fledgling Master System proved to be an occasional home for 007, Nintendo was left in the dark; that is until a small developer in the UK called Eurocom got involved.

Released in 1991 and based on the cartoon of the same name, James Bond Jr was developed for both the NES and SNES, and while unremarkable as a game, is notable as the beginning of Eurocom’s relationship with James Bond and only its second game as a studio. No-one could have guessed how important this relationship would become in the coming years.

From Rare With Love

With the film series undergoing widespread changes, it was little surprise that 1993 marked the beginning of a hiatus for the fledgling game series, and with few developments regarding Bond games it subsequently missed the 1995 release of Pierce Brosnan’s début in Goldeneye. Little did the gaming public know, however, that Goldeneye had caught the eye of Tim and Chris Stamper, the founders of Donkey Kong Country developer Rare.

Developed over a two year period in tandem with Nintendo’s development of the N64, Goldeneye 007 finally hit stores in August 1997 worldwide, and from that point on, both shooters and the Bond franchise changed forever.

While initially conceived as an on-rails shooter, Goldeneye 007 is now heralded by many as a precursor to modern first-person shooters, and it’s easy to see why. Taking inspiration from PC FPS games such as Doom, Rare took the Bond universe and truly made you James Bond. With two years of development time, the team had a unique opportunity to visit the sets from the film and create a game that not only followed the film’s plot and characters, but also visited the real-life movie locations. Add in many new and exciting features and some bonus levels which expanded upon the narrative (most notably the opening Dam level), and it’s easy to see why it is so beloved by Bond fans around the world.

Better still was the multiplayer, which revolutionised the local multiplayer market. Four-player split-screen multiplayer was a massive success for Goldeneye and contributed considerably to it becoming one of the most popular games on the N64. It’s no surprise that even today, Goldeneye remains one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences out there for retro gamers.

GoldenEA

With Rare passing on developing a sequel, and the Bond franchise becoming one of the big gaming highlights thanks to Goldeneye’s almost universal praise, it was left to EA to carry the torch forward, and despite some teething problems, we feel it did it in style.

While its first release, Tomorrow Never Dies, never made it to the N64, its second release, The World Is Not Enough, did, and for development duties EA turned to none other than Eurocom. Taking cues from Goldeneye, The World Is Not Enough was developed in a similar mould, with the mission structure and gameplay borrowing heavily from the previous title. The game never reached the heights of Goldeneye’s success, but with a similar multiplayer mode and an adventurous campaign, it was clear that Eurocom understood what made the N64 classic so good.

For its next Bond game, EA went internal, and in 2002 released 007: Agent Under Fire, marking the series’ transition to the GameCube. Continuing in the same vein as Eurocom’s last effort, Agent Under Fire was a first person shooter, with an emphasis on gadgets and stealth, but used the enhanced power of the GameCube to introduce new elements such as car chases. However, perhaps more notable is the fact that Agent Under Fire is a standalone Bond game, featuring an entirely unique story set apart from the films. It was the first indication that Bond could stand on his own instead of being indebted to the latest movie.

Eurocom was brought back on board for EA’s next effort, joining the generational transition to the GameCube. 007: Nightfire was released in November 2002, again featuring a unique story and refining the gameplay of the previous titles. Nightfire also included an expanded multiplayer, and is possibly one of the most popular Bond titles ever released, with some arguing that it's better than even Goldeneye. It is also notable for featuring an incredibly tough underwater driving segment, something that still gives Bond fans nightmares to this day.

Taking the internal option again, EA shook the series up considerably with 2003’s third-person shooter, 007: Everything or Nothing on GameCube. While not loved by all, Everything or Nothing introduced a co-op mode to the game alongside the main campaign, and would be the genesis for EA’s, and the GameCube’s, final Bond title, From Russia With Love. With Sean Connery returning to the role of James Bond for the first time since the film Never Say Never Again, and the game following the plot of the hugely popular From Russia With Love, the game was unsurprisingly well received by fans; with refined gameplay it earned praise from the media, too. The same can’t be said of Goldeneye: Rogue Agent however, which was seen by many as a simple cash-in on the name, Goldeneye.

In 2006, EA lost the rights to the Bond franchise, but left an indelible mark on the series. EA’s understanding of a Bond game being a playable film made them immensely enjoyable for fans – for many, the way the games followed the established opening sequence of Bond films (gun barrel, random mission, opening credits) before showing you the main menu showed that EA truly understood the Bond license, while other subtle features such as Bond Moments and Bond Vision added to the feeling of being 007.

Eurocom Lives Twice

2006’s rights loss saw Activision take up the mantle of moving Bond forward, and with its Call of Duty series going from strength to strength, it seemed like a natural home for a series that was so important to the FPS genre. It wasn’t until 2008, however, that we saw the Bond franchise again, and it was clear straight away that something had been lost in the transition to Activision.

Developed by Call of Duty veterans Treyarch, Quantum of Solace ties directly into both of Daniel Craig’s first two outings as Bond, bringing the stories together in one over-arching narrative. While the FPS gameplay was solid, especially for the Wii, the game’s increased emphasis on gunplay and a lack of focus on the traditional stealth elements, along with the abandonment of hallmark EA features such as Bond Moments, left many fans concerned about the future of the franchise. 2010 however, would change all that.

Following in the footsteps of Quantum of Solace, Eurocom was once again back at the helm of a James Bond title and, more importantly, bringing back a Nintendo classic. Goldeneye 007 was released on Wii exclusively in 2010, reimagining Rare’s classic FPS 13 years on. Using elements of Treyarch’s engine, Goldeneye again took inspiration from more recent FPS games, but reintroduced stealth to please long-time fans. This, along with a fantastic multiplayer suite, has left Goldeneye 007 as being one of the Wii’s best games, and a regular party favourite; it did eventually get re-packaged for Xbox 360 and PS3.

While the HD systems were fortunate enough to see the release of 007: Blood Stone, arguably Activision’s only successful attempt at recapturing the EA era’s gameplay, Nintendo fans would have to wait until 2012 for more Bond, in the form of James Bond: 007 Legends last December on Wii U. Released to almost universally negative reviews, Eurocom’s 50th Anniversary celebration was meant to celebrate all that was good about Bond; instead it stripped away the stealth and gadgets, presenting fans with a Call of Duty-esque clone, a shell of its former self.

Ultimately this would be Eurocom’s final outing as a game developer, and the studio closed late last year, perhaps due in part to the critical panning that 007 Legends received. More recently, Activision has taken down all Bond games from its online store, prompting many to question the future of 007. With no key developer and likely no publisher, there is a chance for reinvention and redemption for this once great franchise, and perhaps the home for that will be back on a Nintendo system once again.

What are your favourite memories of 007 over the years? Are you a Goldeneye or Nightfire fan? And how do you see the series progressing in the future? Let us know in the comments below; we expect you to talk, Bond.

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User Comments (35)

ajcismo

#1

ajcismo said:

The Goldeneye multi-player matches in college was some of the most fun I've ever had with any game on any system at any time in my life.
It continues to be the biggest travesty in gaming that MS and Big N have never been able to work out any sort of deal to bring these amazing RARE N64 games to a modern Nintendo console. 007, Perfect Dark, Bad Fur Day, and Blast Corps deserves a new audience.

DarkCoolEdge

#2

DarkCoolEdge said:

GoldenEye 64 beats the crap out of the remake whichis a good game.

Quantum of Solace is one of the worst games I've played. It looked like a N64 game, the gameplay wasn't dun and the controls were bad. I still don't know why my friends bought it for me for my biethday. You should've seen me trying to look deligjted lol.

The only other Bond game I've played is The World is Not Enough but I only played the first level. It had potential.

@ajcismo MS doesn't own Goldeneye's license. Conker and Perfect Dark can be found in XBLA. I wonder why they haven't re-released Jet Force Gemini, it screams double joystick. And why hasn't Nintendo put DK64 in the VC?

Mikazi

#3

Mikazi said:

007 Legends Wii U was released in the UK. I don't see why everyone keeps saying it wasn't

ajcismo

#4

ajcismo said:

@DarkCoolEdge
I always thought the license was split between MS, Nintendo and Activision. With Ninty holding the N64 publishing rights, Activision the Goldeneye portion, and MS holding RARE and its creative property. Making a ton of red tape in the process.
Yeah, I know Conker and PD are on XBLA, but aren't those ports and not the actual N64 versions? My apologies if I'm wrong on that, I try to stay as far away from XBLA as the law will allow.

gingerbeardman

#5

gingerbeardman said:

@Mikazi exactly my thoughts, I've held 007 Legends Wii U in my hands. Get out there on the high street and you can buy it pretty much anywhere! I didn't buy it because it doesn't have Wii remote support.

I'm guessing Nintendolife are just regurgitating what a PR person has said?

Doma

#6

Doma said:

Goldeneye 64 is the only relevant one, amazing game... Glad i never played the others.

siavm

#7

siavm said:

Everything or nothing is the best bond game to me. Goldeneye was good but perfect dark did it better.

Big_Gamer

#8

Big_Gamer said:

Goldeneye N64, Nightfire and Everything or Nothing were excelent games in my opinion. Had quite some fun with The World is not enough to.

Haywired

#9

Haywired said:

During my entire school life, no game was ever as big as Goldeneye 007. I even remember Playstation fanboys selling their Playstations to get N64s just because of Goldeneye. For a period in the late 90s, at my school, Goldeneye deathmatches were like all anyone ever did or talked about.

ThomasBW84Admin

#10

ThomasBW84 said:

I've removed the line about Legends not being released in the UK, though we were certainly under that impression! Before obtaining the eventual review copy in the U.S. we had a tough time clarifying if it was even out in the UK, and the release was undoubtedly all over the place here. A bit of a sad end for Eurocom, in my view.

EDIT: It also wasn't in my local GAME when I was there just after Christmas. Not "regurgitating a PR" as someone has suggested...

crumpledpapyrusStaff

#11

crumpledpapyrus said:

I have a bit of a soft spot for 007: Nightfire. It's not as good as Goldeneye but still a decent effort nonetheless. Can't say I've enjoyed any others, including the recent Goldeneye remake which I just couldn't get into...

TheRavingTimes

#12

TheRavingTimes said:

Although I've been busy lately I've been considering From Russia with Love due to it's positive reception and voice acting from 007 legend Sean Connery. Plus there's always All or Nothing, that game probably has the most voice acting from the actors themselves including Pierce Bronsan as Bond, John Cleese as Q (although it's regrettable Llewelyn wasn't around), Judi Dench as M, and even Richard Kiel's Emmy awarding winning voice for Jaws.

Neutron

#14

Neutron said:

James Bond's legacy has been tarnished by the games for Nintendo systems.

Tasuki

#18

Tasuki said:

I have played other Bond games but there is just something about the Golden Eye name. Both the N64 and the Wii one are my favorite FPS.

RantingThespian

#21

RantingThespian said:

I just remember the long hours of exploration with GoldenEye and my Gameshark Pro for the N64. Screwing around, pulling out things that were hidden/abandoned in the game (like all the Bond pictures from the abandoned All Bond cheat), that weapon Null (that didn't do anything), playing multiplayer in the Cradle and Statue, and shooting cannon shells without having the tank.

Taceus

#22

Taceus said:

N64 Goldenye consumed my mates and I through high school. Blew me away. All the praise Nightfire has received makes me want it as a VC title, once Ninty gets around to GC VC for Wii U. Hurry Nintendo hurry!

Jaz007

#23

Jaz007 said:

I would like to see another blood stone. An improved sequel would get me pretty interested.

Schprocket

#24

Schprocket said:

N64 Goldeneye saw me getting owned by my nephews and niece - they were the Ninty family, we were the Sony family :)

Fast-forward to last year, a Wii and Goldeneye 007 (after playing the PS3 for several years) absolutely brilliant game (proving that whilst HD is nice, it ain't everything), excellent multiplayer - loved every minute of it!

SMW

#25

SMW said:

Almost no-one enjoys James Bond games as much as I do. Prepare for my long post.

My first Bond game was Goldeneye 64, like it was for many others. I also got into the Bond films thanks to the Goldeneye movie. Great movie and great game!

Next was EA with The World Is Not Enough. I need to replay this one as I do not remember too much about it. I know I enjoyed it when it first came out, though.

The first-person GCN Bond games I loved, but I really don't remember anything unique about each one. They were all pretty good.

Then came the third-person. I fell in love with this setup immediately! Everything or Nothing did it great and had co-op, which is a major plus for me! From Russia With Love improved upon that setup and delivering a very polished game. Too bad they ditched co-op, though.

Overall, EA did an outstanding job with the Bond games and I loved their take on the franchise. Car chases, crazy gadgets, plenty of weapons, and crazy villains.

I was so sad once EA lost the rights and Activision got a hold of it.

QoS I could not stand to play, but I did really enjoy the online multiplayer in that game. Same goes for Goldeneye Wii. Their games just seemed to lack character, charm and the attention to detail that both Rare and EA had. Activision's Bond games ended up feeling too generic to me. Explain to me why Boris wears all black in split-screen? None of his signature bright clothing from the movie? Also whats with Ourumov and not wearing his hat? I knew him for his hat that he always wore. Then the levels themselves didn't match the movie. Goldeneye 64 had levels that matched almost exactly. A N64 game!

Also whats with Activision and not having real actors? Daniel Craig doesn't even voice himself in 007 Legends! Surely they could do better than that. Look at EA. EA actually got Sean Connery to voice a whole game and Activision couldn't even get the current James Bond to voice his own game? Also how come Q isn't in any of Activision's games? We gotta have the Q man to give us our fancy gadgets!

I am looking for 007 Legends to rent. Many of EA's Bond games were/are severely hated, but I enjoyed them all. I'll be going into Legends with an open mind. Plenty of people hate games which I find enjoyment in, so you never know.

As for Bloodstone, it was good?! I may have to look into this, especially if its anything like EA's Bond games.

seronja

#26

seronja said:

when we talk only about bond games i love goldeneye n64, nightfire, from russia with love, goldeneye: reloaded and blood stone!

coreyerb

#27

coreyerb said:

@SMW: I'm much the same, people hate Legends and I'm enjoying it. More fun for me than Black Ops 2. It's flawed, but much of the criticism stems from poorly defended reviews and then group-think took over and doomed the game.

It's quite fun, and if you know what you're getting into, I'd recommend it if you're a Bond fan.

Re: Q, I'm sure it was a conscious decision after the franchise rebooted with Casino Royale by the producers to leave him out like in the movies. He recently returned, so we'll see if the next game includes him.

MagicEmperor

#28

MagicEmperor said:

I really wish they made a Casino Royale game, featuring the likeness and voice of Woody Allen as Jimmy Bond.

GazPlant

#29

GazPlant said:

@SMW Blood Stone is a fantastic game, plays a lot like From Russia With Love. Such a shame it never came out for Wii (although it's most likely technical related)

aaronsullivan

#30

aaronsullivan said:

Everything or Nothing only got a partial paragraph. I put it n par with Goldeneye. They are VERY different games, but EoN captured the style of the Brosnan films and had amazing and varied scenarios with the vehicle portions done by a racing game developer. It had its clunky cinematics sometimes and some glitchiness here and there but it had my favorite stages. Great game.

Never did play From Russia with Love because I think I remember that the vehicle stuff was nowhere near as good? Anyone remember. Also never played Nightfire though I keep hearing how good it was.

Edgy

#32

Edgy said:

If Activision have lost the licence, I hope either Microsoft or Nintendo manage to obtain it. We may have a very slim chance of seeing Goldeneye on either Wii U Virtual Console or (dare I say it) XBLA.

Whilst I'd like something new and good, I still really enjoy the classic game that made me get an N64 in the first place, and I'd like to play it in HD - even if it is like playing with Lego-shaped men now in comparison to modern gaming.

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