Retro Scope: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

In honor of its 14th anniversary, Anthony looks back at Rare’s most controversial title.

By Anthony Pelone. Posted 03/06/2015 09:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

I still remember begging my parents to pick up Conker’s Bad Fur Day at the wee age of nine. I was very familiar with developer Rare’s other big-name N64 platformers such as Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, and knew I just had to pick up its latest title, which was being lauded as the studio’s graphical magnum opus. Okay, so it was rated M for Mature, and it was apparently host to a gratuitous amount of blood, alcohol, and naughty language, but it starred the red squirrel from Diddy Kong Racing, so it couldn’t be that bad, right? Needless to say, it turned out to be a game that should never have been in the hands of any third grader.

To this day, I’m still at a loss in classifying Conker Bad Fur Day‘s genre. It possesses platforming elements, but the main adventure mode is propped up by action set-pieces so conceptually lewd it’s mind-boggling how this landed on a Nintendo platform (particularly in a time where Nintendo took every measure to maintain its family friendly image, even if it meant censoring third-party offerings). Throughout his adventure, Conker the squirrel engages in bouncy relations with a well-endowed sunflower, defecates on peasants while assuming the form of a bat, urinates on fire demons, and, yes, clashes in an epic battle with a gigantic living mass of singing feces. And how did he get caught up in this mess? Because he got too drunk at the bar one night and has to utilize the power of context sensitivity to find his way home.

It’s filthy, deranged, full of every trick in the book for lowbrow humor, but ultimately so hilarious and in-your-face that it’s impossible not to fall into hysterical fits of laughter as Conker dives deeper and deeper into the realm of raunchiness. Creator Chris Seavor cited the infamous cartoon South Park as an inspiration for the game’s humor, which is evident in everything from the blatantly dumb plot and characters (The Great Fairy Panther King, who’s mad because his milk nightstand is missing a leg and must be replaced by a red squirrel), the meta humor (two NPCs debate about what possible effect intelligent characters could have on the game), and even concluding with a jaw-dropping downer of an ending (don’t be surprised if you tear up at Conker’s final monologue).

It’s why I’m forever grateful to Rare for including the amazing Chapters feature. It’s like the developers knew players would want to showcase the game’s hilarity to all their friends, so they were kind enough to include easily accessible shortcuts to all the game’s cutscenes and sequences. Like me, I’m certain many others used Chapters to enlighten others about the wonderful singing pile of poop. It doesn’t function as your typical Theater mode, either; while it won’t save your progress, you can continue playing through the game’s story after the chosen event is completed (that, or to relive munching on hapless Uga Buga cavemen while riding a raptor over and over).

But what’s arguably the real star of Conker’s Bad Fur Day lies in something that I continue to dabble in: the multiplayer mode.  Featuring a variety of games that channel many of the main story’s scenarios (such as reenacting the Squirrels vs. Tediz war or a bank heist bloodbath between the weasel mafia), they’re just as wonderfully violent and hilarious as the core game and, best of all, not throwaway in the least. Most of these sub-games are full-fledged offerings that emphasize team battles, which become all the more chaotic once you realize friendly fire is always turned on.

The War game– divided between the standard War mode or a Capture the Flag deviation– is the perfect example. Over the past decade, I’ve made it something of a habit to “sacrifice” CPU guardsmen via katana decapitation. Eventually, I’m branded a traitor to the Squirrel alliance and narrowly escape gunfire as I rush over to the Tediz base, where the same process begins anew. I could use the opportunity to steal their battlefield-clearing gas canister, but why bother when blowing them up with bazookas is an option? For how often Super Smash Bros. and GoldenEye 007 are hailed as Nintendo 64’s best party titles, I’ve always felt Conker trumped them in hilarity, variation, and the little touches (seriously, how cool is the traitor mechanic?).

Now that I’m a young adult, Conker’s Bad Fur Day brings just as much, if not more, of the forbidden naughty joy it did as a kid. The now-not-so-subtle jokes are raunchier and more messed up, the story as dumb as it is twisted, and the multiplayer has never lost its bloody, explosion-filled appeal. It never reached the ambitions (or the sales numbers) of Banjo or Donkey Kong, but who cares? It didn’t need to; in fact, I delight in how it constantly parodies the 3D platformer even at the expense of Rare itself, right down to the mounted head of Banjo the bear above the fireplace of The Cock and Plucker). This is Rare’s secret Nintendo 64 masterpiece.

4 Responses to “Retro Scope: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

  • 1379 points
    xeacons says...

    That’s why with the recent rerelease of the DKC trilogy on Wii U VC, I just wish we could see these again. The N64 were Rare[ware]’s finest!

  • 129 points
    Silverspoink says...

    The multiplayer in this game was truly amazing.

  • 784 points
    Marc Deschamps says...

    This hit at JUST the right time for me. I was 15 or 16, if memory serves. South Park had warped my fragile little mind (to quote Cartman) and this type of humor was amazing to see on a Nintendo system. Even the South Park video games weren’t this lewd. This is the type of game we’ll probably never see again. Amazing that Microsoft and Rare haven’t done anything more than an HD port.

    • 1561 points
      penduin says...

      Not to be too cynical, but I’m glad that Rare/MS haven’t resurrected Conker; the talent just isn’t there anymore. After the entirely “meh” Nuts ‘n Bolts and the spectacularly disappointing new Killer Instinct, I cringe to think what they’re supposedly up to with Battletoads. I’d rather see series end strong than dry up into husks of their former glory.

      The people who made Rare magical have moved on. Luckily for us, they’re not out of the game.

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