We all remember our gateways, the moments that drew us into a hobby or a fandom. Be it an episode of a television series or a comic arc or a sporting event, we each have dozens of moments that helped mold us into the fans we are today. One of my gateways was the Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye 007, which I credit with making me a gamer.
I’ve been playing console games since the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System – Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros., dozens of other titles I can barely remember – and progressed through to the Super Nintendo and then the Nintendo 64.
I enjoyed dozens of games over the years, including platformers and side-scrolling shooters, but they were just entertaining distractions, a way to while away an hour or two before sleep consumed me. I never considered it a serious hobby. GoldenEye 007 changed all that.
GoldenEye was released in 1997 and as I type this I realize that was almost twenty years ago and I’m old. It was one of the three main titles I had when I got the Nintendo 64, the other two being Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. GoldenEye was a completely different experience compared to the other two. I’d played first-person shooters before like Doom and Star Wars: Dark Forces on friends’ computers, but this was the first time I’d ever experienced the genre on a console.
For a kid so used to jumping and firing from an almost static position on the screen, the combat and movement options available to me from the very first mission were almost overwhelming. Super Mario 64 had introduced me to the concept of a 3D open-world style game. GoldenEye took the concept and added guns.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
GoldenEye was based on the James Bond film of the same name, which had been released two years prior and was the first Bond film to star Pierce Brosnan as the 00 agent. Bond is tasked with stopping rogue agent Alec Trevelyan from unleashing the power of the GoldenEye satellite on London in a bid to cause a global financial meltdown. The game hews closely to the plot of the film, expanding on sequences in places to make for a better and more immersive game.
The weapon choice was expansive and it may have even been the first game to ever include a sniper rifle as part of its arsenal. The choice to wield such a weapon was an instant draw to me and sniper or scoped weapons remain my weapon of choice in video games to this day.
The gameplay was addictive and the added challenge of difficulty levels gave the game a great deal of replay value. Beating your best time on a level, or trying to complete it with only a silenced weapon, became personal challenges that I sought to overcome if for no other reason than to say I did it. This was in the days before achievements or trophies – tracking your game progress was about personal satisfaction rather than racking up a gamerscore. The added Cheat Options mode allowed you to play with a variety of cheats that could be earned by completing levels in a set time. I remember being able to unlock the All Guns cheat but not the Infinite Ammo cheat which gave me all the guns in the game but no ammo for the majority of them!
A View to a Kill
GoldenEye‘s multiplayer was quite frankly awesome and extremely addictive. Never before had I as a console gamer had an opportunity to play such a game mode. Four-player split screen? I’d played two-player before, but four-player was new to me and GoldenEye took advantage of the Nintendo 64’s built in four controller ports.
Sure, being able to play online these days in massive battles with dozens of other players is great and all, but it cannot and never will match the experience of sitting in a room with three other friends trading insults and pleading that no one picks Oddjob because he was small and difficult to hit. We also played on television screens that were a lot smaller than the current standard! Endless nights were filled learning the maps, weapons and armor locations, and studying the art known as “watching the other person’s screen.”
I started college in 1998 and took my trusty Nintendo 64 with me, armed with GoldenEye and Mario Kart 64, which also took advantage of a four-player split screen battle mode. I reasoned that I was taking them for entertainment purposes, but I soon found that spirited nights of GoldenEye helped me make friends. Many nights were spent locked in four-way battles, usually with more people waiting for their turn to play. Power weapons like shotguns and RCP-90s were the preferred weapons of choice, although matches of License to Kill (one shot, one kill) and even no weapon slap fests were not uncommon. If I have one truly abiding memory of my years at college, it was of the time spent playing GoldenEye with my friends.
You Only Live Twice
In 2010 (for the Wii) and 2011 (for PS3 and Xbox 360), an updated version of GoldenEye 007 was released with new level designs and an overhauled story that brought it more in line with the Daniel Craig-era James Bond films, with Craig even voicing Bond throughout the game. The game was generally well received, although it lacked the originality and charm of the original since it was now a first person shooter in a console market flooded with them, rather than a unique experience in a console market that had not yet embraced the genre.
GoldenEye is a fond memory of my formative years, and the reason why I consider myself a gamer. Spending years perfecting multiplayer tactics and single player strategies led me into similar games such as Halo, Gears of War, and Mass Effect. No matter the increase in graphical quality or technical wizardry there are these days, I yearn for the blocky graphics of GoldenEye and the comfort of my friends and I huddled around a small television.