Forget an exploding pen: All you needed was a few extra batteries to enjoy this forgotten gem of the early handheld era. Goldeneye may be more remembered in the ’90s for Super Spy, but James Bond 007 on the Game Boy went places no Bond game has come.
Developed by Sapphire Corporation and published in 1998, a year after GoldenEye 64 took the first-person shooter genre by storm, the Game Boy’s take on the James Bond franchise was one of the more ambitious take on the character we’ve seen so far.
Top-down Zelda gameplay with puny super spy antics? you betcha. The fact that so few people remember it sounds like a conspiracy that only Blofield could have masterminded.
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a scene for adventure
If possible, bring your mind back to the licensed 8-bit and 16-bit games of the 1990s. While Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Jedi: Fallen Order are now big-budget, hugely ambitious takes on existing franchises, the potential was far less in the ’90s. Slap a recognizable character and logo on the box, make a crude guess of said character out of a handful of pixels, build a side-scrolling platformer—the job is a good one. This describes most of the tie-ins at the time.
Sapphire Corporation, based out of American Fork, Utah, had other ideas. Working to the strength of the platform it was linked to, James Bond 007 was instead a Zelda-like, top-down adventure where exploration and clue gathering was as important as sharp shooting and fisting. Like Link’s Awakening, you can map items to the A and B buttons as you see fit, exploring locations for secrets and solving puzzles, as well as taking on battles for hordes of henchmen.
Traveling from China to Blighty, Marrakech to Russia in the globetrotting Bond style, it may not have Zelda’s back-tracking unlockable secrets, but its level-based design certainly takes inspiration from Nintendo’s pointy-eared mascot . There are tons of puzzles here, whether it’s shooting through houses to find equipment to repair an important bridge, or shooting lights to get out of a particularly vigilant guard, there were plenty of clever ideas that would have taken a toll on the ordinary. Beyond were, mindless, ‘ license to kill stuff.
Telling an original, if mild, ‘save the world’ story, it also played out like James Bond’s biggest hit. You’ll take on MI6 boss M, trade with Oddjob and Jaws, and even woo a ‘Bond Girl’. It was very much about the Roger Moore of the Bond games, for better and worse, with its cheeky sides, awkward situations, and tongue-in-cheek attitude.
And although the family-friendly nature of the Nintendo Handheld wasn’t really violated, gunfights aside, there’s a pretty clear suggestion that old James ‘Thunderball’ Bond took part in the services provided by a brothel to steal a diamond. take.
However, the best bit is that it captures all other stuff Bond does. The games focus on killing Bond through secret bases, or bombing sports cars in pursuit of some dastardly villain. But they never let you chat with Q, or flirt with Moneypenny. They rarely let you get ahead of the bad guy, or let you kick back and hit the casino. It may have been limited visually, but the scale of its ambition was limited only by minor hardware limitations.
What’s next for Bond in gaming?
The Bond universe is in a state of flux right now, making it uncertain what shape 007’s next gaming outing will take.
For starters, Daniel Craig’s rough explanation of Ian Fleming’s spy has now been put to bed, with Craig handing over his license to kill him. Now the search is on for new Bond and possibly a new direction to take the well-worn franchise.
Also, the rights to the James Bond universe have recently changed hands. Amazon looked to boost its Amazon Prime Video offering with the purchase of bond assets through an $8.54 billion deal for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, also known as MGM. (Incidentally, the purchase also hands over the rights to Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” movies. Bond vs. Balboa, anyone?). Who knows if Amazon plans to use the franchise across many of its platforms and services, but its nascent gaming ambitions will certainly see Bond play a part.
For now, though, the franchise sits in the capable hands of IO Interactive, makers of the apt-get spy-like Hitman series. Its “Project 007” will be a completely original story set in the world of Bond, which probably includes some of the stealthy mechanics that made the Hitman game so satisfying to play.
But here’s hoping they take a little inspiration from the story-driven, exploratory heart of James Bond 007 for the Game Boy.
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