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15 Deadly Facts About GoldenEye 007

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If 1997’s GoldenEye 007 for Nintendo 64 had you scouring its rich landscapes for power weapons, hidden passages, and ready-to-explode wooden chairs, there are a few secrets you might have missed during your 00 service.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE RELEASED FOR SUPER NINTENDO.

Developed by British game house Rare Ltd., the game was first proposed as a 2-D side-scroller for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, but GoldenEye 007 director Martin Hollis suggested making it a “3D shooting game” for Nintendo’s under-development console—code-named “Ultra 64”—instead. Developers then considered making it an on-rail shooter similar to Virtua Cop, but ultimately decided to give Bond free rein to explore each level.

2. IN GERMANY, IT’S ILLEGAL TO ADVERTISE THE GAME OR SELL IT TO MINORS.

In the 1980s, the German federal agency Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons) began adding video games to its index of media found to be harmful to young persons. The index itself cannot legally be printed as a list, and its contents are illegal to advertise in Germany. In April 1998, GoldenEye 007 was added to the index because of its death scenes and perceived glorification of violence. There are reportedly around 400 games on the list today.

3. GOLDENEYE 007’S MULTIPLAYER MODE WAS A LAST-MINUTE ADDITION.

Around a month before the game’s scheduled release, programmers decided to include the multiplayer feature as an afterthought, and spent the remaining few weeks building it. The eleventh-hour change turned out to be a brilliant one—the multiplayer mode was among the game’s most popular and innovative features.

4. THE GAME REFERENCES ALL PRIOR BOND MOVIES, AND STAR TREK, TOO.

GoldenEye 007 contains references to the 16 Bond movies made prior to GoldenEye, as with the multiplayer characters Oddjob and May Day, several Bond Girl-named options for controller style, and the multiplayer game settings “You Only Live Twice,” “The Living Daylights,” “The Man With the Golden Gun,” and “Licence to Kill.”

In the “Streets” stage of the game, a Star Trek reference plays a key role—the very vulnerable civilians are wearing token red shirts, marking them for trouble.

5. EVERY CHARACTER PLAYS WITH BOND’S HANDS.

While the single-player and multiplayer modes include a range of male and female characters (some of them wearing gloves) from GoldenEye and other Bond films, the hands visible from every player’s first-person perspective are always James Bond’s, regardless of character choice.

6. GOLDENEYE 007’S SIGNATURE “DEATH FALL” IS IN EVERY BOND GAME.

At least some version of the death animation known as the "GoldenEye fall"—in which a mortally wounded character drops to their knees before falling flat—has been included in every James Bond game made since. Of course, the original game includes other falling styles, too.

7. THE SOLDIERS AND HENCHMEN ARE ACTUALLY RARE STAFF.

The faces of the game’s nameless enemies were created to resemble those of its developers. Those enemies also have a total of thirty different animation routines, depending on how they’re hit, for being blown up or shot.

8. DEVELOPERS REALLY USED THE MOVIE’S SETS.

While the game was released two years after GoldenEye, the Rare team visited the film’s sets during GoldenEye 007’s early development period. The designers took pictures and were given blueprints to help them develop authentic (though often expanded) levels.

9. THE NAME "GOLDENEYE" REFERENCES IAN FLEMING’S OWN COVERT OPS.

Though the film’s script was completely original, the name "GoldenEye" paid homage to Bond creator Ian Fleming, who worked on a contingency plan for a Nazi invasion of Spain—code name “Goldeneye”—while serving as a lieutenant commander for British Naval Intelligence during the Spanish Civil War. Fleming later gave the name to his estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica where he wrote many Bond novels. Fleming also credited the name to the 1941 novel Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers, and—despite the suspicion of many—always maintained that 007’s adventures were not based on his own.

10. A COPY OF THE FILM GOLDENEYE IS HIDDEN IS THE GAME.

In the “Bunker 2” stage, one of Bond’s objectives is to collect a CCTV tape. That tape is, in fact, a copy of the film GoldenEye (the cover of which can be seen by viewing Bond’s inventory).

11. IT WAS AMONG THE FIRST GAMES TO MAKE PLAYERS EARN BUILT-IN CHEATS.

In addition to the single player and multiplayer modes, GoldenEye 007 has a cheat option mode that opens up both beneficial and novelty conditions for play. The cheats are initially unavailable and must be unlocked by completing certain skill-based tasks within the game.

For example, to unlock DK mode (making all characters have huge heads, tiny bodies, and massive arms like Nintendo’s Donkey Kong), a player needs to complete the “Runway” stage on the Agent difficulty level in 5 minutes, while unlocking Tiny Bond (making Bond less than half his usual size, and harder to shoot) requires completion of “Surface 2” on 00 Agent in 4:15 or less.

12. THE GAME HAS A “SPIRITUAL” SEQUEL.

While Rare handed off the licensing for the Bond series after this release, the company also produced Perfect Dark, considered to be GoldenEye 007’s “spiritual successor,” with much of the same gameplay and features. 

13. GOLDENEYE 007 WAS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR N64 GAMES OF ALL TIME.

It was the third-best selling Nintendo 64 game ever with 8 million copies sold (losing out to Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart), and grossed $250 million worldwide.

14. IT’S ONE OF THE SMITHSONIAN’S FAVORITES.

The Smithsonian Institution’s 2012 exhibit “The Art of Video Games” explored the “forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium,” and selected 80 key games with the public’s help. GoldenEye 007 was voted the “most pivotal” of N64 target games because of its many innovative qualities and striking visuals, but it had to surrender its spot in the exhibit to Star Fox due to copyright issues with the film’s license.

15. FOR THE FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER GENRE, IT WAS A TOTAL GAME-CHANGER.

The Smithsonian isn’t alone in loving the game. In 2007, GamePro ranked GoldenEye 007 ninth among "The 52 Most Important Video Games of All Time," calling it “arguably the best console first-person shooter of all time” and the “best game ever licensed from a film,” and noted that it “established split-screen head-to-head gaming as a viable, compelling scenario, thus paving the way for a little franchise we like to call ‘Halo.’”

According to Gamasutra, the game also “proved that it was possible to create a fun FPS experience on a console, in both single-player and deathmatch game modes.” Because the new N64 controllers allowed for more agility, first-person characters no longer made it through levels by being seemingly bulletproof, but could rather use stealth tactics such as running, walking, crouching, hiding, climbing, jumping, creeping, and zooming in on certain features.

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Mario Kart Is Coming to Your Smartphone
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Nintendo had a lot to boast about during its quarterly financial reports this week. The company’s latest console/handheld hybrid, the Nintendo Switch, has already sold more units (14.86 million) in its first 10 months than its previous console, the Wii U, did (13.56 million) during its entire five-year lifespan. That news was bolstered by the company revealing its two heavy-hitters, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, were massive commercial successes, with 6.70 and 9.07 million copies sold, respectively.

That’s great if you’re a shareholder, but if you’re just a gamer, the real news came when Nintendo revealed that Mario Kart will soon make its way to smartphones. Titled Mario Kart Tour, this will be the company’s fifth mobile endeavor, following games like Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, as well as the soon-to-be-defunct Miitomo app.

Since debuting on the Super Nintendo in 1992, Mario Kart has been one of the company's most reliable franchises. Even on a system that flopped like the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 managed to sell 8 million units on its way to becoming the console's top-selling game. And when that same title was ported to the Nintendo Switch, it moved another 7 million units. For both Nintendo and its fans, the mobile version is a no-brainer.

So what’s actually known about Mario Kart Tour? Well, it’ll be out in the fiscal year, which ends in March 2019. Other than that, you’ll just have to wait for Nintendo to release its patented slow trickle of news over the next few months (though you can expect it on both iOS and Android, like the company's other mobile titles). Until then, you’ll have to dust off that old copy of Mario Kart: Double Dash or splurge on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to get your fill of blue shells and errant banana peels.

[h/t The Verge]

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9 Things You Might Not Know About Defender

by Ryan Lambie

When Defender arrived in arcades back in 1980, nothing looked or sounded quite like it. The controls had a steep learning curve, and its shooting action was intense and relentlessly difficult. Yet Defender's boldness made it stand out in arcades full of Space Invaders clones, and gamers quickly fell in love with it.

Created by a designer pushing the boundaries of early '80s technology, Defender's development wasn't without its drama. Here's a look at Defender's making and its lasting effect on the games industry.

1. DEFENDER WAS WILLIAMS'S FIRST PROPER, ORIGINAL ARCADE GAME.

With its foundations tracing back to the 1940s, American company Williams specialized in making pinball machines. When Pong ushered in a new age of electronic games in the 1970s, Williams knew it had to break into the same market, but its first attempt was tentative, to say the least: 1973's Paddle Ball was, for the most part, a straight replica of Pong's bat-and-ball action. Fortunately, a young programmer named Eugene Jarvis had a more pioneering spirit.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY SPACE INVADERS AND CHESS.

Jarvis joined Williams in the late 1970s, where he initially worked on the software for the company's pinball machines—titles included Airborne Avenger, Gorgar, and Laser Ball. But even as those machines were making their way into arcades, they were being roundly upstaged by a new game on the block—the coin-guzzling shooter, Space Invaders. The game immediately inspired Jarvis to make his own sci-fi shooter, though one which also took in the vector graphics of the seminal Spacewar (a game he'd played while in college) and a hint of chess. He wanted his game, he later told WIRED, to be a "rich, tactical and strategic experience."

3. THE TITLE CAME FROM A 1960s TV SHOW.

As Jarvis's ideas for his game began to develop—and it moved further and further away from the straight "blast the aliens" scenario popularized by Space Invaders—he began to think about an objective that involved rescue and defense rather than straight-up shooting. And early on, he adopted the name Defender, derived from the '60s courtroom drama series, The Defenders.

"I kind of liked that show," Jarvis said in Steven Kent's book, The Ultimate History Of Video Games. "You know, if you're defending something, you're being attacked, and you can do whatever you want."

4. IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SIDE-SCROLLING GAMES.

Jarvis and his small team of programmers and designers, which included Larry DeMar and Sam Dicker, worked up a game design which, for its time, was hugely ambitious. Back then, most games took place on a single, static screen. What Jarvis proposed was a game which scrolled smoothly and rapidly along a map that was far larger than the display. At the top of the screen, a small mini map showed the player's current position. Both ideas were groundbreaking, and the mini map is a ubiquitous design feature in the games of today.

5. IT WAS COMPLETED JUST IN TIME FOR AN IMPORTANT TRADE SHOW.

As months of development passed, Jarvis was put under increasing pressure to get Defender finished in time for a trade show called the Amusement and Music Operators Association Expo. Jarvis worked feverishly to meet the deadline, but on the evening before the trade show, he had a horrifying realization: the game lacked an attract mode—the demo designed to show would-be customers how the game looks in action. An all-night coding session began, which, following another terror-inducing moment where the game refused to load up properly, the finished Defender was ready on the morning of the expo.

6. PLAYERS WERE INITIALLY INTIMIDATED.

Defender cut a strange and unnerving figure at the AMOA trade show. Where most games of the time had a joystick and one button, Defender had a joystick and five buttons—something which, Jarvis later suggested, left some people wary of even trying it. At first, though, Jarvis wasn't concerned, saying in an interview on the Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits game disc that the team was "proud that it intimidated everyone."

7. IT BECAME ONE OF THE HIGHEST-GROSSING GAMES OF THE GOLDEN AGE.

Everything changed when Defender appeared in arcades. Williams's first game of the '80s was also its biggest, selling 55,000 cabinets and reportedly making more than $1 billion in revenue. Players, it seems, couldn't get enough of Defender's speed, color, and sheer challenge.

8. A STRANGE BUG OCCURS WHEN YOU SCORE 990,000 POINTS

While Defender became famous for its vertical difficulty level, a certain breed of gamer rose to the challenge. The game's most dedicated players even discovered a bug: reach 990,000 points, and an error in the game's algorithm results in a sudden shower of extra lives and smart bombs. Yet even the bug added to Defender's absorbing challenge; as Jarvis told US Gamer, "Some of the richest elements of Defender [...] were bugs, things that I never even in my wildest imagination could have coded."

9. IT'S STILL INFLUENTIAL TODAY.

Defender's groundbreaking design paved the way for an entire generation of scrolling shooters, including Jarvis's 1981 sequel Stargate, Konami's Gradius series, and many more. Even today, Defender continues to inspire 21st-century game designers. Finnish developer Housemarque's side-scrolling shooter Resogun draws directly on the mechanics in Defender. In 2017, Jarvis teamed up with Housemarque to develop the game Nex Machina, which released to overwhelmingly positive reviews.

More than 30 years later, Defender's audacious design is still making an impact.

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