NOTE – This was originally written before playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which I am now crowning my favorite game of 1997. However, for this entry only I will be keeping the original Goldeneye 007 notes as part of the article. International Superstar Soccer 64 was removed to make way for Symphony – I find ISS 98 to be much better, anyway, which is covered in Looking Back’s 1998 entry.
Freshmen Year. That’s what 1997 was all about. My eighth grade year wasn’t shabby – I met Chris and became good friends with him, Chad and I were as tight as we ever were, I had a new crush (more on that), my classes were fun, and my adversary from past years had moved up to high school, so things were not terrible. That had to end, though. Freshmen year was returning to the bottom rung…with THREE grades looking down upon you. I had no hearsay in my classes, so I ended up stuck in a Drafting class I hated (and failed on purpose). I got beaned with pennies and with gum. My antagonist was wandering around again. My crush would only be glimpsed on the bus ride, as she was still in middle school. I didn’t end up seeing Chad or Chris all that often at school. We had to dress out for PE, wearing dorky PE clothes. I was not much for the public nudist act, so I disliked being stuck in a locker room.
In retrospect, the games below were big reasons why 1997 means anything to me now. A ton of time was spent battling it out on Nintendo 64′s scattered across our friends, and new multiplayer excursions were often tried out and tested between all of us. I had a subscription to Game Players and Next Generation, and was able to keep tabs on what was shaking in the N64 world and beyond, which was nice.
The crush of 1997. Heh. It’s funny to say now, but I remember seeing her for the first time and having that clichéd “love at first sight” smattering. She was cute, to be sure. I was terribly shy, though, so I never talked to her much in my early crushing days. It took a couple of years, and we would say hi and occasionally chat. Little did she know that she was huge to me – I had incorporated her into my art, thought about her all the time. In three years, that fleeting fancy would be crushed and shattered unlike I had experienced before. I’m not sure how often I mention it here, but I abstain from drinking. I’ll stay off my soapbox for now, but I have had very strong reservations about alcohol consumption for a long time, and one day she revealed to me how she got a cold that was bugging her – from drinking too much and diving into a freezing pond. It truly felt like something inside my brain snapped and drained. I continued the conversation, but I never really talked to her again after that, which was a bit of an ass-y thing to do, I suppose, looking back on it. However, I was devastated about it for some time…but I recovered. Heh. It’s really goofy how I as a teenager reacted to things like this, like the world would ignite and pull itself apart because a girl drinks. XD Sheesh. In any event, I don’t regret my past here, as Grace is beyond my wildest dreams, much more than any prior crush I had or even fathomed. It’ll be fun talking about how we met and got to be a couple in a few posts.
Goldeneye 007 (N64, Nintendo/Rare)
Rare’s first stab at a FPS turned out to be a revolution in terms of design – enemies became smarter and reacted to where they were shot, objectives spiced up the game’s levels, and it became a multiplayer sensation.
Bomberman 64 (N64, Hudson)
Bomberman’s N64 debut was a well-executed platformer, with engaging levels, lots of secrets to hunt down, and a robust multiplayer mode.
Star Fox 64 (N64, Nintendo)
Nintendo’s Fox McCloud returned to space for his second mission, and the tight shooting action was phenomenal. Arguably the best in the series alongside its SNES counterpart.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, Konami)
Konami’s reinvention of the Castlevania franchise into a more Metroid-esque exploration was a brilliant move, and the excellent gameplay, music and spritework made it all the more incredible.
In my opinion, the second best game of 1997 was…
Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo/Rare)
Goldeneye truly is a special game. It sort of appeared out of nowhere with a massive cloud of hype surrounding it, and it quickly became the go-to game for get-togethers with my middle/high school chums. We spent countless hours trailing each other in the game’s vast multiplayer levels, often utilizing the Golden Gun for maximum thrills. I don’t know if we felt any more bonded than when we were blasting it out in 007.
Thankfully, the game’s single player was also excellent, enabling us to compete for cheats when we were alone. It became a badge of honor to get particular ones without a Gameshark – I managed to get the tricky Invincibility cheat before my friends did after many replays trying to storm through the Facility stage, to finally shave off precious seconds to slide in at 2 minutes and 3 seconds, 2 seconds shy of the barrier required to enable it. One of my strongest memories, for sure. When I wasn’t battling my friends for bragging rights, I was enraptured by Rare’s mastery of their control scheme, which seamlessly made James Bond’s actions mirror my commands. Responsive, quick and nigh-perfect, I adored every second spent with Goldeneye.
As I ponder my past and what games made the biggest impact upon me, Goldeneye 007 is handily in the Top 5. Without a doubt. It gave me an equal place with my friends (some of whom didn’t want to cough up such entitlement otherwise), a conversation piece when we were at school, and an everlasting fondness few games have managed. Despite the many advances the genre has seen since Goldeneye’s initial rattling of the foundation, it’s solid gameplay fun.
Some personal anecdotes:
Baron Samadi or Natalya were my MP characters. Samadi I’ve always thought was awesome thanks to Live and Let Die (the only Roger Moore 007 film I care to watch), while with Natalya I tend to enjoy playing as females in games like these. Xenia was a little over-the-top for my liking.
The last cheat I had to unlock was the Silver PP7, and I’m ashamed to admit it, but it was achieved with the aid of a Gameshark. XD
I was a backstabbing bastard in MP. If I caught on fire with the Golden Gun, I was an assassin. There were times I went for minutes without dying, slaying anyone in my wake. Goldeneye had that knack for empowering all players – I’m sure my friends feel that they had amazing streaks in 007, too.
My copy is signed by Mr. Jaws himself, Richard Kiel. It’s one of my more precious games because of it. Kiel’s a nice guy, too. He used to live nearby, and my mom ran right into his bellybutton once. :p
Activision’s new take on the game intrigues me, and I may pick it up, but I’m going to try to enjoy it on its own merits. It will never replicate the classic, no matter how hard they advertise it as such. I hope it’s a fun game, though.
In my opinion, the best game of 1997 was…
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, Konami)
After years and years of watching this game continually land on platforms I did not own, and then, once I had a console capable of playing it (the PS2), it was incredibly scarce and/or expensive to obtain, I truly wondered if I’d be fortunate enough to play through a game my old Neomega comrades hailed the best of all time as a group (without my vote!). I knew that when I got a PS3, I could DL it, but owning a physical copy had been much more preferable to me. So, imagine my surprise when a new acquittance from the Hardcore Gaming 101 forums offered to send me a copy of the game his sister didn’t want! I was stoked! So, after playing through the portable CV’s that aped the formula begun here, would I find the original to be superior? Would it show its age, not really living up to the praise? What if I found it jerky or unappealing? Questions like this bounced in my head as I awaited the mail to arrive. And I stopped playing through my newly gained Christmas Wii games (which were all excellent!) to begin this ASAP. Those long years, the sheer anticipation of this game’s excellence finally came to an ahead as I plopped it into the PS2 and started it up.
I quickly answered my questions, and they were Yes, No, and No. This is a game worthy of its accolades, and worthy of its status as a fantastic piece of gaming entertainment. Despite its shoddy voice work and iffy plot, the game’s rich gameplay and appealing level design made stepping into the boots of Alucard an enjoyable one. Alucard has an incredible set of talents that are almost all fun to use, and the game gives you ample opportunity to experiment with the possibilities it provides and allow gamers to work with what appeals to them best. It’s got a lot of hidden goodies to hunt down to power up Alucard, plus a meaty selection of weaponry and armor to equip him with. And the enemy lineup is beautifully animated and diverse. It’s obvious why Konami continues to recycle them in later CV’s – the quality was astounding. And the backdrops have not been matched in any sequel. Save a few hokey 3D effects that look terrible now, the game is a gorgeous treat to the eyes to watch, and is full of clever touches that show how much care went into making them.
Michiru Yamane was given free reign to compose the soundtrack (save a track or two), and she outdid herself with Symphony’s luscious score. The GBA and DS games have some amazing tracks (and I still find Portrait’s to be the best), but Yamane on CD is a audible glory. It makes me wish more 2D games ended up on consoles so I could hear those soundtracks stretch out and utilize better instrumentation.
All and all, Symphony wowed me, much like Super Metroid did in the Gamecube era. While I was not as thoroughly amazed as I was with Super Metroid, I found Symphony to be the high point of a very storied franchise, one that I greatly enjoy and treasure as a favorite. So that’s saying something.
Some personal anecdotes:
Massive thanks to Jason X at the HG101 forums for mailing this to me. I need to post there more. XD I traded him Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for it – I hope he likes it more than me. I certainly relished my end of the deal!
The voice work is indeed atrocious. Ricther was BAD, Dracula was campy, Maria was so-so at best, and Alucard tried to be okay, and usually reached that goal, but stuttered along the way. I really wish there was an option to turn them off, but hey – what can you do.
It’s the newest game on my Top 20 list (went up January 2011!), so I don’t have a ton of memories about it quite yet. I do want to replay it this summer though.
Bomberman 64 (1997 video game)
Breath of Fire III
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Diddy Kong Racing
Fallout (video game)
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy Tactics
GoldenEye 007 (1997 video game)
The House of the Dead (video game)
International Superstar Soccer 64
Kirby’s Dream Land 3
Mega Man Legends (video game)
NFL Quarterback Club ’98
Postal (video game)
Rampage World Tour
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special
Star Fox 64
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Back to 1996 – Forward to 1998