Video Game Thoughts: Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark was a 2000 first-person shooter game for the Nintendo 64 by Rare. Perfect Dark, while not a sequel, was the spiritual successor to Goldeneye 007. It came out very late in the Nintendo 64’s lifespan, but it packed a punch. It pretty much had all the qualities of Goldeneye with even more good things in it. I would guess it had double the content of Goldeneye. It was better in pretty much every way, and that’s saying something because Goldeneye itself was already an amazing game. How could a game do better? Perfect Dark had the lengthy single player story, the meaty multiplayer, and all the unlockables. What it did better was graphics, sound, immersiveness, and an expanded arena mode.

The textures in the game were nice and sharp. Rooms had lighting that could be shot to make the room dark. Then the player could sneak in the shadows and silently dispatch enemies. Perfect Dark was generally considered to have the best graphics on the Nintendo 64. Every level had at least one music track, some had more for high intensity situations and more mellow times. The main thing Perfect Dark added was voice acting. The audio quality wasn’t the greatest because they had to compress the voice recordings to fit on the small game cartridge, but it was still cool to hear voice acting. Nintendo 64 games just didn’t have voice acting.

I really loved the whole menu design of Perfect Dark. The main menu was basically the headquarters of Perfect Dark (the name of the hero) and the institute she worked for. There was a central menu the player could use as a shortcut to access all the game modes, but the player could also just explore the whole institute to access them. Several rooms were used for tutorials. One room was a combat simulator. Another room had a shooting range. Single player and multiplayer modes were accessed from certain computer terminals. I loved how realistic it all was. This wasn’t just a game. It was a real world place. I wasn’t just picking to go to the shooting range from a list. I was walking to the room, equipping a weapon, and shooting at targets. Everything was just seamless. There were transitions to get to the single player campaign and multiplayer matches, but everything else was seamless. I loved it.

In another addition, the arena mode wasn’t just a multiplayer mode anymore. There were now “sims” (computer bots) for a single player to play the arena matches on. I loved this because multiplayer was now a useful game mode all the time, even when my friends were busy. There were several different kinds of sims from hand-to-hand ones to “perfect” ones. It always kept things interesting. Even more, they had a bunch of special challenges with a simple story for each one. The player might be on a team of really weak sims against a single perfect sim, and the goal was to defeat the perfect sim without losing any of their weak sims. They started out easy but quickly got hard. Some of them took forever to complete, but I had a blast finishing them all. Each of them unlocked something for the arena mode, such as new maps, weapons, sims, and characters to play as.

There was a lot of hype before Perfect Dark’s release. I followed all of it. A lot of times the game didn’t hold up, but Perfect Dark did. Just like it’s name, it pretty much was a perfect game. My Best of Nintendo 64 is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but Perfect Dark is a close second. It got perfect scores in many reviews. It was a shame it came out so late in the Nintendo 64’s life. It was overlooked by many players that had purchased the new PlayStation 2.

Unfortunately, the perfection didn’t last. Rare was bought by Microsoft a few years later. They released a sequel, Perfect Dark Zero, but it just didn’t have the magic. By then, the development team had split three different ways. Only a small fraction worked on the sequel. I will always remember the amazement Perfect Dark gave me. It occupied my time for roughly an entire year and kept me going during the Nintendo game drought while they were finish development of the Nintendo GameCube console.

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