Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Legend of Moneypenny: James Bond 007

Released amid the furor around Goldeneye for the N64, James Bond 007 for the Game Boy didn't get attention. There are quite a few reasons for this. For one, it was released in 1997, very late into the life-span of monochrome Game Boy games and not long before the release of the Game Boy Color, so it wasn't really a time in which any game for the system got a whole lot of attention. Secondly, the game could not be more different from the game that popularized first-person shooters on consoles. It is not surprising that the game goes overlooked considering the situation, but it is quite interesting. It is the first game from Saffire, a small developer formed out of Sculptured Software that didn't make anything particularly noteworthy before going out of business in 2004.

The best way to describe James Bond 007 for Game Boy is the unholy union between The Legend of Zelda and the old 2D Metal Gear games. I'm sure the latter makes sense, but I'm sure most readers are surprised or confused about the former. It sounds crazy, but it really is the best way I can describe it though. There isn't a big overworld like in Zelda games, but even with the game separated into levels, each one is sort of like a mini world of its own. There are NPCs to talk to and do quests for, hidden stuff to find, and places to infiltrate (see: dungeons).

Finding the hidden stuff and figuring out exactly what needs to be done next can be a bit of a pain, but most of the time the game gives enough hints to push things along. It may not be quite a Zelda game, but it has a similar structure, and that is kind of interesting in the context a Bond game, even if it is sometimes incongruous with the world-traveling espionage setting. Managing an inventory of weapons and tools that can be assigned to the different buttons is definitely familiar, but it works in the gadget-filled world of 007.

The game is like the old Metal Gear titles mostly in the aspects of combat and weapon selection. It doesn't really have the stealth mechanics, but since it is combat using melee and ranged attacks with modern weaponry shown from an overhead perspective it has a similar feeling. The way the player needs to hit to opponent fast and repeatedly before they can strike back is reminiscent of how battle goes down in Metal Gear, as is the way enemies swarm when alerted. Melee combat is a bit more complicated with the ability to block attacks, though the game doesn't use this in a way that requires to player to do much more than block/counterattack.

It may not be better at anything than the games that it reminds me of, but the power of the Bond license and the way the fact that it isn't just the usual platformer cash-in makes it quite entertaining. Goldeneye is definitely a fun game, and it adds objectives to an FPS that makes it more like a something that deserves the 007 name, but it doesn't quite capture the feeling of being Bond. In James Bond 007, the player flies around the world, does some snooping around, seduces a female adversary, steals documents, and uses a bunch of gadgets. That covers a great deal of the sort of stuff Bond should be doing, and that makes the game pretty charming, even if it lacks big set pieces and chase sequences.

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