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‘GoldenEra’: Feelings, Facts, Nostalgia and A Job Well Done

Facts, anecdotes and funny stories regarding the development of GOLDENEYE 007 can be easily found everywhere these days thanks to the Internet and, mostly, social media: people who worked in the game are easily reachable on Twitter, and have offered interviews to many outlets (whether if you are IGN or just another podcast host) and replied to inquiring followers. If that is not enough, from time to time a YouTube user posts a video of an event celebrating Nintendo 64’s golden cartridge in around 2007 or you can easily find scans of old video game magazines where the team has been interviewed. Bottom line: there is little to discover regarding this game now, and in every interview, you feel the team is asked the same questions over and over.

GOLDENERA, a documentary directed by Drew Roller and written by Roller and Brok Power, may not really give you new information if you have studied the game well. But when it comes to compiling 25 years of legacy – a quarter of a century of facts, reflections, anecdotes of this game and the huge impact it had on 1990s kids (Bond fans, gamers or both), they pass with flying colours and is the quintessential GOLDENEYE 007 documentary if you want to learn the highlights of this game’s development and legacy, from the Stamper brothers and their company Rare from Twycross in England to the big leak of the cancelled XBLA version in January 2021.

All this waterfall of information is made easy to understand for those who are not very familiar with the history of video games or the backstage facts of this industry: not only the interviewees -David Doak, Brett Jones, Grant Kirkhope, Karl Hilton and many others- are very clear in their points, but thanks to community inventions like the GoldenEye Setup Editor some of their anecdotes are re-enacted using the game engine, a very creative and gracious way to explain things. Rarely-seen footage from the 1997 E3 expo and game design documents and production sketches is also shown, something that elevates the quality of this product along with Tweaklab’s score, heavily influenced by the tunes heard through the game levels.

As it has been pointed out before, GOLDENERA covers all the bases: what Rare was and their philosophy of work, how Nintendo got the licence to do a tie-in game based on GOLDENEYE and how the inexperienced team loved Bond, and details about the game’s development and release, along with its unexpected success and how it marked a before and after for 007 games and video games in general. This includes the attempts of Electronic Arts and Activision to take advantage of the GOLDENEYE trademark to produce their variations of the original title (a Bond underworld spin-off in 2004, a 2010 reimagining with Daniel Craig), which paled in comparison to unofficial projects made by fans not seeking money and with the only ambition to relive their childhood through today’s technology: the many emulator-based “campaigns” using the original’s engine made by users like Flagree’s World War II maps are referenced along with GOLDENEYE: SOURCE, the PC recreation of the multiplayer mode using the Source engine. The perennial “battle” between GOLDENEYE and Rare's spiritual "follow-up" PERFECT DARK (2000) is given some thought as well, just like Rare’s purchase by Microsoft and members of the team founding Free Radical Design after leaving the company.

It would have been good that the popularity of the 1995 film, which is the raison d’etre for every official and unofficial adaptation of this game, would have had a major presence. A good point is made by one of the interviewees that thanks to GOLDENEYE 007 future first-person shooters began to detach from fantasy elements (monsters, aliens, zombies) and tried to place the player in a real-world setting, an example being MEDAL OF HONOR. This real-world setting is owed to the first of the four Pierce Brosnan big-screen adventures and we have to wonder what this game would have been without the backing of rich characters and a relevant plot. Probably the game would have been successful as well and still very original and creative, but colourful characters like Boris Grishenko or Valentin Zukovsky as well as lines like “I was always better, James” or “Why can’t just be a good boy and die!” are a substantial part of the movie that enriched the game experience beyond all of the innovative experience proposed by the developers.

But that’s only a “complaint” (if we can even call it that) of a Bond fan. Anyway, you can be certain that GOLDENERA will not disappoint you and it will certainly touch you if you had lovely memories shooting your way out of the Facility or the Caverns with relatives and friends. It is the testimony of a generation. The testimony of the men who influenced that generation. A letter of love, and an amazing piece of work.

GOLDENERA is available on various streaming platforms on the UK. See rental and purchase options on Altitude Film's official site.

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