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The legacy of 'GoldenEye' is not a game

It is often believed that GOLDENEYE owes its success to the Nintendo 64 video game, released in 1997, two years after the source film and just as TOMORROW NEVER DIES was wrapping up production. Remember, the first-person shooter developed by Rare is still considered one of the best video games of all time and thanks to the emergence of emulation people are still playing it today. However, it would be rushed to diminish the impact of the original 1995 film, considering that its characters and storyline provided an important background and intellectual property that contributed to make the Nintendo 64 game a massive success.

Released in November 1995, GOLDENEYE had a worldwide gross of more than 352 million dollars, which is six times the film's budget of 6 million dollars, back on the day the highest-grossing film of the James Bond franchise since 1979's MOONRAKER, with Roger Moore as 007. This alone is something to take into consideration after LICENCE TO KILL in 1989 had the poorest Bond box-office numbers at 156 million dollars. Between 1989 and 1995, people thought Bond wouldn't make it into the 1990s and this feeling, far from the tabloids, was also felt by EON Prouctions and the MGM/UA executives. On an interview with The Secret Agent Lair, former MGM/UA Vice-president Jeff Kleeman admits that until the first trailer of the film was shown on Summer 1995 everyone was very much into the shadows, wondering if people would really like to see James Bond back. As GOLDENEYE was leaving the theatres, the studio's top priority became the release of TOMORROW NEVER DIES, pushing the producers to get it for no later than December 1997 taking into advantage the character's resurgence with this movie.

Development of the video game began in tandem with the film, in January 1995. The product muted from a Virtual Boy driving adventure to an on-rails shooter in the style of VIRTUA COP to the game we finally know, with the successful multiplayer mode added weeks before its release. All these changes and the addition of new collaborators to the project caused the game to release two years after the film, performing much better in the markets than during the 1997 E3 exposition where little people seemed engaged with the product.

As it was also admitted by Kleeman, the game was a window for many young people to the world of James Bond. The game made them watch the film and the film led to the James Bond adventures of the past, which were homaged in the interactive adventure with a couple of weapons and gadgets used by Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton, as well as two bonus levels based in the films MOONRAKER and LIVE AND LET DIE. By practically coinciding with the release date of TOMORROW NEVER DIES, people played the game, rented the GOLDENEYE VHS and then watched the eighteeenth Bond film on the big screen and in no time became anxious to wait for the following adventure, which was THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH in 1999.

However, for obvious reasons and due to the limitation of an interactive adventure back in the nineties, the game lacks a very important part of GOLDENEYE which is showcased in the film: Xenia Onatopp is relegated to a background appaerance in the Train mission and her showdown with the player is limited to a shootout in the Cuban Jungle, ditching all the dangerous seduction moments she shares with James Bond while racing him on the Monaco Corniche, playing baccarat in the casino and having a steamy fight with him on a spa, where she uses her particular ability to crush enemies with her legs. Pretty much the same applies to Natalya Simonova: she is just locked up for treason in the Severnaya Bunker and the emotional subplot of having her workmates and friends murdered by Ourumov and Xenia is gone. Also missing is Valentin Zukovsky's gloating attitude towards Bond when 007 asks him for a favour, relegated to a secret encounter on the Statue park. And far from a fiery hand-to-hand combat, both Bond and Trevelyan shoot each other to death on the Antenna Cradle level which closes the story mode.

Of course, it was expected that the video game would be only limited to the action scenes of the film and the only side we can experience of the world of GOLDENEYE and James Bond is toying with our Walther PPK (or PP7) and gadgets since the addition of any other element would have gone against the video game logic. This was compensated by the open world nature of the game where a player could explore the map and achieve the completion of objectives in different ways, but there is still a big part of the success of GOLDENEYE missing in the game.

In 2000, the GOLDENEYE video game had two spiritual successors for Nintendo 64: PERFECT DARK, also developed by Rare, and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, published by Electronic Arts. Both were first-person shooters and tried to improve some of the 1997 title limitations, allowing the player to jump, making more detailed models of the characters and adding voice talent, among many other things. PERFECT DARK was also very successful, but it is not as widely remembered as GOLDENEYE 007. A similar case happens to THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, which also had very positive reviews and was the foundational stone for future Bond games like AGENT UNDER FIRE or 007 NIGHTFIRE, but it is always diminished when compared to GOLDENEYE's gameplay style.

This also proves how important the GOLDENEYE intellectual property was to its Nintendo 64 game: characters like Boris Grishenko, Valentin Zukovsky, General Ourumov or Xenia Onatopp primarily belong to the movie and, while the game was the introduction of them for many people, it is their actions in the film that made them memorable since their in-game appaerance was much more brief. The source story and their characters is not something that we can put aside as well as the fact that the Rare team worked hand in hand with the production of the film, visiting the sets and reconstructing them as faithfully as possible into the Nintendo 64 polygonal structures. So, the ambience of the levels has a precedent on Peter Lamont's work as also is the story of the film and character development that began in the minds of Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. While Electronic Arts' THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH probably had a similar lineout and development, the impact with the intellectual property -even the Bond intellectual property- wasn't that huge.

A quarter of a century after its release, GOLDENEYE still remains one of the most beloved films in the long-running history of the cinematic James Bond and a generational classic for those who grew up in the 1990s. While most gamers will insist on how important the Nintendo 64 legend was for popular culture, it shouldn't be overlooked that before a great game there was a great film.

The author has written The World of GoldenEye, which is available through the Amazon stores in English and Spanish.

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