On this day in 1997, GoldenEye 64 was released for the Nintendo 64.
Initially intended as a tie-in for the film of the same name - though it had been released two years prior to the game - there really is no way of understanding just how much the game acted as a shift for the genre of first-person shooters. It's important to remember that, up until GoldenEye 64, this genre was hardened to one specific format - the PC.
There were only a small handful of games that had been made for the 16-bit era, with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom receiving cheap ports to the console. The PlayStation, meanwhile, had Dark Forces - a Doom clone that was set in the Star Wars universe - ported to it in 1996 with lacklustre results. Duke Nukem 3D, meanwhile, would only be ported to the Nintendo 64 a couple of months after GoldenEye 64's release. In fact, first-person shooters can be easily classified as before and after GoldenEye 64.
The game initially began life as a 2D-scroller for the SNES, but was then repitched as a 3D-shooter for the upcoming Nintendo 64. The designers visited the set of the film to take photographs which were then replicated into the single-player missions, such was the detail and authenticity that the game tried to achieve. Not only that, the game was the first of its kind to incorporate stealth elements into a shooter, something no first-person shooter had done before. Alarms could be triggered if you didn't stop a guard in time and, of course, everyone remembers shooting the hat off the guard in the toilet in the second mission.
What truly made GoldenEye 64 into the cultural phenomenon was its multiplayer - again, something that was only for PC gaming. The four-way splitscreen system was ingenious, and truly gave the game much more longevity than anyone expected. Moreover, it told designers and publishers that there was a real market for multiplayer gaming in consoles. What's perhaps most shocking to players, however, is that it was "a complete afterthought" by the game's designers. According to David Doak, the multiplayer system was created by one man - Steve Ellis - who, according to an interview with Retro Gamer Magazine, "sat in a room with all the code written for a single-player game and turned GoldenEye into a multiplayer game."
Everyone has a story when it comes to playing multiplayer on GoldenEye 64. It might be a rule of not picking Oddjob, or a gentleman's agreement not to look at the top screen or the radar. It could be a furious game with just pistols, or even throwing knives only - a speciality in this writer's house. It could be something as simple as bonding with brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers by trying to blow each away with Klobbs and KF7s, or even just inviting in friends from the road to have a go.
Twenty years on, GoldenEye 64 still has its charms and still holds a special place in people's hearts.