James Bond 007 – Zelda Meets Bond on the Game Boy / MY LIFE IN GAMING

When Rare and Nintendo released GoldenEye
for the N64, it defied all expectations – a movie license that not only showed how a first-person
shooter could be done right on a home console, but also pushed the genre forward in its own
way. GoldenEye was the first first-person shooter
to ever pique my interest. It also served as a gateway for getting me
into the Bond films. At the time, it was considered a travesty
in the Nintendo world when Rare was not developing the game based on Tomorrow Never Dies, and
it was going to be a PlayStation game to boot. But Nintendo fans weren’t completely out
of luck – a Game Boy game simply called James Bond 007 released only half a year after GoldenEye. I remember it being pretty decent, and I would
expect that a lot of people did play it, but absolutely no one ever talks about it. So let’s revisit James Bond on the Game
Boy. [ MUSIC: ‘Principle” by Matt McCheskey
] James Bond 007 was developed by Utah-based
developer Saffire, and released by Nintendo in early 1998. I’m sure many people ignored it because
it wasn’t something on the level of a handheld GoldenEye, but it does draw inspiration from
a very worthy source – anyone who’s played the Game Boy Zelda games will see that the
base gameplay is heavily inspired by Link’s Awakening – a winning formula if ever there
was one. The plot is extremely basic. Bond is on a mission to uncover an arms cartel. Starting in China, the game takes 007 to the
middle east, Africa, Tibet, and Russia. What’s fun is that despite the game being
developed during the Pierce Brosnan era, James Bond on the Game Boy features a nonspecific
Bond, and feels more like the world of the 60s and 70s Bond films. Sure, they could’ve done better than recycling
Oddjob and Jaws as henchmen – and why are they so freaking huge??? – but all the same,
I do get the sense that the developers had some fun getting a chance to work in the Bond
universe. Bond drops a few lame puns… and there’s
even Q-lab gags. And the music is pretty great. Nothing wrong with overusing the Bond motif
if you ask me. [ GAME AUDIO ] Your first objective is kind of silly and
very video gamey… you have to find a carpenter’s hammer so he can repair a bridge. Maybe a bit out of place in the world of James
Bond, but this is largely a game about gathering information and figuring out how to get what
you want out of people. Which is kind of a good idea for a Bond game,
don’t you think? I mean, sure, Bond has a license to kill,
but with most of his games having been shoot ‘em ups of some form or another, this puzzle
and mystery solving element feels like it gets at an important facet of Bond that the
shooter format doesn’t do as well. In fact, combat is definitely the game’s
weakest aspect. Though Bond has a pistol and a few other guns,
they’re a bit difficult to use. You pick up a shield very late in the game,
but otherwise there’s not much you can do to protect yourself in a gunfight other than
awkwardly dodging and abusing hitboxes. Fighting against melee-type enemies is a much
more pleasant experience, though a bit too simple to be interesting. Bond’s melee weapons are only his fists
and a machete – which interestingly enough can be used to cut grass, just like in Zelda. Melee is probably the easiest way to fight
in most situations, even against enemies with guns. Just equip a bullet-proof vest and charge
on in, hacking away… it’s actually kind of bizarre when you really stop to think about
it. Like, really, a machete? That’s not very Bond-like. Enemy encounters actually get very difficult
– and tedious – toward the end of the game, and I found that this was the easiest way
to… cut through. You’d think that Q’s gadgets would be
just an excellent fit for a Zelda clone, but unfortunately the potential is mostly squandered. New items don’t open up the gameplay in
any meaningful ways. An electrified keychain is automatically used
once in a very specific situation. The laser watch is only useful on a couple
of doors and that’s it. There’s simply just not much that you can
do with the majority of your inventory. Bond eventually ends up in Russia, a throwback
to the series’ Cold War era. By this point in my replay, I started to find
the game to be so frustrating that I actually had to visit to the ol’ Nintendo Power shelf
and whip out issue 105. The later stages devolve into thoughtless
enemy filled-mazes. Bond finally encounters the Metal Gear-riding
mastermind behind the arms cartel, General Golgov… not to be confused with General
Gogol of the films. After stopping Golgov’s missile launch,
Bond takes villain-turned-ally Zhong Mae on a – slow boat to China. Despite a promising first half that does a
good job of turning the information and mystery-solving aspects of Bond into a simplified Game Boy
format, the frustrating second half of the game relies on obtuse mazes and far too much
combat for a game that really isn’t designed for it. And it’s those good parts that I mostly
remembered from my initial playthrough almost 18 years ago. Sadly, I can’t say that it’s an unexpected
Game Boy gem like I wish I could’ve. But it certainly does show great potential. I mean, who would’ve thought? Mixing up Bond and Zelda? I think if someone did it better one day,
that might be the best Bond game yet.


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