During their glorious years developing games for the Nintendo 64, Rare wanted to create new superstars in addition to making games featuring familiar characters such as Donkey Kong. One person who would debut during this time was Conker the Squirrel, a cute fellow who was to become the star of a family friendly platform game, much in the style of Banjo-Kazooie. He may have been dismissed as just another cute platform game character, if fate did not interfere. This is the story of how Conker, once a character for all ages, became the lewd and rude individual he is today.
It all began in 1997, when Rare announced a new game for the Nintendo 64 called Conker’s Quest. In the game, Conker was on a quest to retrieve stolen birthday presents. His girlfriend, Berri the Chipmunk, had a slightly different quest, as she had to raise her monster companion while exploring many different lands. These worlds would have included the Wild West, various caves, a gladiator setting, and more. Screen shots as well as videos on YouTube also give an example of a cute environment, designed to appeal mainly to young players.
Rare hoped to have Conker as well as Banjo-Kazooie out by the end of 1997, but ended up delaying both games. Instead, the two characters debuted in Diddy Kong Racing, the acclaimed racing game that became a major holiday hit. Conker proved to be quite the rascal with his high-pitched voice and mischievous behavior. Diddy Kong Racing was intended in part to be a game filled with potential breakout stars, but only Conker, Banjo, and to a lesser extent, Tiptup the Turtle (who made cameo appearances in the Banjo-Kazooie series) would become well-known in future titles following their debut here.
Time passed, and Conker’s 3D adventure eventually gained a new title: Twelve Tales: Conker 64. New additions like a multi player mode were announced, but the game’s kid friendly atmosphere remained intact. More screen shots showed the incredible attention to detail that Rare was giving the game, including facial expressions, then uncommon in video games. Both 1998 and 1999 came and went without a release of the game. However, Conker did get a chance to star in his own title as his sweet, innocent self.
In 1999, Conker starred in Conker’s Pocket Tales for the Game Boy Color. Here, Conker was on a quest to save Berri and retrieve his birthday presents, all of which were taken by the Evil Acorn. This game was designed to give players a taste of Conker’s 3D adventure, and offered a variety of puzzles and mini games. However, the game play was difficult and monotonous at times, with an excess of block puzzles in the later stages of the game, difficult controls in some of the mini games, and energy units that never regenerated. Still, it was unique in that different variations of the quest could be played depending on whether it was played on the Game Boy Color or the original Game Boy.
Meanwhile, Rare was concerned about Conker 64 due to the fact that they were already making similar titles and people were dismissing it as being simply another platform game for kids. As a result, they decided to change the game completely. After hinting that the game would finally be released in 2000, Rare unleashed a huge surprise on unsuspecting players. Not only was the game’s title being changed once again, this time to Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but it also made a change from a family friendly game to one meant for adults only. Gone were the cuddly characters, cartoon-like music, and kid-friendly charm. In their place was loads of blood, rude and abusive folks, strong language, and sexual themes.
Conker himself was changed as an individual, from cute and mischievous to lewd and selfish. He would stay at the local pub late at night, drinking until he was drunk. He would smoke, occasionally swear, and show dislike towards just about anyone. He would do anything for money, even killing innocent characters (i.e. a baby dinosaur) to obtain it. As such, he would eventually get a comeuppance of sorts: his girlfriend Berri was killed by a weasel mafia leader, he was made king of all the land, and he was given no chance of ever returning home with Berri. Definitely not the type of character that would serve as a good role model to kids.
This new version of Conker was accepted by many players, who would make Conker’s Bad Fur Day a cult classic as the Nintendo 64 neared the end of its life. To them, Conker had received a better fate than if his game was released in its original format. Unfortunately, sales of the game were less than spectacular, pretty much putting any plans of a sequel on hold. There was the remake, Conker: Live and Reloaded, released for the Xbox in 2005, but it, too, failed to become a big seller. Rare has since hinted that Conker himself may not have much of a future; if another game in the series is made, it would be all about the war between the squirrels and the Tediz, and the game would start with the death of Conker. Such a title has not yet been officially announced as of May 2009, but one never knows what twisted plans Rare may have next.
Conker has undergone one of the strangest evolutions ever seen in any video game character. He started off as a person who was intended for players young and old, and ended up being a very mature fellow. It is a rather surprising overhaul, one that no one saw coming ten years ago, when Conker was still an all-ages character. However, it seems that such a dramatic alteration may have doomed Conker’s chances of a long-running series, especially if Rare’s plans become official. It is quite an unusual history, and it may have an unhappy ending…what a way for a once sweet and cute squirrel to go.