Young Conker Rears Head

Gene Marsh / March 3, 2016 at 12:00 PM / Gaming, Gaming Opinions

“Conker is a much beloved property that has a huge following.”

Microsoft revealed today that the Conker IP will be tapped to feature in a gimmick title showing off the capabilities of the Microsoft Hololens, a device which incorporates the surrounding environment in an augmented reality experience. The game in question is a platformer that takes place in whatever room the user is in and adjusts mechanics based on that room. It’s context sensitive.

Young Conker design proposal meeting

“Conker is a much beloved property that has a huge following.”

Read that again. Such a sentence can only be indicating the reason why they chose to exploit that property for this throwaway game, and a big flip-that-scarecrow to the huge following. They cannot believe that they are actually using these characters the way fans have been begging for over a decade. It has to be a sort of snide sarcasm, an acknowledgement that they are just draining these games dry of all popularity in an attempt to dredge some enthusiasm for whatever latest toy it’s been seen fit to strap them to. Nobody in their right mind thinks this is what anyone wanted out of Conker:

(those with sensitive memories may wish to turn away)

This game is on about the level of that face shooting thing that came with the 3DS, if they had tethered some beloved and much neglected name to it. It has nothing to do with this character, contains no real amount of gameplay or writing, and in fact cannot: nobody level designed your living room. A boss fight is not hiding in the sink. I will be sorely impressed if humorous cinematics pop up from your TV. It’s not that kind of game, so there was no real reason to denigrate the Conker property by tying it to this tech demo.

They had at least the common decency to brand it as “young,” i.e. before the canon of Bad Fur Day. This means it is more in line with the classic, childish gameboy version of Conker, as I predicted when the title leaked. Still, there can be no argument made other than that this is a blatant tie-on, hoping to exploit the popularity and nostalgia of a game many remember fondly. Much as with Project Spark, Microsoft is using Rare’s legacy as so much ballast to try and assist an unstable and sketchy technical gambit. It’s like a washed-up actor being forced to advertise hemorrhoid cream: the damage done to the existing work of this person is greater than the value of what you’re gaining, but you don’t even care, do you?

Time and again we see this story. It happened with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, fizzled out in Project Spark’s failed Conker’s Big Reunion, and here comes to an appalling head: Microsoft will never make anything good with Rare’s IP. This scenario approaches the level of parody, it’s like if Nintendo had acquired their onetime rival Sonic only to hock bizarre sports titles. There is no real intent by anyone involved to really try to revive these franchises, and it actually seems like more of a joke to them.

The talent that made Rare a touchstone during the N64 era is dried up and blown away, and the legacy left behind by the people who brought us Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 amounts to a halfhearted endorsement glued to experimental tech. Maybe some people don’t care, never cared, but if we looked ten years into the future and saw today’s promising characters demeaned and orphaned from their creators, used like simple mascots and marketing tools, those people would understand this frustration that now befalls Rare loyalists.

It can only be called disrespectful to Rare, to the fans of these games, and the era of 90s platformers for Microsoft to employ their conquests so carelessly. At this point, the Conker IP is dead. Worse than dead—desecrated. Please abandon all hopes, ye who enter here. Stop talking about it, stop asking for new games, lest this blasphemy repeat itself again and again. Short of Rare bursting forth from Microsoft’s forehead and reestablishing itself as an independent studio, we’re probably better off letting the reaper do his friggin’ job.

“Conker is a much beloved property that has a huge following.”

Gene Marsh

Gene is a student of biology and philosophy, who enjoys PC games, technical advancements, applied science, and the internet. Pester & harass him @GeneMildest