Perfect Dark (Game Boy Color)
European box art
Perfect Dark is an action video game developed by Rare and published by Nintendo exclusively for the Game Boy Color handheld game console. It was released in August 2000, shortly after the release of its Nintendo 64 counterpart. The game takes place in the year 2022, one year prior to the events of the Nintendo 64 game, and follows the exploits of Joanna Dark as she attempts to prove herself as an agent for the Carrington Institute agency.
The gameplay revolves around shooting opponents and completing objectives like rescuing hostages or recovering items. It also features a multiplayer mode where two players may compete in different types of deathmatch settings. The game includes a built-in rumble functionality into the game cartridge and supports the Game Boy Printer, Game Link Cable, and Transfer Pak accessories. The Transfer Pak allows certain features within the Nintendo 64 game to alternatively be unlocked. Perfect Dark received generally a mixed reaction from video game critics, who criticized its poor and difficult gameplay but praised its graphics.
Perfect Dark is an action game that is presented from an overhead perspective where the player can move and shoot in eight directions, similar to Metal Gear: Ghost Babel. The player assumes the role of Joanna Dark, who must initially complete a training mode where she will be provided a fixed sequence of challenges so that the player learns the game mechanics. These mechanics include the use of stealth, in which players are challenged to kill enemies by sneaking up behind them without making noise (e.g. running or reloading weapons), complete a memory type game that involves pressing various buttons in a specific order to open up doors, and shoot targets from a first-person perspective.
The campaign is divided into several missions that the player has to complete while fighting enemies and completing objectives. Objectives range from rescuing hostages to exploring areas and recovering items such as keycards, explosives or laptop computers, which are useful to hack into electronic devices. The player can pick up new weapons, health and ammunition dropped by enemies if necessary. The game also features several mini-games, including a driving level and a sniper mission, as well as numerous boss battles that the player has to defeat in order to progress through the next level. By beating any of these mini-games, the player can access them in the game's extras menu.
In addition to the single-player campaign, Perfect Dark features a multiplayer mode. With the help of a Game Link Cable, two players can link together and compete in four different types of deathmatch modes, ranging from the standard kill-the-other-person on a pre-set time to the Counter Force mode, where the first player must rescue two hostages while the second player has to guard them. Various multiplayer maps are unlocked as the player progresses through the single player mode. Additionally, with the use of the optional Transfer Pak, players can use the game's cartridge to alternatively unlock some cheats in its Nintendo 64 counterpart. Players may also use the Game Boy Printer to print out character profiles.
Perfect Dark is set in early 2022, predating the storyline of the Nintendo 64 game by one year. Joanna Dark is a student at the Carrington Institute and she is eager to complete the final stages of her training. After completing her training successfully, Carrington Institute leader Daniel Carrington sends her on a mission to destroy an illegal cyborg manufacturing facility in the South American jungle. The facility is headed by Mink Hunter, a highly dangerous terrorist whose purpose is to produce high-tech weaponry for terrorist operations. Joanna manages to complete her mission by eliminating Hunter and destroying the entire facility. When Carrington contacts Joanna, she reports that, during her landing in the jungle, she witnessed an aircraft being shot down and made a note of the co-ordinates. Carrington soon learns that there is a UFO in the area at the time and that dataDyne, the world's leading developer of new technology, is getting away with the alien wreckage.
Joanna is then ordered to snoop around and investigate the crash site. In the process, she is captured and taken to the Pelagic I ship, along with the alien wreckage. Nevertheless, a mysterious alien rescues her and convinces her to sink the Pelagic I with the wreckage and escape. She succeeds and when she contacts Carrington, she tells him that she discovered that the wreckage belonged to an alien race called Skedar, extraterrestrials encountered in the Nintendo 64 game. The situation changes abruptly when the Carrington Institute is stormed by a dataDyne strike team who hopes to destroy any clues of the conspiracy. Joanna manages to defend the Institute and her work earned her enough recognition to take part in her next mission. The game ends with the Carrington Institute carrying out further investigations of dataDyne, setting the stage for the Nintendo 64 game.
Development and release
Perfect Dark was developed by Rare and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color. The game was officially announced on January 13, 2000 when its Nintendo 64 counterpart was still under development. At the time, Rare had its Game Boy Color development team split into two: one for the Game Boy Color version of Donkey Kong Country and the other for Perfect Dark. Since Perfect Dark is one of Rare's latest games developed for the Game Boy Color, the developers wanted the game to support every Game Boy Color accessory, including the Game Boy Printer, Transfer Pak, and Game Link Cable.
Originally, the game was supposed to have a face-mapping Game Boy Camera feature in conjunction with the Transfer Pak that would have allowed players to place a photograph of their choice onto the face of a multiplayer character from the Nintendo 64 game. However, Rare ultimately removed this feature due to events such as the Columbine High School massacre. The game also features a built-in rumble functionality into the game cartridge, which provides force feedback while playing the game. Perfect Dark was presented at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2000 and was initially scheduled for release on June 12, 2000. According to Rare, "What could be a better accompaniment to Joanna Dark's [Nintendo 64] debut than an exclusive Game Boy Color title that delves into her previous exploits?" However, the game was ultimately released in August 2000.
Perfect Dark received generally mixed reviews from video game critics. At the review aggregate website GameRankings, the game holds an average review score of 65.67% based on 9 reviews. GameSpot reviewer Frank Provo commented that the game "does its Nintendo 64 counterpart justice, albeit haphazardly", while other websites such as IGN or Gaming Target were more positive towards the game. Reviewers generally praised the game's graphics and audio. Writing for Gaming Target, Jonathan Nicklas praised the graphics, stating that the character sprites are "surprisingly detailed" and that the backgrounds "are not bland and appealing". The sound was also well received by some reviewers, especially the voice acting. Nicklas commented, "I was deeply surprised to find speech on an aging handheld that's actually fairly clear. I mean, speech in an [Nintendo 64] game is a rare find, so speech on a GBC is revolutionary". Despite the praise, GameSpot criticized the fact that there is no music during gameplay.
Criticism was leveled at the game's difficult gameplay due to the scarcity of health and ammunition, and distinct lack of strategy overall. IGN reviewer Craig Harris criticized the weak enemy AI while GameSpot criticized the stealth mechanics, commenting, "in theory you should be sneaking up on enemies, defusing bombs, and saving hostages. In practice, however, enemies turn around and attack even when you're sneaking up on them and defusing bombs requires no effort, so the suggestion of strategy is moot". Some reviewers found the mini-games interesting, but most agreed that they were clearly imitative of games such as Spy Hunter or Operation Wolf.
In a very positive review, Planet Game Boy magazine praised the mini-games and highlighted the multiplayer mode due to its selection of competitive games, concluding: "Perfect Dark is one of the biggest handheld games ever made, and for fans of the [Nintendo 64] version it's a vital purchase." IGN also praised the multiplayer mode and extras, but remarked that "there's no real strategy involved in these deathmatch games other than to find the other person and open fire until one dies and respawns elsewhere on the map". In a retrospective review, Jon Wahlgren of NintendoLife felt that Rare "did a great job on squeezing so many features and technical magic into the little cart, but by focusing so heavily on the tech they seem to have sacrificed a lot of what would make it more fun to play". In 2012, GamesRadar ranked it the 47th best game available on the Game Boy and/or Game Boy Color. The staff praised Rare for its adaptation of the Nintendo 64 game.
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- Rare. "Perfect Dark". Level/area: dataDyne Base / Crash Site.
Daniel Carrington: We found nothing, Joanna. In all of the satellite data that grid square is empty. But we got hold of an Air Force pilot's report of a UFO in the area at that time. / Joanna Dark: A UFO? More likely it's an experimental aircraft. / Daniel Carrington: I agree... but it's still worth investigating. Go and snoop around the crash site, see what you can find. But look out for dataDyne activity in the area. We're getting a lot of strange reports.
- Rare. "Perfect Dark". Level/area: Pelagic I.
Alien: Joanna, you must gather as much information on the alien ship as possible and get it back to the Carrington Institute. / Joanna Dark: Who... who are you? / Alien: A friend. Listen, you must stop dataDyne getting away with the alien wreckage. / Joanna Dark: What do you mean? / Alien: You must sink this ship and escape. / Joanna Dark: How? / Alien: I'm sorry I can't help you any further.
- Rare. "Perfect Dark". Level/area: Carrington Institute.
Daniel Carrington: From now on we must be cautious. We will have to carry out further investigations of dataDyne to find out what is at the bottom of this.
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