RetroSpective – James Bond 007

James Bond 007 InfoJames Bond is back, with the latest movie Spectre now showing at cinemas worldwide.  So, here at Rings & Coins we thought it would be a good time to go back to a classic retro Bond title.  Though it may not be the game you’re thinking of.  No it’s not Goldeneye, it’s James Bond 007 on the Game Boy.

The Game Boy may have played host to a wealth of small screen adaptions of console classics, but this game isn’t one of them.  In fact, right from the start you can tell this isn’t going to be your usual James Bond title.  A wise decision given the uniqueness of the Game Boy in comparison to its console siblings.

For many when you think of 007 and gaming, the First-Person Shooter genre is what immediately comes to mind.  However, here we are given a game that is actually more similar to The Legend of Zelda, than Goldeneye.  This instantly gives the game a unique identity.

Bond Marrakech
James Bond 007 is brimming with individuality and personality.

Playing out from a top-down perspective, players are tasked with traversing the globe, whilst battling enemies and solving problems.  It’s a typical adventure game, but one that’s done extremely well.  There’s also a wealth of hidden secrets on offer, and a fair amount of space in each level that you’ll need to explore to proceed.  This helps to give the game considerable length and variety.

This variety is also seen within the controls.  Initially, you’ll simply start out with only the ability to punch and block.  However, after getting equipped with all sorts of weapons and gadgets by Q back in London, you’ll soon find your arsenal growing.  Additionally, the game allows you to constantly switch between which weapons, gadgets or items are used when you press A or B, meaning that players can customise their load out whenever they feel.  This makes the game extremely accessible, and highly varied.

Bond Jaws
Boss battle against Jaws

As with most Adventure games, the opening level looks to ease you into the experience.  Taking place in Shanghai, this stage initially leaves the player to explore, and get a feel for the controls.  However, this soon turns into an escape scene, with Bond having to take down a wealth of enemies, without even a firearm.  Overall, this is the perfect opener, and given the choice to follow this level up with Bond’s mission briefing back in London, it also serves to mirror the way in which most Bond movies begin.

From this, the game really grows into itself, expanding on each of the elements you’ve been introduced to, much in the same way as The Legend of Zelda.  In fact one of the game’s highlights comes after Bond is ditched for dead in the Sahara at the hands of Oddjob.  This level in particular, gives you the true feeling of being lost and desperate as you try to escape the seemingly endless desert.

Bond Sahara
Bond after being ditched in the Sahara

The game isn’t completely devoid of frustrations though.  This is especially true when looking at some of the “find, fetch and then carry” puzzle elements, which can leave the player a little lost as to what to do next.  Yet this isn’t enough to dampen the experience, and given the explorative nature of the game, it’ll be a while before you potentially work out that you’re lost.  All in all, the gameplay here is one that may seem superficially simplistic at the outset, but if you look at little deeper, you’ll find a fair amount of content on offer.

The game’s individuality and depth also flows through into the excellent story, one not based on any of Bond’s many silver screen adventures.  Instead, just like recent games such as 007 Blood Stone, or the SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis title The Duel, this is a game based completely around an original storyline.  For many this could possibly be considered a negative, however this couldn’t more wrong.

Bond Shanghai
007 escaping from Shanghai in the opening level

The story is exactly what you would expect from a Bond title, and this is just another of the game’s great strengths.  Kicking off in Shanghai and taking players all around the world, from Marrakesh to Russia, the story effectively takes you into the pre-Daniel Craig James Bond world.  This means you should expect a wise-cracking suave Bond, a love interest, and a villain trying to take over the world.

Furthermore, players should expect to see both familiar faces, including the likes of M and Oddjob, and some that have only been referenced, such as 008.  This simply intensifies the feel of being inside the Bond universe, something that both the story and the overall game achieves perfectly.  In fact, the only things missing from the story, are a suitable sub-title, and an opening cinematic movie.  Though the latter would of course have been very impressive feat on the Game Boy.

Bond Story
The story’s conversations and interactions utilise text boxes.

The title also impresses graphically as well, despite its seeming simplicity.  Locations are clearly recognisable, being filled with charm, whilst breathing life in Bond’s globe trotting adventure at the same time.  This is also true of the characters, with each one being infused with personality and life, thanks to their clearly distinguishable and unique design.  This in turn really helps the feel of the story, keeping you engaged.

The impressive presentation also continues through into the music, with this quite possibly being one of the best soundtracks on the Game Boy, and that’s saying a lot.  Not only is each location given a track that fits the feel of that area, but the soundtrack also features a wealth of little touches that just add to the experience.  These include tempo shifts when moving between exploration, combat and boss battles, and that famous James Bond jingle which plays every time you find a key item.  Not only that, but the opening Bond theme is so good, it’s easy to just get lost listening to it over and over again.

Overall James Bond 007 is a game that has a lot of life in it.  It may not have the length of an RPG such as Pokémon, but this isn’t a game that you’ll be finishing quickly either.  In fact it will easily keep most gamers entertained for hours.  This is an aspect assisted by the game’s extremely useful save feature, which considerably adds to the enjoyment of the game, and its portable nature.

All in all, a solid story, great presentation and both varied and enjoyable gameplay, really come together to create truly ambitious title for the Game Boy.  One that certainly lives up to its billing as a James Bond title.  Make no mistake, this really is one assignment you’ll want to take up.

Bond Overall

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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