Replaying Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Xbox One X in One Day – A Reloaded Report

That’s a mouthful.

I come to you on this day, in this year where I seem unable to play anything but old games, with another old game. This time, in an attempt to force some words onto the keyboard, I do so in the form of a self-imposed challenge.

The day? April 23rd. I’ve given myself 24 hours, knowing that I have another day off afterwards to sleep in if this gets out of hand.

The idea? To play the Nintendo 64’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day – one of my all-time favourite videogames – in a format I have never experienced before and under a time limit in keeping with the game’s theme.

The inspiration? The release of original Xbox remake Conker: Live & Reloaded on the Xbox One family of systems in mid-April this year, meaning I finally get to play it after fifteen years of unresolved jealousy at original Xbox owners and the odd serving of sour grapes.

The goal? To see how it holds up, naturally, but also to try my hand at a stream-of-consciousness style of writing.

Let’s do this.

Pre-Challenge The download size of the game was a little heftier than I was expecting at roughly 5GB, but I really have no point of reference for original Xbox stuff. Those fancy character fur shaders must have been mighty space-heavy back in 2005. There is the matter of all the recently-released backwards compatible Xbox games running at 16x their original pixel count on Xbox One X, but to my knowledge there wasn’t a lot of texture replacing going on, so the file size wouldn’t have been inflated all that much. Anyway, I had to wait more than I had initially budgeted time for. Alas.

Pre-Challenge The main selling point of the Bad Fur Day remake when it first launched, apart from the graphical improvements, was the entirely fresh Xbox Live-supported multiplayer. Sadly Microsoft hasn’t re-launched any servers to coincide with these new OG Xbox titles (why would they?) but the game supports a mode against AI bots, so I decided to give it a quick spin before the day of the main run. Scrolling through all the maps and character classes hurt just a tiny bit, because the whole shebang looks like exactly the kind of thing I would have loved to play in its heyday.

Class-based, objective-heavy gameplay in the mid-2000s a la the original Star Wars Battlefront (which is also releasing via backwards compatibility this month) would have been incredible, especially given the artistic similarity to the already excellent and well-worn splitscreen modes of the N64 BFD. This new multiplayer suite even has a story from the looks of things! But I could never justify buying an Xbox just for one game (or two, maybe, counting Halo: Combat Evolved). If I had been five years older, though…

05:49 In the game, Conker starts bleary-eyed and hungover, and while I figured a heavy night of drinking might not be wise before this challenge, starting early was always going to be the way to go. Immersion is one thing, but there’s also the matter of time and its perpetually short supply. Truth be told, I made my brother do this challenge a few years ago with the N64 original, and while he had never finished the game before that day, he also wasn’t pausing frequently to write about his thoughts, and he went rather definitively into the A.M of the following day. I’m not big on binge gaming in general, usually needing to get up and do something else after two or three consecutive hours, so I expect to face some motivation challenges over the course of this day. It’s too early to boil the kettle and wake the house up so I splash my face with some new icy face gel product, grab my brand-relevant Sea of Thieves Xbox controller, and get stuck in.

05:55 The game’s menu music sounds very similar to its N64 version but there is a tasty extra bit of saxaphone coasting along in the background now. Otherwise, the odd Xbox reference and some weird-looking glowy font aside, the Cock & Plucker pub looks like a fairly faithful reimagining.

05:55 Conker’s opening cutscene is something I know very well, and its clarity on my 4K screen reveals that the vast majority of this game is rendered in-engine. There shouldn’t be too many jarring quality drops borne from 480p pre-rendered clips. Sweet. Several things become immediately apparent in the cutscene, however:

  1. Despite a lack of texture definition, the Xbox’s once-hyped fur shading – present on all the cuddly animals – is still somewhat impressive today, if only because I haven’t really seen it in any game since. We’ll see if it starts grating on me later.
  2. Aside from everything looking much rounder and less obviously polygonal than in the N64 version, the other big presentational difference is colour palette. Things are less vibrant and more realistically lit overall. I’m not sure how to feel about that yet. A weird effect of this shows up in the scene where Conker takes a wrong turn at the sign outside the pub – because you can see more of the scenery in the background, the environment looks noticeably less imposing. This squirrel is blind drunk, of course, so I think the idea is he would have taken that turn regardless. But the difference isn’t all that great, really. Gears of War this ain’t.
  3. Despite the graphical improvements, early signs point to the game using a largely identical voice track as its original incarnation. This is a comforting sign to someone who is going to be relying on nostalgia a lot to get me through the day. The font for the speech bubble text, however, looks a little too corporate PowerPoint for my tastes on first impression. I’ll get used to it.
  4. For some reason Conker’s glass of milk has been replaced with a regal goblet, which dims the reference to A Clockwork Orange but otherwise serves no immediately apparent purpose?

06:10 The font grows on me almost immediately when I’m re-introduced to Birdy the drunk scarecrow. What a guy.

06:26 I’m typing more than I thought early on because I’ve just been hit by a big change from the original early on. When our squirrel friend enters the room with the sentient key, he is now greeted by a wall-mounted rack of crude weapons, from whence he draws his classic frying pan. Then three of the mine-like enemies from later in the game just appear, one of them eats the key, and Conker spouts this bit of self-aware banter:

06:32 The reason for this becomes apparent rather quickly, as the game’s combat has changed significantly. It now matches that seen in the newer multiplayer mode, with the B button only drawing Conker’s weapon and positioning the camera in a strafe-friendly third person shooter spot. The right trigger actually swings the weapon. And on that note, it hadn’t occurred to me before now but this game now has dual-stick controls! I wonder if any of the previously annoying stuff later on will be easier now. Hopefully so.

06:40 OK the game is now in full-on self-parody mode. I’ll just let the screenshots do the talking.

“To fool people into thinking the rest of the game would also be different.” Anyway, Conker pulls out a spiked baseball bat and apparently now that’s his main melee weapon. Bravo to 2005 Rare for inserting new dialogue right into the old voice track and making it sound seamless. Onward.

06:57 The sun is up in real life and in the game, and we have a re-orchestrated track! The classic old-timey tune that scores the next couple of in-game hours has had a touch-up, with real instruments from the sounds of things. Also, did I say the game was a bit dull in colour palette? I take that back.

07:10 Sweet mother of cartoon videogames the queen bee looks ghastly now. The art team really nailed this one.

07:19 I’ve found the first potential instance of BFD‘s Xbox version being a little easier – I’m certain the spiral path up the side of the central mountain in the Windy hub area is now wider. The psychotic worms can do nothing but look on as you simply run around them. Also, after I whacked a couple more of those mine guys (who weren’t there before?) the beehive-carrying sequence is definitely easier. I remember smashing that wobbly N64 control stick against the controller housing like my life depended on it as the Italian wasps stabbed perilously close – now you can barely see them on the edge of the screen.

07:28 So I’ve managed to die anyway – still getting used to the delay on every melee attack as the camera switches. Of course that means I get to meet Gregg the pitch-challenged Grim Reaper, one of the game’s funniest characters, and boy howdy has his home had a makeover.

Instead of a nondescript shadowy room with barely two textures, there is now a fully rendered crypt. This lessens the impact of his megaphone reveal but is pretty cool otherwise. You can actually fall off while trying to reach the squirrel tail now.

I also really enjoy this new pair of visual gags (in Conker’s hands and on the tombstones). EDIT: I realise they’re hard to see in this version of the image, so he’s holding a decidedly non-Nintendo gaming handheld and the tombstones all say “HE’S FECKIN’ DEAD”.

07:44 Ah yes, the Scouser dung beetle segment. Shooting them down with an Xbox controller is, as expected, much easier. Also, I wasn’t sure earlier but now I’m certain: Live & Reloaded censors the word shit as well as the more severe words rather colourfully bleeped out in the original game. I’m actually unsure why that is.

07:56 In the farmyard segment now and some of that colour has drained away again, replaced with a bit of a sepia tone, a banjo-led score arrangement and the sound of cicadas/crickets. Like the worm path earlier, the way to the cheese pen is either wider than before or the hazardous jumping blocks are smaller. You can definitely run around them now, though you need to clear out more of those mine guys first. Why are they everywhere now? Also, that cheese terrain texture is unusually crisp-looking even compared to the other terrain thus far.

08:16 I breezed past that cheese part, leading to a rat explosion that is perhaps the least graphically improved bit of cutscene I’ve seen yet. The pieces of rat look very jagged and N64-ish. Not that we necessarily needed to see rat entrails in more detail.

08:24 Scenes like Franky the Pitchfork’s introduction make me pine for an alternate timeline where Microsoft didn’t just put Rare on Kinect games for half a decade. The more rounded character models upscaled past HD capture the hilariously vulgar charm of the 2001 original characters effortlessly. We could have had so much more!

08:27 Turns out you can use fur shading on hay, too.

08:48 Pacifist bees who only want to tickle people are still some of the best things Rare ever put in a game. That is all. And on that note, I have a physio appointment to get to.

10:02 Back from the appointment with a large coffee and a refreshed attitude. I’m keen to accelerate the pace. We’re still in sync with Conker, who recently mentioned it is 10 o’clock in-game and therefore the door in the swamp should be open. There’s still plenty to do in the barn area, though.

10:09 Let’s, uh… Skip over what happens next.

10:20 I’m not sure if you’ve been picking it up in the screenshots so far, but there is a serious depth-of-field effect going on in some of these cutscenes. It seems to be an early version of the technique that hazes rather than softens the image, and I’m sure it looked great on a CRT back in the day, but I kinda wish it wasn’t there when these assets hold up so well at 16x resolution on a 4K screen. Oh well.

10:29 The music that plays while you fight the first phase of the hay boss, which sounds very similar to the kinds of tunes you’d hear in the Banjo-Kazooie games and DK64, was what put it in my head that BFDsoundtrack was also penned by Grant Kirkhope. But no! It wasn’t until I decided to do this challenge that I actually looked it up, and the tunes for this game were composed almost entirely by another Rare man, Robin Beanland. Needless to say I’m a fan of his work.

10:45 So I’m coming up against some good old fashioned Conker difficulty – It seems like having a second control stick didn’t quite fix the original game’s occasional camera issues. But shots like this one really show off the graphical improvements brought by Live & Reloaded. Look at those ugly-beautiful ground textures!

10:51 Ah, Frying Tonight. One of the tensest chapters in the game and an early sign of what’s to come much later on in the day. Conker has to swim through steadily rising water, stopping to throw knives at live wires so they don’t electrocute the whole surface. The way the music changes – in classic Rare style – to add the screeching notes whenever there’s a wire in contact with the water is brilliant. Of course, this section is also much easier with an Xbox controller.

10:59 Is there a more quintessential Rare platformer shot than this? That Click Clock Wood-esque treeline and the Donkey Kong Country-inspired wasp design? No? Just me? OK.

11:07 Ummm what the hell is this thing? When and why did they add it to the game? I’ll have precisely none of that thanks.

11:30 I’ve found a section that might actually be more difficult than before. The part where you have to ascend the giant container of prune juice to feed the cows used to pull back to a pseudo-2D camera, allowing you to jump over the incoming dung balls original Donkey Kong style. Now the camera is behind you in a tight space, and when you get hit the knockback is ridiculous, meaning you always have to start the climb again.

11:42 Following that, the actual bull-riding segment is just as difficult to control as ever, but if you know what to expect you can still get it over with quite quickly. I’m not sure if I needed all this extra detail in an environment primarily covered in shite, by the way.

11:56 These dual-stick swimming controls are real weird, but Conker seems to swim and turn underwater much faster than before, which is a good omen. Also I don’t remember the N64 version featuring a visible drowned bull floating in the sewer water… Gruesome.

12:04 I remember this next part being confusing and yep, still is. There are multiple pathways to roll your, erm, new gift along (and oh how it shines unnecessarily in the light). The most immediately obvious one leads to a dead end at the foot of a giant dung beetle. There are some very conspicuous signs marking “upper” and “lower” now, but there’s still some mild trial and error involved. You wouldn’t see this in a modern game, for better or worse.

12:31 Well that sucked, but after negotiating all that faecal matter we make a stop at the Feral Reserve Bank in a cool optional dead-end scene that is made even cooler by the unnecessarily pretty facelift the surrounding area has been given. The bank now looks suitably state-of-the-art and I love the ramping up of the aggression on the signs. Anyway, onto the Bats’ Tower and the elitist catfish.

12:48 After meeting our favourite two-faced cog and setting off to find his missing cog “friends” we ascend the Bats’ Tower, and it quickly becomes evident that this is one of the best-looking areas in the Xbox version of the game. The lighting, wall textures and fire effects inside this claustrophobic vertical tunnel look very nice indeed, despite the muted colours.

12:57 Welp, fell off the top of the tower. Missed the wad of cash up there. That won’t do. Sigh, up we go again.

13:10 I never thought I’d miss widescreen as much as when I’m trying to catch the rogue cogs. The camera is pulled in so tight behind Conker and doesn’t rotate as fast as he can run, so in the circular areas it can be a bit fiddly trying to see where the sneaky things are.

13:21 Justice is done after the cogs are replaced and Conker spins the dickhead cog right off its axis using their momentum. Glad to see the back of that section.

13:24 Whoah, the Xbox One does not like the next bit. The underwater tunnels – distortion effects and all – crawl to a slideshow-like frame rate. There is not a lot of pressure on the player in this section though, as it seems like Conker can hold his breath for much longer than in the old days. Maybe it’s all that extra fur.

13:21 Now for perhaps the second-most famous boss in the game – the very crude, very enjoyable fight against the Boiler Boss (with Brass Balls). Conker uses the twin powers of alcohol and seal-breaking to, shall we say, calm the flames of a troupe of hellish, weed-smoking imps, then takes on the posh metal monster they create afterwards. Yes, this is the kind of game Rare made when they were coming to the end of their hot streak. Using a pair of bricks to break both the laws of physics and the possessed boiler’s delicate bits is weirdly satisfying.

13:48 Aside from its vulgarity and console-pushing graphics, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is known for one other thing – Its multiple direct movie parodies. We had the Terminator series with the Haybot earlier, and right after the boiler falls we get an even more obvious one. The shot of the sinking catfish corpse after the bulldog-shark is done with it is unmistakably Jaws, and if that didn’t tip you off Conker’s subsequent scramble up the otherwise function-less pier surely will. When this game originally came out I had never seen or played anything that offered up this kind of homage with this level of regularity. I remember suddenly wanting to see every movie referenced throughout the game (at least for the nods that didn’t go over my head) though I was still too young to be allowed. It was a weird turning point in my love of movies. From this point on in the game the references start to arrive much more frequently.

14:00 Because we’re almost halfway through the game, and I definitely don’t want to do the next part while I’m hungry, it’s lunch time.

14:37 A chapter almost entirely consisting of one big boss fight, Sloprano is the home of Conker’s Bad Fur Day‘s most iconic joke. The Great Mighty Poo song/battle has clearly been given some attention worthy of its status, as added details like buzzing flies and a completely re-recorded operatic performance (now with varied notes and a mocking laugh when he presents his weak point) prove handily. I still laugh at the way it’s introduced, with the Scouse beetle recounting the way his friends disappeared one by one.

14:40 The team couldn’t resist another Jaws parody, now featuring sweetcorn…

14:50 The Great Mighty Poo’s singalong-style introduction is as spectacular as his Wizard of Oz demise. I told you the references would start arriving faster.

14:56 The chapter finishes up with a brutally sharp reminder of Rare’s ability to throw a difficulty spike at you. At least the box’s improved swimming controls help me avoid more than one death here this time around.

15:05 I’m restarting my Xbox because that last fight had some skipping issues (emulation-related?) and I’m making my third cup of tea for the day.

15:08 When people ask me why BFD keeps turning up on my all-time favourite games lists (usually in the top five), it’s not the nostalgic gross-out humour, vibrant art style or even movie references that I talk about first – It’s the sheer variety in tone, scale and gameplay, the most exemplary stretch of which is represented by the next two chapters. This is undeniably my favourite couple of hours in the entire game. It starts with the sunset glow of a canyon housing an inexplicable prehistoric time capsule.

15:17 Conker makes his entrance into the local volcano ecosystem by rolling an overly intoxicated boulder man over a caveman (engineering an Indiana Jones riff in the process), having already crushed his compatriot with a giant statue. Conker is not a compassionate squirrel.

15:28 Especially not when he hatches a (now even more) cute velociraptor baby and uses it to kill a bunch of cavemen and then offers the minutes-old carnivore to a giant dinosaur god as a sacrifice.

15:42 I remember being stuck for so long on what to do next. The dinosaur god’s tongue is slimy and green and so are his nostrils, so you’re meant to launch yourself up into them (when they’re not spouting boiling steam) and dump a salt shaker into each one. Luckily in this version there is an audible, regular coughing sound added to the game’s music to give you more of a hint.

15:50 There are some details of the story that I’ve forgotten and some they may have changed slightly between versions, but either way I did not remember the cavemen vs rock people brawl outside the Rock Solid dance club being so much chaotic fun.

15:56 If you want a telltale sign of exactly when the original Conker’s Bad Fur Day released, look no further than the inside of the Rock Solid club. The elaborate rave costumes, the (improved) neon lighting, the gungy detailing and most importantly the lengthy looping banger of a track absolutely give it away as a turn-of-the-century release. This was once the height of edgy. Of course, this is Rare, so they’re pointing fun at the seediness of it all while simultaneously lapping it up.

16:09 I’m going to be honest, I’m starting to struggle here. Not including any of my breaks to type/eat/etc I have been playing for five hours and I just don’t do this kind of thing anymore. It’s well into the afternoon and I’m crashing a bit. The monotonous house beat here isn’t helping. I might grab a quick nap.

16:25 To my immense surprise, that nap actually was quick. However, my screenshots have temporarily stopped synching with Xbox Live so I can’t add them here as I go. Troubleshooting time. Yay.

16:45 Fixed-ish. Anyway I should’ve mentioned this earlier in the fire imp / brass boss section but Conker can now move while he does his drunk business. This is an absolute game-changer in the club when you need to propel- actually you know what? I’ve been doing this all day and I’m going to stop with the euphemisms. Conker can move while he pees now so you can literally just walk the rock monsters into the alcoves where they need to be. I also think he has more in him before you have to go for the aspirin. Saves so much time.

16:54 The bombing run that the weasel mafia boss makes you go on (Untouchables reference here, naturally) has a hell of a backing track to it. It’s a shame they took out the literal-shit-hitting-the-fan sight gag from the slides beforehand, though.

I had to.

17:04 Time for the good old hoverboard race, especially familiar to everyone who had the original game and played its two-player race mode. Also infamous for being bullshit. The hitboxes on the obstacles you can crash into here are massive and come up very quickly – not to mention that out-of-nowhere path change on the last phase of the course. At least the board looks much cooler in this version, I guess? You know what, I still kinda love it. It’s fast and exhilarating and you only have to do it once. Screw that giant green dinosaur though. I hate its gigantic, blocky green feet.

18:38 Nope, not a typo. There have been a few quick drinks breaks and some deep breaths outdoors, but I am still on the hoverboard race. I’m marking this time stamp because this is the moment I finally beat the third and fastest caveman racer – before almost immediately smashing into the dinosaur again. Fun times. The bro has told me he doesn’t think I’m going to finish this game today. We’ll see.

18:47 Finally did it! The secret is to jump whenever you can see more than half the dinosaur crossing the track – you have more midair control that way and the main body isn’t even a hitbox. Point earlier still stands – That was weirdly enjoyable. I think that kind of a brutal challenge is exactly what I needed to shake off the malaise from earlier. The main problem, of course, is that I now have less time to play with. There are more hard sections to come. Anyway, now we get to the real good stuff. The Gladiator parody, featuring Fangy the raptor.

19:00 The game builds a very quick rapport between you and Fangy by first showing you what he can do to a caveman, then what he can do to you. Soon Conker pulls out a stopwatch in the centre of the MASSIVE arena and hypnotises the green terror, resulting in an incredibly empowering moment where Fangy lets out a huge roar with Conker on his back. The next three rounds of enemy cavemen you must face present a unique challenge – Fangy cannot turn very quickly so you can’t lunge into a group of cavemen – especially the ranged spear-throwers, without being sure you hit everyone in that group. Otherwise you’re knocked off Fangy’s back and have to bait him back to the centre again to hypnotise him. It’s a unique push-and-pull slice of gameplay that rewards spatial awareness and actually zooms the camera out enough to put its money where its mouth is. I absolutely love it.

19:12 The chapter finally concludes with a boss against the big, dim-witted leader of the cavemen, who doesn’t take kindly to suggestions that he has a small package. The way you beat him is even more wince-inducing than the boiler battle was. It’s a front-and-back attack, and it is comprehensive.

19:16 In that final battle, if you get separated from Fangy, he will seek you out himself – no hypnotism needed. The two of you have bonded through story and gameplay, making each successful hit on the Uga Buga leader a seriously satisfying one. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and Conker makes use of some coldly detached canine psychology to send him away. Bit of a dick, our Conker. But you knew that.

19:25 Taking a break to smash down some dinner. Time is of the essence, but if I don’t do some exercise as well I may go insane tonight. How to play this…

19:54 Even though it’s been sunset in the game for hours (albeit extended by my inadequacy at jet racing), which mirrored the real-world day rather nicely, Conker returns to a sunny, happy, broad daylight re-robbery of the queen bee’s hive. Truth be told, I had forgotten all about this part.

20:10 Man, those early dual-stick shooter control schemes… They’ll throw an inverted setup at you out of nowhere if you’re not careful. At least you only need to hit each wasp once, though, and the hitboxes are very forgiving. Done.

20:18 We talk to the hilariously shady Mr Barrel, who was a functional cash gate (just like the weasel guards I didn’t mention earlier, and Birdy before that – I always collect every optional bit of cash as I go so I never see what happens when you don’t have enough). Then we roll down the hill over the top of the mutant worms, which would have been sweet revenge except you can now just run around them, as I mentioned before. Then, finally, Conker gets knocked out, wakes up again, and we have night time. Now I’m going to go do some exercise and have a freaking shower.

21:40 That was the ticket. I am a new man. For now. Back in we go – It’s time to get spooked.

21:42 The name of the chapter is Spooky, and my memories of it are complex. This is simultaneously one of my most terrifying videogame memories and one of my most joyous. Let’s see how things go this time arou-oookay what is that and why is Conker wearing it?

21:45 This is different. The massive river of blood, the high level of detail on the architecture, those doll thingies from before, the old-timey shotgun… And yeah, Conker is dressed like the Hollywood version of Van Helsing. No-one is drawing attention to it. Not even Gregg, who remains a highlight nonetheless.

21:51 Man, the uphill approach to the mansion is swarming with death traps. From zombies to zombie worms to porcelain dolls to more zombies. Rare kept that skin-crawling soundscape from the original version but this new lighting and background detail is really adding to it – these guys and gals just get cartoon atmosphere.

22:02 Alright, so we’ve been introduced to the Gary Oldman version of Dracula (complete with more fur shading) and his scheming ways, Conker’s been turned into a bat, and now for one of my absolute favourite sequences in the whole game. Targeting, stunning and then swooping in for the kill on the townsfolk here is loads of fun, especially accompanied by that insanely hype violin track. The single-stick controls were amazing but the dual-stick setup is just as good after a bit of an adjustment. Another delectable piece of game design, especially once you factor in…

22:28 …the fact that you need to traverse Dracula’s massive mansion on foot immediately afterwards, while trying to retrieve three (now colour-differentiated) keys to unlock the front door. All you have is the memory of the mansion’s layout from when you were nimble and airborne, as well as a slow-reloading shotgun and your reaction speed. As a kid this was a horrifying stretch of game time for me. I played it alone at night, when everyone else was asleep, and those sounds certainly didn’t help me get any shuteye afterwards. The devious designers have thrown in tiny running zombie variants in this version, which is a real nice shock when you think you know where everything is. Which I still really kinda don’t.

22:50 Man, I really don’t remember much of the important late stuff. The mansion is massive from the on-foot perspective and having to find three keys in it when every room seems empty of everything but zombies is disheartening. Of course what the game doesn’t tell you is you just need to find one key, put it in the lock at the front door and then the path to the next one will open in a highly visible manner. Sneaky.

23:05 Yes, I get it. The Xbox is much more powerful than the N64. You can render more zombies on the screen. But does that mean you should? These things swarm you in greater and greater numbers as you find each key, meaning if you don’t pre-clear an area you will get straight wrecked when you move through it with said key.

23:29 Getting out of that awful mansion is an exercise in catharsis, and it happens quickly – but not exactly easily. Riding Mr Barrel down the winding mansion path and across the bloody water back to the Windy area took me more than a handful of attempts. Fun, though.

23:40 It’s almost midnight and I’ve just started the longest chapter of the game. War is hell, and this long into a day like this, so is the chapter inspired by it. Despite having finished the N64 game twice and been present for most of my brother’s one-day playthrough, I still remember the least about this chapter.

23:44 Case in point: The gauntlet of hazards at the very beginning of the section, before a single shot is fired. You have to push a slow, oafish, regenerating imp-thingy with a giant barrel of TNT on his back bast an obstacle course of jumping boxes on one side, detonate him from a distance, then push another one past a lineup of very scary spider-mines that will spawn when you are almost already on top of them. Good clean fun.

00:08 Perhaps the game’s most on-point parody – and certainly its longest – is the Saving Private Ryan bit that comes next. The N64 original had it almost shot-for-shot, and the Xbox doesn’t change this. Disturbing and adrenaline-pumping all at once.

00:20 I just met this game’s version of the evil Tediz army. They look much less like alien teddy bears and more like trained, suited-up soldiers, but they move at a weirdly low frame rate and take a while to react to Conker, making them feel a lot less scary to me. Of course, right now I’m not gonna complain.

00:39 I’ve started to come up against some of those infamous laser trip wires, and while they haven’t exactly been made easier to dodge than they were before, there does seem to be more chocolate lying around to compensate a bit, which I appreciate. Speaking of which, I’ve been looking at chocolate for so long I’ve turned to it for real life sustenance. Nursing a block of Old Gold Rum & Raisin at the moment. I will not regret this.

00:50 There isn’t a lot of unique stuff going on here – just a bunch of battles against Tediz in increasingly sci-fi-ish situations. I do enjoy the intro to the laboratory/clinic scene with the Tediz being caught out of character, though.

01:02 The tank controls in this version take some adjustment. They seem to be based on a combination of Halo-esque vehicle controls and the original game’s compromised solution. You need to be able to drive in one direction and shoot in another, but this late I’m struggling to get my head around it.

01:27 Sadly the tank section where you have to drive around the destroyed bridges while shooting at the supports of the watch tower has proved to be another roadblock for me. I do not remember this being all that difficult, but these Tediz are ridiculously hard to hit with a tank cannon. They seem to be completely immune to splash damage and half the time you line up a direct shot it will just sail over their heads. You can get out of the tank and kill them as Conker but you have mere seconds to do it before the tower tears you to shreds with its minigun – and that’s precious Conker time you need to use to lower the bridges anyway. Not to mention if you’re hit with a Tediz grenade that’s a one-way ticket to the radioactive waste below and starting the whole thing again. The final leg support – which can only be shot on the final tiny island where three grenade-happy Tediz await – is quickly becoming my least favourite piece of land in the game.

01:39 This is the worst fur day.

01:59 Watch tower down, I repeat, watch tower down! Take that you scummy metallic nest-thing!

02:04 Finally, boss time. There are two phases to the “little girl” fight – First you ostensibly have to protect her from a bunch of missile-launching offshore submarines with a context-sensitive mini-RPG, then the girl goes all Exorcist (right down to Conker pointing out how little the reference makes sense in context) and reveals a full Tediz/spider-mine hybrid body with a ludicrous array of interchangeable weapons.

02:22 I really like this fight because it features three pieces of invincible cover with regenerating chocolate pieces, meaning if you’re patient you can work out the boss’ patterns and take it down. Now it may be really late but I’ve come this far, so I’m not just gonna rush in, especially with these funky tank controls. Easy does it.

02:31 My heart just sank a few levels because I always forget that’s not the end of the chapter – Conker has to escape the Tediz base before it self-destructs, there are lasers absolutely everywhere, and enemy soldiers will ambush you more frequently than ever. Also, the beach outside is packed with Tediz and bazookas. Luckily, though the camera issues haven’t been fixed since the original, those aforementioned Tediz are easier to fight and Conker’s fully-automatic weapon is much more competent, reloading automatically to boot. So even though some clusters of red trip lines are more difficult to move through than others, I’m not losing much health to the Tediz so can tank a few strategic hits and make it to the beach. from there it’s a mad dash to keep moving and take out only the enemies I need to. Bam.

02:44 I made it through the war chapter. It’s done. It happened. Again. It’s never the most enjoyable thing, but getting to the end feels real good. After a last little piece of innuendo to remind me I’m playing Conker and not some masochistic test of endurance, we’re onto the final chapter.

02:47 Alright, the windmill at the top of the worm-mountain is gone and in it’s place is a hole leading to a familiar piece of lush green scenery. I know that bridge and those pillars – Yep, we’re at the Feral Reserve bank. Conker meets up with the weasel boss and it’s like he’s talking directly to me – one more job to get done. One more.

02:52 Conker enters the Feral Reserve Bank with a new costume dripping in bleeding-edge 2001 cool. Also his girlfriend is with him, who come to think of it Conker does not seem to care all that much about. The feeling seems to be mutual. Anyway, after the last several hours this part feels like a party. Shooting at security guards in bullet time slow motion is a breeze on the Xbox pad and cleanses my palette like nobody’s business. When I was a kid this was just the sickest thing. Now, for a different reason, I’m grinning from ear to ear.

03:03 The meeting with the big bad, the Panther King, is at hand, and for some reason I never realised that his greeting is a reference to the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. But with a rearranged camera angle and a planetary addition behind the window in this version, the homage is crystal clear.

03:06 Alas the king was not long for this world, as in one final massive movie reference a xenomorph emerges from his chest. Then long story short everyone except Conker and the alien (“Heinrich”) dies, Conker grabs a very appropriate suit of armour and we have ourselves a final boss.

03:10 New lighting tricks and a maybe-slightly-more-forgiving airlock target aside, the fight against Heinrich is pretty much what it used to be – a very simple test of concentration and reaction time. You jump when he spins, block when he bites and move when he jumps over your head, but there is no pattern to when or how often he will do what. When he’s stunned you start a three-hit combo that wasn’t always super easy to pull off, but the Xbox version’s melee combat against those mine guys has trained the player not to button mash, lest ye be spiked. So some nice deliberate button presses do the job. Then you spin that guy Super Mario 64 style and throw him out the airlock. I miss multiple times at the start of the fight – prompting that hilariously deadpan AI announcer to mock me like the good old days – but once I remember the Xbox controller can move cameras I’m sweet.

03:27 22 hours after I started this (11 hours for gameplay, 11 hours for writing and breaks), the final boss of Conker’s Bad Fur Day is done, prompting a fourth-wall-breaking cutscene that absolutely blew me away in the early 2000s, and even if it isn’t all that novel nowadays and could be seen as a cop-out, it’s the perfect ending for this kind of irreverent, explanation-averse journey. The game locks up, Conker talks directly to a Rare programmer, teleports to the throne room, kills Heinrich Kill Bill style with a katana. He is immediately crowned king of all the land, surrounded in his new throne room by people he hates. Thus we are where we started this morning. Is Conker being punished for the way he treated everyone on this bad fur day of his? Is this just extraordinary bad luck? Cruel, deliberate irony? Who knows?

03:47 Credits have rolled and so has the final cutscene teasing another bad fur day. What fun we had speculating on that way when. I wonder if you could even make a game like this nowadays, what with both platformers and this kind of humour somewhat out of vogue. Playtonic, anyone?

Post-Challenge Good thing I did this with a free day off to cushion the fall. It is now the day after the night before and after a surprisingly log-like sleep, I’m feeling pretty good about this. With Rare Replay already letting you play Conker’s Bad Fur Day in its original form – and with a nice resolution upscale and Achievement support – on an Xbox since 2015, Live & Reloaded was never a guarantee to get this kind of treatment. Perhaps the death of the original Xbox’s Live servers meant the game’s main selling point was buried. But I’m so chuffed to see the recent avalanche of original Xbox back-compat deciding to include this game, because it turns out it is not the watered-down inferior version I chose to believe it was as an early adolescent Nintendo fanboy.

Aside from the extra bleeping and the odd removed joke, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is alive, intact and very well indeed, even managing to pack in some improved controls and new surprises here and there. The Xbox One X’s 16x resolution bump does not hurt its appeal, either. The game holds up surprisingly well visually and sonically and makes me feel as warm and fuzzy as Conker looks. OK that was a strained pun, but it’s done. I did it, and there’s finally a substantial blog post on this site in 2018. Woo!

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