When Perfect Dark landed on Nintendo 64 in the year 2000, it came out at a time when gaming had stepped into the 128-bit era with Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, yet it was Nintendo’s 64-bit machine which still had a few tricks left up its sleeve. With the legendary Goldeneye serving as the precedent, developer Rare decided to take those ideas to a whole other level, this time not bound to the James Bond IP. Perfect Dark lived up to the hype, despite the gaming medium going through a dramatic transition at the time.
The gaming landscape would change rapidly and in the most unexpected ways when just over a year later Microsoft would debut the Xbox console itself, and then a few years later drop the bombshell of all bombshells – they had acquired Rare to play exclusively for team Xbox. Now, nothing really major came of this on the original Xbox other than a clever little game called Grabbed by the Ghoulies. Things would start to pick up in time for the Xbox 360, where a prequel to Perfect Dark titled Perfect Dark Zero would launch with the new console.
Perfect Dark was a remarkable first-person shooter, where the varied and engaging level design was complemented by some clever spy gadgets. Joanna Dark as a protagonist made James Bond look like an amateur spy, and everything about the experience came together rather flawlessly. Looking back, this was Rare at their absolute prime, and they have yet to follow Perfect Dark with a game that is even remotely as ingenious or revered.
Perfect Dark Zero was a great title to have in the impressive launch line up of Xbox 360, although hindsight hasn’t been all too kind to it. Still, Xbox 360 owners were treated to a remaster effort in 2010 which fixed a lot of issues that had made the N64 original quite unplayable to gamers by then. With a visual clean up (none of the N64 fog) and sharper framerate, Xbox 360 owners basically got the ultimate director’s cut.
It’s a shame that, for a franchise that still has so much potential, Microsoft and Rare have never given it another go since 2005. With FPS reboots being all the rage these days, it would make so much sense to have a new Perfect Dark – just imagine if a brand-new entry was announced for Series X. Sure, Rare are working on giving Xbox One owners some Battletoads as they continue to add new content to Sea of Thieves, but for a studio that has such a strong legacy and so many great IPs at their disposal, they could be doing so much more here.
Perfect Dark may not have been the quintessential franchise for Xbox like it was when it gave the N64 its epic curtain call moment, but it is part of the Xbox history and gave Xbox 360 a memorable launch title. Both the remastered Perfect Dark and Perfect Dark Zero can be found in the Rare Replay collection, and are optimised rather well for Xbox One and its controller. Sure, some might think what all the fuss is about, but hopefully in time we will see a brand new game that can put Joanna Dark back among the FPS elite.