Perfect Dark was released in North America on 22 May 2000 for the Nintendo 64 console. It was developed by Rare and published by Nintendo and was the first game on a Nintendo console to receive an M (Mature 17+) rating under the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) system. Rare had also developed GoldenEye 007 (1997), however Entertainment Arts purchased the rights to develop the James Bond sequel Tomorrow Never Dies. Nonetheless, Perfect Dark is based on a developed version of the same game engine and is thus considered a spiritual sequel of GoldenEye 007 despite Bond’s absence. The first person shooter follows protagonist Joanna “Perfect” Dark, an agent for the Carrington Institute, across a series of missions and through single player, co-operative, counter-operative, and multiplayer modes. Set in 2023, the highly acclaimed sci-fi game centres on Dark’s battles against dataDyne, a defence contractor in league with the Skedar alien race that is supporting the corporation’s expansion.
Nintendo’s historical approach to releasing family friendly video games is well-known. While GoldenEye 007 received a T (Teen) rating, Perfect Dark was the first game published on a Nintendo console to be rated M (Mature 17+). This would be shortly followed by Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001, Rare), with Geist (2005, with n-Space, Inc.) the first game developed by Nintendo to receive an M rating on the Game Cube console. The ESRB attributes the M rating for Perfect Dark to animated blood and animated violence. While the gameplay and aesthetic are very similar to GoldenEye 007, graphic content such as blood splatter and occasional profanity contributed to the higher rating. Prior to Perfect Dark’s release, a face-mapping feature called “Perfect head” was advertised, in which the Game Boy camera could be used to customise multiplayer characters with photographs of actual people’s faces. This feature was not included in the final game, attributed by Rare to technical limitations but – along with the abandoned idea of being able to take hostages as human shields – this was also rumoured to relate to concerns over violence involving actual human images. – Liam Grealy