The game that set the standard for first-person shooters on consoles gets the highest score with the excellent documentary GoldenEra. The N64 classic literally changed gaming for a generation and this film delightfully gets into the nitty-gritty of the game’s development, success, and the fallout that followed. A fully engrossing feature from Drew Roller and Brok Power is essential viewing. Recommended
Imagine getting home from school and your best friends coming over, or if you’re over at a sleepover with your buddies. Now, you’re not going to turn on a movie. You’re not going to pull out a board game. You’re going to grab a bag of Funyuns, as much Mountain Dew as you can get your hands on, pick up four controllers, slap a cartridge of GoldenEye into your N64, and play through the night until the rooster crows. How did this movie tie-in become one of the greatest video games of a generation? Well, there’s a good story about that.
In GoldenEra, filmmakers Drew Roller and Brok Power grab their Mookraker Lasers and set about detailing Rare’s development of one of the greatest games ever released on any console ever. GoldenEye the film would redefine James Bond for a generation of moviegoers and franchise fans, and its video game tie-in would do the same for first-person shooters on consoles. Fans of Doom or Wolfenstein hadn't seen anything yet.
Prior to Goldeneye, movie video games were afterthoughts, they were merely thrown together as marketing as fast as possible. For all the studios cared if it turned on, it was a success. The games might be fun and playable like The Lion King, Aladdin, and Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition, or the horrors of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial or the bizarre Lethal Weapon game on the SNES that had you fighting alligators in the sewers. Largely movie-based video games weren’t something you’d think much about once you mastered it. The addictive replay value just wasn’t there. That all changed when U.K.-based Rare known for their exceptional SNES game Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct got the license for the latest James bond adventure - GoldenEye. As GoldenEra details, the game wasn’t an easy process. It was years in development, late to release, and a titanic-sized effort for all involved, but it was made with love and heart and that care and attention to detail showed in every pixel.
This documentary is a beautiful nostalgia trip as we get to hear from all of the major behind-the-scenes personalities in the game’s development, as well as all the people it impacted. I was one of those kids that didn’t have an N64 but would regularly go to a friend’s house and get a four-player multiplayer game rolling. And we’d play for hours, often through the night and into the morning before passing out. And that obsession would last years superseding any interest in any number of excellent new games that came around. We weren’t alone. Rare’s GoldenEye literally changed the game for first-person shooters but also set the gold standard for the multiplayer gaming experience bringing numerous people together to share a couch or crapy folding chair.
But GoldenEra isn’t just a back-pat nostalgia trip. It digs deep into the fallout of the game and how there hasn’t ever been a Bond game to match the grandeur of GoldenEye that wasn’t an open-modded rebuild of the game itself. Hell, even Rare couldn’t match the fun and excitement with their follow-up game Perfect Dark - which to this day I remember my friend buying, slapping in the game, and we played it a bit but almost immediately turned it off to run GoldenEye again. With too many fingers in the intellectual property pies these days it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a game like it again. I’d heard a lot of second-hand stories about this game’s development, but it was nice to see the journey told by those who were there. Now I wish I had a working N64… I need to sniper some guys with the x-ray scope on the Moonraker gun!
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
GoldenEra comes to film and gaming fans alike via ETR Media with Vinegar Syndrome. Pressed on a Region Free BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a clear case with alternate insert artwork. If you were fast enough and ordered from Vinegar Syndrome’s Partner Label section in time, you could have scored a slick exclusive slipcover made to look like the old N64 box art - it’s now out of stock. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Like any good documentary, GoldenEra is cobbled together from a variety of sources. Some are in-person interviews, some are archival news footage, some are Zoom meeting recordings, and then delightfully enough some are GoldenEye game-styled recreations with pixelated faces designed to look like the person talking is in the game. Scene to scene, it may not be cohesive, but it all works and is an engaging piece. It’s not just 100 minutes of guys looking at the camera. The filmmakers took a lot of care to at least make it something stylish and appealing making an overall solid 1080p transfer. Given the odd range of sources, there are varying numbers of visual anomalies, but nothing serious or detrimental to the enjoyment of the film.
GoldenEra enjoys a robust DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Overall it’s not a huge sonic soundscape that would necessitate a surround experience. Like the video, there is a variety of audio sources at play, some clearer and cleaner than others. With that in mind, it’s a solid mix with dialog front and center, and some great music cues that aren’t quite exactly the same beats and notes of the game but are designed to sound just like the N64 GoldenEye along with some tunes that recreate the music of the era as well. It’s not the most dramatic auditory experience but it’s effective at giving you those nostalgic memberberries of playing the best N64 cartridge while expanding your knowledge about said game.
One could almost view this documentary as a bonus feature for the classic game, but thankfully there are some solid litte extra features to dig through here. Some of it’s a bit more frivolous and fun, but some bits are worth digging into.
GoldenEye was a one-of-a-kind game and there may never be one like it again. This was a game that gathered friends and strangers alike onto couches for some exciting in-person multiplayer gaming. To this day, if you’re asked if you want to play some GoldenEye it’s an experience that’s impossible to pass up. GoldenEra is a love letter documentary to this game detailing the rise of the development studio, the game’s release, and the cultural aftermath. I’m not someone who likes to revisit documentaries, once is usually enough but like an exploding chair, this was a blast to sit through and I can’t wait to give it a spin again. Hopefully, I’ll have a working N64 again by then and I can scratch that itch to play. With solid A/V and some nice bonus features, if you love the game and love disc media this is a great one for the collection. Recommended