Before Duke Nukem became an everlasting punchline with the often delayed and eventually disappointing Duke Nukem Forever, he was a franchise favorite thanks to the popular Duke Nukem 3D. The sci-fi shooter turned heads on the PC and was ported to a variety of platforms of the day including the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, so it was only natural that the Nintendo 64 should see its own version. The problem, of course, is that Nintendo's censorship and acceptable content policies of the day did not allow for much of Duke's crude humor, gory violence, and sexual content. If games like Doom and Quake could be safely adapted for the N64, surely Duke 3D could make the transition with its overall spirit intact, right? GamesTM chronicles how Duke Nukem 3D transformed into Duke Nukem 64.
The biggest alteration of all came with the approach the game made with its female characters, though. Known as “babes”, these young, good-looking women were victims of the game’s alien invasion and they appeared in various guises from breast-bearing strippers to those who were cocooned, trapped or festooned on posters. Controversially the babes trapped in the alien pods could be killed in Duke Nukem 3D but in the N64 version, they could be rescued instead and it became a fundamental part of the game.
“Just killing innocents like that was too much,” says Mills. “I may be wrong but I think it was my idea to have the rescues in and have it as a stat at the end of the game so there was something to search for in each level. It was another thing to do in the game and something for the completest. We’d hide the women in strange places so they were an extra thing to find.” At the same time, out went nudity along with bad language, drug references and anything religious (there was no chapel in the N64 version). It left a void, though, and while a lot of removed material was replaced with a pop culture reference, extra violence was used to bridge the gaps. “This wasn’t a conscious effort, it just happened,” explains Finney.
While I wasn't a fan of gore when I was a kid, I was amazed at what Duke Nukem 3D had accomplished and played through the shareware version many times on my PC. When I saw the game had made the leap to the N64, friends and I rented it time and again to play through the full campaign and enjoy some splitscreen multiplayer. Duke 3D would end up ported to many other platforms over the years spanning from the Sega Genesis to the iPhone, but it's the old Nintendo 64 version that I fondly remember when I recall my high school gaming days of first person shooters with friends. We didn't care that Duke 64 didn't include any background music due to cartridge storage limitations or that the strip club level had been replaced with a fast food restaurant called Duke Burger (as horny teens we missed the strip club, but as seasoned gamers we preferred the burger joint). We had fun! Really, what else can one ask for from a video game?