When Nintendo released the Super Nintendo in November 1990, gamers hailed it the “best console.” When Nintendo announced plans to release the Nintendo 64, some gamers initially felt skeptical. How was it possible for the company to outdo and already great system? As more and more news of the N64 flooded the news, gamers grew excited.
In fact, before the N64’s release date in September 1996, the gaming community already expected that it would far exceed the gameplay and popularity of the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. After waiting expectantly, the gaming community finally got their hands on the N64, and they were not disappointed.
The Nintendo 64 gave gamers the chance to experience gaming on a 64-bit central processing unit, which offered incredible graphics for a beautiful and immersive experience. Although the updated technologies now exceed that of the N64, the system deserves credit as a game changer. The N64 is often credited as the system that set the bar for massive improvements to future game playing experiences.
Why Gamers Fell in Love
For many gamers, playing the Nintendo 64 was like love at first sight. From the minute they loaded up games, players knew the gaming world had changed before their very eyes. The day the system hit store shelves, no other system could compare to the graphics. Many systems still relied on low-quality textures using simple designs and basic polygon formations.
Even the first games released on the N64 seemed to lack depth, though they certainly looked better than games played on the PlayStation and Saturn. As time passed, Nintendo realized they needed to improve the graphics and gameplay, and so they released the Expansion Pak. The Expansion Pak double the system’s video ram from 4 to 8MB.
The results were nothing short of amazing and many gamers reported an appreciation of the visual appeal provided by the Expansion Pak. In fact, the Expansion Pak allowed gamers to play certain games in a high-resolution mode, which was unlike anything the gaming community had seen up to that point.
As any gamer knows, great system specs are not the only features that make a worthwhile system. The games are just as important as what you find inside the console. Fortunately, Nintendo 64 games are one of the many reasons gamers opted to own the system. In fact, many gamer still recall some of the best games made available on the N64.
Some of the most memorable games played on the N64 include The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, GoldenEye 007, and Perfect Dark. Game developers only made a few hundred games for the N64, which is considerably less than many other consoles. However, gamers agreed that those games were some of the most fun and thoughtfully developed games around.
Since the N64 offered four controller ports, there were even games that encouraged groups of friends or family to play together. Many people gathered together for a bit of competitive fun as they raced through the beautifully colorful race tracks featured on Mario Kart 64. Of course, it was not just the gameplay that stood out. The graphics stood out and appealed to gamers in a way it seemed no other console could compete with.
The Gameplay Experience
The Nintendo 64 controller is, in part, what made the system’s gameplay experience so enjoyable. The controller added a feeling of comfort and durability when held. Unlike any controller before, the N64 controller featured three handles. With the hand positioned on the left handle, players had access to an 8-direction D-pad. Unfortunately, some gamers felt the D-pad did not offer enough responsiveness.
With the hand on the left stick, players could also access the left shoulder button, which acts as a trigger. Positioning the hand on the middle handle rather than the left one gave players a better gameplay experience. While holding the middle handle in the left hand, players could use the thumbstick and the “Z” trigger located on the underside of the handle.
The N64 controller was the first console controller to introduce the idea of using a thumbstick. Considering the number of systems today that have controllers with thumbsticks, it is easy to see how the Nintendo 64 changed the face of gaming.
When holding the controller, players would place their right hand on the right handle. Holding the right handle in the right hand gave players easy access to the Start button so they could quickly pause their game. The right of the controller is also where players find the A and B buttons, which were the two primary action buttons. Also there were four camera buttons setup in a diamond shape that players could access with their right hand, and a right shoulder button.
Most commonly players would hold the controller with their left hand on the middle handle and their right hand on the right handle. The thickness of the controller was not so much that it felt clunky, yet it was just enough that it felt durable. In fact, gamers reported greater comfort when holding the N64 controller in comparison to the controllers for the the NES and the Super Nintendo.
In recent years, it would appear that many retro systems are making a comeback. Re-released systems allow gamers to revisit the days of their youth. Systems like the NES mini and SNES mini provided gamers with a way to re-play some of their favorite games from the NES and SNES systems. If you think retro systems are a thing of the past, think again.
Both retro systems seemed to fly off the shelves the minute they released. Now there is talk that an N64 Mini will eventually hit stores, though there is nothing officially confirmed as of yet. However, there is plenty of buzz among the gaming community as older individuals wait anxiously to play some iconic titles previously enjoyed when the N64 first released.
Games Without the System
Owners of the N64 rejoiced when Nintendo announced that game owners could make copies of their games. Never before had a company encouraged gamers to make copies of games, and companies today still do not encourage such behavior. Nintendo, on the other hand, wanted to ensure that gamers would have a good, playable copy of their game in the event anything ever happened to the original.
When players make a copy of games, they essentially create Nintendo 64 roms. If anything happens to the original game, players still have their roms as backup. To play roms, players often use a Nintendo 64 emulator, which essentially mimics an N64. Players would either purchase systems that acted like emulators, or they would download emulators to their computer.
Although players are allowed to backup copies of games they own and play them, Nintendo does let gamers know that there are illegal roms and emulators floating around on the Internet. Players that own a game can make their own copy of the game, but they may not download a copy of a game they already own from another person or website.
In fact, Nintendo discourages gamers from downloading roms and emulators as they feel it steals money and innovation from the company. Still, if you have any roms from games you previously owned and backed up yourself, you are free to play them to your heart’s content. Although it is not the same as playing on an N64 system, playing roms of games you already own may have to suffice until the N64 mini hits store, if it ever does.
They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To
One thing gamers familiar with the Nintendo franchise can tell you is that they certainly do not make games and consoles like they used to. Nintendo consoles were always capable of taking a fairly decent beating. In fact, you will hear older members of the gaming community talk frequently about the time their system fell off their dresser.
The person would simply pick up the system, set it back up, and go right back to playing. The game cartridges were durable, too. Unlike today where gamers have to worry about scratches on their discs, owners of the NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 could smack their cartridges around, blow into the bottom of them, and still expect them to work like new.
The Nintendo 64 was one of the last systems to offer such durability. Since then, technology might be better, but it does not mean that consoles and games survive years of abuse. In fact, many gamers could likely unearth an old N64 from the bottom of a closet somewhere, plug it in, and find that it still works after all these years.
If gamers tried to do the same with their PlayStation or PlayStation 2, they would not likely have the same amount of luck. The N64 was the first of its kind in many ways, and it was also near the last of its kind in some ways, too. Overall, it prompted significant changes among the gaming community, which is part of the reason why we have such beautiful looking games today.
However, console manufacturers did not uphold the importance of durability, at least not in comparison to the durability of the N64. Gone are the days when you would have to beat your system as a way of repairing it. Now, a broken system means taking it to the repair shop or purchasing a replacement system. Of course, that is just one reason among a sea of many that old-school gamers miss systems like the Nintendo 64 so desperately.