Last week, I posted a Nintendo 64 Buyer’s Guide. Check that out here if you want to see that. That article gave a lot of love to the last cartridge based Nintendo console. This can be contributed to the fact that the Nintendo 64 or N64 has aged quite well in terms of game quality. Sure the graphics and textures have aged badly but gameplay has stood the test of time. Also, Nintendo fans are loyal as all hell. A system can be great but it doesn’t matter if no one knows. Sony fans should take note as the PlayStation Vita enters the market and the PSP is attributed to the past. Personally, the N64 was the first console I ever got around the time of its launch. My mother got me my console about a month after it was released. I had one game, Super Mario 64. As I’ve mentioned before to those who have read my previous pieces, this is and has remained my favorite Mario game of all time.
When I look back at my memories of the N64 at the time when it was the current console, most of them are of frustration, confusion and disappointment. There are many reasons for this and because of all the problems I had, I now realize that this is what started my dislike of Nintendo’s business practices, which has grown and continues today.
Let’s start with my first time owning the console. So I had Super Mario 64. Favorite Mario game ever, blah, blah, blah. Eventually, I finished it in full. I collected all 120 stars and I met Yoshi and flew into the center tower of the castle and all those glitches. I was done. So I wanted another game. My family didn’t have the money to casually buy 60-70 dollar games so I relied on saving my weekly allowances so I could rent a game for the weekend. When I did, there was Cruis’n USA, Killer Instinct Gold, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Pilotwings 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, WaveRace 64, and Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey, as well as Super Mario 64. This system had been out for four months or so and there are only eight games? Not all of these were good, mind you. Cruis’n USA is subpar, Mortal Kombat Trilogy is an insult to fighting game fans, Pilotwings 64 is an over glorified tech demo, and I’m not a fan of sports or Star Wars games. Killer Instinct Gold and WaveRace 64 were the only games worth getting and I actually dealt with Cruis’n USA because I was so desperate for new games. Although I enjoyed Mario Kart 64 when it was released, I eventually grew tired of my N64 and traded it for a Sega Genesis with two 6-Button controllers and 12 games. I’ve never regretted that.
Obviously this is an issue that plagued the N64 throughout its lifespan. Good games were far apart from each other. Mario Kart 64 was released in February of 1997. The next great game for the console, Star Fox 64, was released in June of 1997. That’s almost half a year without a great game. Some might say that in between that time, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Blast Corps were released and those are games to tie you over. I personally didn’t care about these games (although I kinda enjoy Turok now) and even if you enjoyed these games, they aren’t system sellers. They are only average or slightly above average titles. Lulls in game releases like this occurred all the time and it affected the game library. While its main competitor, the Sony PlayStation, had over two thousand games by the end of its life span, the N64 released just under 400 games. While not a reflection of quality, this number does hurt the library’s variety.
Back to my experience, by the end of the year I had gotten a PlayStation or PS1. I had also started collecting older consoles and had amassed a respectable collection. I had an Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Genesis, and another N64. About the time I had all these consoles, Vigilante 8 was released. I rented it until I was able to afford to buy it later that year. Being a super fan of the Twisted Metal series, I enjoyed this new take on the vehicular combat genre. It was announced that the game would be released on the N64 with extra content. I was excited for this port as it would be the first game from this genre on the console. Then I played it. The music was compressed, the presentation was butchered and the controls were shot to hell. I remember feeling so disappointed. I also remember feeling the same way later when playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Gex 64.
The N64 got bad ports of games. Most games that were multi platform were better on the PS1. Part of this has to do with the fact that the PS1 used the new disc format whereas the N64 used the old cartridge format. This restricted the space required for many of the games now being made and most developers decided to make the PS1 version the native version, if not the only version. Which brings us to the next point. Nintendo loss a lot of support with third party developers because of the cartridge format. This is where the bad relationship between 3rd parties and Nintendo started. Nintendo didn’t make a real effort to wrangle back their support, showcasing how arrogant Nintendo had become due to their past success. This is why many of the great games for the console were made by Nintendo or their second party developer, Rare. The N64 is known for their platformers but I would suggest that as a whole, platformers on the PS1 were better in general. All platformers on the N64 sucked except for the ones developed by Nintendo and Rare and the occasional exception, such as Rayman 2. The PS1 had Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Gex, and they were all developed by different developers, encouraging diversity and outside party involvement. Also, the N64 is a wasteland for fighting games and RPGs.
One last experience I remember involves the controller. I was playing Donkey Kong 64 and I was outside in the main hub world when all of a sudden, Donkey Kong stopped moving. I frantically shuffled around the analog stick but to no avail. My controller had stopped working. Again. This was already the third controller I had that flaked on me. The N64 controller SUCKS! These pitchforks aren’t well made. I take real good care of my stuff and the N64 controllers remain the only controller that I’ve had to buy another of because of loss of functionality. It’s well known now that the analog stick wears down and loses its tight centering. Adding to it is the fact that it’s just uncomfortable to hold this thing. The list of things wrong with this controller is as follows: the controller is too big, the button placement is weird, the C-buttons are different from the other face buttons, the shoulder buttons are too far away, there’s three handles, you don’t have access to all the buttons, the d-pad is stiff, the analog stick is rough on your thumb, and the select button was removed for some reason. Am I nitpicking? Maybe but I don’t care. IT BOTHERS ME!
I’ve owned the N64 more than any other console. That’s not a good thing because I’ve gotten rid of the console more than anything else. In comparison, I’ve own the PS1 twice, the original model and the PSone model. The reason is because I wouldn’t let go of my precious PS1 and it’s my favorite console ever. The point of all of this is that the N64 now looks better in retrospect because people usually now look at it not in comparison to another console. However, because of this, you also don’t look at the bad aspects of the console. For every Banjo-Kazooie, there’s a Chameleon Twist 1 and 2. The console was outdated when it was released and it was when Nintendo stopped being the best thing on the market with great titles and started being the overlord of the industry that had games you didn’t want. For an analogy, they used to be Steam but now their an American car company.
I’m aware that I might be the minority when it comes to my feeling towards the Nintendo 64 and Nintendo in general. So I’ll play Devil’s advocate and ask how you feel about the N64. Do you like it? Do you not? Do you feel my complaints have merit? Do you think I’m out of my mind? Comment below and let me know.
Side note: I didn’t play Ocarina of Time until the Gamecube was already out.