I Have an N64 and I Don’t Know What to Do With It

It seems that despite my best efforts, I have indeed started collecting various editions of the game of games, Resident Evil 2… something that I desperately tried to avoid, despite writing about it. That recent marathon of a challenge, entitled “I’m Having Tofu Tonight!” started the ball rolling as I wanted to sample a few of the extra toppings available in the GameCube version which turned out to be a superb release of the title, and with my appetite wet I decided to embark upon playing the bizarre N64 port of the game…

… which I plan to write about on another occasion… 

To do this authentically however I needed an N64 and a copy of the game which, whilst not the most expensive collectable out there, didn’t come that cheap. My natural thrift nudged me in the direction of doing this all with as least expense as possible, so the cart I’ve ended up with is unboxed and worn; like wise I picked up an N64 without controller or screen cable, but luckily I happened to have a controller from a previous escapade and a cheap video cable was only a few pounds of British monies. So now I have a fully functional N64…

… and no idea what to do with it.

It’s just not a console that I’ve ever had that much interest in and, being honest, it is a kind of strange console. Setting aside a small handful of exceptions, its cartridge format and emphasis on 3D processing (compared to its contemporaries) give all the games a similar polygonal look which I think you appreciate most through the nostalgia-vision filter of having grown up with them. That’s not to say that I’m all about the graphics, but I think even the most ardent of N64 fan would have to agree that these early 3D adventures haven’t aged particularly well visually.

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Power Pack Butt…

It’s also a kind of weird console physically. Nintendo were trailblazing in their emphasis of party play credentials with those four controller ports front and centre, surrounding the logo in a joyous celebration of everything that this new 64 bit era had to offer; a fresh generation where more people would play huddled around one console. It’s a philosophy that Ninty seem to have continued until today, and I can’t help but admire their commitment to that traditionally social form of gaming. In the middle there, at the top, that promise of a memory expansion from day one (something that mine is lacking) and around the back some kind of … big … powerpack … butt… sticking out. Then of course there is the trident controller; providing three different grip positions and the first standard console controller to offer an analogue stick. Once again, to their credit, there’s an ambition at play here to give the player a variety of ways to interact, another trend that Nintendo would carry forward with every generation from Wii-mote flailing to writing with a stylus and all the bizarre Ninty jumping, balancing, swirling, cardboard models inbetween. Unfortunately, it’s a controller that I’ve never gotten on particularly well with. The stick feels too tall and difficult to use precisely, the rest of the body has that sense of being too big and too empty; a light hollow plastic shell with little substance. All the buttons are loose and clatter-y, except the d-pad that doesn’t seem to offer the right feedback so I find myself mercilessly mashing it to the whining of my ageing thumb tendons. I do however have this bizarre-ness in my life now, and also a general feeling that I probably shouldn’t only have it to play a (admittedly weird and wonderful) different port of a game that I love and know inside out already. I should probably get a few titles for this black plastic box of 64.

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… then there’s this guy in here! What’s he doing in there? nobody knows… I couldn’t seem to get him out easily, so I left him. 

So I began to think about the ‘must haves’ of the system; those quintessentially N64 titles that everyone associates with the console, and it would be remiss of me not to kick this off with Super Mario 64; everyone’s favourite plumber’s first romp in to the third dimension. Heck, Mario 64 basically defined the 3D platformer genre, introducing the concept of the movable camera, associated controls, and a certain amount of forgiveness in lining up jumps. It’s certainly an important game and I remember at the time of release being blown away by ingame footage (particularly the idea of jumping in to paintings to go to new levels). It also made valiant strides in terms of  3D level design by fundamentally acknowledging that a linear point-to-point layout doesn’t really work and therefore adopting a much more exploration and challenge based philosophy even mitigating some of the cartridge storage limitations by making players repeat levels several times to get every star. The problem is that I’m just not that in to 3D platformers or Mario, and whilst I can understand fans of a genre wanting to go back and revisit pivotal titles in history to better understand where we are now by seeing where we’ve been, the idea of pushing through Mario 64 makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

The story is pretty similar when it comes to Rare’s infamous collectathons; again, in some ways a genre that was created on this system. Now, I have spent a chunk of time with Banjo-Kazooie, and it was enjoyable time, but more because I really had had no exposure to Rare’s lovable duo before that point (to the extent that I wasn’t even sure what type of game it was going in). That being said, by the time I has realised how high the barriers were to even getting to the ‘normal’ game ending (not even considering the real ending) I’d basically had my fill. Given that most commentators would say BK is the pinnacle of this style of play I’m not really looking to pick up any further collectathon carts to spin-up in the ol’ N64.

By this point I’ve ruled out a solid block of the N64’s back catalogue highlights, but with that unassuming black box burning a hole in my shelf I turned my attention to potential other genres that I might pick up one of those satisfyingly chunky cartridges for.

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… urgh…

… and it wasn’t long before the dynamic duo of Perfect Dark and Goldeneye popped up on my radar-o-scope. I do have at least a passing knowledge of these games as a housemate back in my undergrad days bough his N64 from home one weekend and then for the rest of the semester insisted on split screen multiplayer. Luckily there was at least one controller configuration that I could get on with and I did become passable at these games in their multiplayer guises. However, that’s not to say that I was ever impressed with them. As a part-time PC gamer in those days I’d been introduced to solids on Quake III Arena and by comparison the antics of Jo-Hannad Hark and Piers Brosman were slow, clunky, and confusing as you had to make them run diagonally in order to get the character to haul ass anywhere. So again, I’ve kind of ruled out my interest in those.

I guess the next obvious choices might be the ‘classic’ Ninty-IP’s, but it’s tricky to think of one that hasn’t either had a superior remastered version that I’d probably punt for rather the original incarnation (LoZ: OOT) or simply a more recent edition (why would I play Mario Kart 64 when I can play Mario Kart 8 on Switch?). And yes, I know that much of this is because I just didn’t grow up playing Nintendo consoles; I don’t have the attachment to this generation of Nintendo, but I also feel as though I’m rapidly running out of possible options to expand my current, one-game, library for the latest retro addition to my household.

… so I’m appealing to you, my great reading audience, what game should I consider for N64? what is going to satisfy my hankering to make good use of the system whilst providing something that is uniquer to the platform?… answers on a postcard… then photograph the postcard… then, I don’t know, Twoot the picture at me or something.  

 

 

15 thoughts on “I Have an N64 and I Don’t Know What to Do With It

  1. I feel the same regarding the N64. It’s actually one of the first consoles I’ve bought when I started to collect but I’ve never been that much impressed by the games and I don’t feel the urge to get some cartridges for it. That’s a mistery…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😁 good to hear in not the only one who’s had this conundrum! Weirdly, a game that I am interested in is Doom 64, but I believe that it’s being released on Switch in the near future too 😶

      Like

  2. The little thing in the mysterious port in the front is… I actually don’t know what it is, but you need to take it out if you put the memory expansion module in. They provided a tool with which to remove it on its original release; if you’re lacking one, a butter knife is a suitable substitute.

    As for games to check out:

    – Blast Corps – delightful action-puzzler from Rare about demolishing buildings with a variety of vehicles, both mundane and peculiar

    – Perfect Dark – get a memory expansion pack to play this, otherwise you can only access certain parts and run it in low resolution

    – Diddy Kong Racing – way more fun than Mario Kart 64 in single-player thanks to its innovative “Adventure” mode

    – Top Gear Rally – a cool realistic rally racer featuring a brilliant “paint shop” mode where you can scrawl knobs all over your car

    – Pilotwings – super-chilled, non-violent game with lots to do and a variety of interesting challenges

    – Mischief Makers – bizarre 2D platformer that is worth playing purely for its unusual mechanics

    – Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon – 3D, somewhat Zelda-esque take on Konami’s long-running series, featuring some great dungeon design, a giant robot, singalong songs and a laugh track

    – Zelda: Majora’s Mask – “Ocarina of Time is the greatest game of all time!” I like this one better. If you like your Zeldas dark and genuinely unsettling, this is an essential.

    – Banjo Kazooie/Banjo Tooie – The pinnacle of the “collectathon” platformer genre.

    – Tetrisphere – It’s bugger all to do with Tetris, but it’s a great puzzler in its own right, and exclusive to N64.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent! That’s a superb recommendation list!

      Right away Pilot wings jumps out as something I might be interested in. The only exposure I have to it was the 3DS launch title (🤔 was that “Pilot Wings Resort?) and it was a pretty intriguing title, so, yes, Pilot Wings 64 (I’m assuming it’s ’64’… Everything on this system and to be a ’64’) should be on my watch list! Thanks! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Nintendo 64 is my favourite console! So many happy childhood memories with the system. It’s why I became a gamer today, I think 😁

    Based on your post, I don’t think it has stood the test of time very well, haha. Almost anything I have special feelz for has been remastered. Oh! Jet Force Gemini is a great gem from Rare. Definitely check it out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Undoubtedly I’d feel the same if I grew up with it! 😁. It’s amazing how much the committed to the idea of 3D graphics with it, such a bold move considering that most of the previous generation had been sprite based. Image if Sony announced today that the PS5 would be VR only…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The N64 may still be my personal favorite console due primarily to the seemingly inseparable nostalgia when discussing Nintendo’s first 3D console. That’s exactly the reason it’s a bit tougher to recommend N64 games to someone that didn’t grow up playing it and therefore doesn’t have the same attachment to games like Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and GoldenEye. I do have a few recommendations for the N64…I haven’t played some of these in years mind you, so I can’t speak to how well they’ve aged.

    If you’re into more arcade-style racing games – Cruisin’ USA(the first game I played on N64), Hydro Thunder, or Beetle Adventure Racing were all fun “back in the day”.

    If you’re into Star Wars 🙂 – Shadows of The Empire, Episode 1 Racer, and Rogue Squadron are among my favorites…Rogue Squadron has probably been least ravaged by time.

    While N64 didn’t have anywhere near the amount of RPGs the Playstation did, but it was still home to PAPER MARIO. I cannot recommend this game enough!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Have you considered trying Pokemon Stadium, and Pokemon Stadium 2?

    Hours of my childhood were devoted to these games, there are various different challenge tournaments to take part in, as well as actually gym leader battles, and of course – the mini games! The mini games were arguably the most fun part of the games (for me at least), especially if you’re able to get hold of a second controller and someone else who is up for a bit of fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m probably about to get some backlash here but… But….. I’ve never played a Pokémon game! 😵… *Phew* there, I said it!… Although if you think it’s worth it then maybe I should finally learn to tell Jigglypuff from erm… Wigglytuff (is that right?) 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  6. SACRILEGE!

    Don’t worry, we all have popular franchises that have passed us by! Whether you like it or not of course depends on what kind of games you like. You’ll like Pokemon if you enjoy tactical thinking within turn-based games as you’ll have to consider the different types and weaknesses of Pokemon and the moves they have. Also there’s so many different kinds of Pokemon, there’s bound to be some designs you will like!

    And yes! Jigglypuff and Wigglytuff! 🎈

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Boom! My Pokémon knowledge is unparalleled!!!

      😁 Thanks for the recommendation – I’m generally not much of a turn based player, but then maybe it’s time to diversify. I’ll keep a look out for it, maybe if I see a battered and once loved copy going cheap I’ll give it a go.

      Liked by 1 person

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