Review by Sour DieseL
"Brought 3D Gaming to the Mainstream!"
Video games were becoming more and more popular, with the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo fueling things. It came time for the technology to be greatly improved, and so development of the Nintendo 64 began while Sega was working on the Saturn, and Sony just now entering the scene with the popular Sony PlayStation. The Nintendo 64 brought gaming to a whole new level, with it's smooth graphics and oddly-shaped controller, which would be the first of two odd controller designs for a Nintendo console, the second being the GameCube. The Nintendo 64 launched with a new title in it's flagship series, Super Mario 64. Weird as the controller was, the Nintendo 64 was a fantastic console and brought first-person shooters to the forefront, despite not being well-known for them in the future.
Game Library: 10/10: The Nintendo 64's catalog of games doesn't diappoint in the least. Super Mario 64 was a massive title that spanned a ton of worlds, all of which were quite large at the time and was still able to fit on the cartridge. The Nintendo 64 also brought us what is considered by some to be the greatest game of all time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Ocarina of Time was a massive adventure that lives on in the hearts of gamers today. There would be one more Zelda title for the Nintendo 64, Majora's Mask, which was met with some criticism, but was still a great game anyway. The Mario Kart franchise also saw it's second release on this platform, with Super Mario Kart 64. The Castlevania series was still ever-popular, and Konami brought us Castlevania 64 and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, two of the hardest games known to grace to the console. As I mentioned earlier, The Nintendo 64 was the console responsible for making first-person shooters as popular as they are today. They did this with two titles, both of which were developed by Rare, owners of the popular Donkey Kong franchise. The first game was Goldeneye, which brought many youngsters at the time into the world of MI6 00 agent James Bond. Goldeneye was known for it's wide selection of weaponry, cool gadgets, and well thought-out multiplayer and campaign maps. Goldeneye quickly became popular and as we speak, a remake is being developed on the Wii. The second first-person shooter by Rare to became popular was Perfect Dark, which featured all of the same ingenuity as Goldeneye. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were great titles that quickly became mainstream and loved by many, the latter of which received a prequel on the Xbox 360. Another popular first-person shooter series on the Nintendo 64 was the Turok series. Turok was a series of massive games that put you into the role of a dinosaur hunter that finds guns and sets out to destroy an evil overlord with the help of alien technology. Turok: Rage Wars was a mostly multi-player game, with the campaign being extremely short. It was a great part game. The N64 also brought us the first Super Smash Brothers game, a series of fighting games that is still popular to this day. Also worth mentioning are Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, two more excellent Rare games.
Controls: 7/10: The controller for this console is a bit funky. It has three "prongs" or "handles", and resembles a stingray of sorts. In the middle is the joystick, the most common method of moving around in most of the video games released for the console. Above that is the Start Button, used obviously for starting your game, and also in-game to pause the game in case you need to take a break. On the left side of the controller is the infamous directional pad, which is now mostly used to control camera angles, but not always. Sometimes it's used for weapon selection and various other things in games. On the right side of the controller, you will find the A and B input buttons, which work just like they have in the past. To the right of those in a small space are the newly developed "C Buttons". There are four C buttons, one for each cardinal direction, much like a directional pad. These were often contained the same features as the directional pad did, though they also had their own unique uses, like playing notes in the Zelda games. On the underside of the controller rests the Z Button, which was just another input button in the same vein as the A and B buttons. The traditional L and R buttons also make their return on the shoulders of the controller. Just above the Z button, still on the underside, rests a small cartridge port. This would be the the console's memory card slot for the games that required it, and also held the Rumble Pak for the games that featured the option. It also was used for certain cheat devices. The overall issue with the controller is that it feels a bit clunky, and it can be difficult to operate in a few games because of the control schemes that some of them had. Most of the time, however, there really isn't much of a problem. They just could have done much better, and not have made the joystick so small that it feels like it's jabbing into your thumb, or provided some soft padding on it like they did for the GameCube later on.
Game Difficulty: 8/10: Most of the games for the Nintendo 64 are fairly challenging. Possibly two of the most difficult games are Castlevania 64 and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. This should be no surprise to those who have played Castlevania in the past, though with the release of Symphony of the Night on the PlayStation, the series' difficulty has begun to spiral downhill somewhat. Super Mario 64 is also fairly challenging, especially for those going after all 120 stars. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark feel really balanced and overall nothing is really cheap in those games. Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero are also great for a challenge. Some of the easier games include Super Smash Brothers, Super Mario Kart, and Gex 2 and 3. A difficult fighting game for the N64 is Bio Freaks, one of the hardest games to grace the console. Killer Instinct is another tough fighting game, and responsible for a rather well-known Internet meme. Overall, there are some really easy games, some really difficult games, and most of them are in between. This would sadly mark the beginning of a decline in game difficulty though, as the games are challenging, but not as hard as they were in an attempt to bring more casual gamers to the scene.
Graphics: 10/10: At the time, the graphics were pretty amazing. They were smooth, well-animated, and fairly detailed. Super Mario 64 and Super Smash Brothers were among the best on the console as far as graphics go. Also worth noting for graphics is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The Castlevania games also came really close to this quality. Banjo-Kazooie certainly met the standards, as did Donkey Kong 64. With the latter, a graphics "Expansion Pak" was released with the game because the graphics were so good that the N64 couldn't accomplish it alone, and also smoothed out the graphics of older N64 games even more. The graphics for Goldeneye were sadly pretty mediocre, and I'm surprised because all of the other Rare games for the console looked great. Maybe they didn't expect it to become as big as they did, so they didn't spend too much time on it or simply didn't have the money, who knows? For the most part though, the graphics were pretty good and the console suffered almost no loading times because it didn't have to be read from a disc like the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.
Audio: 10/10: The music sounded great coming from the N64. It was near orchestral at some points. The quality wasn't quite as good as the Sony PlayStation could handle some near-MP3 quality music, Twisted Metal 4 being a great example of that. But for what it is, the Nintendo 64 sounds great and even supported voice acting, which the Castlevania, Gex, Super Smash Brothers, and Mario games accomplished quite well. The sound effects are great as well and overall, it's a massive improvement in quality over the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. So Nintendo improved upon their own standards ten-fold, which is what counts here.
Overall: 8/10: Despite the awkward controls, it's a really strong console with a fantastic set of games, some of which are legendary. The graphics are great, the sound is great, and the games are fairly challenging. It's a piece of gaming history that made first-person shooters popular in the first place. It doesn't have much in the way of RPGs, but it's still a great console. If you can find one of these at a local used game store, go ahead and buy one, among with many of the great classics!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/11/10
Game Release: Nintendo 64 Hardware (US, 09/29/96)
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