Review by matt91486
"Yay! It’s my super-de-duper special birthday review!"
The Nintendo 64 had its work cut out for it when it launched in late September of 1996. The PlayStation already had a giant head-start, and a boatload of games. The Nintendo 64 launched with two. That launch day became a staple for all owners of the sixty-four bit console. Too few games, released too far apart, and not enough money to spend on the expensive cartridges. But, what was released, was some of the best games ever to grace the video game kingdom.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The Nintendo 64 cannot have the sound capabilities of the PlayStation for obvious reasons. As a cartridge based system, the audio obviously suffers. The music still sounds good if the developers spend time working with it, but most developers are too lazy to exert that much effort, so they just put in synthesized garbage. The sound effect capabilities really do not suffer at all.
The graphics have their strengths and weaknesses. The biggest two weaknesses are foggy graphics and blurred, well, everything. The foggy textures are used to hide pop-up. When this pop-up is not hidden, you end up with games like Crus’n USA. The blurred textures were not very noticeable very on in the system’s lifespan, but as characters became made of more and more polygons, the problem became more and more apparent. Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a prime example of this. The Nintendo 64 cannot handle as many complex textures as the PlayStation can either, so this results in slightly less lush and vibrant environments. However, it is easier to make good looking three-dimensional spaces on the Nintendo 64, so it all really balances out to a rather impressive three-dimensional experience, if you are playing a type of game that can best utilize the console. In other words, the Nintendo 64 can make breathtaking action and adventure games, but the quality drops off some into other genres.
CONTROLLERS, MEMORY CARDS AND OTHER PERIPHERALS
The controller market for the Nintendo 64 is bleak. As the controller is quite possibly my favorite of any console’s controller, there is no reason to use any third-party options. Besides, the options that fall under that heading that I have tested, such as the Shark Pad 64, are of poor quality, shape, design, and they just do not work as well.
Memory cards are not as big of an issue on the Nintendo 64 as other consoles, since many Nintendo 64 games have battery-backed saves on the cartridge themselves. This is a huge space saver, which is great, because a season in one of EA Sports games will take up the entire thing. Nintendo’s own memory card, called the ‘Controller Pak’ is the only option you should consider, even though it holds very little space. I have never had any quality-control problems with my Controller Pak, and I have had numerous ones with the various third-party options. The worst of which always seems to be my files mysteriously deleting themselves.
The Nintendo 64 is also not a hotbed for those odd controllers like the Dance Dance Revolution pad for the PlayStation, or the Dreamcast’s Samba de Amigo maraca controllers. Nintendo does have a Game Shark, which is different than other consoles’ cheating devices because it is inserted into the cartridge slot with the game, almost exactly like the old-school NES and SNES Game Genies were inserted. The only difference is that the Game Shark saves your codes and lets you turn them on and off.
The Nintendo 64’s library was really a first-party collection. Very few of the third-party games were worth owning. But, the console was definitely worth the price for the first-party published titles alone.
The tournament fighting genre, along with the lack of role-playing games, is what really prevented the Nintendo 64 from being a hit. Companies like Capcom, Namco, and SNK, the leaders in tournament fighting games, completely avoided the console, leaving a giant empty space in the genre. Sadly, very few companies rose to the challenge. HAL Laboratories partnered with Nintendo themselves to bring the console’s only fighting masterpiece, Super Smash Brothers to the console in the middle of its lifespan. This game took a very non-traditional look at the genre, and it threw in all of Nintendo’s most important characters, so of course it sold accordingly. Fighter’s Destiny, published by Infongrammes is really the only other tournament fighting game on the console worth playing. (The game’s sequel is not worth playing, however, so be careful which one you are about to play.) Midway released some horrible fighting games on the console, ranging from War Gods to a few more of the seemingly limitless incarnations of Mortal Kombat, but not a one was good.
ROLE PLAYING GAMES (RPGs)
Even worse, this genre is weaker than the tournament fighting genre. There are only two true role-playing games for the Nintendo 64: Quest 64 and Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage. Both are horrible. One of the only good games in this genre is actually a strategy/RPG, a title in the more thought-provoking sub-genre, Atlus’s Ogre Battle 64. The other decent venture, is once more made by Nintendo: the long awaited sequel to Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario.
STRATEGY AND PUZZLE GAMES
Early on in the Nintendo 64’s lifespan, these two genres looked to be more problem points for the console. Luckily, things picked up later on with the release of two of the most popular real-time strategy games for the PC, and quite a few good little puzzlers. Nintendo ported Blizzard Entertainment’s Starcraft 64, and Command and Conquer by Westwood Studios to their system to provide some depth to the line-up. However, if there are any games in the strategy genre besides those two on the console, they are escaping me now.
Puzzle games are another key niche market, and Nintendo did a decent job with that one as well. The best game out of the bunch is the strangely addicting Pokemon Puzzle League, another Nintendo developed game, which is highly derivative of Tetris Attack. Tetrisphere, the other puzzler developed by the company, was decent, but it was not as entertaining by any means. Taito brought their puzzle series Bust-a-Move to the console for a few rounds, and you should definitely buy at least one of those titles. And, in one of the last games that they published before being purchased, Ocean published the Zed Two developed Wetrix, which I was not fond of but most everyone else on the face of the earth seems to adore.
SPORTS AND RACING GAMES
A strong point finally? Sports games not so much. But racing games, most definitely. Sports games on the console dramatically ranged in quality, from the good (Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr., Madden NFL Football, NBA Live) to the horrendous (NFL Quarterback Club, Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone, <NBA in the Zone). Acclaim’s All-Star Baseball series is quite possibly the most critically acclaimed sports game series on the console, but I am a fan of their NHL Breakaway series as well. The FIFA games and International Superstar Soccer series are great bets for the soccer fan around. However, college fans really will not find anything of their liking here.
Finally! Something they did great! The Nintendo 64 quite possibly has the highest ratio of racing games to games of every other genre of any console that ever existed. And the best thing is that many of them are good. Nintendo’s own Mario Kart 64 is unsurprisingly the cream of the crop, but Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing, Midway’s San Fransisco Rush, and THQ’s Penny Racers are not far behind. Other good bets, although not quite in that upper echelon are Ridge Racer 64 one of the only games that Namco released for the console, Crus’n USA by Williams Entertainment and Top Gear Rally a product of Kemco. Of the titles to avoid, not playing Multi-Racing Championship, also known as M.R.C should just about cover you.
ACTION AND ADVENTURE GAMES
This genre is another one of the Nintendo 64’s strengths. Here’s a list of games published by Nintendo alone that are worth the price of the console: Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. 99.9999% of gamers on the face of the earth like the incarnations of the famous Zelda series on the console, and Donkey Kong 64 is quite popular as well. I do not like either game, but that is an entirely different story. On the third-party front, I like Konami’s Legend of the Mystical Ninja series, and the Gex series by Crystal Dynamics. There are some other good bets on the console, but stated above is an excellent short list to work off of. Just do not play Chameleon Twist.
The genre of shooting is another strong point on the console, as long as you are not talking about the space shooting sub-genre. Rare’s masterpiece Goldeneye 007 is the greatest shooting game ever made, and Perfect Dark and The World is not Enough are excellent titles as well. For the less mainstream approach, Duke Nukem 3D is fun as well. The cult hit Doom also makes an appearance. As for space shooters, Star Fox 64 is really all that you have available.
Nintendo’s innovation is not always a good thing, as Pokemon Snap and Hey You! Pikachu! demonstrate with flying colors. But Pokemon Stadium is fairly good, and Mario Party is one of the most underrated game series around. For the old-school gamers, there is a remake of Paperboy and Namco Museum 64 for your playing pleasure. Because of the cartridge format, there are not very many games that do not fall under any of those genre headings, so this section may be more brief than you might have expected, but that is really all that there is to say.
*The first party line-up is amazing.
*The best racing game console on the market.
*The exclusive home of more million selling hits than you probably could imagine.
*Expensive cartridge format.
*Where are the tournament fighters and role-playing games?
*Foggy graphics so it looks like London outside.
The Nintendo 64 is a solid console, and a console that really has its strengths and weaknesses. Now, with its insanely low price, you really should have a hard time passing it up, even if it is just to get a few first-party titles. Nintendo has always proven that their success is directly in their hands, and that is what should give them a competitive edge over Sony and Microsoft in these next console wars.
This review, which is written on my birthday, is dedicated to the victims of the heinous attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Tragically, none of these innocent people will get to witness another one of their own birthdays.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 09/14/01, Updated 09/14/01
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.