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The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

Old 06-23-16, 12:28 PM
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The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

Twenty years ago, 3D gaming (no, not the pop-out-at-you kind) was exciting. Thanks to a plumber, an ocarina, a British spy, and bear with a bird in his backpack, one home console was able to master this new age of gaming.

The Nintendo 64 debuted in Japan on June 23, 1996. That makes the console 20 years old. The Nintendo 64 pioneered 3D gaming, brought us some of the greatest hits of all time, and gave us some of the best multiplayer memories. It also marked the beginning of a lot the troubles that plague Nintendo to this day, specifically third-part issues and lower sales (the Nintendo 64 sold 33 million units).

Nintendo’s previous consoles were mostly based on 2D games. But the company emphasized the hardware’s 3D capabilities so much that even the system’s name reflected what it could do: it had 64-bit central procession unit (hence Nintendo 64). Its previous console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment system, was only 16-bit.

The N64 made an impact on 3D gaming with its best launch game, Super Mario 64. Just like how Super Mario Bros. defined 2D platforming in 1985, Super Mario 64 became a blueprint for how to make 3D, third-person game. Mario could now run and jump around open spaces easily with the controller’s analog stick. Many fans and critics consider Super Mario 64 to be one of the best and most important games of all time.

But it wasn’t the N64’s only notable release. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time also brought that series to 3D. It’s still one of the best known entries in the franchise. It event created a template all 3D Zelda games followed for decades. Only the next entry, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, seems to finally be ditching the Ocarina formula.

Meanwhile, GoldenEye made first-person shooters a hit on consoles, Star Fox 64 came with the Rumble Pack and introduced the control-shaking feature that’s now standard in all consoles, and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron gave aspiring X-wing pilots a chance to play out their fantasies away from a PC.

The Nintendo 64 also had four controller ports, while other consoles before and at the time only had two. This made the system fantastic for multiplayer games like Mario Kart 64, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros., which started a fighting game franchise that would become one of Nintendo’s best-selling series.

The troubles

Despite all the great software and innovations, the Nintendo 64 was not the most successful system of its time. That honor belongs to the original PlayStation. Sony’s first console sold a whopping 105.5 million units. The Nintendo 64 only sold 33 million.

This was when Nintendo’s woes with third-party publishers really began impacting the House of Mario. For a long time, companies like Square, Capcom, EA, and Konami had to publish their games on Nintendo’s systems simply because it was the undisputed market leader, even if they were unhappy with Nintendo’s strict policies. At one point, Nintendo would even tell companies that they could only release five games a year. Nintendo was obsessed with controlling third-parties, and they resented it. Once Sega’s Genesis became popular in the early ’90s, publishers had another option.

Sega’s console in the Nintendo 64 era, the Saturn, was a bust and died quickly. Sony filled the void with the PlayStation — and companies unhappy with Nintendo’s policies still had another option.

That choice became easier when Nintendo revealed that the N64 would still use cartridges. By 1996, most consoles (including the PlayStation) were using CDs. Cartridges had less storage capacity and cost more to make, even if they could load games faster than discs. Cartridges were also harder to pirate. Still, most publishers prefered the lower cost and extra storage space available in CDs, especially once games began including videos and voice acting, both of which required a lot of memory.

Nintendo’s loss of third-party support would cost the system some big games, most notably with Final Fantasy VII, one of the PlayStation’s biggest hits. Before Final Fantasy VII, the series was exclusive to Nintendo consoles.

Despite the negatives, many gamers look back on the Nintendo 64 with fondness. Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and others remain some of the best-loved titles ever, and no other system offered more fun for four friends with a big couch. Maybe Nintendo will try to recapture that spirit of technological innovation, discovery, and multiplayer fun with its next system, the NX.
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Old 06-23-16, 01:16 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

Yeah, I remember it well, walking around the Base Exchange with my folks, getting to finally play Mario in 3D... and being thoroughly unimpressed, but then having a weird draw to Pilotwings.

Good system overall though, had a lot of fun with it.
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Old 06-23-16, 01:18 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

Many an evening I spent with this system and my roommates playing Earthworm Jim...
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Old 06-23-16, 07:44 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I remember walking into Toys R US and playing the demo for Mario 64 . I was so floored and amazed . I guess I didn't convey my level of excitement to my parents when I received an Atari Jaguar instead
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Old 06-23-16, 08:56 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I got it launch day with Mario 64 (I believe it was Sept 29 for North America) at separate stores, since the game was sold out somehow. I still have one more star to go from that launch file (100 coins in Hazy Maze Cave).

Prior to that, I was very pumped by the Nintendo Power promo video, and playing the demo at Toys R Us, like mgh83 mentioned.

In 2008, when I went to Japan, I bought a sealed copy of this launch title for the hell of it (it was cheap).

And on a side note, they had several unsold copies of Donkey Kong Country 3. To the point that there were original cardboard shipping boxes lying around, filled with sealed copies of the game.

Last edited by bluetoast; 06-23-16 at 09:01 PM.
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Old 06-23-16, 10:45 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

This was when I hit a blind spot in my gaming life. Well, maybe that's not the best description. I guess it was more of a shift in how and when I played games.

I grew up with consoles. Got an Atari 2600 when I was 6. It came with that lovely port of Pac-Man that got such rave reviews. This was about a year before the video game crash, so it was actually a great time to get one. I ended up getting a lot of games for it because the crash made them so damn cheap. Sure, many of them really sucked, but there were some real gems to be had. Some crazy stuff you'd never see again.

I got an NES for my 12th Birthday/Christmas, and it was a great time to get one. Zelda had just come out. Mike Tyson's Punch Out was just out as well. The NES proved so popular in my family that we ended up buying a second one a year or two later (that came with SMB/Duck Hunt, mine only had Mario). Within a few years I had a Game Boy, and then a Super Nintendo.

But I was graduating High School and heading to college, and my game playing started to home at least. While at school, I found myself with downtime on campus, so I played games in the rec center. I remember playing a lot of Samuari Showdown 2, Bust-A-Move, and NBA Jam (Boom Shaka-Lakka!).

When I got to UCLA in 1996, they had a full blown arcade on campus. There was also a big arcade down in Westwood near the FOX theater. I spent plenty of time in both. It was really the last time that arcades were still relevant. Between those places and my first PC, a console seemed like a relic or a kids toy. The Nintendo 64 was never even something on my radar.

After college, my gaming all shifted to PC. Truth be told, I've never played on actual N64. Maybe I've handled the controller a time or two, I'm not even sure of that. I've played several N64 games through emulation, but never the actual hardware. I've only played on a Wii once, and never the WiiU. Never touched any Game Boy other than my original. You could say that my Nintendo life ended right as the N64 came out.

And it'd be 13 years before my console life resumed, now with Sony.
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Old 06-23-16, 11:39 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I'm have nearly an opposite experience as you despite possibly being similar in age. I was in college, my brother and his friends had just gotten their own place and N64 multiplayer games were where it was at. Probably thousands upon thousands of hours spent on Mario Kart, Goldeneye, WCW vs NWO, Wailai Golf, and Quarterback Club. Just amazing multiplayer fun. That doesn't even address the single player library.

The catalog might not have been as vast as the PS1 but damn, it felt like every triple A game was a home run. So many fantastic games.

To me, the N64 is right up there with the SNES and NES. The pefect trifecta of console gaming nirvana.
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Old 06-24-16, 12:13 AM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

Originally Posted by Michael Corvin View Post

To me, the N64 is right up there with the SNES and NES. The pefect trifecta of console gaming nirvana.
I'd put it slightly under the SNES but yeah a great system.

I have a ton of great memories playing Mario Kart 64 and Goldeneye with my brother and cousins and then playing WCW vs NWO: World Tour after school with friends. The N64 was probably the last system that I ever cared about multiplayer in.

Some of my favorite games for the system (besides the obvious big two Super Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda: OOT) : Pokemon Snap, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, Paper Mario, Rayman 2, Snowboard Kids, and Starfox 64.
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Old 06-24-16, 08:28 AM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

The N64 is the first Nintendo console I bought at launch. I never owned a NES since so many of my friends had one and bought a SNES well into it's life cycle since we already owned a Genesis. I LOVED the N64 and still remember having friends over after school to play Goldeneye for hours.
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Old 06-24-16, 10:44 AM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

This was the last great Nintendo console. The N64's versions of Mario Kart, Starfox and Zelda are still the best in their respective series IMHO.
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Old 06-24-16, 10:55 AM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I have very fond memories of the N64. I spent many, many hours in college playing Mark Kart 64 and WCW vs. NWO: Revenge. It was a system tailor-made for dorms and frat houses with several outstanding 4-player games.
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Old 06-24-16, 12:23 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I remember opening this as a Christmas present from my Dad, was so excited for it. Turok was our first game I think, had a lot of fun with it. Loved the WCW/NWO games, Zelda of course and Goldeneye. LOVED Mario Golf and Tennis.
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Old 06-24-16, 01:43 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I have fond memories of it too. My parents didn't get one for my brother and I until a bit later but we got to play it at my cousin's house. We'd play endless rounds of Goldeneye and Mario Kart 64. I think it was around 1999 or so that my parents got one for us. We got the console bundled with Star Wars Episode I: Racer and we also were into professional wrestling quite a bit at the time and played a lot of WCW/NWO: Revenge and WWF: No Mercy (among many others, I'm fairly certain we played almost every wrestling game available ). Also enjoyed Super Mario 64 a lot.
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Old 06-24-16, 02:09 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I don't know how I forgot about the WWF games, but yeah, the N64 easily had the best wrestling games too.
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Old 06-24-16, 02:23 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

I am likely the world's best Mario Tennis player for the N64. No tennis game ever got the play mechanics better, including latter Mario Tennis games.

Pro tip: Master the net game with Luigi.
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Old 06-24-16, 02:29 PM
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Re: The Nintendo 64 Turns 20 Years Old Today.

The N64 came out when I was 11. I have a lot of fond memories of renting the system from Blockbuster.

I ended up getting a Playstation and my best friend from down the street had a N64. So we both got plenty of playing time on both systems. Good times.

Of all the old consoles, I think the N64 has the best staying power. There are games on it that I can still spend hours and hours playing. I recently had a few friends over and we played a lot of Goldeneye, Mario Kart and Mario Party. There are a lot of classic games, but the ones that I play the most are from the N64.

The write up in the OP is interesting. I knew the PS was more popular and I knew that Nintendo had issues with 3rd party developers. But I didn't realize just how badly Sony lapped Nintendo and I didn't know that Nintendo's issues with the 3rd parties was largely their own fault.
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