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25 years of N64, and I'm having a blast revisiting it. Nostalgia is pleasure, and low-poly pain!
Editorial by 
Editor
May 24, 2021, 06:13:50
 
Iíve been on a real retro games kick lately, which has been somewhat spurred on by a feeling of disillusionment with a lot of modern gaming practices (including even Nintendo), but thatís a whole other topic that I donít need to get into.

Until recently, the Nintendo 64 has always been in my mind as a bit of a ďlesserĒ console to me, with games that have aged somewhat poorly due to their low frame rate and low polygon count. But for whatever reason, Iíve been playing a lot of N64 over the past few weeks, and Iíve come to realize that Iíve been underrating this console. It didnít have a TON of games, but I tend to own around 30-40 games per system, and the N64 easily has that many quality titles if you know where to look.

I picked up a number of games from collectors and flea markets lately for decent prices. Hereís what Iíve been enjoying:

MARIO GOLF
"They should call it Wario Golf. You gonna love it!"


The original MG is impressive with how much it gets everything correct from the get-go, with lovely visuals and sound, excellent mechanics and physics, and plenty of modes to enjoy.

Now, youíd think owning Toadstool Tour would completely invalidate this one butÖnot really! One rather quirky thing that Camelot did with these early Mario sports games is make Mario himself this sort of legendary figure. As such, heís got quite a good drive and heís the sixth character you unlock. Strangely enough, many people will play Mario Golf without ever actually seeing Mario in-game. But I kinda like how heís sort of locked away; it makes me want to actually play as him!

When it comes to unlocking characters like Mario, the game is seriously challenging (only occasionally to its detriment). There seems to be more randomness in determining where the ball lands, and even unlocking a few of the earlier characters (like Wario, who frequently gets Birdies and Eagles) can prove to be quite tough. I like that the paltry (and strange) selection of golfers gives you something to work towards. I find the challenge to be frustrating at points but it keeps me coming back.

BLAST CORPS
"Time to get movin'!"

This early N64 title from the formidable devs at Rare feels almost like an indie game. Itís very quirky and somewhat barebones, but also has a lot of heart behind it and a truly original demolition-focused premise. I quite like it and will continue to make progress in it; the controls feel pretty tight although a few of the vehicles admittedly take some getting used to.

The only real issue with Blast Corps (outside of it lacking an extra mode or two) is that itís easy to get stuck in a particularly tricky challenge. Early on, the dump truck level was kicking my butt, and Iím currently having a devil of a time passing this TNT-pushing stage which can be a little finicky. Itíd be nice to be able to bypass a level or two with some sort of star/point progression system or something, but itís a minor complaint. N64 fans looking for something quirky and immediately gratifying should check out this semi-obscure gem.

WAVE RACE 64
"Follow that dolphin!"


I only rented this once back in the day, but this N64 launch racer is just plain cool. Itís got a sun-drenched vibe and some rather original ideas that set it apart from the plethora of other strong racers on the system. For starters, the waves themselves really are the star of the show, making each lap in the stages a bit different and giving your craft just a hint of unwieldiness that really sells the jetski illusion.

But the buoy systemówhich initially feels a tad restrictiveóis also clever. You can miss up to four buoys in a race without having to retire, so it becomes a game of where you can afford to take shortcuts and where you should stick to the route. Itís ultimately a pretty clever spin on an old concept, and the little tricks and stuff you can do add to the appeal. The only real downside is that there are a real dearth of tracks, but seeing as how you can find this for $15 or so these days, I donít think the lack of content is really an issue.

JET FORCE GEMINI
*chitter* *B-B-BOOM* *splat splat splat splat splat splat*

I played through this decades ago on my brotherís copy, and Iím finally giving it another go. Despite taking a bit to get acclimated to the controls, Iím really into this game once again. Itís certainly got its flaws, with a constantly rough framerate, a collection system that demotivates you from shooting wildly, and a janky aiming cursor that never seems to cooperate.

But just like Blast Corps above, JFG feels like it was made with a lot of heart and itís got tons of quirky appeal. Thereís a good sense of progression as you bulk up with weapons and health upgrades, the environments are varied and memorable, the whole thing has a sense of humor about itself, and thereís a surprisingly good co-op drop in/out mode. It's the kind of game where the opening hour or so can feel pretty uninviting, but it really grows on you and starts to get addictive once you get a grasp on how everything works.

And also, itís soundtrack is amazing.

That sentence was a standalone paragraph because I want to emphasize it. JFGís soundtrack is absolutely outstanding, channeling the grandiose sounds of a John Williams score, featuring tons of memorable and highly complex melodies that can feel militaristic, emotional, or just plain rousing. The bottom line is that itís atmospheric as heck and greatly contributes to everything in the game. This is a top 10 OST for me. Itís basically a follow-up to the original Star Foxís soundtrack in scope, feel, and quality (which is saying a lot, and I feel every SF OST afterward was a pale imitation in comparison).

Anyway, itís a good if flawed game bolstered hugely by its tunes.

Altogether, Iím having a great time revisiting these games, and might possibly play some other Rare games again in the near future. Iím only 3 away from having the entire Rare N64 collection, after all!

In general, the N64 is easy to collect for right now because most of its games are pretty affordable and I feel many are still very playable. So what are some N64 games youíve enjoyed that you feel donít get much mention?

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Posted: 05/24/21, 06:13:50  - Edited by 
 on: 05/24/21, 06:17:35    
 
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@Shadowlink

Can't argue with Zelda, that's for sure! N64 wins that category forever. At least for consoles.

I do wonder which Donkey Kong I'd prefer when it comes to N64 vs GCN. I've only played maybe a few hours each of Donkey Kong 64 and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. I enjoyed what I played of both, but admittedly I just barely scratched the surface of both. But from what I understand, the 64 game gets a bit grindly and "long in the tooth" after a while, especially if you go for 101% completion or whatever. And for Jungle Beat, would banging on those bongos for an extended period of time...like, how soon would the novelty wear off? I guess I'll have to figure that out eventually.

And true, all consoles have high and low points. To YOUR point, yeah. Local multiplayer was EXCELLENT. I have so many great memories from college playing N64 games with my roommates and buddies. Also, as @TheBigG753 mentioned earlier, those WWF games were awesome! I'm not even a wrestling fan, but playing those with friends was so much fun. Never been topped, IMO.

I'd actually argue that all Nintendo consoles have the best local multiplayer experiences. Other platforms don't *quite* get there, IMO.


Posted by 
 on: 05/30/21, 21:02:50
GameDadGrant said:

SNES & GCN: Super Game Boy and Game Boy Player, respectively.

N64: NOTHING. *sad trombone*
It has the Transfer Pak!


Posted by 
 on: 05/31/21, 06:27:44
@TriforceBun

And that allows you to play some Pokemon games on the N64 right? Via Pokemon Stadium. Perhaps it was just the first one, but it could be played at like 3x speed or something.


Posted by 
 on: 05/31/21, 15:16:16
@TriforceBun

True, it has the Transfer Pak. Kind of the predecessor to the GameCube's GBA "Connectivity" feature. And yeah, you can play the Game Boy/Game Boy Color Pokťmon games with it. (via Pokťmon Stadium and it's sequel) It's not *nothing* but far from the functionality of the Super Game Boy or Game Boy Player.

That Transfer Pak got some decent usage out of several games, IIRC. Kind of a neat thing, that was basically a free peripheral to many players since it came packaged with the original Pokťmon Stadium. Which obviously, many N64 gamers were going to buy anyway.


Posted by 
 on: 06/01/21, 18:27:01
Yeah, the N64 was certainly an idiosyncratic little beast. The droughts were horrible, but the high points were crazy high and, looking back, there were a ton of charming, unique games. Rare really were at their absolute peak. From Banjo to quirky gems like Blast Corps and Jet Force Gemini to Goldeneye and the impeccable Perfect Dark. Groundbreaking titles, jam-packed full of content. Blast Corps had a seemingly endless string of unlockables, but that shit did NOT come easy.

N64 was a multiplayer monster, man. Some of my favorite gaming memories, for sure. 4p Mario Kart 64 Battle Mode, 8p Micro Machines 64, 4p Tetris and Bust-A-Move...


Posted by 
 on: 06/13/21, 06:30:09  - Edited by 
 on: 06/13/21, 06:30:34
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