Tagged "N64"

Jul 10
By Matt Gander In Features 2 Comments

Terrible games are relatively few these days. Publishers have so much riding on big releases that to put out something sub-par would only result in poor sales, consumer backlash and angry shareholders.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, publishers were rather fond of releasing utter tripe in order to make a quick buck. In fact, throughout the ‘90s it wasn’t uncommon to see new releases gain scores as low as 1/10 in gaming magazines – a score rarely seen today.

Every platform holder from the era was guilty of allowing garbage to flow through quality control. SEGA, Nintendo, Sony, 3DO, and Atari – providing a game booted up and was in a “playable” state, it would be allowed onto store shelves. Contrary to popular belief, the coveted ‘Nintendo Seal of Quality’ covered little more than that.

For some reason, the worst games the N64 had to offer live in infamy. Terrible titles that are still to this day mocked, scrutinised and frowned upon. The SEGA Saturn had just as many poor games – if not more – but they’re rarely ever paraded about in such a fashion. As for the PSone, YouTube would have you believe Bubsy 3D and The Simpsons Wrestling were as bad as it got.

Search for Superman 64 on YouTube and you’re presented with over 600k results; over half a million. Over 117k videos are dedicated to Crusin’ USA, Mortal Kombat: Mythologies clocks in at 46k, Carmageddon has just over 23k, while ClayFighter 63 1/3 can claim 15.5k videos. Even Aero Gauge, which many would refer to as an obscure release, has over 33k videos in its honour. In comparison, most bad PSone games have half as many dedicated videos, if that. Bubsy 3D being the exception – every angry gaming YouTuber across the globe has seemingly covered it at one stage.

Question is, then, what’s so special about the N64’s worst games? It’s almost as if they’ve been granted special status within the halls of video gaming. If you care to indulge, we have a few theories about why the likes of Superman 64 have remained in our collective minds instead of fading into obscurity.

Nintendo set the bar high

Nintendo released several genre-defining gems within the N64’s first year of sale. By the end of 1997 it could boast of a catalogue featuring such first-party greats as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart, Star Fox, Wave Race, GoldenEye 007, Pilotwings, Diddy Kong Racing, and Blast Corps.

Each and every one was a system seller. It was expected that third-parties would follow suit, harnessing the system’s power to create all-new experiences. Nintendo wasn’t allowing any old riffraff onboard the N64 party bus either, spending the best part of three years assembling a ‘Dream Team’ of handpicked outside studios.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy was arguably the first game to suggest that third-parties were struggling with the new hardware, not to mention the constraints cartridges posed.

Nintendo, it seemed, wasn’t willing to lend a helping hand to ensure third-party quality. As such, it came as a mild surprise to see a few stinkers on the shelves during the N64’s early days.

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Atari Jaguar controller
Apr 12
By Jake In Retro 1 Comment

The humble video game controller has gone through a lot of changes over the years. Compare the NES pad to the Wii remote, and you could argue that it’s come full circle. But there have been plenty of evolutionary dead ends along the way. Here are five we left behind.

Original Xbox controller

Original Xbox controller

The original Xbox controller has been the victim of some pretty significant revisionism. Words like ‘abomination’ and ‘disaster’ are bandied around, but really, at the time, it was fine. Yes, it was the size of a dinner plate, but that was its only real crime.

But the fact remains: never again will a controller be so unnecessarily large.

Gametrak

The Gametrak Game System just tried to do a little too much, a little too soon. We’d had the EyeToy, but keen to improve the accuracy of motion control, Gametrak tethered your hands to a base unit via a couple of cables.

Gametrak: Dark Wind Gametrak: Real World Golf

It was released in the UK in October 2004 with fighting game Dark Winds, but it was Real World Golf in August 2005 that caught the public’s attention. Though a rather plain game, it was critically well-received, and peaked at #12 in the UK chart.

You can now get it for £1.

Real World Golf didn’t hit the US until April 2006, by which time everyone knew what Nintendo had up their sleeve. As Ars Technica wrote in their review: “it really shows what we have to look forward to once the Nintendo Wii with its novel controller is released.”

And with that, cables were consigned to video game history.

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Jun 28
By Matt Gander In Blog 2 Comments

While searching for Starfox 64 screenshots earlier we came across a rather amazing discovery – many websites for Nintendo’s big name first-party N64 games are still online.

There’s plenty of long forgotten artwork to be found like this Mario Party 2 character roster. Poor old Donkey Kong.

The full list of websites still up is here, but here are a select few to get your nostalgia glands over-following:

Wave Race 64
GoldenEye 007
Donkey Kong 64
Excitebike 64
Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Perfect Dark
Banjo-Kazooie 2
Super Smash Bros.
Pilot Wings 64
Super Mario 64
Blast Dozer

Our favourite has to be Star Twins (Jet Force Gemini) though, as the Japanese logo makes it look as if it’s called Start Wins.

Apr 20
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Three long lost Nintendo 64 games have surfaced on the ‘net in the form of playable ROMs. All three were in development at Looking Glass Studio, who handled the N64 versions of both Command & Conquer 64 and Destruction Derby 64, but were canned after the studio hit troubles.

Mini Racers was pretty much finished and features 39 tracks in total. You can see footage of the Japanese version in action below:

Tamiya Racing 64 – based on the popular RC model line – is a curious one as it started out as prototype version of Mini Racers. It evolved into Mini Racers, in other words. It’s not clear why the license was dropped.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y98pur9IYHI

Then we have the kayaking sim Wildwaters which Ubisoft was keen to publish at one stage. The build that has been dumped online is of an early version shown at E3 1999 and includes just a few tracks and place-holder menus. The water effects are formed of vectors as opposed to Wave Race 64’s polygons, which is why it looks a bit more realistic. Well, realistic by N64 standards.

A few other N64 games have surfaced online over the years on such sites as Unseen 64, including playable betas of Glover 2 and Dragon Sword 64. There’s also the curious tale of Jungle Bots – a FPS based on an action figure range which Titus was hoping to cram onto a tiny 32MB cart. Oh Titus!

Jun 22
By Matt Gander In We've Got Issues 5 Comments

Every month Matt pulls a magazine out for under his bed and gives it a fine going over. Stop giggling at the back there – we’re talking about a video game magazine. This month: issue 54 of N64 Magazine from May 2001.

Now here’s a publication that you always knew where you stood with – the writers were completely biased. Biased, that is, towards decent games that made good use of the N64’s then powerful innards. The best games the N64 had to offer were celebrated and praised heavily; lazily made games were frowned upon and laughed at. The system’s worst games were often ridiculed months after their release, with Superman 64 being just one game that was taunted on a regular basis. Did somebody say something about mazes?

When the N64 launched a wealth of N64 magazines littered the shelves. I forgot their names but pretty much all of them had ’64’ in their titles. One by one they ceased to be, but N64 magazine continued to stand proud, adapting to the N64’s staggered release schedule by including a Game Boy Color section – in which games were rated out of five – and later Game Boy Advance reviews. When Nintendo World magazine folded they also pinched a few of their more interesting regular features. The magazine eventually turned into NGC Magazine before becoming NGamer. Fun fact: they originally planned to call NGamer ‘Game N’ until they released what it sounded like when said out loud.

During the early days, when new releases were thin on the ground, they would often review the US or Japanese version of a game one month and then the UK version the month after. Finding new games to review also led them to covering some very obscure Japanese titles such as Wonder Project J2, 64 O-Sumo and Get A Love: Panda Love Unit.

Regular readers were treated to a string of in jokes and seemingly random updates on how the office plant was doing. Some of the better free gifts taped to the front cover included a cart rack, a Worms Armageddon ballpoint pen, and a box resembling a VHS case designed to protect your copy of Donkey Kong 64. It is impossible to tell if any of these gifts were worth any more (or less) than £7.

Let’s take a look at the issue in our hand, which rather bizarrely dedicates the front cover to the Game Boy Advance and gave Custom Robo V2 a higher score than Banjo-Tooie.

Issue 54 Highlights

  • Best feature: How to squirrel away all the cash in Conker’s BFD
  • Best quote from above article: “Many faults stop it hitting the magical 90% mark. Score: 89%”
  • Lowest review score: WCW Backstage Assault, 46%
  • Highest review score: Custom Robo V2, 84%
  • Best quote from letters page: “Can you play Dreamiest [sic] games on GameCube?”

Even though the reviewers were sent their games for free, you could tell that they understood that £50-£60 was a hell of a lot of money for their readers to shell out. This showed not just in their honest reviews but the lengths they took to show their readers how to get the most of their games. The only real gripe I can aim at the magazine is that they once put Gex on the front cover. If they were struggling for content that month, they should have just put an image of a Grackler on there.

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