Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy 15th, Nintendo 64!

Can you believe that the Nintendo 64 was released 15 years ago as of yesterday? (Or was it as of today? Wikipedia says it hit the streets in North America on Sept. 29, 1996, while this ad suggests it hit the streets on Sept. 30 of the same year.) I can't.

I think my disbelief has something to do with the fact that I have rather fond memories of Nintendo's most curvaceous of consoles. As such, it sort of feels like the system was released just yesterday--not 15 years ago as of yesterday.

Wikipedia never lies, though, so I'll have to put aside those feelings of disbelief for the moment. Instead, why don't I share a few of my most cherished memories of the console that prompted Nintendo's marketing folks to come up with the oh-so-90s slogan of "Get N, or get Out!"

1. The earliest days of the Nintendo 64 sure were interesting, weren't they? At the time, the system was known as "Project Reality" and everybody believed the system would push graphics that would make high-end computers blush. That didn't mean much to me until I saw some screenshots of what was then called Final Fantasy 64. I know the graphics of this demo are hardly impressive today, but back in 1995 (which is when I first saw them in the pages of Diehard GameFan) they were a revelation.

2. As much as those screenshots piqued my interest in the Nintendo 64, I didn't get one at launch. In fact, I had to wait two months before getting one--for my 20th birthday. I also got a copy of Super Mario 64, of course. Strangely enough, I distinctly remember my college roommate and I playing the hell out of the game that weekend while listening to Cyndi Lauper and Sade. (News flash: He's gay, too--and he bought me both artists' greatest hits albums as birthday gifts.)

3. A year or so later, that same guy and I moved into an apartment (actually, it was more of a townhouse, but that's neither here nor there) with four girls. Surprisingly, all of them were gamers, at least to an extent. Super Mario 64 was our go-to game, and we joyously and regularly took turns playing through its many stages. I don't recall if we ever actually finished the game together, but I wouldn't be surprised if we did. We literally played it every day (and night) for quite some time.

4. If I were forced at gunpoint (hey, it could happen!) to name my favorite Nintendo 64 games of all time, I'd probably go with (in alphabetical order, not necessarily order of preference) F-Zero X, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Paper Mario and Super Mario 64. I also have a soft spot for Mischief Makers and Pokemon Snap.

I'm sure this admission will shock absolutely no one who has been coming to this blog for any amount of time, but all of these memories make me want to go out and buy a Nintendo 64 and a bunch of games. Thankfully, I know the system and at least two of the titles mentioned above are sitting in a closet in my childhood home. Maybe I'll have to have my parents ship them to me for my upcoming birthday--you know, so I can traipse through Super Mario 64 for old times' sake.

21 comments:

Marcus said...

This post made me feel all mushy inside (yes, this is a good thing). The N64 was the first "modern" console I ever played and damn if I wasn't in love with it from the very start! SM64 was and probably remains my favorite game for the system although I love others as well (Banjo Kazooie, Space Station Silicon Valley, Body Harvest, etc).

Did you know that SM64 is still going strong in certain communities? I have a friend who has been trying to perfect "16 star runs" in the game for a while now and apparently this is a very popular thing to do to this day.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, I'm glad to hear my post hit a note with you, Marcus -- and that it made you feel all mushy inside :)

There was something special about the release of the Nintendo 64, wasn't there? Sure, it didn't completely live up to its hype (how could it?), but who really cares when you got games like Super Mario 64 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time?

I remember reading about Space Station Silicon Valley back in the day and hearing great things about it, but I've never actually played it. May have to fix that soon.

I love hearing that people are still playing the hell out of Super Mario 64, by the way. I can understand it -- as amazing as Super Mario Galaxy is, there's something special about Mario 64 that I don't think Nintendo has captured since (kind of like how they're still trying to recreate the magnificence of Ocarina of Time).

What is a 16-star run, though? I'm going to have to Google that to see what's up :)

Marcus said...

The N64 was just incredible! It also doesn't hurt that before that I had mostly been playing Atari 2600 games, haha. It seemed like the future and damn if I didn't enjoy basically every game I came across for the system :D.

Space Station Silicon Valley is reaaaally good. It's by the team who would later become Rockstar too. I really wish they'd someday revisit their N64 days but I don't think that will happen.

You know, I didn't like Super Mario Galaxy so much (and still haven't played Sunshine). It's probably because nothing could really replicate how SM64 made me feel. Hmm...

16-star runs are a sort of speedrun. The game is full of various glitches and people who do 16 star runs attempt to make use of these glitches to beat the game with only 16 stars. It's really cool to watch someone do one of these runs if you've never seen it before. It always makes me wonder how someone discovered these things.

Marcus said...

PS: Here is a video of a guy who did a world record 16-star SM64 run a few years ago. All glitches were a part of the game (no tool-assisted silliness).

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

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ha! Yes, I can imagine going from Atari 2600 to N64 was quite shocking!

I really like both Mario Galaxy games, but neither of them feel as open/explorable as Super Mario 64, IMO. I'd love it if Nintendo would revisit that at some point.

Finishing Mario 64 with just 16 stars? That's crazy! OK, now I have to go look up some videos of this...

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, never mind -- you linked to one and I didn't see it :) I'll watch it in just a second. Thanks for sharing!

kevspace said...

I think I can shed some light on the release date question... I remember it vividly. Kay-Bee Toys broke the street date on September 26th, and other retailers (including EB) followed suit. By that afternoon, so many stores had broken the street date Nintendo allowed it to go on sale everywhere, ahead of the 'official' release... though not all stores had received their shipments yet. The official launch was the 29th-- it had been moved up after from the 30th, and the launch price dropped from $249 to $199-- but by that point the system had sold out everywhere. I'd detailed it all in my diary (which says a lot about me, hehm.)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, thanks for clearing things up, Kevin! I love that you detailed all of that in your diary, BTW :)

Bryan Ochalla said...

BTW, I *completely* forgot that Nintendo dropped the price of the system just before launch. Crazy!

kevspace said...

Haha, yeah, the day they announced the new launch price, I was so excited that my diary entry for that day was just "N64 $199!!!" in big block letters. I think I even colored it in with highlighters. Yyyyyep... there sure was a lot of exciting stuff going on in my early high school social life. :)

Actually, the main reason I am so fond of the N64 is because of the very real role it played in my new friendships. Nothing like 4-player couch gaming. Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and all the time in the world.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ha! I love these stories, kevspace. You really should scan some of those pages eventually and post them as part of a blog or something :)

Anyway, the N64 was good for multiplayer games, wasn't it? Even though it's far from my favorite Mario Kart, I had a ton of fun playing MK64 with my older brother back in the day.

oldschoolgameblog said...

The Nintendo 64 was not bad when it came to multiplayer games. Mario Kart 64 was (and still is) awesome. Great fun playing in multiplayer. :) You also have that James Bond game (GoldeneyeP), which was very popular.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, oldschoolgameblog :) Yes, the N64 did have some good multiplayer games, didn't it? I think I'll have to go look some of them up, as I can't seem to remember that many!

Viewtiful_Justin said...

How appropriate! I just rescued mine from my parents' house, and I'm playing the heck out of it. I've even looked up Mischief Makers on Amazon...I might buy it. But right now I'm playing Banjo-Kazooie.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, that's too funny, Justin! Which games did you rescue along with it?

I really think I'm either going to ask my parents to ship mine to me or I'm going to pick it up when David and I go back there for Christmas. Sadly, I think only Ocarina of Time and Paper Mario are waiting for me at the moment. Might have to pick up Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mischief Makers and Super Mario 64 eventually, too.

Sean said...

Great post. I can`t believe it has been 15 years since the N64 came out. Your story actually somewhat parallels my own as I was also about 20 when it was released. I didn`t actually get to play one though until 1998 when I moved in with a couple of friends who had one. We lived together for a little over a year and just about everyday we played that thing like crazy. It was the first time since the 80s that I had actually played video games on a regular basis.

Anyway, I can`t believe you didnt include Mario Kart 64 in your best of list! My roommates and I played that like crazy (Goldeneye too)!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Sean! How funny is it that we had similar experiences with the N64? I wonder if that's true of a lot of people our age?

Anyway, as for Mario Kart 64 -- oh, at the time I certainly considered it one of my favorite N64 games. Even then, though, I think I liked it less than I liked the original Mario Kart. Today, it's probably my least favorite Mario Kart out there, honestly. At least it gave us pleasure when we needed it :)

Viewtiful_Justin said...

What games? From memory: Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Quest 64, Aidyn Chronicles, Rayman 2, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, Pilotwings 64, Space Station Silicon Valley, Mario Tennis, Hybrid Heaven, Rogue Squadron, Harvest Moon 64, Ocarina of Time, (I can't seem to find my gold cart of Majora's Mask...I know it's in a box somewhere), Starfox 64, and a bunch of sports games that were all my brother's.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Oh, man, consider me jealous! That's quite a haul!!

You're a fan of Space Station Silicon Valley, too, aren't you?

Viewtiful_Justin said...

It's my favorite 64 game...one of my favorites of all time!

Bryan Ochalla said...

OK, I'll have to get that at some point then. I've never played it! You and someone else here (Marcus?) have recommended it to me on more than one occasion...