There is something about the Nintendo 64 that has always made me scratch my head in bewilderment. It’s a Nintendo console, which at least at the time it was released, was a huge selling point. The NES release was a game changer in the 80’s and the SNES was as equally impressive and well received in the early 90’s. There was no reason to doubt the N64’s ability to wow the public when it was released in 1996 but for some reason I was not only unimpressed and underwhelmed, I was turned off by the console. In my 21 year old mind, the PlayStation, and to a lesser extent, the Sega Saturn, were the future and Nintendo seemed stubborn and out of touch to what console gaming was supposed to be. Cartridges? Pass. $60-70 games? Pass. Rehashes of already existing games/franchises (Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, Dr. Mario 64, Bomberman 64, Star Fox 64, et. al.) which seemed to point to a lack of innovation and imagination? Pass. Nintendo wasn’t giving me a compelling reason to save up my part time job money that wasn’t already dedicated to paying rent, college tuition, or buying food and beer and spend it on their new console.
An additional 21 years have now passed since the N64’s launch and while my overall opinion of the console hasn’t drastically changed, I do appreciate some of it’s better games and interesting features. Keep in mind, the pros and cons I highlight now represent current pros and cons, not what made the system good or bad in 1996.
- The best games for the system are quite good. The library may not be huge like the PlayStation’s but it’s top heavy.
- 4 controller ports is a nice bonus. No adapters are needed to allow for more than 2 players simulatenously and the N64’s library highlights the “party game” feature with games such as Smash Bros, Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye 007, and Mario Party just to name a few. While this feature is still useful today, it’s overall impact has been lessened by developments in online gaming.
- Cartridges, while borderline antiquated at the time of release, are sturdier than discs so there have been very issues with N64’s games lasting 20 years in the “wild”.
- Cartridge based consoles tend to be sturdier with less issues to deal with as they age. See issues with disc drives belts on Sega CD model 1 or any lens read issues that plague the Dreamcast for examples.
- 3D games from the era tend to be hard on the eyes and often contain camera issues. I personally cannot play 3D N64 games (which is a huge portion of the library) for long periods of time without getting physically nauseous.
- Weak 3rd party support. Many developers either disappeared completely or delivered fewer games for Nintendo during this era.
- Inconsistent methods of saving your game data can be confusing for collectors. Does it save directly to the cart via battery? Does it save to a memory card that fits into the controller itself? Pop the game in and find out!
- Controller analog sticks are not the sturdiest and can be broken during normal course of gameplay. We’re not talking rubbing a AA battery back and forth at rapid speeds across the NES controller’s A & B buttons to gain speed in Track & Field type of gameplay either. We’re talking rapid movements required for certain fast-paced games. I personally have not broken any of my controllers but from what I have read, I am in the minority.
- Expansion pak requirements to play certain games. I am not a huge fan of needing certain add-ons to play games on a console but I guess buying an expansion pak in order to play Majora’s Mask or Donkey Kong 64 is better than having to buy a CD add-on in order to play “higher quality games” like the TurboGrafx-16, Sega Genesis and Atari Jaguar did earlier in the decade.
I added 3 games along with various manuals and accessories to my Nintendo 64 collection over the course of the month. The price of N64 games has been steadily increasing over past several years due largely to the fact that children of the late 90’s that grew up with the N64 are now armed with nostalgia and disposable income to spend on recreating their childhood. I know there are very expensive games for the system that I don’t own and may never own so I was focused on affordable yet high quality titles. My N64 collection is very meager so there are still a lot of A list titles for the system that I do not own but 3 that I decided to add to my collection are:
- Mario Kart 64 – game, manual, box
- Paper Mario – game only
- Star Fox 64 – game only
The accessories/peripherals I added were:
- N64 brand jumper pak – I only had 2 expansion paks and never owned the original jumper pak that came with the console.
- 3rd party power supply – I experienced issues with my N64 randomly re-starting during gameplay and after careful research and asking questions to other collectors in the community, the power supply seemed to be the most common answer to my problem. So I bought a new power supply in an effort to trouble shoot and so far, so good.
- 3 game manuals for Toy Story 2, NFL Quarterback Club ’98 and Star Wars Episode 1 Racer plus a N64 console manual. I enjoy owning the manuals for my games and while I prefer to own games CIB, the manuals are the most practical addition I can make to my collection at affordable prices.
Overall Grade: B