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Vol. 2, Issue 9
January 27, 1999

Pad Happy:

Death of a Console?

by Nick Ferguson



Death, it is often remarked, must come to us all. Pity. N64 owner Nick F waxes nostalgic and holds back the tears.

ou can't even leave your house these days without someone announcing the impending death of the Nintendo 64... Following "disappointing" software sales over Christmas, most retailers have recently chosen to give it the kiss of death. Developers aren't proving too hesitant about jumping on the death-to-N64 bandwagon too, with all but the most ardent Nintendo supporters killing N64 projects and "focusing resources on PlayStation 2 development". Faced with the increasing amount of evidence - N64 carts reduced to less than budget PS software and systems costing little more than Donkey Kong 64 - even an ardent Nintendo devotee like myself has to face the fact that our beloved system is coming to the end of its supported lifespan.

It wasn't always like this. Looking back to 1995, I recall heady talk of "the Dream Team" (uh-huh) and my own barely-containable excitement over how awe-inspiring and genre-bending games like Super Mario 64, Pilotwings and, uh, Shadows of the Empire (no, really) were going to be. The rec.games.video newsgroups raged with, well, much the same tripe they rage with now, aside from posts about how Nintendo 64 (sorry, "Ultra 64") carts were going to cost over $100 and how Squaresoft's defection to Sony would lead to Nintendo's downfall (which, in Japan at least, it did). Dedicated Ultra 64 fans will recall Scott McCall's Unofficial Nintendo 64 HQ, probably the best single-format website ever to grace the internet: when Scott posted his glowing first impressions of the Japanese Mario 64 days after its release, thousands must have read the massively-anticipated report with tears of joy in their eyes.

But enough misty-eyed reminiscence! The N64 might be mortally wounded and limping towards its final resting place, but how will "the fun machine" be remembered? It certainly wasn't an unmitigated disaster for Nintendo like the Virtual Boy, but neither did it steal the hearts and minds of gamers worldwide like the NES, Gameboy and SNES before it... Despite playing host to the 64-bit incarnations of some of videogaming's biggest and most well-known characters, the N64 was blasted aside by the PlayStation's cunning mass market appeal and sexy "adult-friendly" franchises like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider and countless sports licenses. The "kiddy factor" was quoted as a major turn-off by a number of people I spoke to about the N64, and I suspect the childish image played a large part in the console's failure to attract the games industry's core consumer - that macho FPS-lovin', burger eatin' teenage male. This is a conclusion Nintendo seem to have taken to heart - Shigeru Miyamoto has hinted that Mario and Luigi will appear "more grown-up" when re-invented for the Dolphin, and Rare have been ramping up the "adult" factor for some time now with the decidedly noir-ish Perfect Dark and the twisted (trust me) world of Conker's Bad Fur Day both scheduled for release this year. Never mind the graphics, though: my personal opinion is that games with the depth and sophistication of Zelda, Mario 64 and Starfox are infinitely more "adult" than the countless FIFA sequels, GT clones and scrappy shooters clogging the PlayStation charts, regardless of how the onscreen action is represented. Snooch.


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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Dan Zalkus. Pad Happy is © 2000 Niick Ferguson. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, so watch it - we know kung fu, gaijin.