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Pad Happy: Death of a Console?

Vol. 2, Issue 9
January 27, 1999 


As a machine the N64 has had its fair share of games nobody expected much from, but which turned out to be fantastic. The first great title to come out of nowhere was probably the original Turok (the most visually stunning console title of its time, it also surprised everybody by managing to be both good and from Acclaim). Other notables include the ISS soccer series, Wave Race 64, 1080 Snowboarding and Goldeneye (which, let's face it, came across as another dopey Bond license until the reviews hit the shelves). There were a number of other gems released which were largely ignored, though: DMA's criminally-overlooked Space Station Silicon Valley and the supremely original Blast Corps spring to mind, and Body Harvest and F-Zero could certainly muster a case for the defense.

Alas, there were a number of much-hyped disappointments as well - Shadows of the Empire failed to live up to expectations (although Rogue Squadron did a good job of making up for it), and Mario Kart 64 was barely saved by the then ground-breaking four-player battle circuits (although at the time there was a great deal of "emperor's new clothes" about the title"). Most spectacularly, Yoshi's Story flopped horrendously - a nasty surprise for N64 owners and a wake-up call for Nintendo, fumbling the ball for the first time in ages. Finally, there were the two games that proved every bit as good as we could have hoped - the <insert your own extravagant superlatives> Super Mario and the N64's crowning achievement, Zelda. Owning these two games remains worth the price of admission alone.

Considering the length of time it has been around, the N64 has played host to a surprisingly small number of games. To this day, a number of genres remain woefully under-represented on the machine (namely RPGs, fighting games and "serious" racers); testament to Sony's strong alliance with Squaresoft, Namco and Capcom as well as the expense and constraints of developing for the cartridge format, perhaps? One benefit of this small software library is that it is reasonably affordable to get hold of most, if not all, classic games for the system (and at quite reasonable prices - it's what eBay was made for). I realise my chance of persuading somebody reading a column titled "Death of a Console" to buy themselves an N64 if they haven't got one already is minimal, but I implore those of you with some spare moolah to contemplate investing (and it is an investment) in an N64 and some of the finest games money can buy...think of it as "something for the weekend".

Those of you reading this who were given an N64 this Christmas (DK64 - crash much?), don't get too despondent. There are certainly a number of exciting games due out this year (led by pseudo-sequels Perfect Dark and Zelda Gaiden), as long as you don't mind them looking distinctly 64-bit in the face of Dreamcast and PS2 (but hey, Nintendo games have never been about the latest technology). If you want reassurance you own a quality machine, the UK's respected EDGE magazine recently ran a "Top 100 Games of all Time" list - you may have seen it listed on FGN Online - and the top 3 were all N64 titles! More tellingly, 11 of the top 20 games were titles for Nintendo systems (most developed in-house). Nintendo may not be the apple of the public's eye anymore, but most developers recognize that in Shigeru Miyamoto and his NCL "research division" they have an invaluable reservoir of talent. The future for Nintendo is hard to determine - their Dolphin technology seems a long way off, whereas PlayStation 2 is a matter of months away - but I have a feeling it will prove more interesting than Sony's (likely, highly successful) plans for world domination.



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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.