5 Awesome Things I Forgot About the N64
Loath as I am to admit it, I cannot sustain my family's livelihood on just the money I make writing about Doctor Who and video games and Doctor Who video games. I have a day job, and last week my boss decided that everything that was on the left side of the store needed to be on the right side, possibly to appease some sort of managerial chaos demon. Since we sell books, this was a lot of labor, and my wife decided that I deserved a reward for it. Thus we went down to Game Over and I bought myself a Nintendo 64 and three games for $80.
Released in 1996, the N64 was Nintendo's last cartridge-based system, stubbornly holding out the trend that Sony and Sega embraced with the PlayStation and Saturn. Despite the old technology, the N64 was actually the most powerful fifth-generation system. The problem was lack of storage capacity and higher production costs, which is the reason companies like Square abandoned Nintendo to release on the PS1.
Still, it was a great system. Games like Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time completely changed adventure gaming forever. First-person shooters finally gained a console audience after Goldeneye and Turok introduced those of us who hate playing on a keyboard to the genre. Fighting games and RPGs? Well, no one can do it all.
Playing the old-school system not only brought back a wave of nostalgia, it reminded me of some things I forgot were awesome.
5. Games Are Simpler
I can enjoy a massive, immersive existence. For instance, I'm more than 100 game hours into Xenoblade Chronicles and I'm nowhere near done, not to mention I'm pretty sure I've devoted a full year of my life to various Final Fantasies. One of the most amazing aspects about modern gaming is the fact that you can create worlds that are, say, meant to represent the entire landmass of Japan and that feature a cast of characters that would fill a fair sized real-world city.
Pilotwings... Still fun as balls. Still not available in the Wii store.
That being said, I honestly feel that the N64 was the last system made with the idea that games could be beaten in one sitting. Not all of them, of course. Majora's Mask alone is proof of that, but as I've started playing, I notice that the amount of hours spent is spent practicing at getting good, not indulging in a million fetch quests or delving into a story that has gotten way too complicated. Final Fantasy XII, I'm looking at you.
When you play an N64, it's meant to be a diversion. It's literally meant to be played. In other words, it was the last system for kids who just wanted to plug right in and out whenever they felt like it. The only game I can think of that even compares to that elegant simplicity in modern gaming is Portal.
4. I Never Have to Install Anything
Without even realizing it, I developed a new ritual when getting ready to play. I turn on the system, then walk away to get a drink or take the dog out or something, then periodically check on it until it's ready for me. If I'm playing a new game, I'll put it in and let it get on with installing while I do more chores or eat. God help me if I have to download assets. When that happens, I go read a book or re-enact Dune with sock puppets or something.
When I want to play my N64, though, I plug in a game, hit the button and that bastard is up and running, ready to go! It doesn't ask me if I want to update the system, it doesn't have a fancy graphic to sit through, it just is. Even with my new ritual of swabbing each game with alcohol before playing, getting into the experience is much faster.