Nintendo 64DD
Type Console Add-On Developer Nintendo
Release Date 1999-Dec-01 Region(s) Japan
Initial Price $299 USD Games Released 9
     by Dark Watcher
The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive was the first writable bulk data storage device for a modern video game console.  Using a 64-megabyte writable magnetic disk media, it allowed game developers the freedom to store unprecedented amounts of gaming data on a console machine.  For example, it could be used to track every stat you can imagine in a baseball game, or every detail about the world and your character in an RPG or simulation game.

The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive can be used for future upgrades of games by providing new levels or characters.  The system disks are bootable, meaning that they can be used without a cartridge in the system (although they can also be used in conjunction with a cartridge).

The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive included a 4 megabyte RDRAM upgrade for the Nintendo 64, which would bring the total RDRAM for the N64 system up to 8 megabytes total, more than any console game system at that time.  The hardware also contained a built-in ROM with some helpful data files that can be accessed by developers. In addition, the hardware has a real-time clock.

The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive reads data at about one megabyte per second, which is roughly comparable to a 6X PC CD-ROM drive.  Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation sport 2X CD-ROM drives, which only transfer about 300 KB/sec.  The unit itself sits underneath the Nintendo 64 console and plugs into the EXT expansion connector on the bottom of the system.
Nintendo 64DD
The system uses a disk that is physically about the size of a 3.5 floppy disk, but is twice as thick.  Because of the potential for exposure to very young children, the drive itself has many ruggedizing features.  For example, it has a locking bay drive door that would not open unless two small rails on the Nintendo 64 Disk are inserted into it.  This would keep little fingers and cookies out of the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive.  The unit also has a durable case and locks up tight when not in the drive.

A variable amount of the space can be designated as readable (ROM) or writable (RAM).  There are several different ways the data can be divided between readable and writable, ranging from a split of 38 megabytes writable and 26 megabytes readable to having the entire disk's 64 megabytes of memory read only.  The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive is a "burst access" device, which means that it does not stream data to the N64, but rather sends it in high speed bursts.  Because of this, the drive would not be ideal for full motion video, or for streaming audio data (although clever developers would of course find ways to create FMV effects with the system).  However, with the powerful 3D polygon capabilities of the N64, it is just as effective to create 3D real-time movies with polygonal characters.
Nintendo 64DD Operation
On the development side, the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive gives the developer up to 64 megabytes for code and data (compared to the 8-12 megabytes of currently available N64 cartridge configurations).  The 8 megabytes of RDRAM would allow for large frame buffers and custom sound wave tables in RAM.  With the system's writable capability, the game can save extensive amounts of customization data or tons of stats.  The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive's capabilities create three ideal game development scenarios.

The first scenario makes use of the expanded RDRAM of the system and is ideal for a racing game with multiple tracks or an RPG.  In these kinds of games, where the basic program code is not too large, but the tracks and world maps are, a developer could put the code in the RDRAM and then load the different tracks or world maps off of the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive as they are encountered.  Another scenario would be to use the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive for a game with many different levels that have different game play.  In this case, the program code and the level data would be loaded into RDRAM from the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive at the beginning of each level.  Another scenario that may be used for Zelda 64 is to use the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive to create future expansions for a cartridge based game.  This allows the developer or publisher to release their game immediately, and then give it extra long life with expansion disks.  This can easily be done if the "hooks" for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive are put into the cartridge program in advance.

     Officially licensed releases
Nintendo 64DD - Retail Version
Nintendo 64DD - RandNet Version
Nintendo 64DD - Developers Unit
Nintendo 64DD - Developers Edition

Nintendo 64DD Tech Pictures (Retail Edition)
Nintendo 64DD - Packaging Nintendo 64DD - Inside the Box Nintendo 64DD - Front
Nintendo 64DD - Top Nintendo 64DD - Back Nintendo 64DD - Underside
Nintendo 64DD Manual - Front Nintendo 64DD Manual - Serial Nintendo 64DD Manual - Back
     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones were released for this system.
     by Marriott_Guy
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.

Console Design 08 The 64DD is simple yet elegant and compliments the attached Nintendo 64 perfectly.  This add-on does not require its own power source, which is a bit plus.
Console Durability 09 Without allot of moving parts, there is very little that can go wrong with the 64DD.  I have never experienced any read\write errors in the 6+ years that I have owned this.
Controllers N\A The 64DD does not have any unique controllers.
Graphics 07 Same as the Nintendo 64 - the 64DD does not add any additional graphical capabilities to the system
Audio 07 Same as above.
Media 04 The concept was good, but the timing was not.  With CD technology is full swing at the time of its release, this technology was wisely abandoned after a short period of time.
Game Library 01 Outside of Kyojin No Doshin, Sim City and Japan Pro Golf Tour 64, the remaining titles are rather bland.
Gamer Value 01 In all honesty, there is not really that much to offer the average gamer to necessitate the large investment in acquiring this Nintendo 64 add-on.
Collector Value 09 Due to its limited release, this is an excellent investment for the console collector.  Prices seem to fluctuate greatly on the system (as well as the games), so take some time and don't just jump on the first system you find.

     Interesting facts on software for this system
Nintendo 64DD games were distributed in custom CD-style casing constructed of a very heavy plastic.  The actual game cartridge are large with plenty of girth. Directions, promo material and an identification sticker for saved content was included with the software.

The rare birds for the Nintendo 64DD are Japan Pro Golf Tour 64 and Kyojin no Doshin II (requires the first Kyojin No Doshin for game play).  In addition to SimCity 64, these are the best games for this system.

The Mario Artist series of games were distributed in large, cardboard boxes to accommodate the bundled items for each (i.e. mouse).

Sample Game Play (SimCity 64)

Software library for the Nintendo 64DD

Sample Game Packaging - Kyojin No Doshin

     Captured in-game images
F-Zero X
F-Zero X Screenshot
Kyojin No Doshin
Kyojin No Doshin Screenshot
Kyojin no Doshin II
Japan Pro Golf Tour 64
Japan Pro Golf Tour 64 Screenshot
Mario Artist: Communication Kit
Mario Artist: Paint Studio
Mario Artists Paint Studio Screenshot
Mario Artist: Polygon Studio
Mario Artist Polygon Studio Screenshot
Mario Artist: Talent Studio
SimCity 64
Sim City 64 Screenshot
     First and third party system emulators
A few are in the works, but nothing is available at this time.
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
See the Nintendo 64 page See the Nintendo 64 page 32-bit internal co-processor to assist with reading/transferring disk data See the Nintendo 64 page
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
See the Nintendo 64 page See the Nintendo 64 page See the Nintendo 64 page See the Nintendo 64 page
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
 Magnetic disks (read/write) 64 MB 9 None
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
36 MB ROM Stored on Game Magnetic Disks Not applicable Mouse, Keyboard, Capture Cartridge
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
Not applicable Exterior Modem included Expansion port (to connect to Nintendo 64) See the Nintendo 64 page
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
None - Powered by the attached N64 None Included a 4 MB RAM Expansion Jumper Pack for the Nintendo 64 console.  This was required (8 MB total) for operation of the 64DD unit.
Nintendo 64DD (Standalone version) Owners Manual (PDF) (Japanese) - 3.62 MB
Nintendo 64DD (Randnet version) Owners Manual (PDF) (Japanese) - 1.67 MB

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Nintendo 64DD Promotional Video & Television Commercial (Japan)

     Visitor insights and feedback
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