Nintendo 64
Type Console Developer Nintendo
Release Date 1996-Jun-23 Region(s) Japan, North America, Europe, Australasia
Initial Price $199 USD Games Released 387
DW FACTS
     by Dark Watcher
Nintendo stretched the life of their 16-bit console for as long as they could.  Their initial attempts at entering the market with a 32-bit CD add-on (see PlayStation) never saw the light of day.  After the releases of Sony and Sega's 32-bit systems, Nintendo began spreading the word of their new console in development.  The leap to a 64-bit console became known as Project Reality.  The system was a joint venture by Nintendo and Silicon Graphics.  Nintendo would later change the name to Ultra 64.

Nintendo shocked developers and gamers alike with the decision to remain with a cartridge format instead of CDs, which had become the most favorable game media for the time.  This turned away many third party software developers who felt the cartridge did not have the storage capacity to handle their game projects (a weakness that hurt the Atari Jaguar).  Nintendo stuck by the cartridge format saying that it was the best media to use with the Ultra 64 and that CDs would be plagued with extreme load times.  Also carts were more durable then CDs which are prone to scratching (particularly with younger kids).  Eventually Nintendo would put all doubts to rest in 1995 with a playable Super Mario 64 shown at a Japanese trade show.  The lush 3D visuals were enough to regain interest in Nintendo's new console.

On June 20th, 1996, the console was again renamed Nintendo 64.  It was released in Japan along with Super Mario 64 and two other games.  It was then released in USA on 29 September of the same year.  Other countries saw N64 releases soon after.
Nintendo 64 (original release)
The console was an immediate success, but a shortage of quality games began to slow system sales.  Games were released in small trickles.  Developers found the cartridge format limiting.  Effects such as Full Motion Video and large quantities of voiceover, music and sound effects could not be reproduced due to the limited storage capacity (keep in mind however that N64 can produce CD quality sound).  Gamers found some of the N64 third party game releases cheaper on rival consoles CD formats (carts had a high manufacturing price which was filtered down, naturally, to the consumer).  The same held for other game titles large in size.  The more megabits the cart the... the higher the price.

Even with the small amount of game releases, Nintendo managed to release amazing game titles based on franchise characters from their SuperNES / NES days.  Also with help from RARE, the company that breathed new life into the SuperNES with Donkey Kong Country, the Nintendo 64 saw some great game exclusives that kept gamers happy with their console choice.  While 64-bit updates to popular SuperNES games was the way to go, it also generated a Nintendo 64 stereotype of being a "kiddy" console (although most of those supposed kiddy games are amazingly fun).  Rival console manufacturers would use this stereotype to their advantage in an effort to attract older 'hardcore' gamers.
Nintendo clearly understood that the cartridge storage abilities would limit third party developers.  In 1997 they began announcing a device called the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive or N64DD for short.  It would be a magnetic disk drive, which connected to the N64's expansion port.  The device would add an addition 4 megabytes of RAM to the N64 and offer 64 megabytes of additional read / writeable RAM for developers to use.  The device saw numerous delays and eventually was released in Japan only.  Other countries however did receive the N64 Expansion Pack.  This accessory was released around 1998. It added an additional 4Mb of RAM.  Games specifically made to take advantage of its capability could increase the game's resolution, improve graphics, make levels larger, etc.  For other games however it did nothing.

In the end Nintendo 64 was a remarkable machine that brought about innovations such as controller 'rumble' effects and analog / digital controllers.  The console was supported well into 2002 and sold over 30 million units worldwide.  It also marked the end of the 'Cartridge Era'.

FACT:  The N64 console was developed in a wide assortment of colors.  Even a special edition Pikachu (ph33r the Pikachu!) unit was created.
HANDS ON REVIEW
     by Tan
They say that first impressions are everything.  So if you describe the NES as "plain and utilitarian", the SNES as "robust and simplistic", you probably would agree that the N64 is "unique and non-conforming" in both aesthetics and design.  Like a 1960s muscle car, it has curves and angles in its appearance which while obvious to anyone looking at it, is primarily for style not function.  Meanwhile, it has bulky cartridges, a chunky power supply and chubby, round controller ports which together, give it a "child's building block set" sort of style.  This sort of contradictory design philosophy applied to its software as well as its hardware.

Like many gamers I couldn't help but stare at it the first time I laid eyes on it.  The console itself was certainly different but it was the controllers that really intrigued me.  Multi-colored buttons, three handles and a trigger in a grey shell?  Unmistakable if a bit odd.  It is a design philosophy that they would embrace for years to come.  I freely admit that I still find it awkward to get used to when I'm not playing it regularly!
Nintendo 64 console
At the time, analog sticks weren't all that common as standard equipment.  In fact, the game industry promptly forgot about the technology for the most part since the early 80's.  It was perfect timing too, as the advent of the 3D age for game consoles had emerged in full force and digital control, be it in a pad or stick form, was inadequate for the task.  Super Mario 64 played with an analog stick was a "match made in heaven" technologically speaking.  Don't believe me?  Try playing Bubsy 3D on the PlayStation with a digital pad!  That game was released years before Sony's Dual Shock controller came out and suffered for it.

Regardless of its hardware or appeal, in the end it's all about the games isn't it?  I don't think I could name a more contradictory system as far as its game library than this one.  Third party support, cartridges media and Nintendo's heavy-handed approach to licensing games played a huge part in shaping gaming history for this machine.  When you read the excellent article by Dark Watcher above, you understand how the limitations and sales of this system hindered game production.  With a library of games well below the 400 mark, the kind of variety found on systems past and present just isn't there.  With the controller design, its cartridge media and the "family appeal", some genres such as RPGs, fighting, racing and light gun games are found lacking or just non-existent.  Instead, they found a home on other consoles where many of them became classic titles or remain long-running and popular franchises to this day.
Now that's not to say Nintendo didn't have its share of fantastic games or must-have titles.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Games that were able to take advantage of this polygon powerhouse and/or its standard four controller ports were huge successes.  Games like Goldeneye 007, Donkey Kong 64, Diddy Kong Racing and Star Wars Rogue Squadron still sit proudly on my shelf with both a rich personal history of playing these filled with good memories as well as appreciation for the fine games they continue to be even now.  I can't even hook a system up without playing at least one game of Wetrix or appreciate how much nicer Ridge Racer 64 looks compared to its PS1 counterpart.

Being a gamer since the early 80's, I can tell you that few experiences rivaled four player N64 games when they were new.  Many a night was spent with pizza, beer and four player Bond.  Or the good-natured cursing and trash-talk that accompanied Mario Kart 64 or Diddy Kong Racing.  Everyone had a good time, everyone had a different colored controller and everyone had fun.  The N64 may not be on my shortlist of personal favorite game systems but it certainly left a strong impression.  Especially on just how fun multiplayer could be.
MODELS
     Officially licensed releases
The Nintendo 64 console, along with its controller, was released in a wide range of packages, colors and variations.  The Funtastic series featured bright colors with a translucent system casing which contrasted greatly with the solid, dark gray housing of the original release.

Surprisingly, this strategy of having multiple color variations for their console did grow console sales and opened a few niche markets to Nintendo - specifically the female audience and young children.

Regarding rarity, the Smoke Black LE edition of the Nintendo 64 is definitely one of the most sought after versions.  This was only released in Japan and was a part of a special promotion by Nintendo to keep afloat its ill-fated Nintendo 64DD add-on.  The Gold edition screams nothing but class and is also a highly desirable unit.  The Pikachu edition was manufactured in two versions - blue/yellow and a yellow/blue casing - and featured a variety of packaging.

Nintendo 64 Gold
Nintendo 64 Gold
Nintendo 64 Smoke Black \ 64DD LE
Nintendo 64 Smoke Black \ 64DD LE
Nintendo 64 Pikachu
Nintendo 64 Pikachu
Nintendo 64 Atomic Purple
Nintendo 64 Atomic Purple
Nintendo 64 Jungle Green
Nintendo 64 Jungle Green
Nintendo 64 Fire Orange 
Nintendo 64 Fire Orange
Nintendo 64 Ice Blue
Nintendo 64 Ice Blue
Nintendo 64 Smoke Gray
Nintendo 64 Smoke Gray
Nintendo 64 Watermelon Red
Nintendo 64 Watermelon Red
CLONES
     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones were released for this system, though the Nintendo iQue could be considered one on some levels.
FORMAT, PACKAGING & GENERAL INFO
     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the Nintendo 64 was distributed in the ROM cartridge format, ranging in size from 4MB up to 64MB.  Colorful artwork adorns the front cover of the casing, which itself is constructed of a cheap, flimsy cardboard.  An inner plastic sleeve stores the cartridge along with providing some limited structural integrity to the actual box.

Select, best selling titles were re-released as Player's Choice versions, which is denoted on the top right hand corner of the front cover art.

Some titles will require the optional Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak.  This module expands the base memory from 4MB to 8MB.

Sample Game Play

Nintendo 64 Game Boxes
Nintendo 64 games collection
SCREENSHOTS
     Captured in-game images
1080 Snowboarding
1080 Snowboarding screenshot
Banjo Kazooie
Banjo Kazooie screenshot
Castlevania
Castlevania screenshot
Conker's Bad Fur Day
Conker's Bad Fur Day screenshot
Cruis'n USA
Cruis'n USA screenshot
Diddy Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing screenshot
Donkey Kong 64
Donkey Kong 64 screenshot
F-Zero X
F-Zero X screenshot
Goemon's Great Adventure
Goemon's Great Adventure screenshot
International Soccer 98
International Soccer 98 screenshot
Key Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest
Key Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest screenshot
Kirby 64
Kirby 64 screenshot
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask screenshot
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time screenshot
Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 screenshot
NBA in the Zone 2000
NBA in the Zone 2000 screenshot
NFL Blitz 2001
NFL Blitz 2001 screenshot
Ogre Battle 64
Ogre Battle 64 screenshot
Paper Mario
Paper Mario screenshot
Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark screenshot
Pilotwings 64
Pilotwings 64 screenshot
Pokemon Puzzle League
Pokémon Puzzle League screenshot
Quest 64
Quest 64 screenshot
Spiderman
Spiderman screenshot
Starshot: Space Circus Fever
Starshot: Space Circus Fever screenshot
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil screenshot
Wave Race 64
Wave Race 64 screenshot
Wayne Gretsky's 3D Hockey
Wayne Gretsky's 3D Hockey screenshot
WWF: No Mercy
WWF: No Mercy screenshot
Yoshi's Story
Yoshi's Story screenshot
EMULATION
     First and third party system emulators
Project64

This is an amazing N64 emulator for Windows.
There are other emulators available, but this our favorite.
SPECS & MANUALS
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
64-bit NEC VR4300 93.75 MHz 93 MIPS 64-bit MIPS RISC
"Reality Immersion" RCP (62.5 MHz)
4 MB RAMBUS RDRAM (expandable up to 8 MB)
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
256 x 224. 320 x 240, 640 x 480 16.8 million \ 32,000 on screen 150,000 48 kHz, 16-bit
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Cartridge 4 MB to 64 MB 387 None
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
None Cart Battery, Memory Card 10 button, one analog stick,
directional pad, extension port
Nintendo 64 Disk drive, Memory Expansion Pack, Rumble Pack, etc.
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
Four (4) None (optional with 64DD) Memory Expansion Port, EXT Port (for 64DD) Multi-Out (Composite, S-Video)
Power Supply - External Other Outputs Other Details \ Notes
Input: AC 120V, 60Hz, 24W
Output: DC 3.3V 2.7A; DC 12V 0.8A
None Compatible with the GameBoy with special adaptor
Manuals
Nintendo 64 Owners Manual (PDF) - 1.81 MB

OTHER MEDIA
     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Nintendo 64 Promotional Videos

Nintendo 64 Television Commercials


DISCUSS
     Visitor insights and feedback
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