The Nintendo 64 is celebrating fifteen years of life today (September 29th). That’s fifteen years since the game industry was completely revolutionized and changed from the 2D to 3D graphics. Of course, Sony’s PlayStation 1 and Sega’s Saturn also take an important hand at this. But the Nintendo 64 had so many memorable games and took so many step forwards with incredibly innovative titles like Super Mario 64 that I personally consider it the gap between the 2D and 3D era.
I remember back in late 1996 when one day, I was playing in my old house with a cousin and my dad came with my N64 as a surprise for me, he asked in the store for the “newest game” and got a fighting game called Bio FREAKS which I actually liked a lot and still like. Since I was little, I had no money and means to get my own games like I’ve been doing since the PS2 era, so I had to wait for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas to get new games.
My first titles besides that Midway fighting game were Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64. And even as a very young teenager I fell in awe at how the games had such advanced technology (for the time). I even remember being proud of having a console that told you then the controller was not connected. It makes me feel silly now days.
At the time, I used to spend hours and hours just walking around Mushroom Kingdom, Gruntilda’s Lair and Hyrule, specially the latest two, wondering how the developers created such worlds, imagining them drawing maps and spending huge amounts to time discussing every little detail so we, the users, could enjoy their creations.
The Nintendo 64 is by far, the console that made me become a real hardcore gamer. Of course, I love the Sony and Microsoft consoles equally to the Nintendo ones but the N64 is the one that started gaming as a passion in my life, instead of just a hobby or a toy like the NES and SNES were.
Many of my favorite videogames of all time have their roots on a N64 game, or are a N64 game by itself, like Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask which I still consider two of the best videogames ever created. My first favorite developer company was Rareware, because of the N64 games they made. I didn’t enjoy them all but games like the Banjo ones, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, Goldeneye 007 and Jet Force Gemini divided my life in before and after.
The console had such a big impact on my life that with it, my “LAN parties” started. I used to go to friends houses and receive them at mine just to spend entire afternoons and nights on Mario Party, Perfect Dark or some fighting game, which gets me to think how curious it is that I never bought Killer Instinct Gold even though I was a huge fan and player of the first game. Well, another Rareware title I missed.
Curiously, a game I fell in love with in 1999 was Wave Race 64, which had already three years on the market. I was tired of the adventure and fighting games so I decided to try out a racing one and bought WR64 because it was cheap on a local store. Well it’s still one of my favorite games and while I do admit it doesn’t have much content I enjoy playing it every once in a while, in fact, it is the only N64 game I still go back to every now and then.
By 2000 I already had a Dreamcast, PSX and PS2 and became all-consoles gamer but the truth is that the Nintendo 64 will always have a place in my gaming time. As I said, it is one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic consoles in my life and I consider the catalog of games on it the strongest one out there, even better than the PS2, Xbox 360 and such.
Which gets me to think how fifteen years ago; Nintendo didn’t really aim exclusively to the younger audiences. The N64 was a console for everyone; you could find you usual Nintendo childish games like Kirby 64 or Mario Party and your bloody, gory and mature games like Shadowman, Perfect Dark or the Mortal Kombat titles. Also, I always think that if it weren’t for the N64’s lack of good JRPGs I probably would have never gotten a console from another company.
Because of my interest in Final Fantasy I spent money on a PS2 and a PSX and because of that I got interested as well in one of my favorite fighting game series of all time: Dead or Alive which I love with a huge passion. When thinking about it, the only thing the N64 was lacking compared to the competition, was that specific genre: the Japanese RPGs. Still, it is a great console that deserves everyone’s respect.
Fifteen years is a long time, but for me, it really feels like the console’s launch was just yesterday. When looking at its games, my console that still works and how pretty much everyone that I know played it and enjoyed the same games as me, I feel very happy and proud to be a gamer. I thank Nintendo for having started what we currently know as modern gaming because even though consoles now days are able to reproduce HD graphics, online gaming and even motion-sensing controls, the truth is that most of the games on them are simply N64 games that look better.
With that, the only thing I have left is to wish the Nintendo 64 a very happy 15th birthday and encourage everyone able to still take a console out and play it for a while to do it in celebration to the greatest Nintendo console of all time.