I wonder if I can find his baby picture…
It is I– Der Vorsitzende… Jawhol!
So– how’s the books? Read any good families recently? Good, good…
Anyways, as we reach approach the final leg of our two month long retrospective on console gaming– I thought it pertinent to sprinkle some love sauce over top the very first (successful…) cartridge based, 64-bit platform: The Nintendo 64!
Today, I shan’t bore you lot with time travel and any history lessons to be found therein– instead we’ll just go straight for the meat. (giggity?)
So let’s get right down to business shall we?
Under the Hood
As per usual, I’ll start things off by picking apart the technical aspects of the 64.
First and foremost, the consoles namesake: the NEC VR4300, 64-Bit CPU found at the heart of the beast.
Now, let it be said that this bad boy was almost as powerful as pentium processors found in home PC’s at the time, save for a few differences. This was unheard at this stage in the game. What set this processor apart from other 64-bit units, however; wasn’t even a hardware feature.
Instead– Nintendo realized that piping smaller 32-bit data (which mind you, was more than sufficient for 3D graphics..) through the 64-bit processor provided faster access speeds and reduced file sizes which was of utmost importance when considering the limited capacity of a cartridge.
As far as RAM is concerned– the N64 utilized 4mb of whats called RDRAM or Rambus DRAM, named after the company who produced it.
This was expandable up to 8mb using the Expansion Pak peripheral which I’ll get into a bit later– but what’s important to note here is that the 64 was one of the first consoles to stray from using separate sets of memory for each of their components.
Instead– a singular, massive and unified memory array to be shared by the entire system. Neat!
Graphically speaking, the 64 supported 16.8 MILLION colors displayed at a resolution of 320 x 240 under normal conditions, though the aforementioned Expansion Pak allowed for games to reach a resolution up to 640 x 480. Also neat~
Moving right along~
Ahh yes. What would a console post of mine be without the usual tirade on the awesomeness that is attachments..? That’s a rhetorical question, folks, for the answer is simply: Not a post of mine!
Let’s take a peek first, at quite literally the most hands-on part of the Nintendo 64…
What can be said about this human interface device? Aside of course, from the fact that it doesn’t appear to be designed for an actual human..?
Well, the N64 was one of the first modern consoles to natively support four players, which in and of itself was awesome– but beyond that, many considered the design of the controllers themselves to be flawed.
It featured 10 standard buttons, a control stick at its center, and a 6-direction D-Pad that would almost never be used in tandem with the stick, lest you were some sort of squid-based ceature.
And ass-end of this baby featured an expansion port. That’s right– attachments on attachments baby!
The Controller Pak
Some N64 games allowed for saving data separately from the cartridge. Onto what, you may be asking? Well– the little guys shown above, here– were inserted into the controllers expansion port and allowed for that exact feature.
This allowed players to then unslot the pak and take it with them to a friends house. It also featured a little sticky label on the front which let you mark it in some way.
Just incase your friends have sticky fingers…
The Jumper Pak
I won’t pretend to understand exactly what this device does… What I’ve been able to glean from my research however– is that it serves as a required placeholder in the absence of the Expansion Pak device, and without either plugged into the memory expansion port of the N64, you’ll get naught but a blank screen.
The Expansion Pak
This handy little guy was inserted into the memory expansion port, as I’d mentioned earlier. It served a singular purpose– you guessed it… memory expansion. 4mb to be precise.
With it, later N64 games were able to make full use of the graphical capabilities of the system, delivering anything from higher resolution graphics, to advanced- resource heavy particle effects.
Some games required the pak to run, period– while others were simply enhanced by it’s presence.
The Rumble Pak
Powered by two, AAA batteries and connected to the controllers expansion slot– this bad boy did pretty much what you expected it to; hand-arm vibration syndrome.
The Transfer Pak
Last in our list of controller attachments, this handy dandy device was used primarily by the Pokemon Stadium series of games, as it allowed users to insert a Game Boy or GBC games for the purposes of transferring data from them, to the N64.
This in essence allowed you to keep your pocket monsters ever handy.
There were a few other titles that utilized the Transfer Pak but not much worth mentioning.
The Wide Boy64
Not exactly a device used by the general public, the Wide Boy was a series of adapters that worked very much the same as the Super Gameboy had on the SNES. With two major versions of the product released, one which played Game Boy and GBC games, the other supporting the Game Boy Advanced.
They were never intended for use by the average consumer however– as the only way to obtain one was to order directly from Nintendo at the whopping price of $1400 USD.
Nay– instead these were used primarily by the press to more easily obtain screen shots of GBA games as well as the finals of the Pokemon League Summer Training Tour ’99.
Ahh the 64 Dynamic Drive …or Disk Drive. Whichever you choose to call it– this dock was an awesome piece of hardware. Or at the very least, it was slated to be…
Plopping your N64 onto this guy would grant you access to both the reading and writing of disks. Announced in 1995, and not released until 1999– it came out alongside an online service known as Randnet.
Only nine games were ever released for it, and it sadly met with a massive commercial failure in Japan– causing us in the states to never see hide nor hair of it.
A modem and video capture device had also come along as a result of the 64DD but again– neither were very successful..
Shame– who knows what could have been possible with such an expansion.
Aside from the above listed peripherals, there were a slew of others available from an RF adapter to a voice recognition unit– and even MORE licensed, third party peripherals.
More than can be accosted by a shaft of natural wood…
I could truly go on for days about them, but alas my time with you all draws to a close.
What are your thoughts on the Nintendo 64? Do you have fond memories of collecting power stars, or super smashing your friends?
I’d love to hear all about it!
Or perhaps you’re one of the unlucky few who have never gotten a chance to enjoy this fine console. If that’s the case, why not go grab yourself one right now off of Amazon?
You won’t regret it I assure you.
Until next time, Leaguelettes~