The history of the Nintendo 64 has undergone some serious revisions in the last couple of years. Now, game personalities look back at the 64 as a minor console, with some saying that the system didn’t hold its own against Playstation. I think it is easy to rewrite success when looking at one set of numbers. Yes, the Playstation sold three-times more consoles than the Nintendo 64, but big deal: the quality-to-shit ratio is what I care about, and at the time, Nintendo cornered the market.
Playstation had 2500 official releases (Editor’s Note: Jesus Christ!) while the Nintendo 64 only saw a little under 400 titles grace video game store shelves. The controlling nature of Nintendo was less about protecting cash flow and more about quality assurance. Any asshole with a PC could develop a game for the Playstation – only trusted partners had the juice for the 64. It was harder to develop for, both technically and creatively, but what resulted was one of the best collection of console games in history, even though you got Superman 64 in the mix.
The newly-maligned console is partly responsible for one of the greatest games in history: GoldenEye 007. There are few games in the world that can bring up instant memories of joy like this title. Holy shit – this was a revelation. I experienced the game through the single-player first, and that was enough to blow me away. A fan of the James Bond film of same name, it was an absolute blast playing through a slightly-modified version of the story. The guns, the gadgets, the girls (though pixelated) – they were all present, and it was all good. It was cinematic without being boring, something that is simply lost on games from the past decade.
But then a second, third, and fourth controller was plugged in, and GoldenEye 007 went from being an insanely great game to one of the hands-down best ever. No console shooter did it as well as this one at the time, and I would contend, ever since. It wasn’t a pretty experience, that’s for sure. For me, it was my friends and I huddled around a small television that was then divided into four smaller screens. But we played until exhaustion set in. Hours flew by at sleepovers and after-school gaming sessions, and we didn’t tire of the game for a long time. The variations in game types (newsflash: The Living Daylights was the best multiplayer mode and no one ever played it) and the ability to customize each battle was unheard of.
Today, it is playable, if you can find a way to hook it up to your HDTV. The first thing you notice about the game when you play it after years of being away is how awkward the controls are. Maybe it’s just the N64 controller, but it is odd. But soon muscle memory kicks in, and suddenly it is 1997 again. And guess what? The game still kicks fucking ass.
I could go on and on about this game – how it is one of the only successful movie licenses, how it almost became a Virtua Cop rip-off at the beginning, how it spawned technical conventions still alive in shooters today, or how a group of fans ported it over to the PC using the Source Engine. A great game is one where even years after its release, you can pick it up and feel that rush again. The Nintendo 64 may have been a minor system, but who cares? Because for a few short years, it carried the greatest console shooter of all time.