Congratulations Nintendo 64 - The console turns 25!

Congratulations Nintendo 64 - The console turns 25!

Happy Birthday, Nintendo 64!

Released on June 23, 1996, the Nintendo 64 has been a controversial, but rather beloved gaming console. By Italian enthusiasts it was soon renamed "il nintendone", for reasons that today elude us. It arrived on the shelves still distributed by GIG, like a toy, just as it was used in the past, accompanied by the slogan "claws the power" clearly inspired by the peculiar shape of its pad which still stands out, even today, thanks to its three horns that allowed three different grips.

In this special, we retrace the 25 years of the Nintendo 64 and why in many ways it was one of the most innovative consoles in history.

Winners and losers

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64: the console pad was a concentrate of innovation and allowed three different grips based on the controls used by the current game. Especially noteworthy is its analog lever, one of the most accurate ever. The bulk of the public became aware of the new Nintendo console the previous year, we are at the beginning of 1995, through the sector magazines that massively published several specials dedicated to the nextgen. The Sega Saturn stood out thanks to the possible arcade ports, which then became a bit of its cross, the 3DO already appeared as a dream too dangerous to pursue together with its creator Trip Hawkins, while PlayStation had yet to demonstrate Sony's commitment. in the field of video games. All these consoles had one detail in common: the presence of a CD-ROM reader that promised sparks. And the Nintendo 64, which on the one hand reassured thanks to the Nintendo logo on display, on the other frightened precisely because it was the only console of the lot to still use the dear old and increasingly expensive cartridges.


Happy birthday, Nintendo 64: what would the video game industry be like today if Nintendo and Sony hadn't taken different paths? The reason why Nintendo seemed to refuse to switch to digital media was not yet clear, the story behind the Nintendo PlayStation prototype still shrouded in mystery and, although the first photos of the very rare prototype had already emerged, no one could be really sure. how things really went.

Today, however, that tale is history: Nintendo chose the cartridges again precisely because plans to use a CD-ROM player sank along with the previously friendly relations with Sony, which that player was supposed to provide. The repercussions of this split in progress were heavy, and emerged along the way with a progressive abandonment of the developers in favor of the newborn PlayStation. The most painful farewell, not Italy where the series had not yet made it through, was that of SquareSoft and its Final Fantasy which, after having shown itself in the Nintendo 64 version, was redesigned anew for the PlayStation. And after SquareSoft came the turn of Konami, Capcom, and many others, who after many years and many successes on NES and SNES, left Nintendo with some small project and finally with the proverbial match in hand.

A console with a mustache

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64: For many, Mario's big face was enough, from which you could pull his mustache, nose and hat, to fall madly in love with the Nintendo 64 and its most famous game, Of course Super Mario 64 But you know what the Japanese are like, honor is always involved and to say that they tied it to your finger is little. Nintendo had to do it alone, by now it was clear, and it did: despite the difficulties it managed to bring the ship to port hoping for a future relaunch. Nintendo as we have known it until a few years ago, a little reluctant to run too fast, wary of third parties, but always looking for an idea that makes its products irresistible, took shape with the Nintendo 64 which, despite not having sold like other consoles of the same brand, still managed to make Sega's Saturn eat the dust. While PlayStation already seemed to play in a separate category, the consoles of the two historic brands clashed violently during Christmas 1996, through two exclusives destined, for different reasons, to remain in history: we are talking about Super Mario 64 by Shigeru Miyamoto and Nights into Dreams by Yuji Naka.

Crocodile Tears?

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64: a then 44-year-old Shigeru Miyamoto, shows his latest game to the press. It goes without saying who won the victory, after all everyone knows, after all we are talking about one of the most revolutionary games ever, even if even Mario 64 hides a dark side. The idea of ​​a full 3D platform was proposed to Nintendo years earlier by Argonaut Software, those of the Chip FX that made Star Fox possible. Argonaut Software presented Nintendo with a prototype very similar to what would later become the first 3D Mario. The project was scrapped, relations with Argonaut were interrupted and a short time later it arrived in Super Mario 64 stores.

Did Miyamoto copy? We can't go that far, but thanks to the words of Jez San, one of the co-founders of the English software house, we know that years later the legendary designer thanked him for the idea. Argonaut Software's prototype of the possible Super Mario 64 still went into production even without the help of Nintendo, debuting in 1997 under the name of Croc: Legend of the Gobbos.

For all tastes, or almost ...

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64: Link that becomes raises the sword to the sky, and finally grows big, is one of the most surprising events of the 90s Even that cannot diminish the importance of Super Mario 64 , stain his name. Mario's first 3D adventure was pivotal, and single-handedly pushed millions of gamers to shop and buy the latest Nintendo console. Fortunately for us, Mario was not the only great game in the system: although in quantity, it never managed to compete with the rival PlayStation, although in its catalog there are almost no fundamental genres, the average quality of the titles for the Nintendo 64 was very, very high. Just to name a few: Zelda Ocarina of Time and Major'as Mask, Donkey Kong 64, Jet Force Gemini, the different games on Star Wars starting from Rogue Squadron and Shadow of the Empire, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, Paper Mario , F-Zero X and WaveRace, 1080 ° Snowboarding, Doom 64, Turok, Sin and Punishment.

A gem called Rare

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64: the success of the "nintendone" it is largely the result of the intuitions of brothers Tim and Chris Stamper and their Rare And we have voluntarily excluded the Rare games, which deserve a separate chapter, thanks to 007 Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie and sequel, Conker's Bad Fur Day. Furthermore, very few know that Grand Theft Auto III, despite the series never arriving on Nintendo 64, was born on this console through the interesting experiments of Body Harvest and Space Station Silicon Valley, created by DMA Design before it became Rockstar Games. . And it is also on Nintendo 64 that Animal Forest debuts, the game that also arrived in the West on GameCube with the name of Animal Crossing. The most spectacular version of the former International Superstar Soccer also arrives on the Nintendo 64. What do you say, can we put an end to the legend that on N64 there are no interesting games beyond the usual suspects?

The Real Nintendone

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64: before retiring, the Nintendo console was enhanced thanks to the peripheral 64DD, little supported and never officially distributed outside Japan. Its graphics were particular, shrouded in mists that hid its technical limits too effectively, the price of its games reached mind-boggling figures, and its pad was as futuristic as it was limiting. Yet, despite everything, it is an integral part of the history of video games, of our human history. With a design reminiscent of a small Greek-Roman temple, supported by columns that rise towards its soft summit, the Nintendo 64 turns 25 today.

Greetings "nintendone", thank you for all that you left us and let's not lose sight of it: maybe a jump on Switch you could do it, that's where we are all waiting for you.

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