Posts Tagged ‘N64’

Some Really Quick Thoughts on Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I promise.

You don’t disappear down the N64 Zelda nostalgia rabbit hole for 30 hours this late in a game-stacked 2021 without at least writing something about your experience. Well that’s how you justify the time spent. If you’re me.

You see, it turns out it’s been a tick over a decade since I last played through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – in the form of its wonderful 2011 3DS remake – and almost two decades since I gave its original blocky Nintendo 64 iteration a go. I have never played the 60Hz version – as I’ve only ever lived in (50Hz) PAL regions and so only remember a version of OoT that runs literally 16.7% slower than the American/Japanese release. I never owned an N64 Rumble Pak either. Despite this blog housing lengthy posts devoted to Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword – even a short reflective post on Spirit Tracks – I have never typed out anything on the legendary time-travelling 3D Zelda standard-bearer lasting longer than two consecutive paragraphs.

The recent addition of N64 games (and a controller to match) to the Nintendo Switch Online service gave me a fine opportunity to address all that.

It’s All Been Said Before

The most imposing barrier to my Ocarina of Time writing motivation has always been its status as “everyone’s favourite Zelda game” during my formative years playing videogames. I didn’t own any gaming platforms when the game first came out, but was properly invested in the medium for every subsequent Zelda game release; every 3D Zelda since OoT was already destined to be measured up directly and exhaustively, but this timing made the game’s shadow feel especially inescapable. For well over a decade I found any opinion other than “Ocarina is the best one” to be unpopular at best.

Discourse always felt dead in the water.

I’ve always enjoyed Ocarina of Time, but attempting to discuss it with people has never been particularly fruitful for me; it seems like every other game in the series has more interesting strengths and weaknesses. Not only that, but Ocarina did a genuinely fantastic job of bringing the stellar Link to the Past Zelda formula into three dimensions; the adulation it receives is not undeserved. The nostalgia haze around the game is strong, make no mistake, but there is no great wool-pull conspiracy going on here. It may have understandably aged in places, but this is a good videogame.

It’s just a boring one to write about. Or it was, until recently.

Now my thoughts can take flig- you know what I just find this picture really funny.

From the beginning I’ve thought of Ocarina of Time as the “vanilla” 3D Zelda game, because it codified so many successful series tropes. The inevitable side implication is that its successors each take a couple of those tropes and implement them with far more razzle-dazzle.

Majora’s Mask does sidequests and minigames better while tap dancing all over the tonally unsettling parts of its predecessor; The Wind Waker does combat and wonder like a champion and looks / sounds sensationally timeless doing it; Twilight Princess outdoes its direct inspiration in scale, heft and dungeon ambition; Skyward Sword nails narrative, pacing, item quality and lore substance; and Breath of the Wild just blows the doors off what was thought possible for nonlinearity in 3D Zelda. It’s been a long time since I genuinely believed Ocarina of Time was the best Zelda game in any particular category; even if it does plenty of things well, it has a real master-of-none vibe in retrospect nowadays.

And speaking of Skyward Sword, I wrote a LOT about it this year.

It wasn’t long into my 2021 test-turned-playthrough of Ocarina of Time before I realised this neat internal summary of the classic might need a tweak or two, because it turns out the game does do something better than its younger counterparts: It’s arguably more rewarding to replay than any of them.

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Switch Hype: Ranking Nintendo’s Ten Main Consoles

My my, I do love a countdown opportunity.

And so it is, dear reader, that we find ourselves here. Here at the dawn of what will be – for better or worse – a new cycle of Nintendo being Nintendo. The impending Switch console has the attention of the gaming world for now, and all the bad news has yet to come. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling for yours truly – one of bubbling excitement, of mildly tempered hope – but one in which I will gladly bask for the time being, if only because that feeling seems to be my number one most reliable source of blogging motivation. And would you look at that – the Switch will be Nintendo’s twelfth (let’s scratch the Virtual Boy) eleventh major videogame device! Yes, a nice, round top ten is ripe for the typing. How good.

I will now attempt to rank the ten major home/handheld Nintendo consoles of yore according to my own personal feelings about them. Yes, this will be a different list to your own, dearest reader. That’s OK. It is not an easy thing at all for a Nintendo tragic such as myself to see some of these wonderful machines placed below others – go ahead, try it – but I have struggled through it anyway. It’s probably worth mentioning that I haven’t owned all ten of these pieces of hardware, but I sure have played a significant portion of the game offerings they brought to the table through various re-releases and chance adventures, so I feel comfortable laying it out for your perusal. I’ve taken physical design, hardware refreshes, game library, nostalgia and all the usual good stuff into account. Here we go.

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10. Nintendo Entertainment System

Australian Release: 1987
My Favourite Games: Balloon Fight, Kirby’s Adventure, Super Mario Bros 2

Yes, the one that started it all is down here. The main reason is a boring one: The NES’ games don’t tend to hold up as well today as other later Nintendo titles, as by necessity they are visually and conceptually basic. Having said that, the very best of the NES crop represents some of the most satisfying, mechanically tight challenges to be found anywhere in videogames, not to mention some technical wizardry when it comes to working within memory limitations. Of the two-and-a-half consoles on this list that I never owned, this is the one whose game library I have sampled most widely, thanks mostly to things like the wonderful Wii U eShop games NES Remix 1 & 2 and the recently released NES Classic Mini console, and particularly in this bite-sized format there is a great deal of fun to be had with NES gems even for the less skilled gamers among us (e.g. me).

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Revisiting Donkey Kong 64: Did it Kill the 3D Collect-a-thon Platformer?

 

At the beginning of this month, in its Nintendo Direct broadcast, Nintendo of Europe casually announced something I had been waiting for in forlorn hope ever since the original Wii hit the market – the (immediate) release of Donkey Kong 64 on the Wii U virtual console. I don’t know how, but Nintendo’s much-discussed rights conflict with famed British developer Rare that had previously prohibited the game’s re-release has now been sorted out, and you can download the famous ape’s 3D adventure if you so please for $13 AUD. So despite my ever-growing pile of other games to play, I blacked out somewhat that fateful day, and now I write this article having lost another 20 hours to what was once my first-ever home console videogame.

I downed King K.Rool just yesterday, in fact.

My sense of nostalgia may be strong with this one, but a lot has changed in 16 years, and the game isn’t quite as perfect as I may have remembered it. The game has quite a few flaws, actually. What’s more, over the last several years a new critical narrative has built up around the game, accusing it of killing the so-called “collect-a-thon” genre of 3D platformers (think Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, Gex etc) with its needlessly over-the-top bounty of colour-coded things to collect. This line of thought has devolved for some into the act of labelling DK64 a bad game. Does it really deserve this moniker? As we appear to be on the cusp of a 3D collect-a-thon renaissance in gaming, with Conker’s Big Reunion beginning in a matter of days and the impending release of both Playtonic’s “Project Ukelele” and Gears for Breakfast’s A Hat in Time, now is as good a time as ever to try to answer that question.

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64-Bit Memories…

It has recently come to my attention that last month marked the 15th anniversary of the Nintendo 64’s release in Australia. Shame on me for letting that go unmarked. Here’s something to try and make up for that error.

On Christmas Day, 1999, a year and a half after migrating to the sunburnt country from South Africa, I received my first home gaming console. My life would never be the same again.

Under a generous amount of wrapping paper, the Nintendo 64 greeted me in a glorious swirl of black, grey and “atomic purple“. As a wide-eyed child I had sampled some of what the console had to offer at friend’s houses, but this one was mine. Plugging it into the largest CRT television in the house and then pushing that oversized switch on the console’s curved shell resulted in a singular moment of awe that seemed impossible to match. I had my ticket to the school playground war of words; I was lodged firmly in Nintendo’s corner.

The limited edition pack I received on December 25, 1999. Words cannot express the nostalgia.

The next three years, long as they seemed to a pre-pubescent boy, were filled to the brim with some of my fondest gaming memories ever. This is the list of my top eleven favourite Nintendo 64 games of all time.

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