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Wild Choppers Attack - All N64 Games

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After doing a few franchise playthroughs (Sonic, Star Trek and James Bond), I decided to pick something that would be a bit more varied by focusing on a console. I picked the N64 as I remember loving it, and I read about so many games in N64 Magazine that I never got to play. The number of games (419, including some prototypes) also makes it a reasonable endevour.

For playing the games, I'll be using different ways to play. I'll mainly be emulating (using different emulators, as some work better in particular ones), plus using some ports/remasters. The ports/remasters are on a case-by-case basis and the game as a whole needs to have the same vibes as the N64 version, as sometimes the N64 versions had different level designs (and features) to other versions that remasters are based on. That said, some of those do kindly include the N64 mode as well. Some ports will be fan made and I will be allowing some graphical and QoL enhancements (mainly widescreen, textures that keep the right vibe and camera control). There was one game where I felt I went a bit too far on the graphical department, but a bit too late for that (it wasn't a big N64-specific one anyway).

In the case of sports games, I'll be mainly getting a feel for them by playing a few matches rather than going insane while playing an entire season of each one. I also won't be shy in using cheats, mainly extra lives (they were pointless in most games of this era and losing them just wasted time as you walk back to where you were) and for games of genres I completely suck at - such as 1-on-1 fighters (I had no idea the N64 had so many).

Some games only came out in Japan. I don't read or speak Japanese and I'm dreadful at understanding Japanese. For some games, there are fan-made translations that I will be using, for others, I'm relying on Google Lens (which, while some results are a big mangles, has been fairly successful and I get the gist of what things mean) .

My reasoning for all of this is that this is for fun, not a serious challenge. 

For ordering the games, I've gone by the first release in any region, it seemed like the most logical way to do things. I've also inserted a few prototypes of games into the mix for checking out unfinished (or in a few cases, completely finished but unreleased) games. 

I'm already a fair amount of time into playing the games, up to number 150 on my list (an obscure game called Ocarina of Time).

Out of the three Japanese launch titles, It would be rude to not start with:

Super Mario 64


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  • JP release: 23rd June 1996
  • NA release: 29th September 1996
  • PAL release: 1st March 1997
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • N64 Magazine Score: 96%

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Starting off with a bang, one of the Nintendo 64’s launch titles just happens to be a revolutionary game that’s one of the best games on the system. It didn’t just show the world how platform games could work in 3D, but it set the standard for movement in 3D as well. Despite its legendary status, Nintendo have never given us the port that this game deserves. Super Mario 64 doesn’t need a full remake, just a little bit of sprucing, widescreen and an updated camera.

Luckily, fans of the game have done this themselves by fully recreating the game’s engine on PC, with lots of options to set it up the way you want. There are some much more graphically impressive options than what I chose, but I wanted it to look similar to the original game, with just crisper textures and some of the 2D objects replaced with 3D ones.

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The movement of Mario still feels amazing all these years later. His move set is brilliant with all of his moves (minus the special hats) available from the get-go, it’s just a case of learning it and figuring out the best way to move. Most people will start off doing taller jumps by doing the backflip, but then transition to the quick turn jump to get up to the tall platforms. Even now, it’s an absolute joy to control.

The camera from the original game is the main part of the game that now feels clunky. It was pretty amazing when the game came out, but it’s one aspect of games that has improved over time. Luckily, the version I played lets you turn on a more modern analogue camera, which (along with widescreen) is really all Super Mario 64 needs to feel modern.

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The levels are small, but it’s a style that really suits the game. They’re packed full of secrets, with six stars to find in each one (plus an extra star for collecting 100 coins). Once you collect a star, you’re thrown out of the level, which does mean you have to re-do parts of levels multiple times, but there are sometimes changes to the level depending on which star you collect. There is a mod that lets you remain in levels, but I feel like this alters the game too much, and is itself fiddly as you need to work out when you need to manually leave the level.

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Each level has a very distinct feel to it and I enjoyed every level in the game, except for two of the water levels. While some have generic themes (lava, water and ice), the levels are still built in unique ways, and even matching themes (like the two snow levels) don’t feel like a reuse due to the level design.

Other than a couple of stars that include the wing, metal and invisible caps, you can also complete levels before moving on, or just do a couple of stars and try somewhere else. You only need 70 out of 120 stars to complete the game (far fewer if you choose to do glitches), but it’s enjoyable collecting them all.

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To unlock different sections of the castle (and access more levels), you need to complete Bowser’s levels. There are three in total (the last one being to save Peach) and these are much more linear platform challenges, which creates a nice change of pace. At the end of these you have to face off against Bowser, grabbing his tail and spinning him to throw him into bombs, and I’m still absolutely dreadful at aiming my throws.

The final section of the game has some outstanding levels.

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Wet-Dry World is the third water level of the game, but this one stands out much more due to the mechanic of raising and lowering the water levels. There are different ways to move upwards depending on the water level, and you’ll need to make use of these to collect all the stars.

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Tiny-Huge Island has you using pipes to swap between a giant Mario and a mini Mario. You get to see cute tiny goombas or have to fight ones that are much larger than Mario. It’s not Mario’s size that actually changes, but the level itself. It’s an absolutely adorable level full of joy.

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Tick Tock Clock is actually a lot smaller than I remember, but is focused on well timed jumps. The unique aspect of this level is that the level entrance is itself a clockface, and where the minute hand points alters the speed of the objects in the level, or even stops them completely. I have quite strong memories of trying to figure out what was happening when this happened as a kid.

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The final main level, Rainbow Ride, is more linear than most levels, with different segments connected via magic carpets. You’ll need to jump off the carpets to avoid obstacles, but if you take too long, the carpets will vanish. This level requires you to have learnt how to master Mario’s moveset.

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Super Mario 64 is still an absolute joy to play, especially so with an updated camera. I think a full remake would alter the game too much, as the level design and movement is integral to its identity. It just needs a bit of sprucing up, and I really hope we get an official version that does this at some point.

This was an amazing start for the Nintendo 64. Not only was this game integral to the development of 3D games as a whole, but the gameplay and levels still hold up today. Games keep trying to be bigger and better, but smaller and varies levels are also a great approach.

Quote

The best game ever?” Possibly, but then it’s so far ahead of anything that comparisons seem meaningless.

- Zy Nicholson, N64 Magazine #1

Remake or Remaster?

As the fan-made PC version shows, Super Mario 64 still holds up really well and just needs some basic improvements. A remastered Super Mario 64 would be perfect.

Official Ways to get the game

There is no way to buy a new copy of Super Mario 64, the only official way to play is to rent it via the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pak.

Re-releases

1997: Super Mario 64 Rumple Pak Version (Japan Only)

2003: iQue (China Only)

2006: Wii Virtual Console

2015: Wii U Virtual Console

2020: Super Mario 3D All Stars (Switch, temporary release)

2021: Nintendo Switch Online (subscription only)

Other versions

2004: Super Mario 64 DS. This version featured altered levels, more stars and extra playable characters. The extra content was well received, but forcing previous stars to certain characters was frustrating. The controls also don’t work very well on the DS. The touch screen minigames were a brand-new addition and were well liked.

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5 minutes ago, Ashley said:

I hate to admin an admin but we do have a retro forum...

I'm happy to move it. I wasn't 100% sure which board to put it in as it's specifically a Nintendo retro console. 

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The rule of thumb has been "current consoles here, old consoles in Retro" but then looking at the description of this forum it says "Talk about Nintendo's consoles and their games here, including the Nintendo Switch, Wii U & 3DS." which may need updating a bit!

But yeah perhaps move but you can leave one of those redirect things for a week or so in order to make people aware it exists in Retro. 

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If you’re not using original hardware for this venture (be it via an Everdrive or original carts), I hope you’re at least using an official N64 controller (Switch or OG N64).  So many N64 games are built around the eccentricities of that controller’s design that playing with any other controller would be doing a disservice to many of the games in the N64’s library (Sin & Punishment and Jet Force Gemini immediately spring to mind).

But yeah, Mario 64 good! So good that it basically had to carry the console by itself for almost 3 months post launch!

Edited by Dcubed
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2 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

There's like 10 members left on this forum. I don't think it matters where the topic goes. :laughing:

It totally matters! It'd be anarchy otherwise!

Anyway, Rainbow Ride sucks. Yeah, I said it. Tick Tock Clock is a much better executed platforming test.

Here's some silliness that happened when I attempted a 16 star run for the first time.

You just know if a remaster happened, they'd fix the glitches. That would suck. Gimme my broken, parallel universe-ridden mess anyday.

Edited by Glen-i
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21 minutes ago, Glen-i said:

You just know if a remaster happened, they'd fix the glitches. That would suck. Gimme my broken, parallel universe-ridden mess anyday.

That is a good point - probably one benefit of fans doing it is how customisable it can be. Official products like to be one set way. Didn't they use the patched version (added rubble, fixed the glitches) for 3D All Stars?

 

Glitches like that really shouldn't be fixed. It's not harming anyone's experience.

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53 minutes ago, Cube said:

Didn't they use the patched version (added rubble, fixed the glitches) for 3D All Stars?

Yup. It doesn't fix all of them, but it does remove the Backwards Long Jump I do in that video, so it's incredibly difficult to do a 16 star run on that version.

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4 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

There's like 10 members left on this forum. I don't think it matters where the topic goes. :laughing:

Dude. Wot. Name em and shame em. 

Off the top of my head this thread could be part of:

  • Official Mario 64 Thread (if still around from N64-Europe)
  • Official Mario/ Mario 64 Appreciation Thread
  • Mario 64 Retrospective Thread
  • N64 Appreciation (good times)
  • Mario 64 Wii VC Thread
  • Wii VC General Discussion
  • Applicable Wii U equivalent
  • Could bump the Mario 64x4 thread for the bants
  • Mario 3D All-Stars Official Thread
  • A game mod thread
  • Failing all that and anything else not brainstormed, the holy grail: teh megathread of Cubes choosing

Avenues aplenty!

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There's a guy on youtube doing exactly this. He is currently 151 games in. Playlist below.

 

Edited by martinist
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Pilotwings 64

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  • JP release: 23rd June 1996
  • NA release: 29th September 1996
  • PAL release: 1st March 1997
  • Developer: Nintendo, Paradigm
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • N64 Magazine Score: 89%

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Part of what made me want to play through all the Nintendo 64 games was growing up with Future Publishing’s N64 magazine. I only had a small number of games myself, but read about so many more. Pilotwings is one I remember getting mentioned a lot in the magazine throughout the years, and it always sounded fascinating. The image of a cannon and Mount Rushmore (with Mario’s face) was one I distinctly remember seeing a lot.

Pilotwings is an arcade-style flight sim game, although still requires a lot of skill to perfect, especially landings. There are three main vehicles, each of which have a series of challenges to complete, which then unlock additional modes.

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The glider is first up and is definitely the weakest of the three main types. I can appreciate how it must have felt brand new, using a standard controller to control a game like this instead of a flight stick, not to mention the 3D worlds, which have lots of nice little details.

The challenges start out simple, and get more complex and difficult. There’s a nice variety such as quickly going through a string of rings, finding more widespread rings and finding certain objects to take photos of. You’re scored based on your speed and accuracy, and it all hangs on your landing, which is difficult but does feel like you’re in control.

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The Rocket Belt (aka a jet pack) is immensely fun to fly. You have a strong thrust and a weaker thrust and will need to get across the map quickly, burst balloons, fly through a cave and land on platforms. Trying to avoid hitting the ground is difficult, even though the game tries to help by having a bar show up when you’re close to the ground.

I think the weakest aspect of Pilotwings was the camera, which was a challenge in early 3D games. This one is a bit strange as it pans the camera away from you rather than around your character, and reverts back when you stop pressing the c-button. Despite this, the jet pack is just extremely enjoyable.

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The gyrocopyer is the third main one, and is equipped with rockets to blast targets with. This is much faster than the previous vehicles, so tend to use the whole islands, which are all really nicely designed with lots of little things to look at. I especially love “Little States”, a mini mainland USA with lots of details representing a few important locations. It would be lovely to see updated versions of these islands.

With the gyrocopter, you’ll have some ring challenges that feel like intense races and you get to battle a giant mech as it terrorises a city. The gyrocopter is a lot of fun, and is probably the easiest to land, although being accurate for a best score is still difficult.

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As you complete the challenges, you’ll unlock bonus games. The first of which is a complete blast: human cannonball. You get three attempts at each target, with your best score out of the three being counted. This means that you have a few attempts to adjust your aim and power to account for the wind speed.

While it stars off simple, like the rest of Pilotwings, it gets really difficult, with some targets you can only see on the radar as they’re behind a mountain or below the cannon. It doesn’t stop the mode being enjoyable, though.

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The second extra mode is skydiving. It starts with a rather wonky formation challenge above the clouds, but feels amazing when you get past and get full control of skydiving on the island. I wasn’t very good at the actual scoring, but the skydiving itself is really fun.

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The last one I couldn’t get the hang of. They’re a kind of bouncing boot, but the controls just feel strange and I kept bouncing in directions I didn’t want to go and just fell over a lot.

My favourite mode of the game is locked behind getting a silver medal on all of these challenges, although you can temporarily try it out by finding hidden stars in the jetpack mode.

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The Birdman mode is a free flight mode. You don’t have to worry about fuel and staying in the air is easy. There’s no challenges to complete, it’s all about enjoying the sights. It’s just nice and relaxing. The main mistake is how many people playing the game may never actually get to try it due to the game’s difficulty and needing so much to unlock it (I have to admit, I ended up using cheats).

Pilotwings 64 is a very interesting game and I really think it deserves another go. It did get a game on 3DS, but that just used Wuhu Island from Wii Sports Resort, which already had a plane more. I’d love a sequel that brought us the islands from this game in more detail, some new ones, plus all these modes and some new stuff. I’d also love just being able to choose free flight for any of the vehicles – having the challenges dotted across the maps would also be a great touch. A new Pilotwings could be a ton of fun.

Quote

It may not look exciting, but – damn it – it plays like a dream.

- Tim Weaver, N64 Magazine #1

Remake or Remaster?

A remake that’s also a sequel would be perfect for Pilotwings. Have the islands and activities from this with lots of new stuff.

Official Ways to get the game

There is no way to buy a new copy of Pilotwings 64, the only official way to play is to rent it via the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pak.

Re-releases

2022: Nintendo Switch Online (subscription only)

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Posted (edited)

Always blows my mind to think that the music was composed by a guy who had never made music before (Dan Hess).  He only has one other credit to his name (1998's F-1 World Grand Prix for the N64; also developed by Paradigm Simulation).

What a waste of talent! He made an absolute banger of a soundtrack here, and basically never composed again afterwards; what a shame!

Here's a couple of choice cuts...

 

Edited by Dcubed
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Strongest Habu Shogi

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  • JP release: 23rd June 1996
  • NA release: N/A
  • PAL release: N/A
  • Developer: Seta
  • Publisher: Seta
  • Original Name: Saikyō Habu Shōgi

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I knew when planning to experience all Nintendo 64 game that there would be some I would barely be able to play. In particular, Japanese-exclusive games. I don’t speak Japanese and, while some games have translation guides or even fully fledged fan translations you can patch into the game, there can still be some with difficulties.

Strongest Habu Shogi is an adaptation of the board game and features Yoshiharu Habu, the best Shogi player at the time. Shogi is a Japanese variant of chess, heavily modified and more complex. Some major differences are how captured pieces can be brought back onto the board, and pieces can be promoted to become stronger, with different movement rules.

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One tool which is surprisingly handy for menus is Google lens, just point it at your TV and is will make rough translations. It’s not always perfect, but good enough for getting to the right modes and settings.

The biggest difficulty I had with Strongest Habu Shogi was identifying the pieces. They’re all the same shape with the name written in Japanese. Even using a picture of what each piece means and does, I found it very difficult to identify them, due to different fonts. To make matters worse, Strongest Habu Shogi doesn’t have any aids to show potential moves you can make, so I found it very difficult to play this version. I did try to practice using an online version of Shogi (with English pieces), but I was still utterly awful at that.

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For people who understand Japanese and Shogi, this game did offer quite a lot of features. You can play against computers or another player, play a version where you only get 10 seconds per turn, play “reverse shogi” or play though the main campaign where you have to beat 18 other opponents of increasing difficulty. The AI is specifically tailored so that the same moves you make will result in the same responses, so there is a guide available that just lists moves that will make you win, although that’s not really beating the game.

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It also has a bunch of teaching tools. One explains the rules (in Japanese) and there’s also a puzzle mode where you have to win matches based on the setup of a few pieces. There’s also a mode that lets you watch famous Shogi matches play out.

In Japan, Strongest Habu Shogi did not sell very well. It was one of three launch titles on the N64, but only 1% of N64 owners picked it up then. There are more shogi games on the N64 and the game is featured in Nintendo’s own Clubhouse Games series, with the Switch version featuring English letters to identify pieces as well as guides to show possible moves.

Quote

The objective is the same – trap your opponent’s king – but the method is a little odd. Still, 20 million people can’t be wrong.

- Alson Harper, Super Play #43

Remake or Remaster?

It’s a Shogi game, and there are other options out there that fulfil the same thing.

Official Ways to get the game

There’s official way to get the game, but for Shogi, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (Switch) does a good job.

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You might laugh now, but this would've actually been a nice pick up for a Shogi fan back in 1996.

Good Shogi games were a rarity back then because console CPUs just lacked the grunt needed to run the AI for a computer player at a decent speed.  In fact, the SNES game Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shogi 2 went as far as to include an ARM 7 CPU on the cartridge that was orders of magnitude more powerful than the console itself! (It's actually the single most advanced co-processor ever used in a SNES game by a longshot, with a CPU comperable to the GBA!).

Strongest Habu Shogi would've been the first time that we ever got a console Shogi game with actual worthwhile AI that didn't take an eternity to make a move.

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This sounds like a hefty endeavour, and I wish you great success, Cube. And more importantly, that you have a lot of fun exploring these hundreds of games.

You definitely made a really good review for Pilotwings (which doesn't sounds like my type of game at all), and I felt like the Mario 64 opener approached the game from a new perspective than I'm used to. They are fantastic to read, and I look forward to seeing more.

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Wave Race 64

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  • JP release: 27th September 1996
  • NA release: 4th November 1996
  • PAL release: 29th April 1997
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • N64 Magazine Score: 90%

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It took a few months for the Nintendo 64 for a new game, and when it game it met with glowing reviews. I do remember playing this slightly as a kid, and distinctly remember having a lot of trouble with it due to being awful at it. However, it was only short goes as it was a friend’s copy of the game.

Wave Race 64 is a jet ski racing game. Not only do you have to complete the circuits, but you have to pass buy buoys on the correct side. Miss one and you’ll lose some power, miss five and you’ll fail that race.

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Just a quick note about widescreen screenshots: some emulators can try to expand the view of games to work in widescreen, but a lot of games have issues with this. A few games have unofficial widescreen patches and some have action replay codes to make it run in widescreen. A very small amount of N64 games have widescreen support built in. For Wave Race, extending the view worked a charm, and the game looks great.

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It’s difficult to get across the look of Wave Race in screenshots – the ocean and how it moves is the main impressive part of the game. The ocean moves in a realistic way and it still stands out as water in games is still not easy to do today – to the point that it’s really games that are entirely focused on water that have proper wave simulation (games like Sea of Thieves). The water is also not just for looks – it affects the movement of your jet ski and you’ll have to work out how to race using them to your advantage.

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The levels in Wave Race also manage to feel distinctive, which is not an easy task for water based games. While I’ve just praised the waves a lot, one stand out level is Drake Lake – which doesn’t have waves. The level starts off foggy but clears up as you progress, with the lake having a silvery reflective surface. There’s something really beautiful about this level, even today.

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Another very memorable one is Southern Lake. In this level, the tide is going out. Each lap, the obstacles will be different due to the level of the water. A big pier blocks the way on the first lap, but you can zoom through its supports on later laps. Unfortunately, the game only has 8 courses (plus a bonus training course)

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There are three main difficulties in Wave Race, however the difficulty doesn’t just alter the enemy racers. Instead, the locations of the buoys are different, making navigating the levels much more difficult. You need to truly master the waves to succeed at the game and your reward is reverse mode, where you race across the tracks backwards, which makes the levels feel a lot different.

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Outside of the main championship mode, Wave Race offers time trial and a stunt mode. You can set your own high stores in the stunt mode as you have to make it to the next checkpoint while hitting rings and performing tricks. The other main move is a 2 player race.

Wave Race 64 doesn’t contain a lot of stuff, but there’s so much detail in what it does do that it makes up for it. It’s a really fun game that rewards skill and offers a significant challenge. Wave Race got a sequel on the GameCube, but there’s nothing out now that’s quite the same.

Quote

In one respect, Wave Race parallels the ground-breaking brilliance of Super Mario 64 in a way that Mario Kart 64 doesn’t

- Zy Nicholson, N64 Magazine #2

Remake or Remaster?

Wave Race: Blue Storm has been accused of being too much like a remake, so a new game would be a better option.

Official Ways to get the game

There is no way to buy a new copy of Wave Race 64, the only official way to play is to rent it via the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pak.

Re-releases

1997: Wave Race 64 Rumble Pak version (Japan only)

2007: Wii Virtual Console (this replaced the Kawasaki banners with Wii and DS logos)

2016: Wii U Version Console (this had the original graphics)

2022: Nintendo Switch Online (subscription only)

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Posted (edited)

It always feels strange to me to think that there was never an arcade version of Wave Race 64, because it really is basically an arcade game that just happened to get released for a console instead.

The gameplay and progression setup is basically perfect for the arcade format, and the visuals/physics would certainly have impressed even in comparison to its arcade peers of 1996 (hell, even from a pure technology perspective alone it outright blows away both SEGA's Wave Runner and Namco's Aqua Jet; which both released in 1996 on hardware vastly more powerful than the N64).  It's just a brilliant racing game, and still feels totally unique to play some 25+ years later (even amongst other water-based racing games; no other racing game actually utilises the wave-based physics for gameplay purposes like Wave Race does).

It's probably the best arcade racing game to never actually come out for the arcades.

Edited by Dcubed
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Mortal Kombat Trilogy

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  • NA release: 12th November 1996
  • PAL release: 14th March 1997
  • JP release: N/A
  • Developer: Midway & Williams Interactive
  • Publisher: Williams/GT Interactive
  • N64 Magazine Score: 34%

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I have absolutely no skill when it comes to fighting games. I have a terrible memory for special moves and I never know when to block or attack, so I’m not going to be a good judge for games like this. Mortal Kombat Trilogy is essentially Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 with some characters and stages from Mortal Kombat 2 and 3 added, although the aggression bar that makes you slightly more powerful is new.

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I know a game isn’t for me when the character selection screen is too difficult. Quite a few characters are just reskins of other characters, and there are no character names whatsoever on the character select screen. I tried to choose Sub Zero, pretty much the only Mortal Kombat character I know, but ended up with someone called Rain. Oh, and there’s a timer in the background so it will select whoever you are on when it runs out.

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I did manage to pull off one special move, and there are lots of fancy effects as punches and kicks are made. According to N64 magazine, though, it just simply isn’t as nice looking as the PlayStation version of the game. The N64 version also lacks a bunch of characters.

There are a few multiplayer modes where you can select multiple characters, but there’s not a lot to choose from. In singleplayer, you can fight through four difficulties, each having more fights to get through.

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Even setting things to “very easy”, I struggled to get the hang of this game. There’s no practice mode or move lists (that I could find in the confusing menu), other than using player 2 to stand there and do nothing.

Based on the comments from N64 magazine, there’s not much reason for anyone to play this version of the game. I did cheat my way though one of the campaigns to see different levels. I got to play a space invader clone at the end, which I enjoyed more than the main game.

Quote

A game that entertained through its sheer blood-slapped violence. But now it looks a tad weary. Like your Dad at a disco, it thinks it’s better than us

- Tim Weaver, N64 Magazine #4

Remake or Remaster?

This doesn’t need any special treatment, just included in collections.

Official ways to get the game.

The PC version of Mortal Kombat Trilogy is available through GOG.

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Hey @Cube, guess what… You’re wrong! Because the N64 version is actually the one used for competitive play and is generally considered to be the best version.

Not that I’m really a fan of Mortal Kombat in any form, but it’s a rare example of a 2D fighter on the system; and it’s nice to know that the console could do justice to these types of games.

Shame that it never got the likes of Marvel VS Capcom or the Darkstalkers games during its lifetime.  Bet that Capcom could’ve put out a banging version of those games if they used a decently sized cartridge.

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9 hours ago, Cube said:

I tried to choose Sub Zero, pretty much the only Mortal Kombat character I know, but ended up with someone called Rain

Oof. Yeah, having a bunch of characters just be the same recoloured ninja brings out so many problems. Later games in the series would do a lot more to differentiate these blokes.

Mortal Kombat is a fascinating series, in that there's an undeniable charm and identity to it (and its characters), but the fighting has always felt stiff as a board. It's a series I can easily ignore and respect at the same time.

That said, fighting games of the time were needlessly obtuse, and MK Trilogy seems to be a particularly bad case of it. The N64/PS1 era was when movelists and extra modes started to become standard, but this celebration of the series-thus-far just ignored all that, huh?

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Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey

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  • NA release: 15th November 1996
  • PAL release: 1st March 1997
  • JP release: 28th February 1998
  • Developer: Atari Games
  • Publisher: Midway/GT Interactive
  • N64 Magazine Score: 75%

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Sports games are a type of game where you get as much out of them as you want, providing you enjoy the core gameplay. Seasons can be incredibly long, and lots of these games are similar (especially yearly updates), so for the most part, I will be playing a bunch of matches and checking out different rules and settings.

My main knowledge of ice hockey is an EA game I played on the Mega Drive, but it’s a simple enough game to work out: get the puck into the opposing goal. I also picked the only team I recognized: the Mighty Ducks.

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Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey is very smooth, fast paced and a lot of fun. The controls are simple to use and there’s nothing to complicate things. I mainly played with Arcade settings, but more serious players can use Simulation settings which add things like fouls and injury time. You can also choose to have more realistic size ice rinks and up to 5 players.

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The characters look a bit blocky, but in a way that is quite adorable these days. The game looks nice and clean, with the puck easy to see. There are also some nice silly little touches like the goalkeeper turning into a wall to signify a great save – with the voiced commentary making a reference to it.

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You can play a single match, although oddly you can’t select your opponent without using a cheat code (the computer chooses at random). There is also a season mode which has a few options like half or full. Other than that, there aren’t a lot of nodes for the game.

Still, the core matches are a lot of fun and I can imagine it being great in multiplayer.

Quote

This super-fast, super-smooth Midway package turns out to be a strapping hunk of a game that’ll produce guffaws and gasps aplenty.

- Tim Weaver, N64 Magazine #6

Remake or Remaster?

I think a remaster or new game would be quite nice. Sports games these days are either serious or cartoony, so serious-but-a-bit silly would be a nice change.

Official Ways to get the game

There’s no official way to play Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey, and I don’t know enough about modern sports games to recommend an alternative.

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It’s a shame that arcade-style sports games basically don’t exist anymore.  The Dreamcast was really the last console that leaned heavily into the genre, as simulation sports really took over from the PS2 onwards; and the last vestiges of the genre were snuffed out alongside the death of Midway in 2008.

The N64 does have a good few examples in its library though, and it’s a particular strength of the platform (though not quite to the same extent as the Dreamcast; certainly more so than the PS1 and Saturn).  Though WG3DH is a good place for the genre to start on the console, there’s certainly better to come.

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Wonder Project J2

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  • JP release: 22nd November 1996
  • PAL release: N/A
  • NA release: NA
  • Developer: Givro
  • Publisher: Enix
  • N64 Magazine Score: 55%

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A Japanese-only point and click adventure for the N64, and sequel to a SNES game called Wonder Project J. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this, but N64 magazine gave it a 55% and said that the main character was “Pinnochio-esqe”. Thankfully, there is a fan-made English translation patch available for this, so I don’t need to resort to other methods to try and read it.

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You play as…yourself, a being from another world that the main character, Josette, can’t see. You communicate to Josette though a robot called “bird” and can point at things as well as say “yes” or “no”. Josette herself is also a robot, trying to learn how things work in the world. When trying new things, she will try something (often eating something) and you will need to let her know if this is right or wrong.

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In order to solve puzzles, you will have to mess around with Josette’s teachings and moods. For example, in one objective, you need to teach her to be nasty to a cat so she gets scalded and learn that harming things is wrong. Movies can be uses to put her in a certain mood to help with certain activities. When out and about, Josette heads off on her own, giving you no direct input. It sounds boring, but it works really well, like trusting your kid to go out for the first time.

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Wonder Project J2 also has a few 3D sequences. You can pilot a submarine and aircraft, with controls getting better the longer you stick with them. Underwater, you have to search for treasures and catch a lot of fish, while in the air, you shoot down unmanned aircraft of the oppressive army controlling the island. These segments are nice to begin with, but fulfilling everything is a bit tiresome.

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Another 3D segment is a mine you can explore, trying to find some lost treasure, as well as mining for a special kind of stone – getting jobs and making money is a requirements to buy everything needed to teach Josette. Luckily, this part is quite short.

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Through the wonderful animation, you can see Josette change throughout the game. She struggles at walking to begin with, falling over a lot, but slowly gets better and learns to run, dance and much more. It’s subtle and works really well, and Josette herself is incredibly charming (although you can be mean and force her to be more serious if you really want to).

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There are 25 tasks to do, most are lovely little stories. One in particular is quite annoying: you have to improve Josette’s strength to fight a member of the army, but you can’t see Josette’s stats to fighting and losing is the only way to check if you’ve done enough. Everything else in the 2D style, however, is just incredibly charming

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You don’t need to complete all 25 achievements, but I did it anyway. A friend of Josette’s will get ill and helping her will trigger the events leading to the end of chapter 1. Chapter 2 is unfortunately not great. You get a long cutscene followed by a maze segment as Josette loses her memories. You walk around in circles answering questions about what you’ve on in the game.

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After another long cutscene, you get captures and need to escape in another 3D maze, this time with guards chasing you. There are handy markers on the ceiling that gives you clues to the right direction. After this is done…well, sit back because the last 45 minutes or so of the game has no player input.

The story gets a bit odd towards the end, but still interesting. It definitely needs some playable moments, though.

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For not expecting much from Wonder Project J2, I ended up loving it, particularly chapter 1, which is the majority of the game. The translation is great (apart from a few uses of negatives in questions where I responded wrong) and has made the game playable for people that don’t understand Japanese. This is a very unique game and I’m very glad that I’ve played it.

Quote

If your tastes run to the slightly esoteric and you’ve got far too much money it’s an intriguing little title that’ll probably never see the light of day over here

 

- Wil Overton, N64 Magazine #1

Remake or Remaster?

Considering they have new sprite work for the iPhone version, a remake with an official translation would be lovely – especially if they can do a bit more with chapter 2.

Official ways to get the game.

There is no official way to get Wonder Project J2.

Other versions

Wonder Project J2 got a mobile port at some point, but other than some screenshots, I don’t know when. The game was also released on iPhone in 2010 with redrawn graphics, but I can’t find any details other than the initial announcement.

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Oh wow! Had no idea there was an iPhone version!

Would love to see an official English version at some point.  Very unique game :)

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