Category Archives: Nintendo 64

NBA Hang Time

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NBA Hang Time isn’t your run-of-the-mill basketball game trying to constantly remind you of how well it simulates a real match. This is in fact a pristine example of the 90’s extravaganza when it came to sports games and how simulation wasn’t our thing back then.

This one is fast paced and slightly too silly for today’s standards, boasting physics-defying movements, impossible alley oops and dunks that would require the moon’s gravity to work out. Everything looks so flashy that sometimes it’s not enough to make the point, you have to make it with style, doing stuff like front flips or spins in the air.

The character models aren’t life-like at all which teams up well with the incredibly fast movements. After a few points without your adversary making any you’ll be “on-fire”. Of course Midway doesn’t take things figuratively since the ball actually gets aflame and your points completely burn out the net. Insane stuff, but incredibly addictive.

You play on teams of 2 against 2 and have 4 players playing at once if you have the hardware and the personnel available. Or you can go single player against the CPU which works surprisingly well, it will most of the time try you alley oops and be an actual asset to your team. The player roster is the main one from mid to late 1990’s, in a time when developers didn’t really feel the need to release another game every years because of newer players with basically the same gameplay.

The actual basketball game is pretty solid, the players all have differing stats which demand different strategies. Like stronger players tend to be harder to get back the ball from while faster players are much more nimble but will lose the ball frequently. The best team in here is the Chicago Bulls who ruled the game in the 90’s, even though it lacks Michael Jordan because of when it was released.

Another great feature is the character customization which is as silly if not sillier than the actual game. You’re given the change to create werewolves and aliens to play, meddle with their stats and overall characteristics. Something else that might have been taken directly from Mortal Kombat series is the number input before the match unlocking new players and some cool stuff. You have a few moments to input the codes and become a happier person.

The graphics are reminiscent from the arcades and the music is incredible, especially the half-time break which sports a rap about being a god-like basketball player and enjoy a game made by Midway, stuff like that. Something unthinkable these days. The whole adrenaline fueled soundtrack is simply amazing.

There’s not much else to say than this game is pure fun. Especially playing with a group of friends. It’s full of memes yo might actually catch on before memes even existed. Stuff like “there’s no stopping him!”, “he goes to the hoop” and “boom Shakalaka” are some of the gems spoken by the narrator. Definitely a forgotten jewel that only the 90’s would have the guts to produce.

Wave Race 64

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One of the first real 3D games to ever grace our beloved gaming world is not too shabby. Wave Race actually got its kick off 4 years before in a Game Boy release. Going from the extreme simplicity of a legacy handheld system to one of the first games in Nintendo’s first true venture in 3D was a task that was ultimately well-accomplished.

Something that might have stuck into the head of many early-adopters was how beautiful the water looked right from the get-go. This was probably one of the reasons Nintendo chose to release this title as some kind of special premiere. The graphics had much to be shown and the realism of water is still one of the best aspects one can chose to demonstrate such power due to how complex liquid movements are to replicate through programming.

The game offered its good share of challenge. Four racers were available to be chosen, an all-rounder, a turner, a speeder and a girl who controlled much like the turner. You could choose to race in default settings for each racer or tune any choice of more sophisticated settings. These weren’t sophisticated at all, simply three bars that had the player choose setting it to left or right, changing radically how the jet-ski would react.

The three settings were handling, engine and grip. For handling you could go all the way left resulting in light maneuvering or all the way to the right resulting in a harder to control heavier machine. Obviously a lighter machine would turn better but lose speed much easier as well. For engine you could set for dash, giving it full acceleration, or top end, for a better top speed. The grip had the loose and tight aspects attached to it. Loose meant the jet-ski was wobblier, more susceptible to be thrown off its axis, while tight meant it was more likely to go straight without problems.

Given the differing nature of tracks and how revolting the waves could be the right tweaking of these settings could avoid headaches, especially on higher difficulty levels. The most notable change when it came to difficulty levels was the fact that newer tracks were being thrown in while still retaining the final track. For example, in medium setting Twilight City would be one of the tracks while the hardest difficulty had Gacier Coat added together. You had not only to face tougher enemies, but also play more, harder courses.

Some courses even had different weather effects during each laps which resulted in completely different paths you had to take each time. The championship was the regular whoever had the most points in the end wins it all with some problems in the mix. For instance, you had to take the official course by maneuvering around the buoys indicating the left or the right side, if you crossed the buoy on the wrong side you were penalized, after 5 misses you were disqualified, no questions asked.

The buoy system works pretty much like alpine skiing where the competing athlete had to snake around the flags, only in this case, the sea. By making correct turns around the buoys you fill a bar low on the screen which controls how fast you can go, after 5 hits you reached maximum speed and would hold that until the end of the race or until you missed a buoy, requiring the player to cross 5 correct corner all over again.

Aside from the main racing campaign there was a stunt mode which had you doing flips and tricks as fast as you could while passing through loops around the tracks to rank up points. Ramps could be used to make the few air-borne tricks present. Another mode had you simply jet-skiing around an island while dolphins came and went, another good argument to the fact Nintendo really meant users to see what the Nintendo 64 was capable of at the time, and since, along with Super Mario 64, this was probably the first game a lot of gamers played on their Nintendo 64, I’d say it was a good move.

The multiplayer was good, basic but good nonetheless; and since Super Mario 64 didn’t have a multiplayer mode, it was made sure to deliver at least some experience when it came to multiple players. Unfortunately, probably because the framerate would sink down to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, it only featured 2 player multiplayer. Seeing as one of the most distinctive features, physically, of the Nintendo 64 was the 4-plug front which at the time was absolutely exclusive, it was probably a shame that some people din’t get to fully enjoy a 4-player mode. Still, from a technical standpoint, it was understandable.

When it comes to primordial racing Wave Race is a pretty good choice. It was one of the first ventures of Nintendo into 3D and it didn’t disappoint. Sure it might not look as hot and cool today as it was back in the day, the controls might not have aged well enough especially taking in consideration that you would have to go back to the Nintendo 64 analog stick and it was one of the first games to feature controls for it, this fact alone might scare off even the bravest of the brave.

Donkey Kong 64

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By the time Donkey Kong 64 was getting released the once-successful breed of 3D platformers was slowly dying. With Rare leaving Nintendo in the next generation, the advent of the Nintendo 64’s successor wasn’t nice to the genre. Donkey Kong, along with Banjo-Tooie by the same incredible Rare we all loved and worshiped was the last breath of platforming in 3D.

At least we can’t say the ride hadn’t been fun, some of the best games in history are probably from around that era. Donkey Kong 64 had the colossal task of living up to expectations of not only being an established Nintendo franchise handled by the hottest game developer at the time, but also the ghost of one of the most successful trilogies of all time,¬†Donkey Kong Country.

I still remember being completely immersed in how grand this game felt right from the beginning. It had taken its lessons with Super Mario 64 and most notably Banjo-Kazooie to create such an expanding world that was almost unimaginable at the time. Not only that, Donkey Kong 64 had to come bundled with the Nintendo 64 memory expansor, as worth noted that some past games had some features that required the use of it, but not completely — like Perfect Dark that allowed only certain multiplayer setting and no single player campaign in case you didn’t have the add-on.

The same publisher that brought us the Super Nintendo trilogy and the highly-acclaimed Banjo-Kazooie was the best suited for the task. In fact, Fungi Forest, one of the worlds within Donkey Kong 64 was originally intended for Banjo-Kazooie but since the game was already full of levels they decided to keep it for their next project. The classic Rare is found all over this game as one might expect.

Something that was noticeable back in the day but it’s even more now is that this game holds some of the darkest, gloomiest atmospheres in any video-game. Dare I say that even exclusively horror-themed iterations like Resident Evil and Silent Hill wouldn’t be able to propose such a demented set of weirdness. Everything is dark, sinister in nature. Some levels are especially morbid, like Frantic Factory with that circus melody haunting the player from start to finish, or Gloomy Galleon turning into night, featuring explosions all over the place and a full abyss-like bay, deep and macabre.

The main Villain is King K. Rool, back from the early days of Donkey Kong Country. The sections in which the main antagonist appears from his secret hideout just plotting against the kong just reiterates how dark this game is. Once again the stack of bananas from the kongs is stolen, but not only Donkey and Diddy go for the rescue this time, we actually have five playable characters joining the good fight.

Donkey, Diddy, Tiny (which controls pretty much like dixie with her hair), Lanky and Crunky Kong. Each kong has its own abilities and collectibles that can only be performed or obtained by playing with that kong. To figure out which one is which they used different colors, so any yellow coins is a Donkey Kong coin, while a red one is Diddy’s. To change kong you need to go into one of the kong select barrels scattered around the levels.

Other stuff like pads with each kong face stamped onto them or musical instrument pads played by each kong are also part of the experience. By learning how to play an instrument, a kong will have a different instrument usable in determined pads; Donkey plays a pair of bongos while Lanky plays a trombone. So certain areas can only be triggered by one specific kong while others require two or more of them in different moments.

Its focus is exploration, so the number of enemies found won’t be too large, generally a few in specific locations that can easily be overcome. The collectibles play a huge role in this, there’s so many of them that this game is still listed in the Guinness World Records book as the game that has the largest number of collectibles in any game. You can easily see why since getting all the many different items and abilities for just one kong would be quite a task already, but since there’s five of them you simply multiply both the work and the fun by five.

As weird as it may sound it also features a multiplayer mode which brought great fun when I was younger, though very limited. In the main game the kongs get different types of weapons that shoot stuff like seeds, fruits or some kind of food; for example, coconuts, peanuts or pineapples. Again, each kong has a different ammunition type, Lanky Kong, for instance, has a zarabatana that shoots some kind of purple blob. In multiplayer mode you play in third-person perspective shooting wooden-made weapons with stuff like feathers as ammunition. Not the best thing ever but could keep a few people amused for a time.

The soundtrack reminds the good days of Banjo-Kazooie for a reason, the composer is also Grant Kirkhope who at the time was the man to go for Rare’s soundtrack after the success of both Banjo and Goldeneye 007’s soundtrack. Unique in its own greatness, the soundtrack just offers the additional atmosphere around the whole thing.

Donkey Kong 64 might be the game that showcased Rare’s final scope in games, a game that is larger than life, completely worth the grandeur that Donkey Kong games demanded. Just having the original Country trilogy as a ghost would be something to keep the team awake at night. Still, they ended up making a terrific job with this title, one of the last legendary 3D platformers of its day certainly earned its way in the history of video-games.