Rediscovering the Nintendo 64

After years of disuse, the Nintendo 64 makes a comeback

Being a younger 20-something, I grew up with the Nintendo 64 gaming console. I remember my friends and I used to host parties just to play video games. Between eating snack foods and drinking unhealthy portions of Surge, we would play Donkey Kong 64 and Mario Kart until well past midnight. Nintendo 64 was a large part of my childhood.

I never got rid of my Nintendo. Now, I’ve never gotten rid of any of my gaming consoles with the exception of my PC (I still have my original Gameboy, that glorious gray brick). But my Nintendo, though it sat for many years dormant in my bedroom, was special.

About three years ago, I got my Xbox 360, and I got hooked on games like Halo 3, BioShock, and of course, Portal. Games of today are terrific, with compelling storylines that motivate the players through the gameplay. What’s great about games today is that they are so story-driven it is like being inserted into a movie. This story is much of the reason that today’s games have such fandom.

About a year ago, I found the Nintendo 64 in my closet, and decided to dust it off and move it into our media room. Just to relive some memories, I played Super Mario 64 and a little Super Smash Bros. I forgot how completely addictive these games are. True, the games have such a low resolution that the pixels are glaringly obvious on a 50-inch screen, but the gameplay is so fun, it doesn’t matter. I played with the Nintendo 64 for several afternoons, until switching back to the Xbox.

A welcomed Christmas present

Several months passed without touching my Nintendo and Christmas 2010 was approaching.  My friend Nicole came over to exchange presents a few days before Christmas.  She had been asking for weeks about a particular gift, trying to be sneaky but I had my suspicions.  When we exchanged, my suspicions had been confirmed.  At the bottom of a festive bag, there laid a green box, with Halo Reach on the cover.  I had been waiting anxiously to play, and after hearing so many positive reviews on the game, I don’t think I could have waited less time to play.  The campaign was great, the multiplayer was well done, and Forge World was spectacular.

Days passed with me shooting aliens and building new fun maps to play with my friends.  Every day until Christmas I played Reach.  It was a great upgrade to Halo 3 and ODST.  

Christmas Day 2010 was one of the best ever.  Everyone in my family woke up with smiles, and we excitedly began opening presents.  Though I am not a great shopper and some family members are hard to shop for, I looked forward to them opening my gifts to them; I felt I had done well.  Every present I opened was fantastic.  I got a brand new bike, a pair of new shoes, and lots of clothes.  

When it was time for the siblings to exchange gifts, my younger sister Olivia handed me two presents.  As I started tearing away at the wrapping paper, I saw Diddy Kong Racing and Mario Golf, two cartridge games for the Nintendo 64.  She had remembered me wishing I had more games for the console so many months ago.

Later Christmas day I wanted to play Diddy Kong Racing.  I inserted the cartridge and tuned the TV to one of the Video inputs.  None of the inputs were showing the game.  After ten minutes of trying to get the game to work, I tried Mario Golf instead.  Mario Golf worked, and my sister and I played a round of golf.  After the game, she was a little disappointed that one of her gifts to me was defective, and I felt bad for her.  I reassured to her that I really appreciated the gift, and it was very thoughtful.  

A great surprise

The next day I asked my other sister if she’d like to play Mario Golf, and she did. As I was getting the Nintendo ready, I looked at the Diddy Kong Racing cartridge. Now, remember, since the days of Nintendo, gaming systems migrated to discs, which are easily ruined. Our first copy of Rock Band 2 was destroyed by our Xbox; it had cut a huge scratch several times around the disc. I tried the Diddy Kong Racing cartridge again with the same settings as when we had played Mario Golf, and it didn’t work. Just then, a little bit of my childhood came back to me, and I remembered the no-fail fix-it for cartridge games.

I inhaled a huge gulp of air, and blew as hard as I could into the cartridge. I expected a little dust in my face, but there was none. I inserted the game with a little hope, and turned on the system. And there it was, the game popped on like a charm. Before playing a single round, I went upstairs to my sister’s bedroom to tell her the good news. We set a time that we could play when she was available, and I could tell she was happy. My other sister and I spent the next few hours enjoying the game, laughing maniacally one second and yelling at the TV the next. It was all great fun.

That night, I ordered a new controller and Mario Party 2. The days that passed seemed to take forever, but Mario Party 2 came in a shorter time than I expected. The first round of the game I played with my younger sister, as she was the reason I was playing with my Nintendo at all. I had remembered the game being fun, but I underestimated that fun. We were so into the game that the console almost fell off the shelf. The mini-games are the most fun I have ever had with any video game ever (Hexagon Heat!!). I have played almost every night this week, and I can’t wait to play tonight.

I began wondering why I wanted to play games that are well over a decade old. Is it because I am feeling nostalgic? Maybe, but I have a better theory. In these current times, “social” is really thrown around a lot. I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Skype, AIM, Gmail, and a few other social networks. I have used Xbox Live many times before with friends, and it is a lot of fun. But it is less-than-social to hear my friends at the other end of a headset. Games are fun for a while, but it takes total interaction with friends to be really entertaining. I still play with my Xbox, in fact my friend Phillip and I played Reach’s co-op campaign all the way through on New Year’s Eve. But there’s just some kind of magical aura about the Nintendo 64.

Now, Mario Party 2 is great fun, and I’m sure I could play several rounds by myself, but games like Mario Party, Super Smash Bros., or Diddy Kong Racing aren’t meant to be played alone. These are the real social games. In almost all of the mini-games of Mario Party 2, the characters are competing together instead of being divided into four little boxes. These are the games where people set aside time to be with each other and share some laughs and some friendly competition.  Mario Party is a textbook video game; it essentially is a board game, but with gameplay that couldn't possibly exist on a physical game board.  I’ve already begun inviting people over to play on the Nintendo 64, and I am planning to have a little tournament with Mario Party 2, Super Smash Bros., and maybe Mario Party 3, which I haven’t played since the time it was released. This little rediscovery makes me wish games of today would take a few pointers from the games of the last generation.

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