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The 20th Anniversary of Nintendo 64

The 20th Anniversary of Nintendo 64

You may remember Sega's approach to taking on the industry leader Nintendo in the early 90's. It was a strategy that started with befriending Nintendo's enemies (or perturbed partners) and offering more friendly and balanced business opportunities. Many of Nintendo's retailers and game developers were fed up with staunch licensing agreements, limited releases on products and overall unfavorable deals that Nintendo could exploit because they had a virtual monopoly on the market. As Sega broke through to the mainstream on the heels of a red-shoed, lightning fast Hedgehog named Sonic, they eventually found themselves in equal market share with Nintendo around 1993. This was a feat that many thought impossible and Sega fans came to love about their new game provider. But as Sega grew, they came to a crossroads where they could no longer simply be nicer than Nintendo. They needed to create unique products and innovate if they wanted to keep their upward momentum. The decision waffled between developing hardware and software, leading to a few victories (Sonic 2 & 3) and some failures (Sega CD). Of course, this verdict is based on sales volume; many Next Level Sega fanatics found Sega CD to be an amazing addition to the market.

Advocates of Sega loved the avant-garde attitude. They were often edgy, in-your-face and never apologized for doing so. Similarly, their most loyal fans became the same way. As this competition grew more serious, for the first time Nintendo was backed into a corner. However, Nintendo's president, Minoru Arakawa, was not rattled by this shift in the market because he felt that Nintendo's strength was developing software and that would ensure their longevity in video gaming. No matter how advanced a console could be, or how relentless an advertising campaign could be, it wouldn't matter if consumers didn't love the games that were developed for the platform. Largely, this approach was true and Nintendo doubled down, placing their bets on lead game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto. Fortunately for gamers, this competition created the environment that became the golden age of gaming. In the early to mid 90's, gamers saw the creation of Super Mario World, Zelda: A Link To The Past, Mega Man X, & Super Metroid from Nintendo. After introduction of these beloved characters came from the NES console, the next wave continued to impress users as graphics improved and gameplay became more dynamic on the Super Nintendo. Miyamoto largely focused his energies on expanding the Mario and Zelda franchises, using the Super Nintendo's 16-bit graphics and power to create new versions of widely popular classics from the NES. 

image: Rolling Stone

image: Rolling Stone

As the race for hardware continued, we were introduced to the Nintendo 64 console in 1996. Initial console bundles came equipped with Super Mario 64. In its first year, we also received Mario Kart 64. Following closely behind Mario, was Goldeneye 007, one of retro gaming's most popular multi-player, first-person shooters. We believe it's important to note that Goldeneye was probably responsible for the term "screen looker" to be developed.

By 1997, Nintendo hit their stride with the N64 by reinventing their iconic story arcs in a truly 3-D world. A slew of accessories added to the gameplay experience, such as the Rumble Pack that plugged into the controller and vibrated or "rumbled" at strategic moment integrated into games. The pack launched with Star Fox 64, which blew gamers away with it's stellar graphics and interactive gameplay. Next, Nintendo took another classic and turned it into an instant hit in Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Miyamoto felt this version was the closest experience to his original intent of the Zelda franchise due to its ability to interact, explore and move in a vast virtual world. Gamers found themselves running or riding Epona through the expansive field of Hyrule before entering the castle for hours on end. Perhaps the most memorable moments of the game centered on the ocarina instrument itself. Whether you were unlocking storyline or abilities by learning songs or merely freestyling for fun, Nintendo again found a way for gamers to be utterly sucked into the gameplay.

Whether it was one of the original titans launched on N64 or a later developed game, Nintendo again was able to create something special for gamers. It was a fusion of state-of-art graphics, stellar games designs and infatuating stories, and stable, reliable branding from a company that never shied away from the fight and always stuck to their guns. As we honor twenty years of success, break out your Jungle Green controller, grab your favorite cartridge and fire up the N64 one more time!

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