My first true obsession, dating back to when I was far too young to be addicted to anything at all, was without a doubt Pokemon. My first ever Pokemon game was Blue, followed by Red and then Yellow. As I said; I was well and truly hooked. After receiving my Nintendo 64, it was Pokemon Snap that had me enthralled. My parents, being the ones who fueled the fire of my Pokemon video game dependency, didn’t necessarily know what the title was, but saw Pokemon and naturally believed it to be a good choice…it was!
Pokemon Snap took players on a journey into the realm of Pokemon in a way unlike any previous game. It was NOT a turn-based RPG, for one, and you could not capture and collect Pokemon. It was, instead, a game about a young photographer who just so happens to live in the Pokemon world. For the very first time it felt like I, as the player, was directly interacting with the world I dreamed of being one with. Knocking a Charmeleon into an active volcano did not result in it’s untimely death but in it’s evolution revealing a powerful Charizard where a Charmeleon once stood. Secrets like this littered the game, and considering the internet was not such a prevalent element in my personal world, it was conversing with friends that revealed them.
Pokemon Snap felt like a Pokemon game, but the only features that it and the mainstay titles shared were, in fact, the Pokemon, and yet it still retained the wondrous sense of adventure that made Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow instantaneous hits.
Pokemon Stadium 2
Okay, this, this was my jam. If I were to encapsulate my childhood in one console, it would be the N64. Sure I loved a bunch of other consoles, but this may be the one that started it all. It was just so cool and there were so many games to enjoy. Goldeneye, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Perfect Dark, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Stadium 2, Blast Corps, Yoshi’s Story, Episode I Podracer…and those are just some of the ones I played.
Though clunky and somewhat confusing given the controls of games today, the N64 was the first major foray into the 3rd dimension of the fictional world. No more side-scrolling, we were in full blown worlds. It was such a defining moment of childhood that many people still hold these games in the highest regard. Super Mario 64 broke the mould of everyone’s favourite plumber and showed that paintings are way scarier than you ever thought possible. Ocarina of Time presented an epic tale that spanned time itself and Smash Bros fulfilled a fantasy children didn’t even know they had. Seriously, Mario and Pikachu in one game? What a world to live in.
Still, grandiose statements aside, the N64 was the console I spent hours upon hours playing and replaying. The amount of time I spent in Facility in Goldeneye cannot be measured by conventional means, my failed attempts at toppling the AT-ATs in that confounded canyon caused enough anger to power a small star and the number of logs sliced in the Pokemon Stadium 2 minigame may have put me on a deforestation watch list. Still, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fun. Like, I’m sure that the games don’t all hold up remarkably, but in my mind, they’ll always be amazing. Except for the escort mission in Jungle for Goldeneye. See kids? Escort missions have always been terrible.
Star Fox 64
I’ll be honest, the Nintendo 64 was a console I had very sporadic interaction with, mainly because I was enthralled by the 32 bit offerings of the PlayStation and Saturn. The 64 bits of the Nintendo 64 didn’t mean much to me without CD quality sound and CGi FMV cutscenes. Still, when it came to pure real-time graphical prowess the Nintendo 64 was ahead of the pack. That, and my parents thought the cartridges were too darn expensive.
The only time I got to play the N64 was at other people’s homes, bet it family friends or distant relatives, but sporadically I got to play the likes of Goldeneye, Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, WWF Warzone, Diddy Kong Racing, and even obscurities like Mischief Makers. There were certainly a few games I envied N64 owners for, and those were 64 bit sequels to my favourite SNES games, namely Donkey Kong 64 and Star Fox 64, and towards the end of the system’s life, the ever elusive Japanese import Sin and Punishment.
Star Fox 64 amazed me, for being a bigger and badder sequel to what was the first video game I remember playing (Star Fox on the SNES). The production values were absolutely impressive, from the epic set pieces to the huge boss battles, and not to mention voiced banter among the Star Fox team. Star Fox 64 to me was a real showcase of why 64 bits were better than 32 bits. In hindsight I prefer the SNES game a tad more, but Star Fox 64 is still the N64 title that left the most lasting impression on me, and I enjoy the excellent 3DS remake to this day.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Ok, now here is where it starts to pick up. The Nintendo 64 was released whilst I was alive, by the time I had one all the games were much cheaper (and easier to rent at blockbuster), and I had full access to a plethora of controllers and add-ons. The only problem: I did not have much drive to play it. Now, let me explain. By the time I was 8 or 9 I was playing PS2 and Xbox which meant that the games I was playing were much more graphically inclined. This led to me playing the N64 in the same way as I do with most consoles in this day and age, for specific games. Killer Instinct Gold, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, Turok. The one that took the cake was the Zelda series, specifically Majoras Mask.
Ocarina of Time was a great game which left me many a memory. But Majora’s Mask… Well… Man that was a trip. When in retrospect Majora’s Mask seems almost like some forgotten fever dream I had as a child after watching too many episodes of Courage the Cowardly Dog because why wouldn’t it. It was the standard Zelda fair, beat the bad guy, save the world, leave triumphant. Only you had three days to do it.
The surreal symbolism of the whole game, with a tone that was dark and bleak, leads me to believe that it spawned a few psychopaths (if Grand Theft Auto spawned murderers then Majora’s Mask made at least 1 sociopath). The game had an overwhelming sense of loss and despair as clock town, that one town with the clock, preparing for the end as the moon prepares to fall to earth, killing them all. Some prepare by climbing on a roof and mocking the moon, assuring Link that their sons have already fled, some cower in a corner scared to face their end (I am looking at you sword guy), or some, in one of the most truly disturbing and upsetting stories, drug their little sister so as to numb any pain or worry she would have, singing sweet nothings to her as they prepare for the end. Them Romani’s have it tough.
My most vivid memory of this game is that when you used the Zora or Goron mask, which you needed to progress, there would be a little cut scene of Link getting ready, prepping the mask, putting it on, AND THEN RELEASING THE MOST GUTTURAL SCREAM OF SHEER AGONY AND PAIN AS THE MASK WARPS HIS FIGURE RIPPING APART HIS BODY LIMB FROM LIMB TO CREATE A MONSTER IN A DEAD MANS IMAGE. Which makes me think, screw you Nintendo, I just listened to this fish monster drone on about nonsense for 5 minutes before he carked it and now I have to physically torture my hero just to get arm boomerangs? OK, it was worth it. Alright Link, back in the torture chamber. Daddy needs to stun some clams.
Jet Force Gemini
I have many great memories of the Nintendo 64, whether it be playing Super Mario 64 for the first time, exploring the full 3D environment of Ocarina of Time or getting my smash on in Super Smash Bros. But one memory stands out as probably my favourite, that is playing the little known gem by Rareware, Jet Force Gemini.
Jet Force Gemini was somewhat of an anomaly, a incredibly difficult 3rd person shooter/platformer that was a real challenge for young me. The challenge was all part of the thrill for me and I found myself spending days on the same level just trying desperately to get to the next stage or unlock the next playable character. My favourite character was the space dog naturally. It was one hell of a fun game, maybe not revolutionary, but a really fun game that I spent many many hours of my life playing and I look fondly back on Jet Force Gemini as my favourite game on the Nintendo 64.