Hyper - - FEATURE -

If you were an Aussie kid in the ‘90s, there’s a good chance you re­mem­ber A*maz­ing, a game show for chil­dren that aired on Chan­nel 7 five nights a week. The sec­ond-to-last round, which de­ter­mined the team that got to en­ter the epony­mous maze, fea­tured a videogame show­down be­tween the two com­pet­ing schools. The play­ers would face o“ across var­i­ous games and con­soles do­nated by Nintendo. If you stuck around for long enough, you saw the show progress from NES games in the early years, to a SNES, and fi­nally an N64. It was smart mar­ket­ing on Nintendo Aus­tralia’s part: at the time, kids were very much Nintendo’s tar­get au­di­ence, and the show made com­pet­ing in these games look ex­cit­ing.

The Nintendo 64 was the fam­ily-friendly party con­sole. Even its more vi­o­lent games – most no­tably Rare’s shoot­ers – were fairly light on graphic con­tent and adult sit­u­a­tions, and most of the sys­tem’s more pop­u­lar ‘adult’ games seemed to come from a sin­gle pub­lisher, Ac­claim. You could have a per­fectly good time with the N64 if you stuck to the games with cute mas­cots.

The PlayS­ta­tion may have beaten it in sales, but it was the Nintendo kids who were get­ting to­gether for gam­ing fo­cused sleep-overs. The four con­troller ports helped – four-player gam­ing re­quired an ad­di­tional de­vice on the PlayS­ta­tion, so few games on the sys­tem sup­ported more than two. Nintendo them­selves pub­lished 37 mul­ti­player games in the west, along with their third-party ti­tles. For many, this is still looked back at as the golden age. Gold­en­eye and Per­fect Dark are re­mem­bered with ex­cep­tional fond­ness (even if nei­ther has aged as well as you might like) as are the likes of Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Rac­ing, and the Mario Party se­ries (de­spite the game’s pro­cliv­ity for in­jur­ing play­ers – see box­out).

The N64 was also, of course, the ma­chine where Nintendo’s sales and pop­u­lar­ity dipped dra­mat­i­cally. The ma­chine gar­nered a rep­u­ta­tion as a ma­chine for kids, which was far more dam­ag­ing a rep­u­ta­tion than it had been pre­vi­ously.

If you wanted se­ri­ous mul­ti­player, well, on­line play was start­ing to take o“ on PC. Why gather your friends to­gether, some asked, when you can play Quake II against any­one in the world on­line? This sen­ti­ment would spread over the next sev­eral con­sole gen­er­a­tions, as on­line play be­came an ex­cit­ing prospect, and even­tu­ally an es­sen­tial func­tion.

For many, the en­dur­ing legacy of the N64 were the real tech­ni­cal mar­vels, the Su­per Mario 64s and the Oca­rina of Times and what-have-you, the sin­gle-player ex­pe­ri­ences that showed o“ the ma­chine’s abil­i­ties. But to re­ally un­der­stand what the N64 achieved, bring up Gold­en­eye or Mario Kart 64 in any crowd of peo­ple aged be­tween 23 and 35 and watch how many eyes light up.

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