Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation CD32 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 23rd Jun 1996 2002  5.54M
North America 26th Sep 1996 2003  20.63M
Europe 1st Mar 1997 2003  6.75M

How do you follow-up two classic consoles like the Super Nintendo and the Nintendo Entertainment System?  For Nintendo it was the 64.  The Nintendo 64 was a 3D powerhouse designed to compete with Sony‘s Playstation and Sega‘s Saturn.

The first difference in this generation was the game medium, after the fiasco with the Super Nintendo and the CD system being designed by Sony (which ended up at the Playstation), Nintendo decided to stick to cartridges, unlike their competitors who changed to the cheaper and far more versatile CD.

Even the choice of technology wasn’t without drama.  The 3D capabilities were driven by a custom SGI chip.  SGI were masters of 3D, known for their workstations that helped deliver early CGI film effects.

But Nintendo weren’t the first potential customers, Sega were the original partners, but in a move just like Nintendo‘s own Sony CD decision, Sega Japan decided they couldn’t work with SGI.

Whilst the Nintendo 64 didn’t win in it’s generation, it was beaten by the Playstation.  It was certainly a powerful machine and delivered several revolutionary games.

Mario 64 and GoldenEye laid down the rules for 3D platformers and console FPSs respectively.  Mario Kart showed that fast local multiplayer games were a reality and Zelda: Ocarina of Time showed that story driven games were still possible on a cartridge medium.

The Nintendo 64 had 4 ports built-in and many games supported local multiplayer.  Nintendo also sold controllers in a variety of colours.

In an effort to support some of the advantages of CD (such as streaming music and larger storage size) Nintendo released the 64DD.  This was a magneto-optical storage system that more resembled large floppy disks than CDs.

The add-on wasn’t very popular and most games were cancelled, in the end it only came out in Japan (although a US prototype had been found).  As an example of how versatile the system could have been, the F-Zero X extension kit was released which added a map editor.

In the end the high price of the cartridges compared to the CDs of the Playstation stopped Nintendo from truly competing.  The Nintendo 64 would be the last console with cartridge support for quite a while.

Specs

Processor NEC 64 bit VR4300 @ 93.75MHz
RAM 4MB Rambus with an optional 4MB upgrade
ROM 512K
Custom Chips SGI RCP @ 62.5MHz (Reality Processor)
Video 16.8M Colours, first to support trilinear filtering
Audio 16 x 64 bit 44KHz DSP Channels
Removable storage

Nintendo 64
N64 DD
N64 Controller

 

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