Part Four (Part One can be found HERE; Part Two can be found HERE; Part Three HERE)
So my brother and I were still playing our Sega Genesis when the Nintendo Dolph- er, Nintendo 64, launched. (Seriously, codename dolphin? Lmao!). Once again, we were behind in video gaming, and, true to his word (See Part TWO of this series), my father refused to bring us up to speed. My parents were not going to be buying us a Nintendo 64, despite our protestations, begging, and claims of child abuse. (What? Overdramatic? I think not. We were, after all, talking about a revoultion! 3D man!
All seemed lost, until the ugliness that was forced religious indoctrination actually came through for us in a positive way. You see, my brother's catholic confirmation was coming up, and my grandfather decided that, rather than going the traditional route and give my brother an expensive gift (he was, after all, going to answer yes to such ridiculous questions as “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?” which, in my family, was both totally a thing of merit AND enough to warrant receiving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of gifts from relatives) of my grandfather's choosing, he was going to buck the trend and allow my brother to choose his own gift.
That means, rather than the traditional gold jewellery (yawn), my brother could receive a Nintendo 64 (a choice my grandfather lamented, but honoured). He was getting a Nintendo 64. In effect, WE were getting a Nintendo 64.
We were getting a Nintendo 64.
And so my brother went and partook in that nonsensical, superstitious and bullshit ceremony, and my grandfather rewarded him (and in effect me, which was fair since I did not puke or let out sarcastic comments during the confirmation) with a shiny and brand spanking new Nintendo 64.
We had entered * big booming voice * THE THREE D ERA. /end voice
And how would I describe said era in one sentence?
Still no fucking Ninja Gaiden.
I kid, I kid (sort of). So, was 3D all that it was cracked up to be?
See, 3D brought a whole new world of exploration and wonder. It brought imagination to life, and the possibilities were endless.....wait, no. That was the idea, but the idea was tempered with the reality of early 3D, which meant some of the aforementioned stuff but also horrible draw distances, fog, wonky controls, awkward platforming, and POOR CAMERAS.
Games lost the tight gameplay and control seen in the 2D realm. Graphically, and in terms of size, scope, and exploratory options, 3D was amazing. And in many ways, it really was better. In many, many ways, though, it was worse. The hype leading up to the release of the Nintendo 64 (codename Dolphin lol) was huge. We had seen glimpses of Mario, Zelda et al in 3D and we were basking in childish wonder. The possibilities seemed limitless. Gaming was going to change forever.
And what did we get?
Platformers got worse. Sorry, but as much as Super Mario 64 may be beloved, Mario was MUCH better as a 2D platformer. We went from tight, crisp, challenging, responsive gameplay to wandering around collecting stars and dealing with bad controls and a wonky camera. It wasn't all bad, and it wowed us, but once that wore off we went back to Super Mario 3. Mario was not ruined, and I would never make that claim, but while SM64 was amazing in some ways, Mario was made worse in its transition to 3D. And good lord sweet jesus hallelujah what the hell did they do to beat em ups?
WHY WHY WHY????
Beat em ups were destroyed!! Just fucking destroyed.! Not only did they all but disappear, but the ones that did get released where TERRIBLE. 3D was TERRIBLE for beat em up games. Even now the best beat em ups are mostly 2D, but then? Forget it. 3D Beat em ups were SHIT. Ever play Fighting Force? AW-fucking-FUL. There were glaring issues with 3D beat em ups. Collision detection, control, camera, etc all terrible. Slow, clunky, just incredibly poor. My favourite (or tied for favourite I suppose) genre had been fucking ruined. Platformers were at least tolerable, and in fact, many were still good/great despite the issues inherent within the early 3D games. Beat em ups were disgustingly bad.
I can recall playing Fighting Force 64 with my brother and trying very hard to convince myself that it was fun, but after getting stuck in a fence, overshooting attacks, struggling with the camera, and enduring the framerate issues, I had to admit that it sucked.
Double Dragon never materialized, nor did Streets of Rage or Final Fight. Gone were the days of those games, in addition to other awesome classics like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, X-Men Arcade, the Punisher, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.
And of course, this game materialized:
You knew I had to mention it.....While all of these complaints are true, at least as I see it, there were also a lot of positive things happening during this time. I'd now like to switch gears like to talk about some of those positives and share my experiences relating to them, albeit briefly as my memories of this time will be discussed in greater detail in part THREE of my ancillary blog series entitled 'Video Game Memories' (including a look back at one of my all time faves, Winback: Covert Operations).
|.....Fucking Rocked, But We'll Talk About that Later.....|
First person shooters were a new type of game (to us at least, not being PC players) and they were pretty damn awesome at the time, even with what was, unbeknownst to us at the time at least, a terribly substandard method of control. Anyone who had a Nintendo 64 and a penis played Goldeneye, and most likely Perfect Dark as well (inarguably (yes, INarguably) the better of the two games). And many people who did not have either penises or a Nintendo 64 got in on the action. For a while there, it seemed like everybody was playing one or both of those games, and there were always multiplayer games going on at people's houses. It was AWESOME. I cannot even begin to imagine how many hours were spent filling our living room with the sounds of RCP90's and the pshehw pshehw of sniper rifles.
Wrestling games started to kick ass around this time. WWF Wrestlemania 2000, WCW Nitro, and then the granddaddy of them all, WWF No Mercy, surprised us all, and kept us busy for dozens of hours, both alone and with friends. My fondest memories of this time include WWF No Mercy. The first time we realized you could have a 3rd player control the referee, who could then even interfere in the matches, the lengthy and varied backstage brawls, putting someone through the announce table, the ladder matches.....awesome times. One of the coolest things I did (and I use the term coolest incredibly loosely) was create a custom wrestler who wore a red gi, had blonde hair, useda Hadoken (fireball) motion for a taunt, and did spin kicks. His name? Ken. Boo-ya!!
There was a bunch of other stuff (see the aforementioned third edition of the memories blog for the rest), but the most important thing not yet mentioned is (of course this game was going to be featured in this, what are you, nuts?) The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT a Zelda fan. The Zelda games just aren't for me. They don't appeal to me, and I just don't get excited for them. That being said, I recognize their quality, and I have given the series many, may chances due to said recognition. Other than Ocarina of Time (OOT), which I will get to in a moment, I have played, for varying lengths of time, ALTTP (twice,) the Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. And invariably, I quit, somewhere between 1 and 5 hours in. I just got bored. They're just not my kind of game. I feel like I 'm missing out on some great experiences, but I can't help it.
That being said, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a tremendous source of memories for me (and my brother especially). I myself played it several times, at different points in the game, but never completed it myself. I'd say I only really finished 10% of it, if that. I played my own file, but stopped somewhere in the second temple I believe. I also played some of my brother's and his friend's files, so I got to experience different, later parts of the game, including the end boss. Most of my experiences, however, actually involved me just watching the game being played, and let me tell you, at the time, it was damn near magical.
If there was a game that really said “Welcome to the majesty of 3D,” OOT was it. The music, the epic boss encounters, the varied environments and interesting characters, playing music on the ocarina, and of course riding Epona across those big, wide open, expansive (for the time at least) fields.....what a game. What a game! Huge, varied, expansive, challenging, epic, amazing. Probably the most amazing game I can't bring myself to play and one of the single greatest video games ever made. Hugely influential and amazingly constructed.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: I may not like it, but I damn sure loved it.
And that's basically it for the Nintendo 64 edition of my video game history.
P.S. The controller sucked, but we didn't know it at the time.
Stay tuned for part 5, which will teach you all about a mysterious phenomenon known as Sega Dreamcast Owners' Pain, which I was diagnosed with and have had to live with ever since.....one day at a time....one day at a time....