Where Did All the Mascots Go?

From Gex to Goemon, we break down the mascots who called Nintendo 64 home!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 10/17/2014 09:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

MegaMan Legends 3 Artwork

Similar to how Wii inadvertently sparked a torrent of motion controlled sports and party games, Nintendo 64 paved the way for a wave of 3D platformers, shooter, and adventure games. As such, with those titles came an entire legion of mascots to star in them. Many were introduced or brought to 3D for the first time on N64, but it’s fascinating how so many have ceased to be relevant and even completely disappeared in the years since. Let’s look at the characters and the games that left an impression on fans everywhere, and what the odds are of seeing them again.


Gex

Gex 64 Screenshot
 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Gex: Enter the Gecko (1998)

Satire isn’t completely uncommon in today’s video games, but when Gex came to N64, his particular brand of comedy was pretty different. Comedy being the key trait that made Gex special: the little talking lizard was funny, and full of personality. Taking stabs at everything from Titanic to The Matrix, Gex’s games had players platforming in environments based off of popular movies of the time, with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone throughout. The first Gex game was actually a 2D platformer on 3DO, but Gex: Enter the Gecko on N64 and PlayStation is where the character really began to resonate with fans. His last appearance, Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko (and Gex 3: Deep Pocket Gecko on Game Boy Color), was met with mostly positive responses from fans and critics, but the character hasn’t been seen since. Developer Crystal Dynamics has been busy of late with AAA titles like Tomb Raider, but there’s always a shot, however slim, that they might go back to Gex one day.


Glover


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Glover (1998)

A one-hit-wonder, Glover‘s titular mascot was a living four-fingered glove who rolled a big rubber ball around stages. That might sound totally bizarre, but the gameplay was actually very unique, especially amongst the crowd of me-too platformer clones that were glutting the market. Glover’s ball could be changed into a number of different forms, each providing new mechanics for solving puzzles and tackling enemies. Some folks had issues with the game’s controls, but overall it was a solid platformer that wasn’t slavishly devoted to ripping off Mario 64, and it was a better game for it. Glover 2 was in the cards (there’s video out there of a prototype and images of the game’s logo), but sadly it was not meant to be. Glover developer Interactive Studios, which became Blitz Games in 1999, went defunct in 2013, so the likelihood of seeing the adorable glove hero is pretty slim.


Buck Bumble


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Buck Bumble (1998)

A bee with ‘tude was Buck Bumble in a nutshell. Toting a variety of weapons to take down his enemies, Buck was a third-person shooter reminiscent of Star Fox 64; fitting, considering that developer Argonaut Games played a hand in making the original Star Fox on SNES (not to mention the Super FX chip)! The game was particularly fixated on rumble feedback via Nintendo 64’s famous Rumble Pak, so much so that a special version of the peripheral was made just for the game in Europe by a third-party manufacturer. The Buck Bumble Pack, as it was called, never made it to the US, but was indicative of the passion that went into the project. Argonaut ceased to exist in 2006, so the odds of seeing Buck again are likely low.


Davy the Chameleon


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Chameleon Twist (1997)

Chameleon Twist was tricky. The ability to protrude lead character Davy’s tongue and control it with the analogue stick was never quite as smooth as developer Japan System Supply would have liked. Still, the game was unique, especially from a gameplay perspective, and the platformer garnered a small but devout following. A sequel was released in 1999 called Chameleon Twist 2, which corrected some of the issues of the original, but wasn’t quite strong enough to merit a third game. Japan System Supply is in the wind, so to speak; there’s very little information to find about them, so where the rights to Chameleon Twist currently reside is equally inscrutable. Sunsoft, which published the games, is itself also a mystery at the moment. Calls to their US headquarters yielded a “not in service phone number” recording, so between the two, Davy’s future is woefully bleak, to say the least.


Goemon


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (1998)

Goemon has a long history despite his relative obscurity. Debuting in the West on SNES in The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (which you should totally download on Virtual Console!), Goemon actually dates all the way back to arcades in Japan! Konami’s oddball hero was known for his humorous adventures, and would continue that tradition on N64 with Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. The game was a 3D action-platformer, touting detailed graphics in a feudal Japan-inspired setting. Goemon games tend to lean towards being surreal, not to mention are quirky in general, so the series has never made a huge splash in the West. This title, however, was well received and followed by a sequel called Goemon’s Great Adventure, which daringly returned to a more traditional 2D style of platforming. Goemon is in a sort of limbo these days, even in his homeland of Japan. With the last game to hit US shores years ago, even if he sees a resurgence in Japan, it’s unlikely Westerners will experience it.


Earthworm Jim


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Earthworm Jim 3D (1999)

Earthworm Jim made quite the name for himself on SNES and Sega Genesis. Starring in video games and a cartoon series, as well as his own line of toys, Jim was on the fast track to superstardom-at first. After his second game, however, the series was thrown for a loop with the release of N64. As was the trend, Jim was to be transitioned into a 3D game (what with 2D then being practically nuclear), but the move didn’t go smoothly. Development of the title took years, and when it was finally released, it was clear that Jim’s time in the sun was over. Earthworm Jim 3D was rough, with uninspired platforming and hardly any of the charm and quality gameplay that his 2D titles were known for. Developer Interplay still owns the rights to Jim, and rumors continue to persist that Earthworm Jim 4 will one day rear its head. Hopefully in 2D, though!


Banjo and Kazooie


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Banjo-Kazooie (1998)

Oh, Banjo-Kazooie. Developer Rare’s famous bear and bird team were the darlings of N64 when their first self-titled game hit the console, easily standing head and shoulders with the best that Nintendo itself had to offer. The sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was a supercharged, oversized version of the first game, and convinced the world that the future was boundless for the burgeoning franchise. Unfortunately, Rare became a Microsoft property in 2002, and only ever produced one other Banjo-Kazooie game for a home console. Oddly, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, though certainly ambitious and beautiful to look at, jettisoned the platforming mechanics that made the series famous, instead transitioning into a sort of platforming-racer hybrid. It was fun, but nowhere near as pleasing as the first two games. Though Microsoft still owns the rights to Banjo-Kazooie, whether the future holds a game starring the two characters is murkier than a Humba Wumba magic pool.


Bomberman


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Bomberman 64

Bomberman was long the king of multiplayer gaming prior to N64. The character’s games brought players together via multitaps to engage in blistering deathmatches that were easily as fun and captivating as today’s first-person shooters. Curiously, developer Hudson decided to shift the focus of the franchise to single-player adventures when it came time to transition Bomberman to 3D and N64. Multiplayer would still be utilized, but Hudson wanted to position Bomberman as a character more than just an avatar. Bomberman was always something of a niche series back on SNES, but whether his cult-like following would have remained as strong if he stuck primarily with multiplayer is hard to say. Bomberman 64 and Bomberman Hero were both fun games, but by the time Bomberman 64: The Second Attack rolled around, player interest was starting to wane. Hudson continued to make Bomberman games until it was folded into Konami back in 2012. There are some mobile titles floating around featuring the character, but Bomberman’s days as a console star seem to be behind him.


Mega Man


 

Nintendo 64 Debut: Mega Man 64 (2000)

Mega Man Volnutt. That’s the name the Blue Bomber went under, sans helmet, when he debuted on N64 with Mega Man 64. The longtime 2D platformer star was always up for reinvention and reinterpretation at the hands of his creator Keiji Inafune, so it was inevitable that Mega Man would make the leap to 3D. The result was an action-RPG with a greater than ever emphasis on story. Originally released as Mega Man Legends for PlayStation, the game was finally ported to N64 in 2001, but sadly neither Mega Man Legends 2 nor the spin-off game The Misadventures of Tron Bonne ever came to the system. Sadly, Mega Man in general hasn’t been seen in a new console game since Mega Man 10 in 2010. Street Fighter X Mega Man, a fan-made game released on PC, is the closest we’ve gotten to a new title starring the friendly robot. Capcom got close to resuscitating Mega Man Volnutt when it announced Mega Man Legends 3 for 3DS, but that game was controversially cancelled partway into development, leaving fans cold and jaded (justifiably!) ever since. At least there’s Mighty No.9 to look forward to, but the faithful will forever hold out hope for Mega Man’s return.


The mascot isn’t dead in the video game industry. Titles like Shovel Knight and Shantae continue to prove the viability of cartoonish lead characters, while Nintendo and even Sega maintain their pantheons of protagonists to this day. The video game market wouldn’t be the same without its less-realistic leads. At the same time, the mascot overload of the days of Nintendo 64 will probably never be rivaled, and maybe that’s for the best. Or is it? What are your thoughts on mascot characters? Any who you remember fondly? Sound off in the comments!

2 Responses to “Where Did All the Mascots Go?”

  • 678 points
    amishpyrate says...

    I didn’t get to play a lot of these til years later unfortunately but I studied a lot of these intently in game magazines around the time. Chameleon twist intrigued me the most. The only one I can think of that I felt should have been mentioned was Conkers bad fur day.

    Thumb up 1
  • 690 points
    KisakiProject says...

    Man I miss Bomberman. Everyone complains about Megaman being dead, but for me Bomberman is more of a tragedy. I miss 90s games in general.

    Thumb up 1

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