From N64 to Now

The recent N64 and DS Virtual Console games showcase Nintendo’s history of innovating within its own franchises.

By Shawn Wilkins. Posted 05/05/2015 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Seeing new Nintendo DS and Nintendo 64 games on the Wii U Virtual Console adds a level of completion to the discussion about Nintendo’s highs and lows. Too often is it heard that Nintendo has done nothing but fail in recent years outside of releasing solid games– that fans’ desires elsewhere are left to the wayside. However, here, it’s shown that Nintendo knows that exposing more people to what it’s created is not only a good idea, but arguably one of its best. Nintendo is taking games that we love and using them as platforms for creating games that not only push consoles to their limits, but delicately exemplify what can be done with the technology when Nintendo grabs the wheel.

Super Mario 64 is a pivotal game when it comes to arguably all “open world” 3D gaming. The game created and experimented with things that many people didn’t even consider when 64-bit gaming was first discussed. After coming right out of a series whose installments were primarily 2D and sidescrollers, the main concern was how things would translate to 64-bit. Would it just be the same game with 3D polygons? Would it be something that would work at all? Super Mario 64 was the type of game to challenge all of the preconceived notions about what 64-bit couldn’t do and showed what it could.

However, the challenge put on display was that it wasn’t the traditional Mario people grew to love. The style felt off for some, and the gameplay didn’t feel like something they had experienced before. It crossed the free-roaming of Square’s Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and the sidescrolling bounce-on-the-enemy mechanic we had become accustomed to while still adding a layer of newness to it all, creating an experience that, up to that point, was unlike any other.

Donkey Kong 64 added the same level of “new on Nintendo 64” but it was only met with poor reviewers bashing it for its collect-a-thon game style and its cumbersome controls. Years later, it would become one of the games that people are most nostalgic about. With Wii U’s enhanced speed over the N64, the framerate and overall flow of the game seem to have finally caught up to what was given. Donkey Kong 64, on its own, is a game that has immense fun packed into its crevasses, but getting to those crevasses takes more patience than most are used to. It set a level for Donkey Kong that was unfortunately very low; it was one of Rare’s first forays into this style of gameplay, with Banjo-Kazooie prefacing it. It must be noted, however, that while this game hits the joystick as if it were an acquired taste, the newer Donkey Kong Country games (and even the older ones) still manage to pack in that Nintendo charm that has yet to be rivaled.

Even games like Mario Kart DS, Yoshi Touch & Go, and WarioWare: Touched! all set standards. Nintendo had the DS and N64 in its crosshairs as both experimental devices, and the company continues to do so with the 3DS and Wii U’s GamePad. The differences between the selection then and now is that each of those games specialized something that showcased the system’s ability to change gaming– Mario Kart DS with its polygonal racing and online features (a first for the series), Touch & Go with its screen-spanning gameplay, and Touched! with its quickfire touchscreen mechanics that could be linked to current generation iOS gaming.

Nintendo has always brought the best games into the market. We’ve always had games that were, at their roots, fun to play. They may be gimmicky, experiments, or even gimmicky experiments, but they always excel at what we expect Nintendo games to do: be enjoyable. There’s little to be said about games being the same or rehashes of old games, but with Super Mario 64 and, by extension, Super Mario 3D World, we can see Nintendo is sticking to what it did with Nintendo 64 and DS: innovating upon itself.

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