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20 years ago today - PAL N64 Launch

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I was only 6 years old and probably hooked to my Mega drive still at the time ^_^ Though I do have a nice looking Pikachu version of the N64 now (I never had one when I was younger sadly :( )

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I was there on launch day in HMV, N64, Mario, Turok and Shadows of the Empire and an extra controller in hand.  I was due to start university that September and had a crappy factory job lined up for the summer as I was supposed to be saving money for that, not spending it on games consoles!  I remember how blown away I was by that opening Hoth level.  Even my mate who was a staunch PC gamer and had experienced 3D gaming with the likes of Quake, was forced to concede how amazing Mario 64 was.

 

Time had muddied my memories of the N64 but I've revisited it over the past couple of years and it really was a great machine.  In fact, no Nintendo console since has quite done it for me in the same way.  I fondly recall vodka fuelled 4-player Goldeneye and Mario Kart sessions taking place before we'd head into town to go clubbing.  Administering dead legs and dead arms to anyone who played as Odd Job or used blue shells.  I clearly remember seeing Goldeneye on a demo-pod in Dixons and buying it on the spot, despite having no money left for food.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  It was probably my favourite era for console gaming - an entire summer holiday back from college lost to Ocarina of Time, hundreds of hours lost to multiplayer Goldeneye.  Dark winter nights spent with the lights off and the sound right up playing DOOM 64...

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1 hour ago, SeanR said:

how long til the anniversary of the first price cut?

 

Just 2 months to wait for that! I stuck in a letter of complaint (I suspect most did) and was sent a black controller. I reckon some got MK64, and some got both MK and a controller. Early Nintendo Ambassador programme... I still haven't learnt!

 

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I'm usually pretty good about remembering when I got consoles, but I'm drawing a massive blank with the N64. From what I do recall, the first time I ever tried one was at a friend's house, who owned Goldeneye. I have to admit, my first impression was to basically scoff patronisingly as I'd already been playing the likes of Doom II, Duke 3D and Quake on PC. How good could an FPS on a console possibly be?

 

Fast-forward to the present day, and Goldeneye quite easily comes up as one of my favourite FPS titles ever, and that's despite the fact that I still prefer to play them with mouse and keyboard by a country mile. Simply an awesome experience, great memories... epic multiplayer battles. Stack / Power Weapons was the ultimate stage of competition in our circle.

 

Anyway, whenever I actually did get my N64, I absolutely loved it. Favourites include Zelda:OOT (which I basically lost that Christmas to), Turok 2 (which is coming out remastered on Steam this month!), Mario Kart 64, Perfect Dark, Snowboard Kids, Diddy Kong Racing, Lylat Wars, F-Zero X (the Japanese NTSC version, which ran an eye-watering 17% faster than PAL) ... the list goes on.

 

One I have to give special mention to is ISS 64. An absolute belter of a game, with an absolute gem of a commentator. Probably my favourite memory is of the '98 World Cup where my mates and I would spend all day playing - particularly match-ups that would be occurring that day - and then watch them unfold later on. Complete footballing bliss!

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11 hours ago, Sureshot said:

I'm usually pretty good about remembering when I got consoles, but I'm drawing a massive blank with the N64. From what I do recall, the first time I ever tried one was at a friend's house, who owned Goldeneye. I have to admit, my first impression was to basically scoff patronisingly as I'd already been playing the likes of Doom II, Duke 3D and Quake on PC. How good could an FPS on a console possibly be?

 

Fast-forward to the present day, and Goldeneye quite easily comes up as one of my favourite FPS titles ever, and that's despite the fact that I still prefer to play them with mouse and keyboard by a country mile. Simply an awesome experience, great memories... epic multiplayer battles. Stack / Power Weapons was the ultimate stage of competition in our circle.

 

Anyway, whenever I actually did get my N64, I absolutely loved it. Favourites include Zelda:OOT (which I basically lost that Christmas to), Turok 2 (which is coming out remastered on Steam this month!), Mario Kart 64, Perfect Dark, Snowboard Kids, Diddy Kong Racing, Lylat Wars, F-Zero X (the Japanese NTSC version, which ran an eye-watering 17% faster than PAL) ... the list goes on.

 

One I have to give special mention to is ISS 64. An absolute belter of a game, with an absolute gem of a commentator. Probably my favourite memory is of the '98 World Cup where my mates and I would spend all day playing - particularly match-ups that would be occurring that day - and then watch them unfold later on. Complete footballing bliss!

 

The local 4 played out of the box option in the N64 was amazing.  I'd cycle along to my friends house with my controller in my hand and MK64 in my back pocket.  Another friend would bring his controller too, and we'd play everything to death.  

MK64, Goldeneye, all of the wrestling games, occasionally football games, Lylat Wars, F-Zero X, Diddy Kong, 1080...

And all on a 14 inch TV in PAL bordered goodness ;)

 

I hadn't realised F-Zero was so much quicker, although I realised we had the whole PAL slowdown thing with most games...  I might have to hit eBay and pick up an NTSC version as I now have a US console - as well as the one I bought in 1997 :)

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Approximately 20 years ago I was going to an open day at UCL.  I stayed a couple of nights in youth hostels in London and remember vividly playing Mario 64 in the Virgin Megastore at Tottenham Court Road (back in the days you could buy AD&D stuff there).  That controller man!

 

The N64 I bought, not at launch, but in the summer with my very first proper paycheck; doing rubbish seasonal factory work in a Ribena factory.  Bought from the Argos in Gloucester as a reward for seven day weeks of shift work.  An N64 wtih Mario 64, and Mario Kart 64.  With an extra controller to play the latter with my brother.  I seem to recall the console costing £250 at this point, but could be wrong, but I do remember having a fist full of £20s to hand over at the till for what was at the time my most expensive purchase with my own money.

 

I still have it, it's nicely boxed up in my wardrobe.  I'd be unsurprised if it still works flawlessly.

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Haha i was talking about this at work with a girl who was waiting for her Switch on friday and i said i had no idea it was even a thing and how much i'd changed from getting an N64 for my birthday (20th March) when they were released. That feeling of playing Mario, after reading the same article in Arcade iirc or CVG over and over, was magical. Such a wonderful game, when you get your winged hat in the first world and the music changes it epitomises what Nintendo was at that time. 

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I was going through a period where I wasn't really into games, as I was in my late teens and just started uni at this time and was far more interested in girls and getting off my head on drugs to drum 'n' bass in dingy nightclubs.

Then I went shopping on my own to Meadowhall one afternoon while bunking of lectures. I bought three CDs - Best of Pete Tosh, the Prodigy's Breathe single and something else which I can't remember but I know it was a late-career, comeback-attempt single from someone like Pop Will Eat Itself or Carter USM. Or maybe it was some sort of spin-off KLF project. 

Anyway I wandered into Virgin Megastore and saw my first in-the-flesh N64, running Mario 64. I remember I'd come across 3D platformers already, and already thought about the fact that the old game genres I had grown up with were going to have to transform themselves to survive in the 3D age. And I'd seen fighters pull off the transformation pretty well with the likes of Virtua Fighter and Tekken. 

Then I saw Mario 64 and it clicked in my head that this was what platform games were going to become. I've just done a quick Google while writing this and discovered, to my surprise, that Mario 64 actually was pretty much the first 3D platform game - for some reason I thought that Tomb Raider, at least, was earlier, but apparently not! Jumping Flash on PS1 gets cited as technically the first (on the 3D console gen, there were a few experimental attempts on previous gen systems) but it wasn't a huge success. 

 

So literally there started my second love affair with videogames. My housemates and I clubbed together and bought an N64 and later a PS1. Rather than being usurped from my life through my newfound interest in clubbing, taking drugs and womanising, it became an integral part of my student social life in a way that I'd never expected. Marathon Goldeneye sessions after staggering home from all-night raves, pre-party Wipeout sessions, house parties that turned into early-hours Gran Turismo tournaments after the bulk of the guests had drifted off. And about a month during which none of my core group of mates left the house and we solidly played through Ocarina of Time. Definitely some of the best gaming memories of my life. 

 

 

 

 

 

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I got mine on launch day, with Shadows of the Empire.  I considered Mario 64, but the footage and photos of Shadows that I had seen looked excellent.  I wasn't to know that only the first and last levels were good.  I baulked at paying £70 and however much a memory card cost to play Turok.

 

Later I got Wave Race and Mario Kart 64 when I complained about the price cut.  Eventually I picked up quite a few games.  Somehow I've never really got into Mario 64, so Pilotwings would have been the best launch game for me, I suppose.

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SotE is wicked all the way through. My memories were telling me the same as you so I played through it again last year and it's a good game.  The FPS/TPS bits are decent enough. Obviously, they spunked their load a bit on that opening level which they knew everyone would see and would tell their friends about, so I can understand why so many people feel it takes a dive after that, but it's an underrated game.

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I imported mine, about a month before the UK release from America, my Mum was there visiting family and Id asked her to bring one back for me.

Unfortunately, where she was, there was no stock, so her and my aunt had to get it shipped halfway across the states and then she brought it back, box and all in her luggage, I had to pay for it of course, but it saved an absolute fortune instead of getting one from an import shop at the time.

 

I'd been playing Mario 64 for months at the place I worked on a Japanese console, but actually having it in my home, and before my mates had all seen one was pretty special.

 

And as for Goldeneye.... hmm, it is one of my favourite games ever, but when it came in the shop on import, no one was even remotely interested in playing it as all licenced games of films had been awful, once word started to get round it wasn't, well, the game hardly ever left the system :P

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Goldeneye 007 really did take everyone by surprise. It's turned out to be as groundbreaking and influential as Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time, but everyone just expected another film licence, of a two year old film no less. The earliest preview even suggested it would be a Virtua Cop clone, sans lightgun, rather than the proper FPS.

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I was going through my old N64 stuff over the weekend - I couldn't believe it was 20 years old when I checked! I remember getting mine from Special Reserve (remember them?), think it was £349 with Mario 64, extra 3rd party pad and a memory card. I was blown away by Mario but only had a couple of hours on it as I was off on holiday for two weeks that same day.

 

I could only find a composite lead for it this weekend so on a big HDTV it looks pretty awful. I ordered an s-video lead for it so I can see it running as it should be before it goes to a new home... tempted to keep it though!

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I consider the N64 to be as important to me and my gaming history as the Super NES/Super Famicom, but the muddy visuals and very poor display on modern televisions have rather put me off adding an N64 to my retro collection. :( Shame really. The Big 3 (Super Mario 64, Goldeneye 007, Ocarina of Time) were incredible games experiences for their time, really felt in every way like they were pushing the boundaries of what was possible. Games like Blast Corps and Mischief Makers were superb fun too.

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4 hours ago, r1skbreak3r said:

I was going through my old N64 stuff over the weekend - I couldn't believe it was 20 years old when I checked! I remember getting mine from Special Reserve (remember them?), think it was £349 with Mario 64, extra 3rd party pad and a memory card. I was blown away by Mario but only had a couple of hours on it as I was off on holiday for two weeks that same day.

 

I could only find a composite lead for it this weekend so on a big HDTV it looks pretty awful. I ordered an s-video lead for it so I can see it running as it should be before it goes to a new home... tempted to keep it though!

Don't sell it :P

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One of my favourite consoles, and the first one which I'd been waiting to launch.  At that time, myself and a friend Jon were both working in the same office and they hadn't given us proper Internet access at the time, so we'd still only be seeing the odd screen shot of Mario 64.  It looked pretty amazing, but nothing like seeing it move.

 

The rumour was out that a shop in town had an import machine running it (Ross records in Portsmouth for anyone interested in the minute details) I went down there and stared at the attract sequence playing over and over.  We'd all been used to seeing pre-rendered footage that the PS1 games tended to try and get you with, but this was real time stuff, and how were those graphics so smooth !?

 

As it was, I was busy getting married in another country when it got released in the UK, so didn't get one at launch.  Jon did, so I phoned him up as soon as I was back and asked him if it was worth the wait.  It was - so as I was in the high street, I rushed over to Electronics Boutique and bought an N64 with Mario 64.  I may have got PilotWings at the same time as well (or possibly a few days later)

 

Those two games blew me away and got played to death.  It was almost a shame that the launch games were so good, as there was a bit of a wait for the next high quality release, but clearly Waverace, Zelda: OOT, GE and Conkers Bad Fur day stick in my mind as some of the best memories on the system.

 

At that time, like the rest of you by the sounds of it, and pre online gaming.  4 of us used to meet up at Jon's house and play GE, Mario Tennis, Mario Party and Perfect Dark until are hands had become claws around the controller and it was getting light outside again.  Happy days

 

I still love that console, but as many mentioned, it's a struggle on an HDTV.  I have had a bit of a resurgence in playing it lately though.  I got myself an s-video cable (which my LCD TV didn't like) so on a bit of a whim picked up an S-video to hdmi converter.  OMG, it's like light and day.  I know it's not like getting a proper hdmi conversion, but it's the best I've ever seen any N64 look on a TV.  I also picked up a Everdrive64 and this (finally) let me play all my titles again at full frame/full screen - it's like owning a whole new super-console again... but one in which my Waverarce lap times have improved massively :)

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23 hours ago, CurryKitten said:

I still love that console, but as many mentioned, it's a struggle on an HDTV.  I have had a bit of a resurgence in playing it lately though.  I got myself an s-video cable (which my LCD TV didn't like) so on a bit of a whim picked up an S-video to hdmi converter.  OMG, it's like light and day.  I know it's not like getting a proper hdmi conversion, but it's the best I've ever seen any N64 look on a TV.  I also picked up a Everdrive64 and this (finally) let me play all my titles again at full frame/full screen - it's like owning a whole new super-console again... but one in which my Waverarce lap times have improved massively :)

 

Which S-video to HDMI and which S-video cable are you using?  Are you using PAL or NTSC console?

 

I'd read that S-Video on a PAL machine can give a washed out, or over bright picture.  I have a pretty large (maybe 120+ games?) PAL collection, but also a small unboxed US NTSC collection and am tempted to pick up an Everdrive for the NTSC one and re-discover the N64 at full speed, whilst at the same time, knowing I'll likely want to revisit my game saves if they still work, but like most of us, have a flatscreen only house.

 

 

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Thought I'd share my brief story.  

 

I must have seen some previews of Mario 64 around 6 months prior to the UK launch (maybe in Edge or that Gamesmaster episode?). Either way I was in love!

 

I was 14 coming 15 at the time and had £5 per week pocket money and a paper round earning another £5 (delivering the local evening paper after school and on a Saturday). I vividly remember saving every penny in order to buy myself an N64 and Mario 64 at launch (so that's around 30 weeks!). I would walk my paper round whilst reading gaming mags, preview leaflets and anything I could get my hands on with some details or pictures of Mario 64 - I would dream about the damn thing.

 

I don't recall the shortages being an issue.  My neighbour worked at a local Currys store and just grabbed one on launch for me (only now do I realise how fortunate I was). 

 

Needless to to say that Mario 64 became an all-time favourite of mine. I rinsed the 120 stars many times over.  Near-launch games for me included Turok and Pilotwings, both of which made a good impression.  Not sure why I missed Goldeneye, possibly due to having a PC?  I remember trading my N64 with a lad from school for his GT BMX bike, probably within the 1st year of ownership.  I wrecked that bike (like a twat) so not really a great trade I the end.  I also never got my free goodies due to the price drop but that's because I was an ignorant kid I guess and my parents wouldn't have heard about the programme.

 

I circled back to N64 about 2 years later and this time had an NTSC machine.  This is where I tried Goldeneye and also got to enjoy Mario at 60Hz along with other classics like Waverace and Mariokart.  

 

Nowadays I I find it hard to go back to N64 hardware due to low frame rates and intense fog. I find emulation scratches the itch quite well and somewhat matches the rose tinted view I have of those amazing experiences 20 years ago.

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Blast Corps became an obsession to me, 100%ing the levels was super addictive to me. Also Banjo Kazooy was just wonderful. I genuinely blame Goldeneye for my crap exam results, i was utterly immeresed in the chase to unlock all the timecheats (despite most being shit) fucking facility on 00 agent took a while but i bloody did it! Im nit even mentioning muliplayer which came along later for me. Rare at that time were the best and most creative game developers in The World at that point surely? When Zelda OoT came out it was sold out everywhere in Inverness and i got my brother to check everywhere in Aberdeen to and he eventually found a copy in Boots, of all places, and got it for me. It was great but didnt invade my life like the other games ive mentioned did. 

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On 1 March 2017 at 12:29, Freeman said:

Here we are 2 days prior to the launch of the Switch, and I find myself thinking back 20 years, to when I picked up my brand new, super shiny, £249.99 Nintendo 64.

 

These were super rare (by today's standards) at launch in the UK, 30,000 is the number mentioned.  

Imports had been changing hands (or at least were advertised in the small ads) for £600-800, which was an obscene amount of money to 14 year old me !!

 

Anyway, my parents agreed to an N64 as a combined Christmas and Birthday present (my birthday is the 8th), so here is the story of my first Launch Day Console from 2 decades ago.

 

Somehow I found out when stores were taking preorders and was first to get my name down.  Pretty sure this must have been around the Japanese launch - it was a seriously long wait for the UK launch either way! It was a £10 deposit with HMV for the console, and no deposit required to reserve Mario 64. I think it was paid in full prior to launch though.  

 

I posted this in the Switch preorders thread, so sorry if you've read it before :D

 

So, 20 years ago, launch day was here, and video gaming was revolutionised (again, 9 months after it already was in Japan!) with Mario 64.

I had 1 of only 10 consoles reserved from my local HMV.  They did a midnight launch (for 10 consoles!!) but my parents weren't up for heading into town at midnight, so I ended up getting it on the Saturday morning evening. [I said morning in the Switch thread, but it was the evening.  Dad and I were dong something that day, I can't remember what, so I walked around to HMV shortly before we picked mum up from work at 4.30].  The staff said they thought my (paid) preorder was some sort of joke since I hadn't collected when the other 9 people had at midnight!

 

I'd saved my pocket money and dinner money up to get the required 59.99 (!) for Shadows of the Empire, but HMV didn't have any to spare.  I walked to my local Virgin Megastore with a BIG HMV bag in my hand and a BIGGER smile on my face to see if they had any.  The guy at the games counter looked at me as I handed the box over to purchase the game, then asked me if I had it pre-ordered, which of course I didn't.  When I said no, he disappeared and come back with a fresh, sealed copy from the back store and said they had some extras.  He then proceeded to explain that his manager had told him that he had to explain that I'd need an N64 to play the game on and that it wasn't available on SNES or Playstation.  I grinned and raised my left hand to display my freshly purchased console, then had a 15 minute discussion with the guy about the console, how he was too late to get one, and had played about half of Mario 64 on their demo pod after hours!

 

I'd actually completely avoided Mario 64 up to this point.  I saw some screen shots, and high review scores but had avoided any gameplay videos (very easy in 1997!!) and reading any reviews.  My parents let me set the N64 up on the livingroom on the big TV - I think to this point, my SNES had been in there 3 or 4 time max, and we had Chinese takeaway, another rarity in my house.  Dad (and to a lesser extent mum) watched on in awe as I played.

 

This was the start of something amazing for me.  I felt like the luckiest kid, and proceeded to figure out cheap lunches for myself whilst saving for the horrendously expensive N64 launch titles that were coming up. I was very thankful for the little booklet of vouchers from HMV giving me £5 off a game although it still lead to a number of phone calls to my mum on launch day Saturdays "mum, I've saved £45 for Lylat Wars, but it's £55, can I have my next 2 weeks pocket money up front?" 

 

The joys.

 

What was everyone else doing 20 years ago when I was wolfing down my Chinese takeaway so I could get back to Mario 64?

 

 

Nice read.

 

Don't forget they were £350 at launch, and reduced to £250 I think within a month? The uproar!

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3 hours ago, Meat said:

 

Nice read.

 

Don't forget they were £350 at launch, and reduced to £250 I think within a month? The uproar!

 

It was definitely £250 on 1st March (my dad stapled the receipt to the back page of the console manual, and I still have it) with a drop to £150 on 1st May.

 

There was no programme as such for @Rob_Pulsar I think I read about it on Digitiser of all places, perhaps the letters page of an N64 magazine.  It seemed that what people were given varied quite dramatically.  I got a black pad, but recall some getting rumble packs, or Mario Kart, or both MK + a pad.  Not like today when there would be some properly set out (ambassador...) programme where they give you 20 download games that you already own most of on another console ;) 

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10 hours ago, Freeman said:

It was definitely £250 on 1st March (my dad stapled the receipt to the back page of the console manual, and I still have it) with a drop to £150 on 1st May.

 

Yep you're right, think they gave away a free game to folks who bought it at £250

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On 24/03/2017 at 12:25, Freeman said:

 

Which S-video to HDMI and which S-video cable are you using?  Are you using PAL or NTSC console?

 

I'd read that S-Video on a PAL machine can give a washed out, or over bright picture.  I have a pretty large (maybe 120+ games?) PAL collection, but also a small unboxed US NTSC collection and am tempted to pick up an Everdrive for the NTSC one and re-discover the N64 at full speed, whilst at the same time, knowing I'll likely want to revisit my game saves if they still work, but like most of us, have a flatscreen only house.

 

 

 

I can't remember what the switch is - wasn't a silly expensive one.  I'll have a check when I'm at home tonight and let you know.  I'm using a PAL console - I was pleasantly surprised that it would handle the NTSC display/framerates without a hitch.  You do need to get a specific s-video cable for a PAL n64, there's an extra resistor or something in them that aren't there in other cables.

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