The N64 was a big hit in its early life, but it lost many key franchises because of Nintendo's reluctance to use CDs after the fiasco with Sony and Phillips on the CD add-on for the SNES (as well as Nintendo's general ham-handedness regarding third parties during the SNES period). One of these franchises was Final Fantasy, as Squaresoft (now Square Enix) took Final Fantasy VII to the PlayStation—which offered more storage space and less censorship for games—and watched it become the system's Killer App. Nintendo never recovered from the lack of third-party support, and it relied on Rare to help define the system. The N64 also began Nintendo's focus on local multiplayer party games.Nintendo's adherence to bulky, expensive cartridges instead of the far-cheaper-to-produce CD-ROM format appears to have been in part to be a fear of piracy (Nintendo's early experiment with floppy disks, the Famicom Disk System, resulted in rampant piracy). The company's fear hurt everyone else: not only did multi-platform developers have to chop out features and add fogging so a game would fit on an N64 cartridge (as well as map controls to the system's unique controller), but the consumer typically paid at least $10 more than Saturn, Playstation, and Dreamcast titles.
- The CPU, a MIPS R4300i (the 64-bit version of the R3000 in the PlayStation) runs at 93.75 MHz and has an internal 64-bit word size, but it also has a 32-bit mode. This was mainly used by the games because A) the bus is only 32 bits, B) the 64-bit mode uses twice as much memory and bandwidth, and C) until high definition graphics, anything more than 32 bits was actually redundant for 3D graphics. So, in other words, the "64" in the name was mostly for marketing, even if the processor actually was technically capable of running 64-bit code.
- Besides, like most systems so far, the graphics are mainly handled by the GPU, called the "Reality Co-Processor". It runs at 62.5 MHz.
- It has a Vector Unit built into, to handle special programming, called "Microcodes".
- These offered even more system control than vector units today, but (perhaps) fears of abuse kept Nintendo from directly sharing their codes with developers. Some had to make their own, and they often made superior codes than Nintendo's anyway. Factor 5 was such a developer.
- The GPU can also process sound, but it took away processing power for other stuff like lighting effects, or system bottlenecks kept getting in the way.
- Memory is where the N64 runs into trouble. Just about everything about the system's memory tends to have some limitation on performance, called a "Bottleneck".
- There are 4 MB of RAM, which is "unified". The system can use any amount it wants for main, video, and audio. Unfortunately, Nintendo chose Rambus DRAM for the system. It has a high clock speed and well over twice the bandwidth of the PlayStation memory, but the latency is so slow those advantages are negated.
- Ironically, RDRAM is great for playing FMV, and the one game that used those (a port of Resident Evil 2) showed them pretty well despite the heavy compression.
- The CPU also doesn't have direct access to the memory. Not that the bus went through the GPU, as a lot of systems do that, but those systems use dynamic memory access to allow smooth access through processors, and the N64 doesn't allow the CPU to do that.
- Just as bad, the system can hold as many textures as it needs in the RAM, but the buffer for textures to pass though during rendering is just 4 KB. Not only did that mean no single texture could be larger than that, if they were all that large, they would have to go through one at a time. Combined with the slow latency of the RAM, and this would slow the system to molasses of there wasn't some sort of compromise.
- Nintendo's method was to use textures only for objects that were the least animated, which included backgrounds. Anything more complex, like the player character, was instead detailed by gouraud shading, which is basically filling in a single color over one or more polygons. Link in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is a good example — aside from possibly his face, he's not detailed by textures at all. This does lose some detail up close, but it allows complex animations without having to go through the texture buffer.
- Another solution was to limit the polygon count in order to have complex textures over every object, for example GoldenEye — the textures are over almost every object, but the draw distance suffers and characters look goofy up close.
- The best method took a few years to develop. It was to program the textures to steadily stream through the buffer. It wasn't as easy as it sounds, but developers like Rare and Factor 5 got the most advanced graphics from the N64 through this method.
- The frame buffer had a problem in that the default Z-buffering, which told the system which texel is supposed to be in front of the other, would slow down the fill rate, which is how fast the frame buffer can draw the graphics on the screen. Custom z-buffering through the microcodes did get around this.
- The N64 had an optional cart that could be swapped for the Expansion Pak, which added an extra 4 megabytes of RDRAM in addition to the internally included 4MB. Unfortunately, since this was still the Rambus DRAM it still had the tiny texture buffer. So it could have increased texture detail, but not by much. Its main use was increasing the screen resolution and draw distance. It also tended to cause framerate issues with game not made for it, so the old RAM pack had to be swapped back in.
- Once through all that, the 64 MB maximum cart size doesn't look so bad. But this was only available late into the console's life. Yet the system was capable of compression like the Genesis and SNES. It was simply that the carts cost too much, so developers had to put up with compressing textures and limited the amount of texture variety used in smaller cartridge sizes.
- Although the system would have poorer performance if not coded properly, it did have a few features built in, that worked no matter the coding.
- It was the first major home console to have anti-aliasing.
- It was also the first to have tri-linear filtering, which removes the blocky look of textures.
- The system can actually push 500,000 polygons in real time, five times what the Playstation and Saturn can do...yet that required a code that was never released before the system was discontinued. Some codes could still push the system up to 180,000 polygons, but only one or two games went that far. Most N64 games just pushed 100,000 polygons or slightly lower.
- In addition to the above effects, the N64 did have probably the best effects of the 5th generation, including real-time lighting in a few games.
- Aside from the aforementioned memory expansion module, Nintendo and other companies released several other expansion modules that could be plugged straight into the system's controller.
- The Controller Pak (a removable storage medium which could be used to save in-game progress).
- The Rumble Pak (which, packaged with Star Fox 64, made the N64 the first home system on the market to support force feedback, a feature which Sony would eventually incorporate into their own Dual Shock controllers).
- The Transfer Pak (let players plug in their Game Boy cartridges for gameplay benefits, such as being able to use Pokémon caught in the Game Boy titles in Pokémon Stadium).
- The Bio Sensor (made by SETA, for use with Tetris 64's Bio Tetris mode, where the pace of the game increases to the beat of your heart).
- The Mouse, bundled with Mario Artist: Paint Studio, usable with the entire Mario Artist series and Starcraft I 64.
- The 64DD, a disk drive that could be attached to an N64, allowed players to play games off of larger magnetic disks, access the RANDnet service and also increased the system's memory capacity. The add-on was a commercial failure, and never made it to the West.
- The Modem Cartridge, The Phone Cable and The RANDnet Browser Disc, used for browsing the internet.
- The Keyboard, usable only with the RANDnet software, for browsing the net and typing messages.
- The Capture Cartridge and The Microphone, they were bundled with Mario Artist: Talent Studio and used as input method for pictures, video and audio.
- Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition:
- The console had a "Limited Edition" only for sale in Daiei Hawks stores in Japan with a transparent orange top and a transparent black bottom. The controller with a transparent orange top and a black bottom that came with the console was also sold separately.
- The console had a "Jusco 30th Anniversary Edition" only for sale in Jusco stores in Japan to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Jusco chain of stores with a transparent light gray top and a transparent white bottom. The controller with a transparent light gray top and a transparent white bottom that came with the console was also sold separately.
- The controller with a black top and a gray bottom had two variants
- One sold only in Hello Mac stores in Japan with a lion emblem on top.
- One sold only in Toys Я Us stores in Japan with a Geoffrey the Giraffe emblem on top.
- 64 Professional Sumo Wrestling came with a Controller Pak.
- Choro Q 64 came with an assemblable toy car.
- Disney's Tarzan came with a Tarzan figurine.
- Densha de Go! 64 has a "Driver Pack"that came with a Voice Recognition Unit microphone.
- Extreme-G has a "Special Edition" in Germany that came with a music CD.
- Gauntlet Legends came with a Warrior miniature.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- It has a "Collector's Edition" in America and Australia that came with a Gold Cartridge.
- It has a "Limited Edition" in Germany that came with a Strategy Guide and a shirt (possibly unlicensed).
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
- It has a "Collector’s Edition" in America that came with a cartridge that had a holografic label.
- It has a "Limited Edition Adventure Set" in Europe limited to 1000 pieces that came with a shirt, a watch, a 2 CD soundtrack, a poster, a sticker and 2 pin badges.
- The New Superman Aventures has a "Collector's Edition" that came with a tie-in comic book.
- Pokémon Stadium has a "Battle Set" in Europe that came with a Nintendo 64 with a blue top with yellow Reset button, Power button, dust tray and bottom
- Rampage 2: Universal Tour
- It came with a Rampage Baby, one of three possible plush keychains of George, Lizzie, and Ralph.
- It came with a shirt.
- World Driver Championship came with a shirt.
- Market-Based Title:
- Various games had this happen to them.
- The Smoke Black and Grape Purple consoles were released in Japan as Clear Black and Midnight Blue.
- The Atomic Purple controller was released in Australia as Clear Purple.
- Tonka Tough: Nintendo 64s are built like tanks, and are guaranteed to last you for decades. One TV show even tried to destroy one, and it took two whacks from a large mallet before any visible cracks appeared!
- Averted, sadly, with the Nintendo 64 joystick. It was built in such a way that the plastic quickly wore itself down from the rotation, resulting in a stick with excessive center play. By contrast, it uses optical encoders instead of the potentiometers that later Nintendo controllers use, which are more durable and precise due to their contactless nature. Too bad the gimbal/pivot parts of the joystick can't hold up compared to the sensors.
- Super Title 64 Advance: One of the Trope Namers.
- Writing Around Trademarks: The iQue Player, a plug-and-play variant released in China. Its purpose was to run through the holes in China's anti-console policy, and it was also meant to curb piracy. It was a brilliant idea, but never released anywhere else, ironically.
- Incidentally, Nintendo 64 games have had ports and remakes on the Nintendo DS and 3DS, which are both 32-bit, with the latter being much more powerful than the Nintendo 64.
Pages in category "Nintendo 64"
The following 131 pages are in this category, out of 131 total.
- San Francisco Rush
- Shadow Man
- Shadows of the Empire
- Sin and Punishment
- Snowboard Kids
- South Park
- Space Invaders
- Space Station Silicon Valley
- Spider-Man (2000 video game)
- Star Fox 64
- Star Soldier
- StarCraft (video game)
- Super Mario 64
- Super Robot Wars 64
- Super Smash Bros.
- Superman 64