Remember a really, really long time ago? About 1996, I believe, when the Nintendo 64 was on the verge of American release. Everybody’s favorite propaganda-spewing magazine Nintendo Power was making written love to it with each coming issue.. Every month they would tell us of another feature to Mario’s new 3-D realm, be it the fact that he could now perform the “butt-stomp”, or that he could now race about all willy-nilly in a circle, or that graphics were now 64 bits! instead of the previous 16 powering the Super Nintendo. To commemorate the actual release, Nintendo Power mailed a video to their subscribers, expelling the virtues of their new console, and I was one of the lucky recipients. I gaped in awe at the polygonal graphics; my jaw barely ever left the floor. After viewing it myself a few dozen times, I showed the video to my parents, who were equally (if not more) impressed. This video is the reason Santa Clause brought me a Nintendo 64 for Christmas, and now I would like to share with you its magic.
Through the staticy quality of this video cassette I can just barely make out what is happening in the introduction. It tells me of the vast number of Nintendo 64’s sold at Japan’s release (500,000), and then goes on to show me a brief montage of clips from upcoming games, such as Mario 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and Crusin’ USA. I say brief because not ten seconds into the montage, the static becomes unbearable, and my VCR seemingly gives up in disgust. The sound becomes distorted, the image the same, and the narrator of our video infomercial begins to sound like one of those toys you can speak into and it changes your voice to make you sounds like a robot, but in actuality it just makes your words inaudible. Thus, we give up our quest to review Nintendo 64: Change the System, and chose instead to write of the changing itself.
The Nintendo 64 was a bit step for the former playing-card company. The closest they ever had to such vast 3-D realms was with the original Star Fox, which made use of the FX chip (some sort of new-fangled 3-D graphics device), and was all polygonal and stuff. In retrospect, it was not really much to look at. The graphics were quite blocky and all together of a less quality than the pixels of a previous era. The Nintendo 64 righted that, allowing much more to occur on your television’s screen at once, therefore allowing for more polygons at once, therefore allowing for a much more realistic look.
That’s not to say that the Nintendo 64 had more enjoyable graphics — they were “better” technically, but only because they appeared more true to life. The problem with such “better” graphics is that all together too much time is spent on making the game look pretty, and not enough is left for the actual storyline. Compare Chrono Trigger, arguably Super Nintendo’s greatest role-playing game, to Quest 64, Nintendo 64’s greatest by default role-playing game. Chrono Trigger has the better story, the better controls, the better replay value, where Quest 64 has eye candy. Quest 64 would have made a nice painting, but as a device of electronic entertainment, it is severely lacking.
Some even prefer the graphics of a 16 bit role-playing game to that of a 64, or a 32, or a 128. The 2-D look has a more cozy feel to it, it seems more like an interactive story than a work of art. One tends to feel more comfortable playing a pixilated game; polygons have an intimidating presence. Also, games created making use of the third dimension seem to have larger worlds, which need more exploring than those of their ancestors, which can eventually become tedious for a lot of it seems to either be open space, or filled with completely meaningless characters and buildings. There is a lot of running back and forth in these worlds, with no real need to be doing so, except to view the attractive scenery.
Historically, Super Nintendo is regarded as the greatest console for role-playing games. It hosts several Final Fantasy’s, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Illusion of Gaia, Lufia 1 and 2, Secret of Mana, and countless others. Its offspring, the Nintendo 64, had but one, Quest 64, a role-playing game which defecated all over the term “video game”. Sure, there were also 3-D role-playing games for the Playstation, which did not suck, but were they really greater than those for the Super Nintendo? Is Legend of Mana greater than Secret of Mana? Is Chrono Cross greater than Chrono Trigger? The Final Fantasy line was praised more for their appearance than their story line, which is quite astounding, for what is a role-playing game but an interactive story? Graphics are not the most important part of a video game. Nintendo 64: Change the System – in retrospect, a change was not really needed, unless you prefer pretty graphics over enthralling games.
Damn, I wish I could get that tape to work.