Learning From The Past
Nintendo has made it clear that they have no intention on creating a Virtual Console service on Switch. And why would they? The NES Classic sold out the minute it became available and the SNES Classic is only now starting to become widely available without having to camp outside a retailer overnight. Just recently, Nintendo filed a trademark for N64 which would lead players to speculate that a N64 Classic will become available at some point in the future. If Nintendo does launch an N64 Classic it probably won’t be until 2019. Why 2019? Nintendo is reviving the NES Classic this summer and they promise to continue to produce them, along with the SNES Classic, through the rest of 2018. Releasing an N64 Classic could compete with against itself so holding back until the NES and SNES sales calm down would be the smart financial move for Nintendo.
If Nintendo does release an N64 Classic in 2019+, this extra time could be spent developing this project. Taking cues from the NES and SNES mini consoles, Nintendo could use their experience (and their mistakes) to make the potential N64 Classic something truly special.
THE HARDWARE & CONTROLLERS
Like the mini consoles before it, an N64 mini would benefit from a small framework. Not only does it take up less shelf space, the USB powered device is a rather energy efficient console.
But talking about energy consumption can be a moot point if the rest of the system sucks. One of the highlighting features of the original N64 hardware was the built-in four controller ports. Without question, this needs to continue on a potential N64 Classic. The positive, being able to play classic local multiplayer games like the original Smash Bros., GoldenEye, or Mario Kart 64 with your buddies is always entertaining. The downside, including four controllers in the box will drastically increase the cost. Instead, I could see Nintendo bundling the N64 mini with two N64 controllers and selling individual controllers for $20-$30 a pop. This wouldn’t be a bad idea since you can always take your controllers to your buddy’s house just like how we did in the late 90s. Extra N64 controllers could also be available in the slew of colors that were originally available to make things more worthwhile too. Negatively though, if Nintendo told us anything, they will drastically underestimate the demand and won’t have enough controllers, let along consoles, to go around.
The N64 controllers would also most likely be the proprietary connection found on Wii nunchuks as well as the NES and SNES Classic controller. This means that potential N64 controllers could be backwards compatible with the NES and SNES mini as well as the Wii Remote for N64 Virtual Console titles. Sure, this would be a welcomed included feature but it won’t mean much without fixing the controller cable length. Although it was a little better with the SNES mini, the controller length needs to be drastically lengthened. As TVs and living rooms get bigger, I want each cable to be at least 12 feet long. Think about it. If you and three friends are huddled around your TV, you are going to want a little elbow room. Increasing the length of each controller considerably is only way to ensure added comfort without resorting to 3rd party extendo cables. Honestly, if the cost of each controller has to increase $3-$5 to make this happen, I would gladly pay that added price to allow for comfortable play sessions.
Controller functionality is also a topic of question for a potential N64 mini. While it probably would be safe to assume that game saves, save states, and rewind functions will be managed through the system hardware as opposed to the controller pak of the original hardware, how will force feedback be handled? Or will it be handled at all? The original N64 hardware introduced the Rumble Pak with the purchase of Star Fox 64, a device that plugged into the back of the N64 controller that produced force feedback through 2 AAA batteries. It would be nice if the rumble feature was built into the controller but this has some downsides. First, this would increase the price of each controller and second, the console might not be able run via USB power if the console and four rumbling controllers are connected at the same time. Being able to power the console through the USB port of your smart TV makes usability as easy as can be so hopefully this will still be an option. Some players might not want the rumble feature activated either so an option to turn on/off should be included in the system’s hardware.
Personally, I would rather see the system bundled with two controllers as opposed to four but with the option of buying more individually. Thing is, one of my SNES Classic controllers broke for no reason and I don’t have an option to replace other than to buy a cheap 3rd party product (which I did and is not the same). If gamers are going to be playing Mario Party, the chance of breaking a controller is always there. Having an option to replace if needed is a check mark in the positive column.
One of the biggest gripes with the NES and SNES Classic was the reset button. In order to go back to the main dashboard, players had to get up and physically tap the reset button just like in 1991. The nostalgia is there, sure, but the convenience is not. Back then, you left a cart in your console or weeks or even months at a time. But when you have access to many games at one time, you want instant access. Piggybacking this notion with the fact that controller cable length will be increased, no one will want to get up and push reset. Let’s include a hot key button combination to soft reset the console to go back to the main menu, please!
Without a quality roster of titles, fans will be disappointed. One thing is for sure, the N64 Classic will have a set number of games built into the hardware with no option to download more for a price, like the NES and SNES mini. The NES Classic had more titles available than the SNES Classic but the SNES games are longer, more involved titles like Final Fantasy III, Super Mario RPG, and Secret of Mana. The SNES Classic also surprisingly included Star Fox 2, a game that was a completed product of its time but was never commercially released. Would Nintendo include a canceled N64 game? Eh, probably unlikely although the potential is there with games like 40 Winks or O.D.T. (or Rare can go back and make Dinosaur Planet with their original vision but everyone knows this simply just won’t happen).
But what about the game line-up? I think there are staples that have to be included. Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, LoZ Ocarina of Time, Super Smash Bros., and GoldenEye are givens as these were some of the most popular and beloved games on the platform. But what about the rest and how large will the roster be?
I think if Nintendo includes four controller ports and understands that players will be making an investment with an N64 Classic, they would hopefully include enough titles to fulfill a type of game that checks all the boxes. Other than Super Punch Out!!, the SNES Classic didn’t include any sport titles, something that could be remedied with the N64 mini, for example.
Everyone is going to have their own dream line-up, but here are my suggestions for a list of 24 games, a reasonable number:
- Super Mario 64 (of course this will be included)
- Mario Kart 64 (another multiplayer, N64 staple)
- The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time (a necessity)
- Super Smash Bros. (even though not as good as the current Smash games, still is enjoyable today)
- GoldenEye 007 (fans would cry if this was not included)
- Perfect Dark (the N64 Classic would need the Expansion Pak included)
- Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (for more hardcore RPG players)
- Paper Mario (for more casual RPG players)
- Star Fox 64 (great single player and multiplayer game)
- Donkey Kong 64 (got your single player collectathon game right here with some wonky 4 player support)
- Snowboard Kids (this game is the biggest sleeper hit on the system)
- BattleTanx (action based 4-player support)
- Bomberman 64 (single screen multiplayer fun)
- The New Tetris (got your quality puzzle game right here with 4-player support)
- Gauntlet Legends (here is your mindless four-player RPG right here)
- Mario Golf 64 (a casual sports game that can be played by anyone)
- Mario Tennis 64 (same boat as Mario Golf 64)
- Mario Party (at least one Mario Party game would need to be included but which one?)
- Pokemon Snap (since Pokemon Stadium won’t make sense without Gameboy connectivity, Snap is a great way to include the pocket monsters even those the Wii Virtual Console version made some quality improvements)
- Rampage 2: Universal Tour (when you get tired of four player Gauntlet)
- Sin & Punishment (even though made available on Wii Virtual Console for the first time in the States, this could act as the bonus game America never got)
- Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (available on Steam now but this was a single player console exclusive for a long time)
- StarCraft 64 (including an RTS is unique for sure and there is also a 2-player mode)
- Wave Race 64 (when Mario Kart 64 needs a break)
If you noticed, I excluded the Banjo games. Why? Well, they are readily available on Xbox 360 and through the Rare Replay disc on XBOX One. Instead, I would rather see Donkey Kong 64 just because this game has not been re-released anywhere else and is another tedious collectathon.
Also, I didn’t include Majora’s Mask not because I don’t like that game or don’t want to see it included, I just think Nintendo might exclude it just because of the remake on 3DS. Even though Ocarina was also remade on 3DS, I think Majora is a much different game that doesn’t appeal to the wider audience of Ocarina.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day was also not on the list above. Does this mean I don’t want to see it on the N64 mini? Absolutely not, I would totally want this game there especially with the multiplayer modes that were not on the Xbox remake. The reality is, Nintendo probably wouldn’t include it just because of the ESRB. This game alone, with sex jokes and squirrels drunkenly pissing on things, might not sit well with parents and could limit the audience of buyers.
What about Turok? The four Turok games available on the N64 are difficult to revisit today due to the awkward control scheme and terrible fog of war. GoldenEye and Perfect Dark are much better FPS options.
I also would like to see some obscure games included like Izzy’s Reckin’ Balls, Hexen, Hybrid Heaven, Operation Winback, NFL Blitz for more multiplayer sport support, Snowboard Kids 2, and Chameleon Twist but know this isn’t a reality. I also left off Yoshi’s Story because, let’s just be honest here, it isn’t very good. Diddy Kong Racing was also taken off the list as I would rather see Snowboard Kids or Snowboard Kids 2 included even though I love Diddy Kong Racing. DKR was also ported to DS so it can still easily be played today using backwards compatibility on 3DS. ExciteBike 64 was also cut because it wasn’t good back then and is even worse now. Plus, Nintendo probably won’t want you playing the unlockable NES ExciteBike when they want to sell you a NES Classic. Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey was also a decent hockey game for its time but getting the Gretzky license would probably cost extra money.
The N64 Disc Drive was a Japan exclusive N64 add-on that attached to the bottom of the N64. Although the library of games was limited, it did feature few standouts including a rearrangement of Ocarina of Time, more tracks and options for F-Zero, and even Animal Crossing. Would it be cool if Nintendo included DD games in the N64 Classic? Yes, of course. But will Nintendo go back, recode, and retranslate these old games for the N64 Classic platform? A safe bet would be no. Gamers can dream though.
This is a tricky topic to predict because there are so many variables like number of included games, included controllers, and hardware features. However, if the system comes bundled with two 12-foot length controllers that feature rumble support and around 25 games, I could see Nintendo charging $99. If they go big though and include four controllers in the box, don’t be surprised to see a $129+ price tag. Nintendo might not want to go higher than $99 to keep it as affordable as possible while still offering value. However, if more games, features, and controllers are added, I personally have no issue paying a higher price to get more quality stuff.
This has been the sore issue with most Nintendo products for the last several years. Amiibo, the GameCube Controller Adapter, the NES Classic, the SNES Classic, and even the Switch have all experience drastic shortages which causes panic, feuds, and scalpers to take advantage of the situation. If there is one thing Nintendo can do to learn from its mistakes is to meet demand on day 1. Whatever quantity they made for the NES and SNES Classic launch, I would say quadruple it at least. In fact, I would have Nintendo hold back launch by a few weeks just to give them time to have more on launch day to avoid chaos in the streets like with the launch of the SNES Classic.
So what do you think about a potential N64 Classic? What games and features would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below.