Company: Nintendo of America(NA), Nintendo of Japan(Japan)
Released: 1996(US & Japan)
Lifespan: 1996-Present(US, approximated official death of late 2001 to early 2002)
The competition has already been out for a year. The Saturn and Playstation have been showing off it's powerful graphics already for about a year, and it has the edge in sales and games out for it, Nintendo promised a release of there powerful new system(codename Ultra 64, later on to be revealed as Nintendo 64) to be released around the same time of the Saturn and Playstation. Nintendo would've had the obvious edge, because they promised there system to the first true 64-bit system(The Atari Jaguar claimed to be 64-bit, but it used 2 32-bit processors instead, combined to be 64, but only capable of pulling off 32-bit graphics.).
But delays and delays hampered the release of the Nintendo 64, and many frustrated Nintendo loyalists bought a Playstation or Saturn instead. The Nintendo 64 was finally revealed to us in early 1996, but what Nintendo did shocked us all, they went to cartridge format, Nintendo perhaps thought this would be a great idea, due to the early CD-system based failures of 3DO, Turbo Duo, Sega CD, and CD-I, and perhaps thought that the Playstation and Saturn would fail too. We'd just have to wait and see the results of the launch to see if Nintendo's hunch was successful.
The N64 launch in Japan was a success, and hundreds of thousands of N64's were sold, beating out the launch of Playstation and Saturn by the thousands. In Japan, however, most of the Nintendo loyalists found the lack of games at launch to be frustrating. There was only 3 games to choose from at launch, but thankfully all 3 would go on to be big hits in Japan. The Nintendo 64 in Japan launched with 3 titles, one featuring there key mascot, Mario, in Super Mario 64, and since there was a Pilotwings game at the SNES launch, they decided to throw in Pilotwings 64 at the N64 launch too, the final game was called Shobi, and it was a chess game, featuring one of Japan's famous chess master.
The N64 launch in the US was good too, but didn't go as great as it did in Japan. Only 2 titles were released at launch, the same one's that were released in Japan with the exception of Shobi, and most gamers felt empty handed and decided to stick with there Playstation and Saturn instead. The N64, lacked publishers at the beginning of it's life cycle in September 1996, and by the end of that year, there were only about 8 titles available for the N64. (Compare that to the Dreamcast which launched also in September, but in 1999, with about 15 titles available at launch, and about 40 titles available for the system by the end of 1999)
Also, another thing the N64 lacked was games in the RPG genre in the US. The Role Playing Game genre is about the most popular genre of all games, and the N64's first true RPG was released about a year after the system's launch in the summer of 9y with Mystical Ninja starring Goemon. Not many RPG's have followed since Mystical Ninja, the only one's that did so far were Goemon's Great Adventure, Ogre Battle 64 and Quest 64. There are other games which involve RPG elements, but aren't true RPG games like Zelda 64, Shadowgate 64, and Harvest Moon 64. But still combined that's only about 10 RPG games out of a library of about 200 N64 games to date. The reason for this is probably because a CD can hold much more than a cartridge, and if the game goes past the CD's space capacity, they can always carry on the game to an additional CD(like FF7 has 3 CD's and FF8 has 4 CD's).
Another thing plaguing the N64, is not enough 3rd party support, sure they got big support from a lot of companies like THQ, Activision, Midway, Acclaim, Rare, Konami, Crave, Electronic Arts, and others, but most of the really big-name companies have only released a couple or none N64 games. Some companies like this are Capcom(They only released 2 N64 titles as of 04/2000), Namco(with only just some Arcade Classics game on the N64 for the US), Eidos(With only Fighting Force it's only N64 game)and most noteworthy, RPG giant Squaresoft. As a matter of fact, most of the above mentioned publisher support more games for Nintendo's portable Game Boy Color than do for the N64.
Any ways, lets start talking about the N64 itself. The graphics it can pull off are unbelievable! Games such as Mario 64, Zelda 64, Donkey Kong 64, and Resident Evil 2, show the N64 sporting it's finest graphics ever! We can finally see, clean, crisp, polygons, very little to no flickering at all. Also if you use the N64 expansion pak, you can increase the game's resolution, and increase more storage space for games! The N64, can show up to a plethora of colors of once with a super huge variety of colors to choose from, and since it's cartridge based, there's barely any to no load times, but then again, a cartridge game can only hold a certain amount of space, so you gotta cut back on all the cool stuff like FMV's.
The sound is another great thing for the N64, you can pull off some of the best digitized sound on the N64. I couldn't believe amount of digitized voice stuffed into Star Fox 64, or the amount of commentary and taunts fit into WWF Warzone, WWF Attitude, and ECW Hardcore Revolution! Of course, voice samples do take up a lot of space so most gamesm usually have to cut back on them, but then in most cases, sound is usually not what makes a game.
The N64, boasts a great number of innovative accessories and built in enhancements. The N64 was the first system ever have more than 2 built in controller ports. The N64 sported 4, so no need to but multi player adaptors. The N64 controller was the first system to ever feature a control stick for free 3-D movement, and about a year later, Nintendo released the Rumble pak, which gave off vibrations in the controller, to make you ''feel the game'' after you hit, crash, tackle, etc. Sony immediately copied Nintendo, releasing a Dual Shock controller, which has both control sticks, and vibration feedback built into it. Interact has also released some non-endorsed accessories for the N64, such as the Game Shark, which makes you get asy cheats on the N64 without entering a code sequence, The Dex Drive, which lets you upload download game saves onto/from your controller pak, and Sharkwire, an N64 online game community network.
Right now the N64, is still barely surviving with still a decent amount of 3rd party support, so I guess the N64 will just barely make it to go down as a success, but a great risk that Nintendo took that costed them some serious money. Now let's get onto the final ratings rundown.
Graphics Capabilities: 9.4
Sound Capabilities: 8.8
Variety of Games: 6.5
3rd Party Support: 7.2
Rounded to fit GameFAQs score: 8