Nintendo 64 holiday game roundup
December 22, 1998
By CNN/SI Producer Adam Levine
(CNN) -- When the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996, it was met with great expectations by gamers everywhere. Unfortunately, software developers failed to meet the demands of players expecting an instant library of good games by the end of the year. N64 owners have continued to suffer the taunts of PlayStation owners flaunting oodles of titles in the PlayStation library.
But that was then, and this is now. Nintendo owners rejoice! This year you not only get a choice of great games for the N64, but you also get some of the best games available on any platform. With all the big releases in the final quarter of the year, none was more anticipated than Nintendo's "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time." While this game will surely set the standard for 3D platform adventures, it is by no means the only great title this season. Here's a quick look at the hot N64 titles on store shelves this holiday season.
"Star Wars: Rogue Squadron"
If drool was trickling out of your mouth when the "Star Wars: Phantom Menace" trailer played in theaters last month, then you better get a bucket for "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron." This game puts you in the cockpit of five familiar vehicles (X-Wing, land speeder, Y-Wing, V-Wing and A-Wing) from the Star Wars universe as you take on various missions ranging from search and destroy to defend and rescue. Rogue runs in hi-res (640x480) mode with the use of Nintendo's 4MB expansion pack, but you can play the game in med-res (320x240) mode without the $30 accessory. This game has a decent learning curve, but the expansive levels and top-notch sound will keep you coming back to kick some Imperial tail. Bottom line: Don't buy this game without the 4MB expansion pack.
"Turok 2: Seeds of Evil"
If you love carnage, then this blood is for you. "Seeds of Evil" picks up the continuing adventures of Turok, an interstellar warrior well versed in the art of destroy, kill and annihilate. "Turok 2" features large expansive worlds loaded with more 'Bad Barneys' of varying speed, size and cunning. Turok must track down keys and warp portals to advance, as well as satisfy specific level objectives. The wide range of weapons in this game will satisfy even the most militant player. "Turok 2" runs at a higher frame rate with Nintendo's 4MB expansion pack. Bottom line: "Turok 2" also features an excellent multiplayer deathmatch mode, sure to entertain and to keep you playing long after you solve the single player game.
"NFL Quarterback Club '99"
Acclaim's "NFL Quarterback Club '99" delivers the best looking football there is, and the only football game running in hi-res (640x480) mode. The artificial intelligence and defensive scheme improve on last year's game, but "NFL QBC '99" still suffers from various money plays sure to net big yards and touchdowns every time. However, you can counter most of these plays against human opponents. The game features cool Super Bowl simulations and a full NFL license. All the options you would expect like create-a-player, create-a-team, drafting, trades and salary cap are present. Bottom line: This is the best football simulation on the N64 to date.
"F-Zero X" reincarnates an old Super Nintendo title that was ahead of its time even then. Now the market for space-age racers has developed into its own genre. This game features extremely fast paced and fun action as you guide a wide range of hover vehicles through more than 30 wildly looping courses against a large field of bump and grind racers. The graphics won't blow you away, but "F-Zero X" delivers precise control and is easy to pick up, but hard to put down. Players face three circuits and a few hidden ones. Bottom line: Nintendo knows how to make great racing games that satisfy everyone from amateurs to experts.
"NBA Jam 99"
In the past, the Jam series was famous for two-on-two play driven by ridiculous physics, dunks and lots of scoring. "NBA Jam 99" reverses the trend, shifting its focus to a five-on-five simulation. Fans still looking for the crazy dunks will enjoy a special Jam mode, but this game is at its best as a reality based hoops simulation. Acclaim is quickly establishing itself as a sports powerhouse for the N64 and has managed once again to use hi-res graphics coupled with smooth player animation. Driving to the basket is a bit too easy, especially if you isolate on a slower player in fast-break situations. Special moves, like a neat crossover dribble can also help create separation and easy scoring opportunities. Bottom line: Forget the NBA lockout and the spoiled millionaire players and owners and boot up your own season on time and in full.
"Glover" looks like a cute innocent game for kids, but in reality offers a highly original spin to the explore and collect 3D platform genre. Glover is the detached hand of a wizard who brews an explosive vat of evil with predictable results. But, Glover isn't just four good fingers, he is king of all things round and rolling. Throughout the game, Glover must learn how to manipulate a host of spheres ranging from bowling balls to bouncing balls to crystal balls. Players must master various attack and dodge techniques (with and without Glover's collection of balls) to traverse the colorful Mario-like levels. Bottom line: This game will entertain kids and challenge serious gamers with its unique mechanics.
Electronic Arts has consistently produced the best hockey games for both the PC and the PSX, so its' first N64 offering in the series didn't have far to stray. Sadly, "NHL 99" is essentially a port of "NHL 98" for the PC and PSX. That said, the gameplay, artificial intelligence and graphics are all very solid. The game features a full NHL license, but fails to reflect the newly sized crease and altered net positions on the ice. Bottom line: This is probably the best hockey title for the N64, but EA needs to push the envelope to take better advantage of the N64's capabilities.
"Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA"
"Rush 2" as a sequel is a clear improvement over the original. Nine new tracks feature several U.S. cities like New York, Las Vegas and Seattle with appropriate scenery and landmarks. The strength of "Rush 2" is the inclusion of different routes through the courses. If you get behind in a race you can chance risky shortcuts that give you the opportunity to comeback. Racers can also customize a wide range of features on the 16 different cars available. Several extra courses and cars are also hidden throughout the game. The best part of "Rush 2" is a stunt track where racers are scored against the clock for dramatic monster aerials and flips. Bottom line: The N64 market is flooded with racing games, so rent before you buy.
No sports fan can live without a soccer game and EA knows it. Wonder what would happen if Manchester United took on the U.S. national team? No problem. Soccer fans will appreciate the inclusion of hundreds of real International clubs as well as an abundance of national teams. The graphics and game play are fast and precise and the artificial intelligence is solid. Missing the World Cup already? "FIFA 99" allows you to create your own dream tournament among all available teams. This game boasts plenty of options to adjust player attributes, tweak offensive and defensive schemes and alter field and weather conditions. Bottom line: "FIFA 99" packs enough punches and kicks to challenge any soccer game.
Kemco's latest rally style racer for the N64 follows a proud tradition in the "TopGear" series. The graphics are smooth and crisp and work well to create an excellent sense of speed as you race through the five main tracks. The courses run together a bit, but the action remains engaging throughout. Players rack up cash for wins and can spend the money on improving the handling, acceleration and top speed of their current car or save up for a new one. Unlike "Rush 2", a four-player mode is available. Bottom line: This game is addictive and most certainly worth a look for avid racing fans.
Ratings are courtesy of the Entertainment Software Rating Board.