This next batch of N64 rentals finds us with a couple of games I like to call "7 out of 10's." These are are games that gave a solid effort and were fun overall, but with a little more polish could have been something truly special. The Nintendo 64 grew to have a decent amount of these games in it's library by the time it's run was over. Of course, everyone's experiences and opinions are different so feel free to take that statement with a grain of salt. Anyway, the first game of this segment falls into that category. Let's get started.
I love kart racing, I'll take it over hardcore racing sims any day, but the fact is that with one or two exceptions, most kart racers at the time that weren't Mario Kart weren't all that good. The folks at Atlus decided to take a different approach to this genre. Taking all the items and arcade-like gameplay that makes kart racing so much fun, they decided not to apply it to motor sports, but snowboarding. For the most part, they succeeded. Snowboard Kids is a fun and solid racer that packs it's fair share of charm. I had read about in Nintendo Power, and I think they ended up giving it a favorable review. Even so, I remember choosing it because there was nothing else available that I wanted to rent at the time. Unfortunately for you, the readers, I don't remember too much about actually playing it.
There were items, but I can't recall what any of them were. What I do remember were there something like 5 or 6 six characters, each one with different handling attributes. The designers also tried to be unique with the courses. Rather than just twisting and turning down snow-covered mountainsides, some tracks had you racing down grass. One course even had you boarding through an amusement park. I remember really enjoying that one. It wasn't a classic, but I did enjoy it. It must have done well because a sequel was made, though I didn't play it. That being said, writing this has made me want to try this game again. I haven't played since renting it, but researching it made it look more fun that I remember. Maybe I'll try to download a ROM later. We'll see.
Every console has a great game that ends up going unnoticed, whether it's due to lack of advertising or simply being overshadowed by bigger named releases. If there was ever a game that meets that criteria for the N64, it's Mischief Makers. I was excited about this the moment I first heard about it. Nintendo Power had covered it over several issues and I thought it looked cool from the get go. Even though I was excited about 3D, I had not lost my love of 2D platforming. What really clinched it for me was the Starfox 64 promo video. In the last article, I said that the end of that video showcased a bunch of upcoming games and Mischief Makers was one of them. It was the first time I saw it in action and even though it was probably only for a few seconds tops, it looked awesome. One thing I never was sure of though, was the release date. So when I saw it at the video store, it was totally unexpected and I was ecstatic. I'm glad to report that my excitement for the game was completely justified.
I don't remember what the story was, or even your characters name, but I do remember the gameplay. The chief mechanic was grabbing and shaking. Items could be shaken to drop coins and other items. Enemies could be grabbed and thrown into each other. Where the concept really shined though was the level design. To navigate around obstacles, especially to ascend vertically scrolling levels, items could be grabbed and shaken to rotate platforms and create new ones.It's hard to explain unless you see it in action. What was really cool, however, were the boss battles. They transformed and did a bunch of other cool things. When fighting them, they would drop weapons that you picked and fired back at them. Missiles could be picked in mid-air and thrown back. One boss was a dragon who tried to smash you with his fists and you had to grab them and throw them back in his face. It was really cool. If you owned an N64 and you missed this, you have my sympathy.
For may folks, I'm sure that this game is true N64 classic. One of the many things Rare was good at was putting their own stamp familiar game styles. It played just like Super Mario 64, only with a ton more to do. The levels were much bigger and there was a LOT more things to collect. This is also were Rare really began to shine in character creation. The amount of personality in this game is impressive, and it makes it fun to just look at it. This was a widely anticipated game and I was very excited to play it. Yet once again, I found it didn't make the impression on me I was expecting. Don't get me wrong here, I liked it. I liked it a lot. It just didn't....blow me away.
This may surprise some, especially since he's been one of the most requested Smash Bros characters for awhile now, but I just don't find the character of Banjo all that memorable. I liked how Kazooie always sassed him, though. In fact, I thought most characters in the game, the witch included, were a lot more interesting than Banjo was. That said, the gameplay was very good. The levels were fun to explore and the challenges were very enjoyable to complete. I got very far into the game, but I did not complete it. I haven't played Banjo Tooie, but I've heard it that it was even better. Overall, I liked Banjo Kazooie a lot. I just didn't think it was super amazing or anything like that.
I was attracted to SCARS right away because I had a Hot Wheels car that looked just like the one on the cover here. I used to collect the Hot Wheels that were shaped like animals and such. I remember having the shark, a dragon, a snake, and even a robot. Now if you put these types of cars into a video game and gave them the ability to attack each other, what was not to love? Cool as that sounds, I knew the gimmick would either make or break this game so I didn't rent it for a some time. When I did, Jonathan was with me. He thought it looked cool too so we got it. While I would ultimately classify it as a "7 out of 10," it turned to be pretty cool. It played just like it looked. Animal shaped cars raced through different environments while blasting weapons at each other. Sort of like kart racing meets off road, although I wouldn't label this a kart racer at all.
Playing games with Jonathan ultimately taught me that I could almost never beat him at anything. That applied not just to multiplayer. When playing the cups to unlock everything, I found out that try as I might, I just wasn't good at SCARS. Jonathan rocked at it. Especially once he unlocked the scorpion. Even after unlocking shinier, faster vehicles like the snake and the panther, he stuck with the scorpion and always won when he did. I don't remember what any of the other cars were though, except for the rhino. SCARS was a decent game, and there are some who call it a forgotten classic. I wouldn't go that far, but I think it's worth your time if you're curious or never played it before. I think there may have even been a sequel, but I'm not sure.
The Nintendo 64 is known for a lot of things, but fighting games is not one of them. (Smash Bros being the obvious exception.) There were a handful released for console in its lifespan, but with the exception of maybe Killer Instinct Gold and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, who remembers them? War Gods? BioFreaks? Mace: The Dark Age? Fighters Destiny? Odds are nobody remembers or talks about these games when they reflect on their N64 ownership. Therefore, I wouldn't blame a single one of you if you never heard of Dark Rift. Once again, Nintendo Power was responsible for my interest here, but at the time my parents still had a disdain for fighting games and it took some convincing to let me take this home. I presented my case as best I could, but somehow I think I took a step backwards. "Hey mom, you know type of game you don't like? Well there's a new one out I'd like to try, only this time it's in 3d and more realistic than ever." Yeah, I'm sure that helped me a lot. Somehow must have worked though, because obviously I rented it.
Sorry for the larger pictures, but I couldn't find any in the size I usually look for. I don't believe all my begging was in vain. I remember really enjoying Dark Rift. There some cool looking characters in it. I remember some type of space police guy with a gun, a big guy with an axe named Gore, a boss named Sonork, and a really cool looking ice guy who's body looked like it was filled with water. I also really liked the grab moves. The ice guy had blades for arms and he would grab you on one blade then you would slide down through his body. It looked really cool. Sonork had a gun in his hand with spikes on it, and he would grab your head in the spikes and blast you in the face a few times. Even with that, this wasn't an overly violent game. There was no blood or fatalities or anything like that. I don't think this was very popular when it was released. After renting it, I talked to some kids at school about it and nobody knew what I was talking about. I liked it, but I haven't played it since that rental so I have no clue how it holds up.
Speaking of fighting games,here's one that's kinda of infamous. Critics hated Clayfighter 63 1/3, and even a year or two after its release, I was seeing it in magazines on the avoid lists for new N64 owners. I realize that Clayfighter isn't a spectacular fighting game, but I still really enjoyed the SNES entries in this series and I didn't care how many bad reviews it got, I was going to play it and make up my own mind. Having done just that, I can tell you that while it may be one of the weaker early N64 games, I didn't think it was nearly as bad as critics made it out to be. I played the crap out of it that weekend and had a ball the entire time. The only thing I wasn't big on was some of the redesigns for old fighters. You would think it would be difficult to make somebody like The Blob, who is literally a blob of clay with eyes and a mouth, look stupid. Somehow they managed. I did like the new characters, but I remember ultimately favoring Earthworm Jim.
Something I noticed was that several of the characters that were seen in the previews for this game were missing. There was a statue of liberty, a group of 3 little pygmies who fought standing on each others heads, and a few others that I unfortunately can't recall at the moment. I was disappointed, but Interplay rectified this, although in an unusual way. There was a second version of this game that came out called the Sculptors Cut, and it was a rental only. It featured all the missing characters and some new features. I wanted to try it, but I never saw it any rental places we went to. I think it may be something of a collectible now. Anyway, I've said it before and I'll say it again; Clayfighter deserves a reboot. I would love it if a competent developer took this up and made a serious fighter out of it, while still keeping all the humor and charm intact. It doesn't seem likely, but you never know...
I will never forget my reaction when I found out that Quake 3 was going to be an entirely multiplayer focused shooter. I seriously thought it as one of, if not the stupidest, thing I had ever heard. I have nothing against multiplayer, I'm glad to have it, but I've always looked at as a supplement to the main game. Not once did I ever look at it as something to carry the weight of a game on it's own. I'm still like that. I would much rather play a well designed campaign that makes me want to play through it several times than spend all my spend time in an arena. (I love me some coop though.) After Quake 3, other games began to follow suit, such as Unreal Tournament. Rage Wars was simply Turok's attempt to join that revolution. Now here's the really strange thing; Turok 1 and 2, both infinitely better games than this, required me to warm up to them. I took to Rage Wars right away. Not long after I rented it, I even found it in a bargain bin for dirt cheap and bought it.
When compared to the likes of the aforementioned Quake 3 and Unreal tournament, this is certainly mediocre. But when taken for what it is, I enjoyed this quite a bit. I had a lot more fun here than I ever did with Turok 2's multiplayer. You basically went through different environments armed with weaponry from both Turok 1 and 2 and shot each other. I think there was some attempt at plot, but as this is not a "real" Turok game, I didn't care. You could even play as a raptor and a swarm of beetles. They couldn't use any weapons, but they were really fast and killed almost instantly. It also had a really cool looking black cartridge. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this, but at the same time I perfectly understand those who look upon this game with disdain. It was a bizarre experiment that for some reason just worked for me. Oh yeah, I still have never played Turok 3: Shadows of Oblivion.
And that does it for part 2. I want to take a quick moment to mention one more game, though.
It's not technically part of the list because I'm not sure if I rented this or not. I know I wanted to. I also know that my friend Greg bought it and I played and borrowed it from him. I just can't remember if I rented it before then or not. I could seriously go either way on it. Just thought I'd cover my bases if I did. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this article and I'll see you next time. Stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.