This penultimate article finds us with some bona-fide Nintendo 64 classics, along with a couple games that don't find much of a spotlight. I'm sure most of you owned a few of these, but not myself. As much as I would have liked to have some of them, all of these were only rentals for me. Let's get to it.
Before I got my N64, my cousin Alan came over to my house and brought his with him. Along with the two games he owned, Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64, he had rented Mario Kart 64 and this game. He only had one controller so we had to take turns playing Mario Kart, which kind of sucked but I was happy to just be playing it all. Blast Corps though, also left an impression on me. In fact, to this day I don't think I've ever played a game like it. Sometime after getting my own N64, I rented the game on my own. I'm pretty sure this was a launch title for the console, and it was clear that Rare was trying to think outside the box for this. The story was that a trailer containing nuclear warheads has short-circuited, and the slightest collision will cause an explosion. Enter the Blast Corps. Your job is to clear a path so the trailer will not hit anything until it can detonate at a safe distance. There's a wide assortment of vehicles to help you in your destructive quest. A giant bulldozer to plow through buildings. A dump truck that had to drift and slide into buildings. A dune buggy that had to crush things by jumping onto them. A bike that shot rockets. And that's not even mentioning the robots. There was a big silver one with one arm that rolled into buildings, and there was my personal favorite, J-Bomb. J-Bomb had a jetpack that let him fly on top of skyscrapers and then pound the whole building to dust in a single stomp.
There was a host of other vehicles as well. Simple cars could be driven, as well as trains and forklifts, which often turned this action game into a puzzle game. In addition to the main story, there were tons of side quests that could be unlocked and completed. Some were races, others were time trials. Each main stage had numerous goals to complete after the path was clear if you wanted to earn a medal and get full completion of the game. You were graded on speed, buildings destroyed, and finding every light-up IEU (I think that's they were called.) in the stage. Now, I'm not sure, but I want to say that when I rented it on my own, I managed to fully complete the game. Blast Corps did not go on to classic status, but it's one the most unique games on the n64, and I think it's also one of it's best. Critics applauded it's mix of action/puzzle gameplay and like I said earlier, I've yet to play a similar game to it. It's a shame this didn't become more popular because I think Rare could have made a good franchise out of this.
This game may be legendary now, but at the time, did anybody see this coming? I know I sure as heck didn't, especially on a Nintendo console. I remember a few years or so before this came out, it was featured in a massive Nintendo Power preview covering E3. Alongside games like Banjo Kazooie, this game was featured, but not anywhere near the form it is now famous for. Back then, it was called something like Conker's Furry Tales, and featured a cuter, cuddlier Conker going through some kind of storybook land. This is the Conker that appeared in Diddy Kong Racing. Now fast forward some. Reading the preview for Bad Fur Day, I couldn't believe what I was reading. It sounded like the writers of the magazine couldn't believe what they writing. Conkers Bad Fur Day was like a Disney cartoon gone horribly wrong. It featured cartoon-like characters who drunk, swore, and included generous doses of toilet humor and crude anatomical references. Naturally, my friends and I could not wait to see this for ourselves. I ended up renting this with my friend Greg and from the first moment Conker sawed the N64 logo in half with a chainsaw and stumbled out of the bar, we knew we were in a trip.
Under the guidance of any other developer, I'm fairly certain Bad Fur Day would have been nothing but shock value. Almost every swear word was said, there was a heavily sexualized flower who was "pollinated" by a group of frisky bees, a cute, innocent-eyed dinosaur was crushed to smithereens, and there was plenty of blood. Under the guidance of Rare, however, all these elements were made into a cohesive whole with a large variety of gameplay and clever movie parodies. The Terminator, Aliens, The Exorcist, Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix...all these and more got spoofed or referenced in some form. Gameplay consisted of platforming, puzzle solving, and gunplay. Conkers quest to get home from a night at the bar led him from rivers of poo, to battlefields, to a vampires castle, and beyond. Even gross elements were used cleverly. For example, when Conker gets drunk, using his urine stream to roll boulders around to solve puzzles takes some skill. Bad Fur Day also has one of my favorite battles of any video game: The Great Might Poo. A giant turd in a river of feces with corn for teeth who sings Opera while he tries to kill you. It's gross, but it's hilarious.
Extreme G doesn't get brought up a whole lot, but this high speed racer is definitely worth giving a test run if you have never played it before. As per usual, the coverage in Nintendo Power magazine was responsible for this rental. Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but that's just the way it usually happened. Anyway, I wanted to try it because the vehicles were cool looking motorcycle-ish things, and because the tracks reminded me of roller coasters. I haven't played this game in over a decade since I rented it so I don't remember much about the tracks or anything, but I do have particular story I can tell. But first, screenshots.
Here's what I remember. Doing well enough and getting first place in all cups/courses would grant you access to a vehicle called The Roach. It was as ugly as the name but it was fast. I managed to unlock the Roach and then moved on to try and win the ultimate prize; a slick and shiny blue racer, who's name I forget at the moment. Using my newly acquired Roach, I competed in several races at maximum difficulty. I took a while to do this, at least an hour if I remember right. I was doing well overall, but it came down to where I had to win the final race to have enough points to get gold. It was very close and I was doing well for most of it, but sadly I finished second and the final vehicle remained locked away from me. I tried again a couple of times, but I never did as well. Extreme G got an N64 sequel. I didn't play it, but I did play Extreme G 3 on the gamecube. It had completely different feel to it and was way too hard. As for this game, I would own it if I still had an N64.
I'd like to take a moment and tell you all a true story. Years ago when I was but a child and the 16-bit console war was raging, I was over at my neighbors house. They kept talking about a game called Street Fighter 2 and a girl named Chun-Li. When they got around to playing it, I was introduced to the fighting game for the first time. After watching them play and giving it a few rounds myself, we went back outside. Having fighting games freshly imprinted on my brain, I stood musing over different ideas for the genre. As I was thinking, I blurted out "You know what would be stupid? If they made a Mario Fighter." That is a true story. I can only speculate what happened next, but somehow those words must have hung in space for a few years until they came together and manifested themselves in the form of this cartridge. Ok, I do know the real story behind the creation of Smash Bros. But I like mine better and when I saw the Nintendo Power's article about it for the first time, I immediately thought back to that moment in my childhood. And of course, Smash Bros was amazing and not stupid at all. Smash is a huge franchise for Nintendo now, but when it first came out, it was mind-blowing. Who would win vs who was either discussed or thought about by all Nintendo fans, with no way to prove it other than opinions and preference.
My friend Jason spent the night at my house when I rented this, and we spent almost the entire rest of the day and night playing it. Being a StarFox fan, I was thrilled at the idea of controlling Fox outside his Arwing and had already decided he was going to be the first character I used. Sadly, in this game and every other Smash since, he's one of my worst characters. I was one of only maybe 2 or 3 people I knew at the time who played Earthbound on the SNES, and once I found out Ness was a secret character, I was hoping he would become my main. He was and is also one of worst characters. Jason could dominate with him though, and I think preferred him overall. Danny liked Link best, Greg was really good with Luigi, and me? In this game, I favored Kirby. Needless to say, Smash became a huge hit with the four of us and a multiplayer staple whenever we got together. I have to admit though, for as much as Nintendo fans owe to this game, I find this entry in the series difficult to go back to. Danny got a gamecube and Smash Melee near the end of high school and after playing that, the original Smash seemed so slow and bare-bones to me. Still, I do miss the minigames like Break the Targets, Board the Platforms, and Race to the Finish.
Most of what I know about Shadow Man I learned only recently. All I can recall back then is me reading about it and wanting to play it, but the details of the story and everything else are just blank to me now. Here's what I can remember about the rental; my neighbor came over and went with me and my dad to the video store, I saw Shadow Man there and picked it up. The intro for the game showed a man, who I think was Jack the Ripper, writing a letter. He read aloud as he wrote and he kept repeating "By my deeds am I known." After that, something happened that I think involved a portal. I then took control of the main character who became Shadow Man at different intervals. I got lost a few times, wasn't sure where exactly I was supposed to go, and then I remember nothing else.
Now let's flash forward to the present. Since I knew I was going to write about it soon, I decided to look up reviews for the game and see how the critics took to it. IGN gave it a high score, calling it the darkest N64 game made, but also one it's best. It was a Zelda-like adventure that was very heavy on occult and voodoo themes. Shadow-Man would traverse different dungeons and temples, trying to thwart the lord of demons from taking over the world...or something like that. I like fighting monsters and such, but in the old-school castlevania sense. This darkness isn't usually the type of game I gravitate towards and I'm wondering why it appealed to me so in the first place. When Shadow Man 2 came out, I wasn't interested.
I know they aren't perfect, but I can probably count the number of times Nintendo has truly disappointed me on one hand. Previously, we had been given Yoshi's Island for the SNES. Not only was that a stellar platformer, it's one of my favorite video games ever made. So it's obvious that seeing the first screenshots for Yoshi's Story made me very, very excited. I followed the game after that as best I could. When the final review for it came in though, I was confused. Nintendo Power said that the point of the game was to eat fruit. They gave the game a good score, but I could also sense in the writing a feeling of disappointment. I was still curious and rented the game to see for myself what this fruit collecting nonsense was.
To be fair, Yoshi's Story is just as charming as it's predecessor. Yoshi is one of those characters who can't help but be adorable, and that personality is soaked all through the cartridge. Levels are fun to look at and everything is very cute and child-like. But there-in also lies the problem. Yoshi's Island may have looked like it was drawn with a crayon, but it had serious gameplay to go with it. Just like the review said, the object of this game was not to traverse brilliant stage design, but to eat 30 pieces of fruit. It was cute, and some of the stages were fun to go through, but everything was so streamlined. This was built from the ground-up for children. I was so disappointed with this game that I haven't played it since renting it. From what I understand, this game is looked back on fondly, but for me it seems destined to remain a letdown. I haven't played it yet, but I hope Yoshi's Woolly world makes up for this.
Here we find another N64 classic. In fact, this was good enough to make IGN's 100 greatest video games ever made when it was released. But even though this was a launch game for the console, it was a couple years before I was able to sit down and play it for myself. I had heard nothing but good things about it, and my friends made me wish I had played this a lot sooner than I did. When I finally rented it, I could see what the hubbub was about. In fact, I think I rented this 2 or 3 times. I remember liking the nighttime and shipyard courses best, but I also spent a good deal of time in the training area riding around and doing stunts. I never had a favorite character of the four, I just rotated using all of them. I also really liked the music.
One of the things this game is known for is it's then revolutionary water effects. I'm not kidding when I say playing this used to make me thirsty. In fact, I still like the way the water looks in this game. I also remember the code that let you ride a dolphin, which was always fun. If I had any issue with this game, it's that I wish there were a few more courses. I don't remember ever getting bored of it, but what was here was so fun that I always wanted more than what was offered. I never played Wave Race: Blue Storm on the gamecube, or the original Wave Race on the Gameboy. But I have fond memories of this. I really liked the games atmosphere. It had a fun-in-the-sun vibe that made it not only fun, but it just felt good to play. Hopefully it shows up on the Eshop soon, I'll definitely buy it if it does.
Well, there's only one more left now. I'll try to have it done before Christmas, but I would also like to write a Christmas article. We'll see what time allows. As always, Stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.