Hollywood, Blockbuster, and the N64 - Part 1

A new generation of rentals.
By Bro
November 02, 2015
At the end of my last article, I mentioned that my next article would be either about movies or Legos. That was every bit my intention but I've been trying to write one of those for a few weeks now and have been met with a severe case of writer's block every time. During that time, I was redoing my list of N64 rentals and was hit with a sudden burst of inspiration. Where that leads, I must follow, but I still hope to get those other articles out eventually. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this new series of rental memories. And once again, a huge thanks to all who read my previous SNES rental series. Your time is greatly appreciated.

Changes. If I had to sum all this up right now in just one word, that would be it. Looking back on it, it was a really exciting time for console gaming. Why? That's a very easy question to answer: 3D. Think about that for a moment. It's the standard now, but there was time when fully three dimensional worlds were uncharted territory. So much so that for a long time, I wasn't even sure what that would look like. I kept thinking about side-scrolling Mario levels and wondering what they would be like in 3D. It was a totally brand new concept and the N64 was the stuff of legend before it's release as a result of that. If you're around my age, you'd be just starting junior high around the time you started to really hear the buzz about it. I got my N64 near the end of 7th grade, and the timing was perfect. Nintendo was literally growing up with me.
It was also an interesting time for Nintendo. Due to sticking with a cartridge format, they lost much of the their 3rd party support to the Playstation. In spite of that, Nintendo made some of their most memorable games during this consoles run, such as the groundbreaking Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. They also had huge ally in Rare, who created many of the consoles most fondly remembered masterpieces. But that would all happen in time. Before that, we kids who were just beginning our adolescence were excited to see what lay in store for our favorite hobby.
During this time, my local Best Buy and Toys R Us were my best friends. Toys R Us had at least ten consoles set-up in their store and my friend Jonathan and I would ask our parents to take us there whenever we had the chance. Best Buy only had two or three set up, but it was still amazing. It was at these two places, with that beautiful brand new three-handled controller in my hand, that I stepped off the two-dimensional boat and took my first steps onto a 3D shore. You had to be there at the time to fully understand it. If you were, then you know what I'm talking about. There was truly nothing like it.

This console was a gateway into a whole new world. You had to be there to really know what I'm talking about.
It was also these places that resulted in my owning an N64 in the first place. Jonathan lived near that area. My older sister was friends with his older sister and we had spent the night at their house and were on our way home when my sister asked to go to a store near the Best Buy/Toys R Us area. I naturally asked if Jonathan and I could go to one of those stores and my mom agreed. I didn't know this at the time, but it was all a ruse. My mom had my sister suggest it because she knew I'd ask to go to Best Buy. While Jonathan and I were occupied with Mario 64, my mom bought a Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64, and an additional blue controller. How she pulled this off, I have no idea, but I drove home with all that in the same car as myself and I had no clue. I don't even know how she got it out of the car without me knowing.
When I got home, a surprise birthday party awaited me and soon after that, I unwrapped my newly obtained prize. I spent the afternoon with Jonathan and my cousins Brent and Alan playing Super Mario 64. I got a decent amount of birthday money and a day or two later, my mom took me out and I bought Shadows of the Empire and Mario Kart 64. I bought Shadows of the Empire first and I can still remember reading and rereading the instruction booklet on the way to the other store. After getting Mario Kart, I looked at the cardboard guide included that showed all the weapons and items. My career as an N64 owner had officially begun.
Sorry if that intro was lengthy, but it was important for me to set the scene for all this. That sense of wonder and excitement over new possibilities was huge at the time for me, not just because it was true, but because, sadly, it dissipated over time. Why? I'll get more into that as this series progresses. Now that the scene has been set, let's get into the meat and potatoes of this story: rentals. As the title implies, I had a new option for rentals that came along shortly after this console was released; Hollywood Video. It opened up in our neighboring city of Victorville and for the most part it exceed the selection our local Blockbuster offered. I can still remember looking at games and seeing previews for Romy and Michelle on the in-store TV's. I went back and forth between these two stores and the next handful of articles are the result of all that. I hope you enjoy it. But first a quick note - remember, these are just games I rented. If you don't see something in these articles when they are done, that doesn't mean I didn't play it. Also, my complete list of SNES rentals topped out at 61 games. This list stops at 36 so there won't be as many per article. Ok? Ok. Let's begin then.


This game has been talked about so many times around here that I was seriously tempted to just show box art and underneath it write "'Nuff Said." and be done with it. But this is a such an important game though, that it's impossible to not mention it when talking about the Nintendo 64. Goldeneye changed everything about console shooters and would perhaps, along with Perfect Dark, remain the definitive console FPS until the release of Halo. I'll never forget how I first played this. I had followed it in Nintendo Power and was really excited about it. One afternoon after school, my mom was laying on the couch with a slight headache, and she asked to get her something out of one of her dresser drawers. When I opened it, in addition to whatever it was I getting, I saw a blockbuster case. I opened it up and there was Goldeneye. I gave my mom what she asked for, heartily thanked her, and began to play.
Since Goldeneye needs no introduction, I'll make this brief. Since that afternoon, I can safely say that I have logged more hours into Goldeneye than any shooter before or since. While many of those hours were in multiplayer with my friends and with my dad, what I remember more fondly than anything else was the single player. I just adored the way the campaign was structured. The difficulty progression of not only tougher enemies, but longer levels with more to do was outstanding, and no game since this or Perfect Dark has captured it so well. I also loved the way the game's cheats had to be earned. When you managed to unlock a tough one, it really made you feel like you earned the right to use it afterward. Then there were the two secret levels that could only be unlocked by completing the game on Secret Agent and 00 Agent.

That was a brilliant move on Rare's part, and just like the picture says, it rewarded skill and practice rather than liberal use of a credit card. It's also worth noting that this was the first FPS, at least that I played, that required you to reload your weapon. I didn't know this when I followed it in Nintendo Power, so I always wondered why the players ammo in the screenshots was always low. I didn't know I was looking the amount of bullets left in a clip.

I'll happily admit I enjoyed the Daniel Craig remake of this game, but even that failed to capture the open, almost sandbox feel this game had. The closest I've played to it since is Time Splitters 2, and that was still not quite the same. It's a shame shooters have taken the straight forward path they have because Rare really had a brilliant design here. Eventually I came to own it, but it was good couple years after it had been out. I had rented and borrowed it countless times before that. Even more so than just being a great game, Goldeneye was my introduction to the world of James Bond. I had actually never seen any of those movies before that. I didn't even know the famous Monty Norman score. (If this baffles you, go back and read Denied, my first article. It explains everything.) After playing this, my friend Greg bought the movie, making Goldeneye the first Bond film I ever saw. Since then I've more or less caught up on the series. Goldeneye is not my favorite film in the franchise, or even my favorite Brosnan Bond film, but this movie and it's magnificient game will always be special to me. Hands down, the greatest movie-based game ever made.


I wasn't trying to do this when I was writing down my list, but it's interesting that Top Gear Rally follows Goldeneye on my list. Why? After renting Goldeneye, I had told my friend Jonathan about it and he thought it sounded amazing. I was on my way to his house to spend the night one afternoon, and I was returning Goldeneye from renting it either the first or second time. Jonathan really wanted to play it and I told him I would try and just rent it again. When I got to Blockbuster, I looked around. I saw Top Gear Rally on the shelf and was intrigued. Some time before that, Nintendo Power sent me the promo video for StarFox 64. At the end, it showed previews for a bunch of new games coming out. Top Gear Rally was one of them and I thought it looked cool. Needless to say, I failed my friend that afternoon and rented this instead.

Even though he was disappointed, Top Gear Rally turned out to be a pretty good game. As the name implies, there was plenty of 3D off road racing to be had here and it was a lot of fun. There wasn't a huge amount of vehicles or tracks available, but this game made good use of what it had. Tracks could be raced normally, mirrored, and I think even backwards. They could even be be run with different weather effects. The snow especially looked really cool, and made even familiar courses difficult to navigate. Those are ideas that I wish would make their way into more racing games. How cool would it be to race Mario Kart courses backwards instead of just mirror? I never rented it again, but I had a lot of fun with Top Gear Rally while I had it. And just so you all know, Jonathan and I went on to play plenty of Goldeneye together over the course of my N64 ownership.


I present to you all a brief lesson in psychology. I never played Cruisin' USA in the arcades. I also did not have access to Nintendo Power at the time of the N64 launch, nor was I actively reading any other game magazine. Therefore, I had no idea when I rented this that it was almost universally hailed as a terrible conversion of a fun arcade game and of the worst launch titles in video game history. This is one of the first games I rented after I got my Nintendo 64. And I'll be honest; I liked it. Sure it wasn't the greatest racing game I had ever played, but I liked how the cars were all different, (police car, vintage, sports, hummer...etc) and I thought the track locales were cool. (Golden Gate Bridge, Redwood forest...etc.)

I enjoyed it so much in fact that I wanted buy it for some time after renting it. Eventually I discovered all the toxic reviews for the game and I couldn't understand why. I mean sure, it wasn't a masterpiece but it wasn't that bad either. I still think it's a decent conversion for what it is. Two more games in the franchise were released over the N64's life span; Cruisin' World and Cruisin' Exotica. I didn't play either of those but I remember USA fondly. Yes, it's at the bottom of totem pole when compared to other racers on the console, but if all you want is a simple cruise through some American landmarks, you could do worse. How do you all remember this?

Maybe it was the thrill of a new generation of consoles, but with the N64, I was renting games I wouldn't have normally taken a chance on. Sports games were never my forte, but there are a few arcade styles titles that I do enjoy. And Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey is at the top of that list. I had read about it in Nintendo Power and seen videos of it, but the thing that really made want to try this out was The Mighty Ducks. The child sports film was very popular in the 90's, but the Mighty Ducks is easily my favorite of that genre. D2 was the first film I saw in the series, and remains to this day my favorite of the trilogy. That movie led to an interest in hockey for me. Not enough to start watching it, but enough to make put on my rollerblades and pretend I was playing it in my driveway. Regardless of why I rented this, I'm just glad I did.

This is another game that I played with my friend Jonathan. (Most of my N64 playtime was either with myself, Jonathan, or my three best friends, Danny, Jason and Greg. Jonathan was there for most of the early stuff and I played with him a lot the first two years or so I had the console.) The action was fast and furious. There cool things that happened such as the goalies occasionally turning into a brick wall, making scoring impossible. There were also plenty of cheats, which was a trademark of Midway games at the time. Our favorite was tiny mode, where all the players shrunk, spoke with chipmunk voices, and it was impossible to hit each other when a fight broke out. Fighting was another thing that made this game so fun. Jonathan would compete for sure, but just as often would abandon the game altogether to try and beat each other up. It was great. Unfortunately, my love for this game led me to try a different sports game, one that I ended up not enjoying even a fraction as much...


I guess the fault was really my own. 3D hockey was an arcade title through and through, and Fifa was simulation. I should have known better than to expect a similar experience. Fifa was another game that was shown at the end of the Star Fox 64 video, and it sort of peaked my interest. The closest I had come to Soccer in any form was playing it at recess during elementary school. It's not like I didn't enjoy the game at all. I played it a few times, but I rented something else too at the same time as this. I don't remember what game it was, but I know I played it a lot more than Fifa.

The problem wasn't the game itself. As one of the first 3D soccer games, I'm sure Electronic Arts went to great pains to make it as realistic and fun as possible. Not being a sports fan, I guess I just wasn't qualified to enjoy it properly. Which is fine with me. Unlike 3D hockey, I never played this with Jonathan. I think I may have played a game or two with my dad, but if I did I'm pretty sure he didn't really take to it either. Oh well.


I mentioned playing this with my cousin back in Playin' Games With Brent, Part 3. I also talked about how I didn't take to the game at first. I'm still not sure why. I had followed it pretty closely in Nintendo Power and the more I saw, the more I liked. I even convinced my parents to let me rent on Thursday, as opposes to Friday when my dad got paid. I was really excited to finally play it, but I walked away from that rental weekend extremely disappointed. What was it about Turok I didn't like? This may sound strange, but I actually thought it was kind of boring at first. Granted, this may be due to the fact I didn't have a Controller Pak at the time and had no way of saving my game. It also took my awhile to get used to the controls. Using the C-Buttons to move and strafe, while the joystick was look around was completely reverse of what I was used to. What else? I'm not sure. What's even weirder is that I don't even know what caused me to come around and begin to enjoy it.

Eventually though, I grew to become very fond of this game. There were a ton of weapons to play around with, and I liked that the games final weapon, the Chronosceptor, had to be assembled. There was also a ton of different enemies. Dinosaurs, robots, aliens, giant worms, killer plants...even the grunts were fun to fight. The bosses were also a particular highlight. There were only four of them, but each one felt like a real battle. There were no patterns to memorize, no other enemies to distract you...it was just you and enemy, and only one was going to leave alive. Of course, one can't mention Turok and forget all the cheat codes. I used the guns and infinite ammo cheat all the time, along with the big cheat to see all the levels and bosses. While there were only eight of them, the levels were massive and required exploring to find all the keys needed to unlock the next stage. It may be overshadowed by the likes of Perfect Dark and Goldeneye, but Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is one the finest shooters on the console, and also one it's best games overall. A year or so ago, I was able to obtain the old pc version of this game and was able to complete it beginning to end, without cheating, for the first time. :)


After learning my lesson with the first Turok, I was primed and ready for the second one. The ante had been upped in just about every category, it seemed. It was bloodier for one thing, and graphics had been radically improved. Critics were already calling it things like game of the year and the best shooter on the console. It was also expansion pak compatible, though I never owned one. The Nintendo Power was review was also favorable. Once again though, I rented the game and after playing it for a little while, I was beginning to feel underwhelmed. I didn't think the game sucked, but when compared to the original, I found it lacking in a few key areas. The first was enemy design. There's some cool looking monsters here, but the variety didn't seem as big or as interesting to me. I appreciated seeing different versions of enemies like Purr-Lins, but still. I also wasn't big on the weaponry. Almost immediately after the game was released, Nintendo Power announced the big cheat for the game; BEWAREOBLIVIONISATHAND. Wanting to check out the games guns, I entered the cheat expecting to have a ball the same way I had with the first games weapons. No such a luck.
Compared to the first, the weapons in Turok 2 seemed really weak to me. Especially the explosives. Nothing felt like it did the damage it was supposed to. Yes they would kill eventually, but nothing felt really...powerful.

This is something that my friend Danny and discussed frequently. Not every weapon was a loss, though. The boomerang sawblade was insanely cool, and the Cerebral Bore, which fired a slug that drilled itself in your enemy's brain, was always fun to use. The levels were much bigger this time around, although there were only six of them. One thing Danny and were really excited about was the multiplayer. It was the one thing we desperately wished the original game had and we couldn't wait to try it. It wasn't bad, but I didn't think it was as fun as it could have been. Since renting it, I've played Turok 2 a few times. Danny eventually bought it and I played some of the pc version. I like it better than I did at first, but I still prefer the first one. I guess it's a matter opinion. I've watched a lot of youtube videos on this, and many people say this is their favorite game in the series. I guess it all boils down to preference.


Normally, South Park is just one of those shows I stay away from. When this game came out though, it was still relatively new. Basically, it was still raunchy, but it hadn't reached the levels of depravity that it is currently known for. I think I had only seen 2 or 3 episodes at the time. However, I was seemingly the only person I knew at the time who didn't watch it. When you hear your friends talk about it all the time, you can't help but be curious eventually. The decision to rent the game happened very spontaneously. Danny and Greg were over at my house, and we all were talking about what to do and it was decided that South Park should be rented and that was that. I don't remember how it came to that, but it was unanimous very quickly. I asked my dad if he could take us out and he agreed. We did not tell him what we after, as I'm sure he would have never allowed it. (Sorry, Dad.) He let us look by ourselves so finding the game and grabbing it was very easy.

To be honest, this game is probably the tamest South Park has ever been. Aside from some profanity, this game was more outlandish than anything. I don't remember the plot, but players went on a first person quest to save South Park. An FPS was really an odd choice for a cartoon, but the folks at Igauna and Acclaim somehow made the whole thing work. That's not to say it's a great game. It was ok. Weapons included snowballs, (which could be made "yellow" for extra strength) and things like cow launchers and a generic nerf gun. Enemies that I remember are mobs of angry turkeys and a giant robot. The single player mode felt certainly looked the show, but it was also a little boring. Multiplayer was fun, but the naturally odd shape of the characters made it difficult to hit each other. It's an interesting experiment to be sure, I also don't think it was all that memorable. I haven't played it since that rental.

And that closes the first installment of Nintendo 64 rentals. This will ultimately be a five part series so I hope this and the future installments bring back some memories for you all. I apologize again for misleading about my what next article was going to be. I really did try, and I still plan to write those other ones eventually. Until next time, stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.
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