Before we go too far, Nintendo has insisted before that there are no plans for a Nintendo 64 Classic Edition. You know, nothing similar to the mini versions of the NES and SNES that came out over the past few years.
Both of the products were a huge hit, and nostalgic players have been absolutely demanding it. Still, there definitely seems to be some kind of hesitation about doing something similar with the N64. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Hell, despite selling a lot fewer units than people seem to realize, it has always held up as the company’s most nostalgia-inducing console since I was in grade school.
Now, let’s not forget that Nintendo has changed course about its plans for certain things in the past. Spare a moment, though. Consider that perhaps it’s best that they just… don’t make one. Instead, I would argue in favor of abandoning the cutesy, plastic miniatures in favor of something more in line with how other classic games are released in the modern gaming era.
Nintendo has a thing for making high-quality products, of course. I’ll never deny that. I can’t say I have any huge complaints about how the games played on either the NES Classic Edition or the SNES Classic Edition – but I think that there are a lot of reasons that the Nintendo 64 just isn’t quite as simple to replicate in such a form. Let’s not even waste a bunch of time trying to imagine how the hell a “mini” Nintendo 64 controller could possibly work in the hands of anyone but Ant-Man or Tinkerbell.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the following things would be much bigger problems, quite literally:
1 | We almost inevitably know the titles that would have a 90% chance of making the cut for an N64 Classic Edition.
Let’s imagine the lineup for a second. Both Zeldas, Super Mario 64, a Party or two, and Mario Kart. Star Fox and Smash are also safe bets.
Somehow, they’d sucker Microsoft (who owns Rare) into something like Goldeneye and maybe Perfect Dark, if they were feeling generous. By all means, all of these games are great and would be a perfect fit on an N64 retro console. You know there would be the lineup of shoe-ins.
Let’s be honest, though. You also know damn well what we wouldn’t see:
- Most of the best other Rare games – like Blast Corps, Diddy Kong Racing, and Banjo-Tooie…and how about Jet Force Gemini? Conker’s Bad Fur Day? Not a drunk squirrel’s chance in outer space, I’d say.
- Same no-deal expectations for most of the great M-rated stuff, like Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, Killer Instinct: Gold, Doom 64, Resident Evil 2, or Shadowman. They wouldn’t be family-friendly enough.
- Basically any classic sports games: NFL Blitz, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, WWF No Mercy, etc. These would be nearly impossible to sort out with all of their assorted licenses.
- I could see a chance (but no certainty) for a few popular titles from second and third-party developers: Excitebike 64, Bomberman Hero, Harvest Moon 64, Rayman 2: The Great Escape, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, Mega Man 64…
- Still…get real, if you dream for some of the weirder stuff like Beetle Adventure Racing, Space Station Silicon Valley, Mystical Ninja 64 Starring Goemon, or Mischief Makers.
2 | Common N64-era game mechanics and visuals have aged very poorly when compared to other console generations.
Friends, I’m not sure how to softball this one in for any of you. The Nintendo 64 was a relic of its time, but it has aged perhaps the most poorly of any beloved classic console – save for the Atari 2600 and other pre-NES consoles.
I cannot stress enough how much I mean that with love and respect, for a lot of wonderful memories growing up and even as a young adult. Still…it hurts to say, but our memories are lying. The graphics you remember from the past not only look prehistoric compared to the average modern games, the underlying bells and whistles also aren’t sophisticated by any stretch of the imagination.
Game design has changed so much since the N64 that most of the primitive parts of these classic titles would seem more like a needless hindrance than anything nostalgic. Examples include crude camera controls, poor button mapping, archaic AI difficulty settings, limited game options, frequent confusion about your sense of direction, a lack of information about how to progress, and old multiplayer modes designed for split-screen play.
3 | Nintendo, tear down this paywall.
I think that most of all, at the end of the day…the value of an N64 Classic Edition could almost never be justified. Compared to its two direct competitors – Microsoft and Sony – Nintendo is keeping its entire library of classic video game titles locked behind a very stubborn paywall.
The asking price for most Nintendo products is always a bit higher, to begin with; this even applies to the aging, physical copies of used games at “mom & pop” shops. The ability to even pick up and play some of the classic titles from the past has become more and more difficult, and not cheaper.
Rather than counter this issue with a digital library of classic titles to download at a fair price, Nintendo has consistently (and seemingly insistently) been completely backward in regards to pricing and availability on modern hardware. And, no, the “free” games included with Nintendo Switch Online are not enough.
Even worse, instead of allowing people who digitally purchased classic games on past consoles to simply transfer their content to newer ones, Nintendo’s online services have basically always abandoned the previous game licenses altogether. This means you might have to pay $10-20 for the same digital game you already owned on an older console, simply because Nintendo’s online network is different on their latest hardware.
This practice is unacceptable, but it only continues because people continue spending the money, usually without a second thought.
Buying the Classic Edition consoles was as much a “good value” as paying top-dollar for a decent emulator wrapped in a fancy plastic shell. The N64 Classic Edition will more than likely be no different, without much in the way of frills.
So, what do you think? I want to leave this open a little bit because I know that I’m dabbling into two slightly different but related topics: whether or not there should ever be a Nintendo 64 Classic Edition release, and also Nintendo’s method of gatekeeping its classic library of games.
Maybe a Classic Edition of the GameCube would be a better value, but I really think the N64 needs to stay the same old normal-sized, curvy hunk of plastic that I’ve always remembered.