Man, I'm not sure the timing on bringing this back for another season was all that auspicious but I guess if you're in a grim mood then a bunch of random N64 games is the perfect complement. So, yes, hi and welcome back to another season of 64 in 64: the internet's best and only written feature about the Nintendo 64 if you don't count most of the other ones. As with my other old game feature from earlier this month (that would be the Mega Archive, found yonder) I'm going to stick to a monthly schedule over the previous weekly one so I can keep on diversifyin' my portfolio and what have you. Same system as always, though I might push it back up to three per episode if it's a slim month for ideas. After all, I've still got around 310 of these things still left to process. And process them I will(n't)!
Anyhoo, I wanted to start this season on a positive note given all the corporate fuckery afoot this month so I'm booting up a game I've never played before or really heard too much about yet I'm fairly sure I'm going to find something about it to enjoy anyway, given the pedigree. As for the random choice? Hoping for any joy from that cold, unfeeling machine intelligence is perhaps asking for too much but at the very, very least it picked out a game from a genre I've yet to explore on 64 in 64 so I guess I'll thank it for the smallest of mercies. It's also a sports game but then that's half the N64 library so I better get used to it.
Speaking of getting used to things, you guys get used to the rules yet? Here they are again anyway:
- Each episode of 64 in 64 looks at two N64 games for exactly sixty-four minutes apiece. Is that an ideal amount of time to figure out if a game is any good or has held up particularly well? Not really, but it matches the other number so I'm sticking with it. I'll have quarterly updates—four in total because that's how quarters work—so you can see my impressions trend downward in real time.
- The first game is pre-selected by me from the whole of the N64 library. I tend to look at a mix of high-rated or otherwise notable games I've yet to play along with a small (and much smaller now) group of personal favorites from back in the day. The second game is selected by a random choice app that is fated to one day become Skynet, albeit a version of Skynet that will destroy the human race by forcing them all to play 50 turns in Mario Party. (Not the last Mario Party dig today either.)
- Each game also gets two extra blurbs at the end for a conclusive post-script: the first determines whether the game has held up or, crucially, was ever any good in the first place. The second is my "expert" "opinion" on the likelihood of Nintendo adding it to the N64 library of the Nintendo Switch Online service. I'm also adding Retro Achievements back in for flavor: if I earn any, or if there's any to earn, I'll let you know.
- Speaking of Switch Online, I'm not covering any game that is already available on the service or announced to be coming. No longer my jurisdiction. Normally this rule creates programming issues after a long hiatus between episodes, but I guess Nintendo hasn't felt like adding anything to that premium subscription tier of theirs for almost two months? Sounds like value for money to me. Waiting patiently for my input, is what I'm guessing is going on.
Be sure to get all caught up with the 64 in 64 fun by consulting the episode guide here (or via the ranking list at the very end):
|Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5|
|Episode 6||Episode 7||Episode 8||Episode 9||Episode 10|
|Episode 11||Episode 12||Episode 13||Episode 14||Episode 15|
|Episode 16||Episode 17||Episode 18||Episode 19||Episode 20|
|Episode 21||Episode 22||Episode 23||Episode 24||Episode 25|
|Episode 26||Episode 27||Episode 28||Episode 29||Episode 30|
|Episode 31||Episode 32||Episode 33||Episode 34||Episode 35|
Bomberman Hero (Pre-Selected)
- A.I / Hudson Soft (JP) & Nintendo (NA/EU)
- 1998-04-30 (JP), 1998-08-31 (NA), 1998-10-23 (EU)
- =93rd N64 Game Released
: Bomberman Hero is the second of four N64 games in Hudson's franchise of cutesy demolition sims following 1997's Bomberman 64, covered in a previous episode. It's also a considerable departure from its predecessor with a heavier emphasis on platforming and a completely different set of power-ups and features. The only thing it retains is the scoring system: you can earn up to five points on any one stage, and getting the maximum unlocks new content on the main menu by way of mini-games. Bomberman Hero also lacks a multiplayer mode, which might be a first for a Bomberman game and was probably a pleasant surprise for anyone buying the game new along with three other controllers.
Publishers Hudson Soft and Nintendo shouldn't need an introduction: the two were busy putting the finishing touches on the first Mario Party when Bomberman Hero came out, and by finishing touches I mean summoning Baphomet to ensure it met the demon's approval for the amount of suffering it would soon inflict upon the world. So let's talk about A.I instead. Thought to be named after its two co-founders Arai and Innai, both formerly of frequent Sega collaborators Sanritsu, A.I's most prolific output comes from being the recurring contract developer for Banpresto's Super Robot Taisen/Wars SRPG franchise. In fact, we do have an N64 Super Robot Taisen game developed by them still out there that I'm slightly worried about drawing for the Random slot (on top of being a very involved strategy game with an impenetrable amount of mecha anime lore, it's also Japanese language only). Prior to that cushy gig, though, A.I regularly worked with Hudson and Atlus on many of their games including many from the Bonk and Bomberman franchises in the case of the former. Turns out this game was, at one point in development, meant to be the N64 debut of Bonk (a.k.a. PC Genjin, the erstwhile mascot of the PC Engine) but I guess they switched tracks for the sake of the stronger brand? They developed six N64 games in total, so there's a good chance we'll meet them again eventually. In fact, I can guarantee it because I've another of theirs coming up real soon as a Pre-Select pick.
So... Bomberman 64 was my shit back in the day, though by "my shit" I guess it was more of a low-key appreciation of a so-so game where you acknowledged there were many better titles out there but grew attached to its modest charms regardless (something that I feel, to a much lesser extent, towards Chameleon Twist and a few others I've not had the courage to revisit for this feature yet), but conversely I had zero exposure to Bomberman Hero back then. I guess I always confused the two? Or maybe I just never saw it on shelves back in the brick-and-mortar days of my video game acquisitions. Reading about its backstory as a Bonk game really piqued my intrigue further as a fan of that hydrocephalic toothy cavebaby and the chaotic prehistoric platformer world he inhabits, so now I'm wondering if I made the right choice back then. Well, guess now's as good a time as any to find out.
16 Minutes In
Well, now, this is a pleasant surprise. If Bomberman 64 has something similar to Super Mario 64's more open world approach to its levels (and it doesn't really so much, but those stages can be fairly broad) then Bomberman Hero is much more like Super Mario 3D World with its linear courses that still have 3D geography but mostly uses it to hide secrets in the foreground and background.
Bomberman has two main attacks here: R bumper drops a bomb at his feet which he can optionally kick around, while the B button has him throw the bomb a fair distance (ideal, since it explodes on impact and can still hurt you). Meanwhile, the A button lets you jump which isn't something most Bomberman games let you do. I've only played the first two levels so far—the scoring system means you need every point in a level to get the perfect five out of five, so I may or may not have replayed the first stage for the sake of 100% completion—but I'm already sold on the game. There looks to be a lot of stages so maybe I need to fight my own completionist nature here if I want a better cross-section of the game's features and level design.
32 Minutes In
So the deal with this game is that the levels are relatively short but you really have to dig deep if you want that vaunted full score. The game's been real clever about hiding stuff in various spots and I've already seen a few cases where you might destroy some blocks to reveal a gem only to discover there's like three more gems right above it that you needed those same blocks to reach. It's around this time that platformers starting experimenting with this "100% completion" aspect and it makes a lot of sense with a 3D game for two reasons I can fathom: the first is that it teaches players unversed in 3D to take in these environments a bit more thoroughly due to tricks regarding perspective (Bomberman Hero has a fixed camera, so it likes hiding stuff behind platforms) while the second is what I assume to be an issue of scale, as creating 3D environments can't be cheap so it's best to make them all small and intricate like this instead. Personally, I've zero issue with a truncated approach as it's making replaying those stages much more palatable.
In addition to random score junk, Bomberman Hero also has secret exits. The standard exit on the second stage (Hyper Room) takes you to the fourth (of five) stages on the stage select menu (Heavy Room) though a more subtle one takes you to the third (Secret Room). Actually, the second exit was easier to reach than the first so maybe that was meant to be the standard one? Either way, there might be reasons to return to levels beyond trying to beat your highscore. Since I'm almost done with the first world here, I also wanted to shout out its BGM real quick. I miss when games had a chill drum 'n bass thing going on; last game I played with something similar was probably Falcom's Gurumin or those Toree throwbacks from Siactro. Real big late '90s and early '00s vibe.
48 Minutes In
Cool, so, a couple of new developments here. The first is that each world is split up into multiple zones but I figured there was an uniform number of stages within those zones: instead, the second zone of Planet Bomber has seven stages rather than the first's five. The other thing is that upon starting the second of those stages, Hole Lake (aren't most lakes just holes with a lot of water in them?), Bomber got upgraded with "Bomber Marine" that replaced his legs with a propellor so he could travel underwater. The resulting stage was an almost on-rails sort of thing where you moved towards the screen fighting and dodging enemies all the while, similar to that one underwater Star Fox 64 level. It also meant inverse controls were back (yay) but it wasn't too unpleasant, fortunately.
Wait, I lied, I learned a couple other things too. There are these weird purple orb things that I think the game called "Adok bombs". Once you grab them they stop appearing, and you can see how many you have total on the pause menu. There's six per world, which means there's way fewer of them then there are stages which might get annoying if I end up missing one. The second relates to the first as collecting Adok bombs increases the score for that level: in some levels, including Hole Lake, you can actually score higher than the target for a 5 star rating so maybe the requirements aren't as stringent as I was led to believe. Hole Lake was a tricky level to navigate for score items because the game's draw distance for 3D objects is extremely low: you have to be within a few feet of something to actually see it. Not an issue with those early levels and their narrower designs, but a bit more troublesome for a relatively open level like Hole Lake. (I gotta stop typing "Hole Lake" already, it sounds like the world's grossest pornography store.)
64 Minutes In
Got about halfway through the second zone's levels so I guess no second world for me (or even a boss fight). I learned that you can game over in this game—it eliminates any and all power-ups you might've found, including getting a health bar extension once you've collected enough the otherwise low-scoring blue gems—so I guess the game's still stuck in the '90s in some ways. The above screenshot also came from another on-rails Z-axis shoot 'em up level, though with the Bomber Jet power-up. You can't reverse course with the Bomber Jet otherwise it controls identically to the Bomber Marine. The bar for the five stars rating is also lower on the on-rails missions to make up for the fact that you can easily miss enemies and collectibles if you whizz past them; I think the regular on-foot levels still require you to find everything.
I'm not sure an hour was enough for this one but I will say that I quickly adapted to its wavelength as the sort of platformer I'm into: one that doesn't just value your platforming skills but also your perception and thoroughness as an explorer. Stripping me of every power-up after dying too many times is kind of a bummer as is the fact that any death kicks you back to the start of the current stage with all progress removed: since you can die instantly from falling into a pit, it's more than a little punitive though not exactly unheard of in a game of this vintage (Banjo-Kazooie and Mario 64 did the same thing after all with their notes and coins). It also really doesn't feel too much like a Bomberman game despite all the bombs and such: I can totally see another brand like Bonk being slapped on top of it, provided there's a graphical overhaul.
: Heroically. Some archaic practices here and there but otherwise Bomberman Hero was an early example of what has become a much more prominent style of 3D platformer, one where the stages are linear and a bit more considered in terms of finding challenges and new obstacles for players to overcome. I know I would've been fully invested in getting the top score in every level had I played this new (and still might find myself going back to it if I run out of stuff to play next month). Visually the simple style of Bomberman translates pretty well to this early polygonal era without looking too ancient and, as stated before, the drum n' base soundtrack is nostalgic while being novel enough to still hold up.
: Konami. My catch-all response to any Konami game (or any Hudson game given Konami bought their IPs) is a shrugsome "Konami". Who can even say what sinister plans they might have for their back catalog? Bomberman seems like one of the few brands they're happy to maintain if the recent Super Bomberman R 2 is any indication, but I'm not sure if that enthusiasm extends to the older games since there's usually not a whole lot of variation between one Bomberman game and the next. The oddball N64 games might be the exceptions though, so I hope one of their executives between spa days decides to give them a new lease of life. Given how this month has been going though I expect Konami to just jettison 30% of their workforce instead.
: 2 out of 43. It's a long game and the achievements seem fairly split between compulsory boss fights (didn't see any of those), getting all five stars in each stage of each zone, and completing certain courses within a time limit. (There's also an intriguing one just called "Wah!" that I have no idea how to find.)
Madden Football 64 (Random)
: I guess this was inevitable, huh? There are four Madden NFL games on N64 after all, this being the first, and thirteen football games total if you factor in Acclaim's NFL Quarterback Club and Midway's NFL Blitz franchises. I'm not sure how much time and preparation EA Tiburon had to make a football game specific to the N64's strengths, so what they've done here is taken Madden NFL 98—the last of the 16-bit/32-bit cross-gens in the series—and gave it some presentational bells and whistles to test the limits of Nintendo's (then-)new state-of-the-art system. In the process though they lost out on the NFL license, as Activision had already snapped it up for N64 games during the system's first few years, but they did somehow retain the NFLPA license. That meant all your favorite footsballmen were here and working for teams with names like "Foxboro" and "Anaheim" (I'm guessing it wouldn't take fans much digging to figure out which real NFL teams those represented).
I thought for the longest time—up to just prior to researching them for this episode, in fact—that Tiburon was a real place somewhere that EA had founded a studio in, maybe down in California since it sounded Spanish. Turns out it is Spanish, but for "shark": the developers were a pre-existing contract studio over on the opposite coast in Orlando before EA bought them. However, they'd been working with EA to develop the Madden NFL series almost from the moment they were founded. EA bought a major share in the company in 1996 and acquired them in full in 1998. To this day they continue to make Madden NFL games for the EA Sports label (along with NBA Live) but they've dabbled in a few other, non-sports titles over the years. Anyone remember Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure for DS? That was them. As far as their N64 output is concerned, well, you might be surprised to hear they put out a total of four games on the system and all four are those aforementioned (a-four-mentioned?) Madden NFL titles.
Can't say I'm all that pleased that I've finally had to play a football game for this feature, but at the same time it's like a dentist appointment: you know it's coming and you can't put it off forever so you might as well pluck up your courage, sit in that chair, and let John Madden stick his hands in your mouth. At least the Madden games are somewhat polished after so many iterations so it doesn't feel like I'm wandering into a no-budget mess named after the one famous sportsperson involved. That said, Nintendo consoles have always proven to the best place to play sports games with a more arcade feel over a simulation feel, whether it involves Mario or not, so Madden's never felt like a great fit. I guess I'll see if that theory pans out in just a moment (or sixty-four).
16 Minutes In
Right, I neglected to mention anywhere that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. As a British person my frame of reference for American Football is "what if they took rugby and turned it into Warhammer 40k", both in terms of the ruleset complexity and the costumes. I did play some Mutant League Football way back in the day but even then I was mostly winging it with the plays I chose. The broad strokes of the sport are easy enough to grasp—you take turns as offense and defense, and the goal of the offense is to get the ball as close to the touchdown zone within four attempts before control switches over unless substantial enough progress is made and then the number of attempts resets Iiiiii think?—but beyond that I'm stumped. I'm also having trouble tossing the ball to players further afield: either I'm selecting the wrong plays (very possible) or there's a specific button you have to press between when the QB receives the ball and throws it. If I start moving as the QB he just tucks it under his arm and now it's all on him to make forward progress.
I kinda don't want to look anything up as that messes with the spirit of the feature—after all, if I need external guidance it's on the game more than anything—but I'm not sure if playing football really badly for an hour will be amusing enough to a mostly American audience to make up for all the annoyance it might foment. How about this: I'll struggle my way through it for now and vow to look up how any of this shit works for next time, and then pray to RNGesus that a second NFL game doesn't actually show up to call my extremely transparent bluff. I'm a professional, darn it.
32 Minutes In
For my first game I went with the Giant Bomb classic of setting up San Francisco and New York. Or one of the New Yorks in this case; there's two teams just called "New York" in this and since they changed all the team colors to avoid litigation I've no idea which is which. I think it's the Giants because they have a player called "A. Toomer" and I keep wanting to say "it's NAAAHT A. Toomer" whenever I spot his name in the UI. Anyway, they're winning but not too hard: having someone run up and sack the offending player hasn't been too tough, but they are getting close enough for field goals. Just been a mix of those and safeties so far, and one touchdown I was allowed to disqualify because of a rule I didn't catch. Gunning for the dumbest Scorigami ever at the moment.
The Turducken Tyrant himself John Madden tends to pipe in a lot too, often with jokes like "that last hit had his head ringing so hard he's looking around for his alarm clock" and "he's not going to be able to remember his own name for a few days". Head trauma. Never gets old. Neither do a lot of the people who receive it, for that matter. Speaking of injuries, I think we've had about eight so far this game including both the starting QBs. That's light for a Mutant League match, but it seems heavy for a normal sports game that some medical body somewhere ostensibly must have signed off on.
48 Minutes In
Well, that match ended with a 16-0 score. I didn't quite manage to earn any points, but at least I had fun? Actually, I didn't, so that was probably a big waste of time. However! I did pick up a few things about football that I didn't know previously. Did you know that they drive ambulances directly onto the field whenever someone gets a bad enough injury? And that John Madden was physically incapable of being quiet for more than five minutes?
For my next match, I've decided to set Cincinnati against Kansas City, since those are vaguely in the directions that Grubb and Ryckert come from and they're the only grouping on the site that still have a weekly video feature together. I've also made the small, almost imperceptible change of not assigning my controller to either side, letting the CPU take over both. Maybe if I study what they do instead of tapping whatever random plays came up I could actually learn something. Or more likely I could just read a book or something until the last buzzer sounds. Either way, sounds like a good time.
I'll leave you with an out-of-context Maddenism as we head into our final quarter here: "He tried to force the ball in there, and he paid the price." Words to dwell on.
64 Minutes In
That was marginally more fun than actually playing the game, I'll admit, but still a snoozefest by most metrics. I was partially gladdened to see that everyone was just as uncoordinated and useless as part of a CPU side as they were when I was controlling them. I guess most football games in general take place in Fumble City? Anyway, the Cincinnati [REDACTED] were three points up on the Kansas City [REDACTED] so I guess I'll give this victory to them. Congratulations Grubb. You won both by proxy and by technicality. Something to be proud of.
Let's never do this again.
: As well as the pig that football was made out of. Look, I'm no expert here but this game seemed kinda basic and unremarkable even for one of the many iterative Madden games. There wouldn't be much point playing this one over any of the better and shinier Madden games to hit the N64, or really any that isn't the most recent one. I will say that the opening cinematic was kinda fun though; they really went all out with the visual effects to assure the Madden audience that the promise of the N64 generation meant a whole new dimension to virtual football. That ball flew out of an exploding star! The helmet was fused together by lightning! This sport is so stupid!
: It's a Hail Mary shot. EA's never going to sign off on putting an old and busted Madden game on the Switch Online service. They don't even put the new ones on Switch. The Switch is no place for football, turns out.
: None available.
- Super Mario 64 (Ep. 1)
- Diddy Kong Racing (Ep. 6)
- Perfect Dark (Ep. 19)
- Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Ep. 3)
- Donkey Kong 64 (Ep. 13)
- Space Station Silicon Valley (Ep. 17)
- Goemon's Great Adventure (Ep. 9)
- Bomberman Hero (Ep. 26)
- Pokémon Snap (Ep. 11)
- Rayman 2: The Great Escape (Ep. 19)
- Banjo-Tooie (Ep. 10)
- Mischief Makers (Ep. 5)
- Super Smash Bros. (Ep. 25)
- Mega Man 64 (Ep. 18)
- Wetrix (Ep. 21)
- Harvest Moon 64 (Ep. 15)
- Hybrid Heaven (Ep. 12)
- Blast Corps (Ep. 4)
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Ep. 2)
- Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (Ep. 4)
- Tonic Trouble (Ep. 24)
- Snowboard Kids (Ep. 16)
- Spider-Man (Ep. 8)
- Bomberman 64 (Ep. 8)
- Jet Force Gemini (Ep. 16)
- Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers (Ep. 7)
- Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage (Ep. 20)
- Conker's Bad Fur Day (Ep. 22)
- BattleTanx: Global Assault (Ep. 13)
- Hot Wheels Turbo Racing (Ep. 9)
- San Francisco Rush 2049 (Ep. 4)
- Fighter Destiny 2 (Ep. 6)
- Big Mountain 2000 (Ep. 18)
- Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (Ep. 14)
- Tetris 64 (Ep. 1)
- Milo's Astro Lanes (Ep. 23)
- NBA Live '99 (Ep. 3)
- Rampage 2: Universal Tour (Ep. 5)
- Command & Conquer (Ep. 17)
- International Superstar Soccer '98 (Ep. 23)
- South Park Rally (Ep. 2)
- Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. (Ep. 7)
- Eikou no St. Andrews (Ep. 1)
- Rally Challenge 2000 (Ep. 10)
- Monster Truck Madness 64 (Ep. 11)
- F-1 World Grand Prix II (Ep. 3)
- F1 Racing Championship (Ep. 2)
- Sesame Street: Elmo's Number Journey (Ep. 14)
- Wheel of Fortune (Ep. 24)
- Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (Ep. 15)
- Mario no Photopi (Ep. 20)
- Blues Brothers 2000 (Ep. 12)
- Dark Rift (Ep. 25)
- Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. (Ep. 21)
- Madden Football 64 (Ep. 26)
- Transformers: Beast Wars Transmetals (Ep. 22)