Nintendo E3 History: 1996 – 1998 – ‘Project Reality’ Comes To Life


Ok, so the Virtual Boy was a failure, but like I said, did that stop Nintendo? No. At E3 1995 they had announced the Ultra 64, which changed to Nintendo 64. And at E3 in May 1996, the Nintendo 64 was unveiled to the public. At E3, you know that game..em.. Super Mario 64? Yes! That one! This was playable to those that attended, and I can only imagine their faces as they witnessed first hand of Mario’s first true 3D adventure. Other games on show were Pilotwings 64 and Wave Race 64, but SM64 stole the show.

Project Reality‘, Nintendo 64‘s codename, arose from the belief that its advanced Computer Generated Imagery would rival the super computers  of its era. The console was first released in Japan in June 1996, making its way to North America in September 1996, leaving Europe trailing behind with its release in March 1997. Nintendo’s decision to have the games as a cartridge instead of CD format, gave them a serious disadvantage. It cost more money to manufacture these cartridges, leaving the games to be on the market at a slightly higher price. At the time, the average price for a Nintendo 64 game was $70-$80, whereas the average for a PlayStation and Saturn game was $50 or less. You could buy the Nintendo 64 in various colours. Grey was the standard colour, after that was the Funtastic range, varying from Fire Orange to Ice Blue. Some limited edition consoles became available, the Pokémon Pikachu model was blue with a large Yellow Pikachu on it.

N64 Controller

The controller is what caused alot of attraction. Similar to the Virtual Boy controller, except it had a third handle in the middle allowing for the analog stick. Your left hand could hold the left handle to use the digital pad, or grip the elongated middle handle to use the analog stick and trigger-style Z button on the back of the middle handle. The large A and B buttons are simple enough to use, above them are four yellow C buttons. Once you count the two shoulder buttons, the controller had a grand total of ten buttons. Gaming was leaning towards analog control, so the D-pad didn’t get much of a use except for the odd game. At the back of the controller you can see a slot which allowed you to insert a rumble pak or memory card. Of its generation, the Nintendo 64 had the best graphics, which were further enhanced with the release of the memory expansion pak. This made a significant change to its graphics resolution.

In my opinion, with the Nintendo 64, I saw some of the best games of all time. Games that made a difference to my gaming experience were Super Mario 64 and the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I’m sure everybody else has their fond memories of a certain N64 game which stole all your time, these two stole mine. My friend had Super Mario 64 quite awhile before me, and as rude as he was, he never allowed me to play when I called over! Unwillingly I had to sit and watch as he joyously played through Mario’s first big adventure.

Super Mario 64

The time had come for when my parents bought me a Nintendo 64, Fire Orange version, and along with that, Super Mario 64. The game, in a Koopa shell, was astounding. Similar to the majority of the Mario titles, you must rescue Peach (again) from the sweaty palms of Bowser, while fighting Goombas, Koopas and Nintendo’s not so friendly ghost, Boo. Unlike the rest, this was a 3D adventure, not a side-scrolling one, and there was so much to explore. You must collect 120 stars, while solving various puzzles along the way. Super Mario 64 has sold over eleven million copies since its release, and to this day is acclaimed to be one of the greatest and revolutionary games of all time.

Nintendo had quietened down for E3 in 1997, but when 1998 came along, there was a second revolutionary title on its way to stardom. The final version of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was put on display to the audience at E3. This was also a big step for the little man in green, as previous Zelda titles had side scrolling and an over head perspective of playing the games, wheras now you could roam Hyrule in all its 3D glory. To me its pretty flawless, maybe apart from the Water Temple, but that’s just me! Taking control of the hero, Link, you set out on a major quest to obtain the Triforce, keeping it out of the cold clutches of Ganondorf, the villian. The game spans over 7 years, watching Link grow from child, to man. Selling over 7.6 million copies worldwide, it is considered by many gamers alike, to be the greatest video game ever made.

More on Nintendo’s E3 history to come. Meanwhile, 14 days till E3 2011! Live blogging from our guy Wes Earp on 7th June at 5pm UK time.

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