Top 100 N64 Review: #47 – Duke Nukem: Zero Hour (1999)

Toxic Masculinity Was Never So Much Fun.

You get to play as Johnny Bravo while objectify woman and aliens. 

Duke Nukem Zero Hour Title ScreenLesLites’ Ranking#47/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

Duke Nukem is an anachronistic, hyper-masculine protagonist released from the imagination of pre-teen boys. He’s charmingly foul-mouthed, can perform any feat due to machismo, and ladies find him irresistible. Who else could the FBI rely on to travel through time and save Earth from an alien invasion?

The game is a blast since it realizes its front man is ridiculous. Instead of apologizing for Duke, they decide to turn the dial up to 100.  Sexual innuendos are abound and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud quips. The enemies are varied with distinct gun types that lead to a fair amount of strategy. While the shooting is old school, at least the mapping to the N64 controller is serviceable.

Let’s go save some babes, shall we?

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Top 100 N64 Review: # 16 – Donkey Kong 64 (1999)

A Junk Drawer of a Game.

Collecting Bananas, Golden Bananas, Medals, Coins, Boss Keys, Melons, Oranges, Headphones, Crystals, Blueprints, Crowns, Ammo, Barrels…JUST MAKE IT STOP!

Donke Kong N64 Title ScreenLesLites’ Ranking#16/100
My Rating: Star

I have a great memory.

For instance, I remember being at Circuit City (a now defunct electronics store) looking at the cover of Final Fantasy X. I just got a PS2 for Christmas, and with some holiday cash, I was bringing home one of the best RPGs of all time. I remember heading down stairs to the basement, putting the fan on high, and thinking — Final Fantasy isn’t going to be around forever — I need to enjoy tis (heavy thoughts for an 8th grader). I got to Besaid Island and immediately hit pause. I sat there and let that song soak into my bones, a memory I can recall to this day.

I can’t recall ANYTHING about DK64 even though I owned and beat it. I do recall a conversation I had with a cousin. She lamented not having the game and was excited at the proposition that one day she, too, would play DK64. Well let me tell you something cousin: I clearly suffered post-traumatic amnesia due to this game. This game’s awful.

DK64 boasts gigantic worlds but with nothing in them — EXCEPT THINGS TO COLLECT. A dimension of abandoned polygons, items spill out over the landscape like the junk drawer in your kitchen. To make matters worse, items are color-coded to match one of the five kongs you control. Not only do you have bananas, you have red bananas, purple bananas, yellow bananas, blue bananas, and green bananas. Not only do you have coins, you have red coins, purple coins, yellow coins….

This permutation continues, creating a situation where you constantly switch between the Kongs through backtracking barren worlds to collect the appropriately colored item. DK64 is not so much about puzzles but errands. The most important skill to succeed is not your intellect or problem solving but your memory to recall the location of discrete bands of color-coded objects.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #69 – Mission: Impossible (1998)

R-R-R-Ridiculous.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to try and believe it. 
Mission Impossible N64 Title Screen
LesLites’ Ranking#69/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

The only thing impossible about this game is trying to understand it. If I had to chose what better represented reality, I would go with Lord of the Rings over Mission: Impossible. This world, filled with hideous polygons and multi-layered distance fog, cannot be of our own. It still has a couple good missions, though.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #42 – Quake (1996)

Things Aren’t Looking Up.

Because the game barely lets you look up. 

Quake Title Screen

LesLites’ Ranking#42/100
My Rating:cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Quake II was one of the defining moments of my youth. It was a beast to even get on multiplayer, needing to know coding commands, directory pathways, and IP addresses to get started. On my first map, I opened a bay door and saw rail guns firing in every direction as someone was fragged to bits right in front me. This. Was. AWESOME. 

Finding its predecessor on N64 was going to make my youth full circle. I meant to play the original but never did. I was wondering how it would port to the N64 since it was a game meant for the PC. This. Was. UNFORTUNATE. 

This could easily be a four (or maybe even five!) star game if played on a PC. It has the same old problems that every other shooter faced on the N64: without two analog sticks, you were restricted in how freely you could aim. This meant using a clunky collection of C-buttons on a X and Y axis to aim above. You will die several, several times from this alone. I found this limitation too much to overcome even with all the other amazing aspects.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #87 – Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996)

The Collective Consciousness Does Exist.

Otherwise, how could we all agree precisely about this game?

Shadows of the Empire Title Screen.png

LesLites’ Ranking#87/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Reading other people’s reviews for this game is like looking into my soul: every cantor, every take, every turn of phrase a perfect reflection of my thoughts. We must have collectively played this game together on Christmas morning of 1996; little did I know 23 years ago I would begin a journey with 2,599,999 other people as we inserted that cartridge and began the Battle of Hoth.

It was an unbelievable high: an engrossing, faithful, and believable mimicry of the Star Wars universe. We finally left behind the clunky and ridiculous SNES interpretations…until we got to level two.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #1 – Super Mario 64 (1996)

Such a Joy.

Everything is so playful in Super Mario 64.

Super Mario 64 First Secret

LesLites’ Ranking#1/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

I couldn’t figure out how to play.

I was standing in a Blockbuster at one of those trial console stations (where the controller was cemented with plastic to a frame to avoid theft) trying to get Mario to move. I had played every Mario game to date; why wasn’t this four-way pad working? I brushed against the stick in the middle by mistake, and my life was changed forever.

Seems a bit hyperbolic, right? It’s hard to explain why the transition to 3D gaming was so amazing as it’s now so ubiquitous. I had some strong debates with friends in the elementary cafeteria about how it was even going to be possible to make some franchises in three dimensions (in one particular instance, Ryan and I discussed Final Fantasy at length — we really could not fathom how a game like that would even work).

Not only did they pull off the transition, they made it even MORE enjoyable. Super Mario 64 made you feel like video games would never stop getting better.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #4 – GoldenEye 007 (1997)

Don’t Be The Type of Person Who Choses Oddjob.

Peer pressure isn’t only about smoking. It’s about teaching you to be a better person. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 7.57.06 PM
Modern art or a train? You decide.

LesLites’ Ranking#4/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

The first two games I wanted to review for the N64 were Mario and GoldenEye, but for completely different reasons. Super Mario 64 was the first time I played a game in a true 3D environment. I was so shell shocked that I couldn’t even figure out how to move Mario, smashing down on the analog D-pad while ignoring that round stick in the middle.

GoldenEye, however, is when my friends and I grew up. We weren’t going around finding stars and collecting coins but unloading entire clips into polygonal bodies as they squirmed in dramatic death sequences. Cafeteria time was dedicated to discussing tactics while trash talking about death match: those who dared to play as Jaws revered while those who copped out as Oddjob were belittled.

It became a cultural revolution. Everyone was playing this game, even your little sister who didn’t even know about Yoshi. And guess what: it’s still amazing. 

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