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    Excerpt: How the designers of GoldenEye 007 made use of “Anti-Game Design” / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 6 July - 19:31 · 1 minute

In this excerpt from her upcoming book , writer and historian Alyse Knorr talks about some of the design decisions that made Goldeneye 007 stand out from other '90s first-person shooters, and why that design endures to this day. The book is currently looking for backers on Kickstarter .

When [game designer David] Doak first joined the team at the end of 1995, GoldenEye ’s levels were just barebones architecture—no objectives, enemies, or plot. After designing the watch menu, he and [game designer Duncan] Botwood started creating a single-player campaign that followed and expanded upon GoldenEye the movie’s narrative—a difficult task, considering the fact that the film’s dialogue about Lienz Cossack traitors and Kyrgyz missile tests went over the heads of quite a few 12-year-olds. Doak and Botwood’s job was to tell this complicated story using rudimentary pre- and post-mission cutscenes, pre-mission briefing paperwork, in-game conversations with NPCs, and mission objectives, which proved the most powerful way to allow players to experience the story themselves.

The biggest inspiration for GoldenEye ’s objective design was not another first-person shooter but rather Super Mario 64 . “I studiously tried to learn what Nintendo was,” [game designer Martin] Hollis said in 2015 of his years at Rare. “I played Link to the Past from beginning to end—I got all the hearts and all but two of the quarter hearts. I could write a thousand pages about that game. Then [an early version of] Mario 64 came out during the development of GoldenEye, and we were clearly influenced by that game. Ours was much more open as a result.” Hollis took from Super Mario 64 the idea of including multiple mission objectives within one level. For instance, in the Control level, the player must protect Natalya, disable the GoldenEye satellite, and destroy some armored mainframes.

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    N64 collection goes live on Nintendo Switch, and it’s-a me, disappointment / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 27 October, 2021 - 00:08 · 1 minute

Videogame character Mario

Enlarge / We wish we had better news to report about Nintendo's first easy-to-access N64 collection in a long time. Alas. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Nintendo )

On Monday, Nintendo released its latest collection of emulated N64 games—and its first since the Wii U's Virtual Console—as a package of games exclusively available on its Switch consoles. Unfortunately, the result isn't exactly the Super Mario 64 -styled "wa-hoo!" we'd been hoping for.

After years of "N64 mini" rumors (which have yet to come to fruition), Nintendo announced plans to honor its first fully 3D gaming system late last month in the form of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack . Pay a bit extra, the company said, and you'd get a select library of N64 classics, emulated by the company that made them, on Switch consoles as part of an active NSO subscription.

One month later, however, Nintendo's sales proposition grew more sour. That "bit extra" ballooned to $30 more per year, on top of the existing $20/year fee—a 150 percent jump in annual price. Never mind that the price also included an Animal Crossing expansion pack (which retro gaming fans may not want) and Sega Genesis games (which have been mostly released ad nauseam on every gaming system of the past decade). For many interested fans, that price jump was about the N64 collection.

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    Nintendo throws rare bone to modern EU gamers via N64 60 Hz toggle / ArsTechnica · Monday, 11 October, 2021 - 18:36 · 1 minute


Enlarge / We're well past the days of CRT TVs by default, and Nintendo Europe's latest welcome update acknowledges this. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

On Monday, Nintendo of Europe announced a very region-specific—and era-specific—tweak for its upcoming collection of N64 games on the Switch : an option to swap between the PAL and NTSC video standards. While the announcement may sound ho-hum to outsiders, anyone in Europe with a vested interest in classic gaming will appreciate what the toggle affords.

The issue boils down to differences between NTSC and PAL, the leading video broadcast standards on CRT TVs during Nintendo's '80s and '90s heyday. North American and Japanese TV sets were configured for NTSC, which has a refresh rate standard of 60 Hz, while the PAL sets that dominated Europe had a slightly higher pixel resolution and a lower refresh rate standard of 50 Hz.

If you merely watch TV series or films on both NTSC and PAL sets, the difference is noticeable yet mild. But for much of the '80s and '90s, many video games, especially the ones made by the largely Japanese console industry, suffered in PAL because they were coded specifically for NTSC standards. In order to port the games to PAL, developers generally didn't go back and reconfigure all of the timings, especially in the case of early 3D games. Instead, internal clock speeds were often slowed down to 83.3 percent to match European TV refresh rates. This meant both slower gameplay than what was originally coded and slower playback of music and sound effects. (These games also often shipped with NTSC's pixel maximums in mind, so they were squished to fit on PAL displays.)

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    N64 on Switch: Reading the tea-leaves on future game prospects / ArsTechnica · Sunday, 26 September, 2021 - 11:30

Get N(S) or get out.

Enlarge / Get N(S) or get out. (credit: Nintendo / Sam Machkovech)

On Thursday, the latest Nintendo Direct presentation confirmed something most Nintendo fans had either suspected, hoped for, or predicted (based on a recent FCC "controller" tip ): the N64 is finally back. Instead of a miniaturized N64, however, the company's first dedicated 3D-rendering console is returning as part of a software suite on Nintendo Switch.

And in classic Nintendo fashion, Thursday's announcement only told some of the story.

So far, we know that the initial selection of the NSO "Expansion Pack" will include nine N64 games, ranging from classics like Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 to niche surprises like Winback: Covert Operations. These games will require an additional fee over NSO's standard $20/year rate, though Nintendo has not yet announced a price for this tier. The company also did confirm plans to roll out seven more N64 games at some point, particularly Rare's Banjo-Kazooie , which hasn't been seen on a Nintendo console since Microsoft bought the developer in 2002.

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    Nintendo Direct highlights: N64 Online in October, Super Mario 2022 film cast / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 23 September, 2021 - 23:46 · 1 minute

Nintendo's "winter 2021" direct-video presentation exploded on Thursday with reveals of serious fan service coming to not only Switch consoles but also movie theaters by the end of next year.

The event's biggest pop-culture announcement was the upcoming Super Mario CGI animation movie , now confirmed to launch in the United States on December 21, 2022. This film, helmed by CG animation house Illumination ( Despicable Me ), still doesn't have a title or any preview footage. But it does have an English-language cast:

  • Chris Pratt ( Guardians of the Galaxy ) as Mario
  • Anna Taylor-Joy ( The Queen's Gambit ) as Peach
  • Charlie Day ( It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia ) as Luigi
  • Jack Black ( Jumanji ) as Bowser
  • Keegan-Michael Key ( Key and Peele ) as Toad
  • Kevin-Michael Richardson ( Teen Titans ) as Kamek
  • Fred Armisen ( SNL ) as Cranky Kong
  • Sebastian Maniscalco ( The Irishman ) as Foreman Spike (from the Wrecking Crew series)

None of Nintendo's other YouTube channels, particularly the Japanese feed, confirmed any voice cast members for the film's likely additional languages. Nintendo did confirm that Charles Martinet (who has voiced Super Mario in games since 1996) will participate in the film, though in exactly what capacity remains to be seen (er, heard). My money's on Waluigi.

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    Super High-Fidelity Mario: The quest to find original gaming audio samples / ArsTechnica · Friday, 5 February, 2021 - 20:12 · 1 minute

One of many Super Mario World tracks that have now been remastered from their original, high-fidelity audio samples.

Classic-gaming archaeology doesn't always revolve around digging out rare and unreleased games. Sometimes, it's about taking well-known relics and reconstructing them from newly unearthed and higher-fidelity original component parts. As a result, this week, one of the biggest games of all time now sounds completely different .

Remastering the Super Mario World soundtrack in this way means diving deep into the world of compressed video game audio samples. These were most common in the late cartridge era; they were nestled between the literal bleeps and bloops of the earliest video game sound chips and the CD-quality audio of the optical disc. Games in this era would frequently chain together brief snippets of recorded audio and replay them over and over with different effects, as if they'd been loaded into an electronic keyboard.

The game cartridges couldn't store much data, of course, so the original synthesizer samples usually took a heavy hit in fidelity during the transition to game soundtracks. "The composer [often felt] obligated to sacrifice sound quality to get their music running without any lag and fit into the cartridge," said Michael, a video game music source investigator from El Salvador (who didn't share his last name). "Especially if all the audio work is made by the CPU (like on the Nintendo 64), this limitation can distort how the music sounds. In some ways, this isn't the best take of the game's music."

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    Une N64 portable, c’est possible ! / JournalDuGeek · Sunday, 3 January, 2021 - 13:00 · 1 minute

Les anciennes consoles Nintendo sont prisées des bricoleurs de génie qui imaginent des moyens toujours plus ingénieux pour en faire des consoles portables. On a encore en mémoire l’impressionnante WiiBoy Color , une « vraie » Wii aussi compacte qu’un Game Boy Color.

Avec composants d’origine, ou presque

GmanModz a voulu aller plus loin encore dans la miniaturisation avec ce modèle pour N64, dans lequel une cartouche se fiche à l’arrière. Une cartouche quasiment plus grande que la console elle-même ! L’épaisseur du boîtier ne dépasse pas les 5 cm. Pour parvenir à une telle compacité, il a tout de même fallu faire des compromis : l’écran se contente de 3,5 pouces (320 x 240). Quant à l’autonomie, il ne faut pas compter jouer plus d’une heure trente.

Malgré tout, le projet est digne d’éloge, GmanModz ayant utilisé un maximum de composants de la console de salon. La carte-mère a été soigneusement découpée pour tenir dans l’encombrement réduit du châssis imprimé en 3D (ses dimensions sont de 12 cm sur 8,5 cm).

Tout n’est pas d’origine, cependant. Si on retrouve les boutons de la manette de la N64, des sticks issus de la Switch remplacent le bouton C ainsi que la croix directionnelle. Un port jack et des haut-parleurs complètent l’installation qui pourra donner des idées à d’autres.

Le même bricoleur avait imaginé en novembre dernier une autre N64 portable, mais en version à clapet façon Game Boy Advance, tout aussi impressionnante.

Une N64 portable, c’est possible !

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    N64 SP – La Nintendo 64 portable / Korben · Thursday, 2 April, 2020 - 14:18

Si vous appréciez le modding de console, je suis certain que vous aimerez cette Nintendo 64 portable réalisée par GManModz. Ce n’est pas la première fois qu’une N64 est transformée en console portable, mais cette intégration dans un boitier pliable, à la GameBoy Advance SP, imprimé en 3D est une première, puisque le modder a carrément découpé la carte mère de la N64 et rétabli les circuits sectionnés à l’aide un câblage astucieux.

Et le résultat est dingue puisqu’on peut même utiliser les cartouches d’origine de la console, directement dans cette version portable. Quel kif de pouvoir emmener sa N64 partout avec soi (Le confi-quoi déjà ? Ah oui, oups…)

Et si vous voulez voir la bestiole à l’oeuvre, rien de mieux qu’une vidéo. Ça vous donnera peut-être des idées pour vous occuper à la maison.