Acting Up for an N64
On March 1st, 1997, I fell in love. Fifteen years later, and I’m still pining over her.
It was one of those instant attractions, love at first sight some might say. She had that special something; that natural, almost unexplainable beauty. To make matters worse, all my mates were after her, too. But it would take three long, arduous years until I could call her my own. Three loved-up years of dreaming, yearning and wanting.
Against all odds, I managed to endure. And thankfully, she was totally worth it.
1997 was a special year for two reasons: in October 1997, I reached the age of double digits; I was finally ten-years-old. The second reason, well, that’s the year when my infatuation began.
On March 1st, 1997, Nintendo released their third home console in Europe, the N64.
I remember waking up, grabbing a bowl of cereal and turning on the TV. Without fail, an N64 advert would rudely appear as if expecting my presence, mock me with its infinite awesomeness, and leave me grinding my Coco Pops into chocolatey dust. That’s right. I fell head over heels for an inanimate object.
It was a magnificent machine, one that tugged on every fibre of my being; a strange sensation considering I had no previous allegiance to Nintendo’s hardware or any of their blockbuster franchises. (Oh, how that would change in the years to come.)
From that moment on my nights became restless, my dreams clouded with visions of the exquisite Super Mario 64 and that garish, do-it-all controller. I foolishly picked up a copy of the Official Nintendo Magazine, read it from cover to cover, adding kindling to the raging fire that Nintendo had lit within.
Unfortunately, though, owning an N64 was but a pipe dream. I was nought but a young boy after all, and with that came obvious restraints.
As an adult, purchasing a brand new console – or anything you currently desire for that matter – is a relatively painless experience. You check your bank account, sum up whether you can afford the expense, and clear a space under your TV for your new arrival. If you can’t afford it, you move on or save up until you can. But alas, I was only ten-years-old at the time and, as is customary, I didn’t really have any money to speak of. You don’t really need money as a kid, do you? Instead, I was left to rely on the gift giving roulette of birthdays and christmas presents to fill the financial void.
Sadly, as my double-digit-day celebrations drew to an end – my presents now stripped of their wrapped anonymity – there was no sign of Nintendo’s fabled 64-bit beauty. This disappointing trend continued into the following Christmas and for the next few years, despite numerous blown out candles, desperate wishes and ignored Christmas lists.
Son of Sony
As I sat down with my copy of Animaniacs on my 10th birthday – the finest gift I’ve ever received from my Grandma to this day – I knew my body was ready for the next step. I had outgrown the 16-bit sprites provided by my beloved Sega Mega Drive. It was time to cross over to the red side.
A year went by when one evening, completely out of the blue, my father arrived home from work carrying a mysterious plastic suitcase emblazoned with the Blockbuster logo and a proud grin on his face. I was taken aback when I opened the case to find a second-hand PlayStation nestled inside various pieces of foam next to a copy of CyberSled.
The PlayStation was a revelation – CyberSled, not so much – and would go on to provide me with countless memories in the form of Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo, PaRappa The Rapper, Final Fantasy VII, Tekken and many more unbelievable titles. But even with its mouth-watering library of games, the PlayStation was powerless to stop my thoughts from lingering back to the man with the red hat and fuzzy moustache.
So strong was my desire to experience the vibration of the RumblePak, the fidelity of the analog stick and the multiplayer brilliance of the acclaimed GoldenEye 007, that I slowly found myself resenting the PlayStation, as bizarre and ridiculous as that may sound now. And that’s because whenever the topic of the ‘N64’ was discussed over conversation, my father rightly referred to the grey disc-spinner that he had graciously brought us that unsuspecting evening. We didn’t need an Nintendo N64. We had a Sony PlayStation.
But I never wanted a PlayStation. In fact, a couple of weeks before the PlayStation arrived my brother and I had done the unthinkable. We had managed to convince our mother that under the promise of completing numerous, laborious chores and the acceptance that this would act as a joint birthday present, she would buy us an N64. We had even took the empty display box up to the till, both shaking with untold glee, only to be told by the red-shirted woman that they were completely sold out. With that, my mother forgot the fairytale agreement and we proceeded on home. I’ve never forgiven Woolworths to this day.
Here, I Don’t Have A Sample
With the PlayStation enjoying a monopoly over my gaming life for another year, thanks to the austere ruling of its provider, I tried to block out my obsessive fascination with Nintendo’s hardware. Some days would be easier than others, but in the end it proved to be a fruitless task. I couldn’t shake it, especially when the N64 found a home with those closest to me.
Somehow, as though commanded by Shigeru Miyamoto himself, my neighbour, best friend and brother’s best friend all had N64s. Needless to say, I hated and loved every single one of them with equal measure.
I was drip fed the splendid feast of N64 goodness one agonising play session at a time. My neighbours had a copy of GoldenEye 007, the best multiplayer game I’d ever laid my sweaty hands on. My best friend had Mario Kart 64 and Lylat Wars. And my brother’s best friend was armed with perhaps the greatest game of all, WCW vs NWO Revenge. I can’t describe how excruciating it was to enjoy these fabulous games, knowing that my time would soon be up at any moment.
After defeating my brother’s friend with the skeleton-costume-wearing-wrestler La Parka in our final game on WCW vs NWO Revenge, only to see my elation quashed by the arrival of his parents and the disappearance of his N64, I realised that drastic measures had to be taken to end my prolonged suffering and claim the object of my desire.
But it was hopeless. It didn’t matter how I spun it, my dad simply wasn’t interested. He couldn’t understand what was different between the two consoles, even after I proudly recited various technical specs, exclusive games, the oddly shaped controller and the fact they were made by completely different companies (though I’d later find out that Nintendo inadvertently had a helping hand in creating one of their most bitter rivals). After almost giving up, my dad laid his cards on the table. “Why don’t you join the drama club? I’ll never forget your performance in Oliver Twist as Fagan. If you join the drama club, then we’ve got a deal.”
The offer caught me off guard. There it was, a compromise to quell my incessant cries, but at what cost? I hated acting, the very thought of getting on stage and performing made my knees quiver and my heart palpitate. It was one of those vocations that your parents stubbornly push for, even though they’re fully aware you don’t enjoy it; trust my final performance at primary school to be my first (and last) ever lead role, as opposed to playing the musical triangle as I had done so for many years in peace.
And as for the drama club itself? Well, how can I put this politely… it was populated by people who weren’t exactly the most… charismatic of individuals. It was also more than likely that I would be ostracised because of my association with this particular club – as awful as that may sound.
As I ran through the pros and cons through my head – pros: I’d finally own an N64! Cons: where to begin? – I glanced at my brother who was nodding with encouragement at the drama devil’s deal. Desperate, confused and feeling overwhelmed, I shook my father’s hand.
The next weekend was a blur of fevered excitement and unforgettable gaming moments. We hurried into town, picked up a jade green, translucent N64, two controllers, a copy of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Wrestlemania 2000 and Jet Force Gemini as part of a bargain bungle – the console had been out for three years after all. I don’t think we turned off the N64 for a whole week after we got home – seriously. But there was still the sticky issue of delivering my side of the agreement, the side that I was determined to avoid. Somehow, mostly down to the sympathetic nature of my generous father, I managed it.
I quickly found out the day and time that the drama club was held: Thursdays, 3.45pm till 5.00 pm. Expected to sign up straight away, I managed to avoid the first week relatively easily with a simple white lie, “It starts next week,” I fibbed. My lust for the N64 had turned me into a liar but luckily, my pants were yet to combust.
The second week was a bit more complicated and my excuse, in turn, was less than convincing, “I couldn’t find the room!” I boldly protested; the fact that the club congregated in the main hall of the school added to my father’s obvious suspicion.
By the third week, I was all out of excuses and had no choice but to play my trump card. I decided to stay after school in a shameless attempt to trick my dad that I had attended the dreaded drama club. What I actually did, however, was hide myself away in the library until 5.00pm and spent the best part of an hour attempting to draw the cast of South Park – a surprisingly difficult task, especially when it comes to drawing Kenny. When my dad arrived on cue and asked me how it went, my conscious finally got the better of me. “I didn’t go, dad” I said sheepishly. “I really don’t want to join, even though I know I promised.”
Duped, out of pocket and awash with obvious disappointment my dad reminded me of the wager we had set, but knew he had made a grave mistake in purchasing the N64 before I attended the club. “Very well,” he muttered, “But don’t think you’re getting off that easily. You’re going to study hard this year, I want to see some top grades otherwise you can kiss goodbye to that Nintendo console.” Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Working studiously under the watchful eyes of Joanna Dark, James Bond, Mario and “The People’s Champion” The Rock, there to support me when the going got tough, it was of little surprise that the year 2000 proved to be the peak of my educational powers.
But where is my beloved N64 today? Well, I’m pleased to say we’re still together. We don’t have as much time for each other as we did back then, but we’re still close, even after all these years. And although she may be slightly run-down, sometimes needing a breath of air to bring her back to life, she’ll always be the one for me. My one true love. My Nintendo 64.
Which console did you fall for? Leave your love story in the comments below.