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Review: Quake (Nintendo 64)

The DOS game Quake, by id Software, was one of my formative gaming experiences. I had played Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, and they are great games, but Quake hit in a way that its predecessors didn’t. The true 3D environment, mixed with the weird half futuristic, half fantasy design, really appealed to me. Plus, with the release of Quakeworld, online deathmatches were actually playable (even with crappy modem connections). Up until that time, I’d used software like Kali, which emulated an IPX network over TCP. When Quake was first released, I was running it on the family Pentium 60, and it got decent frame rates at the default 320x240 resolution. Such was my infatuation that during the summer before my junior year in high school, when I was working installing sprinkler systems in order to save for a new PC, I put aside an extra $150 for a 3dfx Voodoo card; primarily for GLQuake. All this is to say, I’ve enjoyed the game over the years.

Recently I picked up a copy of the Nintendo 64 port of Quake; I’m actually kind of surprised that I’d never played this version before. I played a boatload of N64 back in the day, and it’s one of my favorite systems. But of course it would be unlikely for me to spend $60 on a game that I already had on a technically superior platform. But, 25 years later, I had the desire (nostalgia for both the N64 and Quake) and disposable income to try this port.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s pretty good. My main criteria for this judgement is the fact that the game controls are totally customizable, which means you can use the analog stick to aim. I was able to concoct a scheme similar to GoldenEye’s 1.2 Solitaire, with the C buttons handling strafe/forward/back, and the stick controlling looking. This basically replicates the traditional WASD + mouselook on PC; or at least it’s as close as you can get with an N64 controller.

The game also supports the Rumble Pak, which is an enhancement over the PC version — at least I never otherwise knew of a common force feedback option. One downside is that the game itself doesn’t have battery-backed memory, so saves have to go on a Memory Pak. This, of course, means that if you want to use the Rumble Pak, you have to do a lot of swapping when saving the game.

I feel like the graphics compare quite favorably to GLQuake, which is pretty amazing for a $200 console compared to a $1,500 PC. The textures have that quintessential N64 blurriness, but are still recognizable. The frame rates are decent as well; there’s not the feeling of slowdown or input lag that one sometimes gets with overly ambitious N64 titles. There are also colored lighting effects that weren’t present in the vanilla PC game.

There are some downgrades, unfortunately. Certain levels were removed (full errata list, as well as the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack. The main omission, however, is multiplayer. Your only option is split screen 2-player deathmatch — a far cry from the online mayhem that PC players could experience (and what gave the game lasting cultural influence).

All that being said, I still enjoyed playing Quake on the Nintendo 64. It’s fun to re-experience a favorite game on a different platform, just to see the differences and similarities. It’s definitely a worthy addition to any collection.