Nintendo 64 Reviews C

California Speed
Grade: C+
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Reviewed: 2002/1/26

screenshotCalifornia Speed features so-so racing action but awe-inspiring scenery. There are sixteen tracks in all, and what they lack in detail they make up for in sheer creativity. Most of the major California cities are featured, and each track is loaded with surprises. You'll be zooming down a normal stretch of highway and suddenly find yourself whizzing through a mall, giant computer, or UFO. You'll speed over aircraft carriers and around roller coasters. How in the world did they fit all of this crazy scenery into a cartridge?

The attractive graphics and smooth frame rate make for an enjoyable ride, particularly the first time through. The racing aspect of the game is less exciting. The cars don't look so hot, and the roads are wide open with few obstacles (although there are a few shortcuts). The controls are limited to accelerate and brake, with no speed boosts or power-ups. The single-player mode is fun but limited in play value, and the two-player split screen mode is only fair. At least you get to see a picture of a fabulous babe when you win. . © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Carmageddon 64
Grade: F-
Publisher: Software Creations (1999)
Reviewed: 2017/3/5
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood, gore, animated violence)

screenshotOn paper Carmageddon sounds like a slam-dunk winner. You're racing around post-apocalyptic world smashing cars and running over zombies. How can this be bad? Oh it can be bad alright! In fact, Carmageddon may just possibly be the disgraceful thing I've ever played. Let's begin with the gut-churning dreck that's meant to pass for graphics.

The textures in the game are so fuzzy you'll feel the need to put on glasses - even if you don't wear them! The storefronts are best described as "smeared". Even the hazy skylines in the distance look blurry! The angular roads are strewn with so many barricades you can't even tell where the [expletive] you're supposed to go! How am I supposed to race "laps" when the track goes in five different directions? You know you're in trouble when you start seeing the message "wrong checkpoint".

The first time I played the game I quickly found myself at the bottom of a lake, searching for some means to escape. Then I noticed other cars milling around under there! WTF? The controls are abysmal. You'd expect the analog steering to offer some degree of precision, but it's all-or-nothing as your car jerks abruptly from side-to-side.

In addition to racing, you can "win" (and I use the term loosely) by destroying other cars. There are no traditional weapons like Twisted Metal (PS1, 1995) but you can collect icons that unleash semi-automated attacks. The CPU opponents are utterly clueless, languishing in ditches and wedged hopelessly between rocks. Your third option is to mow down all the zombies, but locating all of these cardboard cut-out ghouls would take forever. Even watching them splatter into green goo is unsatisfying.

The audio track is just an irritating jumble of beats and samples. The fact that this is a PC port explains a lot but it's still no excuse. Carmageddon 64 is such an atrocity it actually gives Superman (Nintendo 64, 1999) a run for the money. If a friend ever asks you to play Carmageddon, be sure to punch him in the face. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Castlevania
Grade: B-
Publisher: Konami (1999)
Reviewed: 2003/6/19

screenshotCastlevania's transition to 3D was a little bumpy, but it's still a very respectable game (despite what most critics say). In the proud tradition of the series, the game features a vampire hunter storyline, better-than-average graphics, and haunting orchestrated music. You'll battle monsters with your whip, hit torches to reveal items, and make death-defying leaps.

Castlevania gets off to a rip-roaring start in a forest outside of Dracula's Castle, where a violent thunderstorm knocks down giant trees in your path. Skeletons crawl out of the ground, and it's crazy fun to snap their heads off with your whip. The first boss appears unexpectedly behind the first gate, and his appearance is startling. He looks like the skeleton of King Kong, running around like a giant ape! It's pretty scary.

Castlevania's gameplay drew me in immediately, but my enthusiasm waned as I was forced to deal with poor camera angles, deadly water, and control problems (especially around ledges). Your enemies are the usual suspects of skeletons and werewolves, but there are some bizarre surprises like skeletons on motorcycles. There's a lot of game packed into this cartridge, and Castlevania fans should at least give it a chance. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness
Grade: B-
Publisher: Konami (1999)
Reviewed: 2013/11/17
Rating: Teen (blood, animated violence)

screenshotI recall critics referring to this as more of a remake than a sequel, perhaps because the original was not very well received. Apparently the developers didn't get the memo, because Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness has more of the same camera and control issues. That said, Legacy still has a lot to offer, starting with its graphics. Using the enhanced RAM and high resolution options delivers a superb level of detail with sharp lines and smooth polygon textures. If the cancelled Dreamcast Castlevania had ever seen the light of day, I suspect it would have looked a lot like this.

The low resolution option delivers a slightly better framerate, but the game is perfectly playable at any setting. You'll assume the role of multiple characters, beginning with some white-haired metrosexual named Cornel who walks like he has a pole up his butt. The first stage takes place on a haunted ship, culminating with an encounter with a sea serpent. The platform jumping benefits greatly from the fact that you can grab and hold any nearby ledge.

Unfortunately, some controls (like pulling yourself up) change depending on the camera position, leading to confusion. Your default projectile attack is effective, often more so than special items like axes, crosses, and holy water. You can transform into a werewolf, which intensifies your attacks. In addition to jumping and fighting, there are puzzles to solve. "Will you pull the lever?" Uhhh... yeah!

Legacy of Darkness automatically adjusts the camera based on the situation, but the system isn't foolproof. In one area you need to drop down several levels, and it's hard to tell which ledges you can safely step off of. Some stages are cookie cutter in design, making you wonder if you're entering new territory or retracing your steps. Otherwise the game is highly playable and there are a generous number of white gem "quick save" points around the game.

Legacy is more action than horror, but I enjoyed the creepy bosses and raging thunderstorms. Having a Frankenstein monster chase you through a hedge maze with a chainsaw is particularly scary. All the horror icons are represented like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and the obligatory skeletons-riding-motorcycles-with-sidecars-and-machine-guns. Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness has its awkward moments, but its forgiving nature and fun atmosphere will help you see past its faults. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Battery
1 player 

Command and Conquer
Grade: A-
Publisher: Westwood (1999)
Reviewed: 2001/12/15

screenshotLike Warcraft, Command and Conquer is a real-time strategy game where you train soldiers, build structures, and ultimately conquer an enemy over a series of missions. I really enjoyed this game on the Playstation, and found the N64 version to be even better. The two main flaws with the Playstation version were its long load times and tiny, hard-to-make-out objects. Both have been addressed here. Obviously, since this is a cartridge the loading time is minimal. And thanks to the N64's sharp, high resolution graphics, the tiny soldiers are much easier to make out.

The only things missing are the long video clips, which I could do without anyway. The analog joystick control takes a little getting used to, but the excellent music remains intact. Command and Conquer's missions are fun and challenging, and you can choose to play either side of the conflict. If you like strategy games, this classic will keep you engrossed for hours on end. . © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 player 

Conker's Bad Fur Day
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
Reviewed: 2001/3/24
Rating: Mature

screenshotWhen I first heard the premise of this odd game, I really didn't think it would work. Cartoon characters in an adult game seemed like a really bad idea, and Nintendo seemed to be the only game company left still concerned with offering wholesome, family-oriented games. Conker's Bad Fur Day is a pretty typical 3D adventure by Rare, except it features adult themes and bad language.

To be honest, most of the questionable material is more juvenile than adult, with all kinds of toilet humor, fluctuation sound effects, gratuitous violence, and various depictions of human waste. I don't see the humor in all that, but some of the dialog, especially during the cut-scenes, is well written and surprisingly funny. You'll hear some bad words, but not the F word, which is bleeped out on numerous occasions.

I was a bit under-whelmed by Conker's gameplay. You don't have a million items to collect like Donkey Kong 64, but it's often difficult to determine what you're supposed to do next. It's as if the game was designed to make you buy the strategy guide (imagine that)! Conker's gameplay isn't innovative at all, but its adult theme gives it a distinct edge.

The graphics and sound effects are top of the line for the N64, and the background music is near Disney quality. Conker also features a wide array of multiplayer minigames, including a racing game, a tank game, and a first person shooter. While these are a nice bonus, they won't hold your attention for long. Conker is definitely a trip, but I don't think we need any more games like this. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Cruis'n Exotica
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (2000)
Reviewed: 2006/4/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAs the third entry in this grammatically-incorrect series, Exotica may be the most over-the-top racer I've ever played. Its twelve locations include Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Korea, Alaska, India, Ireland, Tibet, Holland, Korea, and the Sahara Desert. You even get a few fantasy tracks like the undersea world of Atlantis, a dinosaur-infested Amazon, and the surface of Mars! My personal favorite is Hong Kong, with its elevated highways amidst a sea of buildings and colorful lights - it's pretty amazing.

The controls are identical to its predecessor, Cruis'n World, but the "turbo" function has been relabeled with the more fashionable term "nitros oxide". The vehicle selection goes far beyond sports cars, including a psychedelic van, military jeep, and a forklift. Like previous entries in the series, the racing action is overly-forgiving, preventing you from veering off-course and immediately setting you back on the road after a wreck.

While the gameplay hasn't changed much from the previous Cruis'n titles, the ample eye candy makes each race worth watching. Unfortunately, as with most early 3D games, Exotica suffers from severe "pop-up". The pop-up I'm referring to is buildings or mountains that suddenly appear as you approach, instead of scaling in from the distance. This detracts from some otherwise beautiful graphics. Along the same lines, certain parts of the scenery tend to repeat over and over to an annoying degree. Yes, this occurred in previous Cruis'n games, but it's far more obvious with Exotica's huge set pieces.

Another annoyance is the preponderance of invisible walls, especially when you fly off of high jumps. Finally, computer opponents have a nasty penchant for bumping you off the road, and can make your life hell on the more narrow tracks. The one player game is pretty much limited to beating your previous times (saved to cartridge), but the split screen mode accommodates up to four players. Exotica may be a bit shallow compared to most modern racers, but there's still fun to be had. It's clear however, that the series had nowhere to go from here. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Cruis'n USA
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Reviewed: 2006/4/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis much-anticipated early N64 title was delayed several times before finally being released to a lukewarm reception. It's not a bad game, but doesn't fare well at all when compared to the Playstation's Ridge Racer (1995). In the spirit of Outrun, Cruis'n USA is strictly an arcade racer, with invisible "walls" that keep you on track, cars that bounce off each other like rubber, and the ability to recover from crashes almost instantly.

Ten scenic tracks are strung together from San Francisco to Washington DC, and along the way you'll visit Beverly Hills, the Grand Canyon, cornfields in Iowa, and the city of Chicago. Each section has its own flavor, and I enjoyed the varied locations. Yes, there are "pop-up" issues, but it's only severe in the two-player split-screen mode. Cruis'n USA's racing action is fast and exciting as you jockey with competitors and swerve out of the way of oncoming traffic. Pile-ups are common, and even the CPU-controlled cars can have head-on collisions.

At its best, Cruis'n USA feels like an early version of Burnout (GameCube, 2002), but at its worst, it feels shallow and sloppy. The steering controls are twitchy, the physics is crazy, and the collision detection is hit-or-miss. Or maybe I should say "miss-or-miss". At one point I drove through a whole row of redwood trees - something I hardly ever do in real life. Waiting for you at the various finish lines are some very hot but pixelated bikini babes (and a few shirtless dorks).

The first thing you should do when playing Cruis'n USA is reconfigure the controls, because the default settings (Z to accelerate) are awkward at best. I also find it odd how the manual unfolds like a big poster. Was Nintendo trying to save money on staples? The game's soundtrack has been maligned in the past, but I don't mind it at all. The tunes have an understated quality, and the guitar-plucking "Deadwood Ride" is rather catchy. Cruis'n USA may not have lived up to expectations, but if you take it for what it is, you'll find this arcade racer to be quite an enjoyable trip. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Cruis'n World
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Reviewed: 2006/4/8
Rating: Everyone


screenshotThis sequel to Cruis'n USA provides an exciting new set of tracks spanning the globe, including Hawaii, Japan, New York, Germany, Mexico, Egypt, and Moscow. New features include alternate routes, rumble pack support, turbo boost, and a four-player split-screen mode. Cruis'n World's controls feel more natural than its predecessor, with a default control scheme that actually makes sense. CPU opponents are far more aggressive this time around, attempting to bump you off the road at every opportunity.

Like Cruis'n USA, the collision detection is erratic. The new tracks are colorful and attractive, but not as fantastic as I expected. Highlights include speeding through glass underwater tunnels in Hawaii, driving inside Egyptian pyramids, and careening along the Great Wall of China. Some tracks are surprisingly dull however. New York is a generic highway, Australia is a barren desert, and Kenya offers little more than dirt roads with occasional wildlife. The four-player split-screen mode is plagued by slowness and limited visibility, but at least the frame-rate remains smooth. If you enjoyed Cruis'n USA, this sequel is definitely worth your while. It's probably the best of the Cruis'n games for the Nintendo 64. . © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Lemon64.com, Moby Games, YouTube, Games Database, The ISO Zone