On Thursday, the latest Nintendo Direct presentation confirmed one thing most Nintendo followers had both suspected, hoped for, or predicted (primarily based on a recent FCC “controller” tip): the N64 is lastly again. As an alternative of a miniaturized N64, nevertheless, the corporate’s first devoted 3D-rendering console is returning as a part of a software program suite on Nintendo Change.
And in traditional Nintendo style, Thursday’s announcement solely informed among the story.
Up to now, we all know that the preliminary collection of the Nintendo Switch Online “Expansion Pack” will embody 9 N64 video games, starting from classics like Tremendous Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 to area of interest surprises like Winback: Covert Operations. These video games would require a further charge over NSO’s standard $20/year rate, although Nintendo has not but introduced a worth for this tier. The corporate additionally did verify plans to roll out seven extra N64 video games in some unspecified time in the future, notably Uncommon’s Banjo-Kazooie, which hasn’t been seen on a Nintendo console since Microsoft purchased the developer in 2002.
What we do not know—and what I might wish to estimate, forward of the N64 tier’s October rollout—is what number of, or how typically, new N64 video games is likely to be added to the NSO service within the months forward, and which third-party hits might be a part of its present roster of first-party titles. With out additional phrase from the large N itself, we will look to the corporate’s monitor file to date.
Crunching the numbers
Delving into Nintendo’s monitor file of present NSO video games for NES and SNES, together with N64-specific choices from Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Console shops, yields some attention-grabbing outcomes. To this point, NSO’s normal service tier provides Change homeowners entry to 58 NES and 49 SNES titles, relationship from 2018 and 2019, respectively. (Notice: these numbers do not embody the “SP” variations of sure video games Nintendo has periodically added. These are particular “cheat code” editions of titles like Zelda or Metroid that begin gamers out with all gear unlocked, max rupees, and different perks.)
Nintendo opened pretty sturdy with its NES help on NSO in September 2018, dropping 31 video games over NSO’s first six months. From there, every 4-6 month calendar window dwindles.
- Feb-July 2019: 15 extra NES video games
- Aug-Dec 2019: 4
- Feb-July 2020: 4
- Sept 2020-July 2021: 4
Out of the 673 video games launched in the course of the NES’s lifespan in North America, this places the full obtainable by way of NSO at 8.6 %.
A yr after NSO’s NES launch, Nintendo added Tremendous Nintendo video games with out elevating the service’s prices. The corporate launched its SNES help with 20 video games in September 2019. Its replace cadence from there may be extra irregular than with NES, however total the numbers are nonetheless comparatively low.
- Sept 2019-Feb 2020: 6 extra SNES video games
- Might-Sept 2020: 9
- Dec 2020-Might 2021: 11
- July 2021: 3
All informed, that places the variety of SNES video games on NSO at roughly seven % of the console’s 717 North American titles launched.
What about Digital Console?
As for Nintendo’s file of N64 releases on the Wii U and Wii’s defunct Digital Console storefronts, the numbers are paltry: simply 21 video games have been made obtainable for every. Of those, the lineup is sort of precisely the identical, largely pulling from Nintendo’s first-party catalog of hits like Tremendous Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Masks, Mario Kart 64, Kirby 64, Star Fox 64, and different anticipated classics.
The decrease variety of N64 retail releases in North America altogether—solely 296 video games—could also be partially guilty for the decrease quantity right here. That also solely places Nintendo’s VC choices at seven % of the entire lineup stateside, decrease than both the NES and SNES decisions Change homeowners can presently entry by NSO.
Judging from Nintendo’s already confirmed titles, there’s not a lot dedication (but) to providing way more for N64 than they’ve up to now, at the very least not publicly. Out of the 16 North American titles introduced at yesterday’s stream, solely three have not seen a digital, post-N64 launch within the U.S.: Dr. Mario 64, Winback, and Banjo-Kazooie. The latter is undoubtedly the largest shock with essentially the most important implications, given Microsoft’s possession of Uncommon. Which means MS owns any of Uncommon’s N64 video games that did not characteristic licensed characters like Donkey Kong or Mickey Mouse, which is why lots of Uncommon’s N64 video games appeared on Microsoft’s 2017 anthology Uncommon Replay.
If Nintendo plans to launch the same variety of N64 video games for the service over the following 2-3 years, Change homeowners may very well be taking a look at getting a brand new bump of 4-6 new additions each 5-6 months. However, ought to Nintendo resolve to dig deeper into console’s again catalog, there isn’t any method of figuring out what it is likely to be. With a normal shrinking sample for sport drops throughout NES, SNES, and N64, nevertheless, it is a bit much less doubtless the corporate intends to tug out lots of N64’s deeper cuts.
This brings us to 3rd events. In contrast to NES and SNES, traditional video games from third-parties on N64 are decidedly fewer. With Banjo-Kazooie coming again to a Nintendo console, NSO may ultimately see different Uncommon entries added from Xbox’s Uncommon Replay assortment, with Jet Drive Gemini, Blast Corps, Banjo-Tooie and doubtlessly even the unique, uncensored model of Conker’s Unhealthy Fur Day (over the tweaked-and-bleeped Conker: Dwell and Reloaded for the unique Xbox) all seemingly potential candidates. And if the celebrities align, possibly we’ll see the return of a certain FPS starring a secret agent.
The listing of NSO’s third-party studios on NES and SNES additionally factors to some historic patterns—particularly the inclusion of Japanese builders with powerhouse reputations within the 8- and 16-bit eras. Konami, Capcom, Koei Tecmo, Natsume, and Arc System Works pop up quite a bit trawling by NSO’s NES and SNES libraries (with a number of others which not exist or have been absorbed into dad or mum entities), although pulling out various known-quantity N64 entries is not as easy.
However as it’s possible you’ll recall, Nintendo’s ironclad help from Japanese studios dwindled within the face of fierce PlayStation competitors, which leaves fewer candidates to select from throughout the board. Winback‘s inclusion, whereas welcome, comes from Koei Tecmo, so it does not add a brand new third-party to Nintendo’s listing of NSO companions. Potential Konami titles may embody Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (most likely the extra doubtless selection over its very completely different vanilla model Castlevania 64), or if somebody wished to get actually wacky, the Goemon video games or a year-specific sports activities title like Worldwide Monitor and Subject 2000. Capcom solely launched three video games for the console: ports of PS1’s Mega Man Legends and Resident Evil 2, in addition to Magical Tetris Problem (which starred Disney cartoon characters, in order that’s a protracted shot). Natsume solely launched one N64 sport, Harvest Moon 64.
None of this speaks to how Nintendo might deal with future launches for the Japanese facet of NSO, by the best way. If we’re fortunate, we may see untranslated N64 weirdness arrive in that area’s NSO package deal—and get these video games as region-free downloads, in the identical method that Western gamers can entry Famicom and Tremendous Famicom libraries on Change by way of some Nintendo eShop trickery. Quickly after NSO’s N64 service launches, its Japanese equal will get two Japan-only video games within the Customized Robo sequence, which can present a superb check case for potential region-free enjoyable from the 64-bit era.
In the end, with fewer N64 video games to select from throughout all areas, particularly in comparison with PS1’s explosion throughout the identical period, our expectations are typically slim. And Nintendo’s unwillingness to launch sure N64 exclusives on older Digital Console platforms, together with Pilotwings 64 and Mischief Makers, does not instill confidence that they’ve gone to higher license-agreement lengths this time round—particularly since they don’t seem to be getting packaged in an attractive, miniaturized set-top box. It is most likely greatest to arrange for a definite lack of boat-rocking right here past what’s been made obtainable on Digital Console and the full variety of video games, first-party or in any other case, that the corporate may contemplate worthy sufficient to re-release.
At the least Nintendo’s heading in the right direction with that genuine controller—and we’ll be again to report on that controller’s construct high quality, and the way properly it really works with the upcoming NSO pack of N64 video games, in a future follow-up.