There’s no doubt that Nintendo are regular innovators of the videogames industry. And even though their latest innovation, motion control, reeks more of gimmick than real gaming, back in the 90′s during the 3D wars with Sony and Sega, Nintendo were at the forefront of taking shit to the next level. These were the moments in that golden Nintendo era that literally made my jaw drop, my eyes bulge and maybe even got me a bit stiff in the pants.
5. Snowspeeder vs AT-AT, Shadows of the Empire 64
When the N64 was released one of its first victories was that it had some of the strongest first generation titles to complement it. Shadows of the Empire 64 was not one of them. Due to a rushed development to push this game out in time with other launch titles, the controls in this game weren’t great, the flow of the game disjointed and it just wasn’t fun. However, there was a saving grace in Shadows of the Empire that no one could deny was absolutely fantastic and that was harpooning an imperial AT-AT walker and looping the snowspeeder three times around it!
Again, the controls were clunky and the camera not entirely helpful, but it kind of added a level of unintentional difficulty that worked. Hey, tripping an AT-AT is not meant to be easy. More importantly, the moment represented true Star Wars and it was so good that afterwards they would base an entire game on the design in the much improved Rogue Squadron 64, which went on to become one of LucasArts most successful franchises.
4. Facility vents, Goldeneye 64
Moving on to a first generation game that was actually good, and not just good but one of the best; Goldeneye 64. Rare have since stagnated into obscurity but in Goldeneye they left a legacy for every FPS game that has since followed it. Firstly the AI – if you shot an unsilenced weapon your foes would come running. The multiplayer – four players at the same time playing a FPS in the 90′s with NO JUMP command and on a console. Best of all though was the bullet damage recognition – shoot a guard in the ass and he would jump in the air grabbing his ring. Shoot him in the neck and he would fall to his knees clasping his throat. Shoot Natalya in the crotch and she too would fall to the ground, legs splayed and clutching her, well, clutch.
As hilarious as it is performing a pap smear on Natalya with Bond’s PP7, that’s not the OMG moment. The moment comes early in the game in the sophomore level Facility. The level begins with the camera swirling around Bond standing upright in an air vent as all good spies do. As you crawl to the vent opening and peer through, you see it is a toilet block and lo, an unsuspecting guard is situated in a cubicle below you staring blankly at the toilet door.
The moment comes when you aim your reticle at his head and PEW, you shoot. But you don’t hit his head, you hit his hat. OMG you can shoot hats off of their heads in this game! And he’s still standing there like a douchebag! Not only can you shoot hats off of the guards in this game but the hat protects them! Hahah, it’s so absurd but such a delightful and hilarious perk and the rest of the game was just so good that it didn’t even matter.
3. Rainbow Road, Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 was the first game I played on N64 when my brother’s then girlfriend hired out a console for my cousin and I to play, as well as #5 entry Shadows of the Empire. Needless to say we kicked SotE aside and played a marathon session of Mario Kart. The game is filled with all sorts of great N64 moments like turning invincible just as the train careens through the crossing in Kalamari Desert, using a lightning bolt as your competitors are about to hit a ramp and rebounding off and over the Wario Stadium walls to do a lap in 8 seconds (I was banned from this manouver by my friends pretty quickly).
However, that afternoon when my cousin and I were playing for the first time and going through each cup chronologically, arriving to the final race of the final cup changed the entire game. Up until then, all of the tracks were cooky, fast and fun. As soon as Rainbow Road opens up it was different; the scale of the track was immediately apparent as you rocket start off the grid, the dreamy stage music twinkles and within the first 10 seconds you’ve launched yourself off of the chasmic dip with a tap of the R shoulder button. The 6-8 minutes it took per lap was a marathon in comparison to the rest of the game but for me it was as if Nintendo was getting you to reminisce on all the previous stages and the journey you took to reach Rainbow Road. All of the drift turns, the bumps off of cliffs and those damn leader shells, it all came together and coalesced as you drove your way through this track of celebration.
It was as if the designers wanted you to finish the game on a road to paradise,peace and serenit — FUCK THAT CHOMP CHOMP CAME OUTTA NO WHERE AND HIT ME >:@ D: DX
2. Termina’s Moon, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
This game was great in it’s eery vision of a place not quite Hyrule called Termina. In an attempt to avoid or postpone making a true successor to Ocarina of Time, Nintendo have routinely employed gimmicks to add a new spin to their Zelda games like a flooded Hyrule (liked) or turn Link into Okami (hated). The 3 day time limit in Majora’s Mask was actually used incredibly well and tied in with the creepy undertones of Termina perfectly. In the last few hours before impending doom, the citizens of Termina are torn between philosophical acceptance of their imminent obliteration or desperate prayer and begging for a saviour. Either way, it’s very unsettling.
The OMG occurs in those last few moments. The first time you step into Termina one of the first things you notice is an ominous looking moon with a face staring down at you. You learn that it will crash down on Termina in three days unless you find a way to stop it. The moon is big on Day 1 but on Day 3, especially with only a few hours, a few minutes to go, the moon is monstrous both in facial manner but especially in size. It’s really a testament to the Nintendo’s programmers and Nintendo’s vision to be able to think of such a harrowing device and to be able to create it. If you really want to turn things up a notch, go to the observatory on Day 3 and use the telescope to zoom into the moon even further. I’ll be in my closet drawing a triforce on my hand.
1. Can the Eel come out to play?, Super Mario 64
The best OMG moment I have to award to the first OMG moment that I ever had on the Nintendo 64. If you owned an N64 you owned Mario 64. For many, it was the first game they would purchase with the console and that was the case for me. I’ve written previously about how much I love this game because it really opened my eyes to just what videogames were able to achieve. Each world in Mario 64 was its own character whether you were running around on cogs inside a clock or leaping from a magic carpet to a pirate ship.
The OMG moment though was swimming through Jolly Roger Bay. To get the first star you have to go through a pirate ship. Alright, it’s on the bottom of this lake here, I’ll just swim down there. WHOA WTF, there’s a huge eel thing there! Ah! And it’s coming out to get me!!!
If you look through videos of this stage and the eel, it’s almost funny how cruddy it looks by today’s standards of Colossus and God of War Titans. But hey, back in the day I was utterly gobsmacked. Not only was this eel face thing huge, it actually emerged out of its cavern to reveal its even huger body. Even though beasts and graphics have gotten bigger and better since then, I never forget this moment and how amazed I was at what Nintendo was able to achieve. I hope they keep bringing the OMG moments for years to come.