For over 10 years prior to the launch of their N64 system, Nintendo sat fairly comfortably as the top dog in the video game console market. That all began to change by the mid-90s, however. Following Sega and Sony's (then) next-gen console face-off throughout much of 1995, Nintendo somewhat controversially opted to wait until the following year to release their own competing hardware. One of the main reasons for this decision was so that they could allow enough time for a sufficient pipeline of software titles to be ready to support the console (and not wind up in the same embarrassing predicament Sega had with their premature launch of the Saturn). While the delay did likely hurt them a bit with regard to potential sales lost, it also ensured that the N64 would make a strong impact when it did finally arrive (the lack of which for the Saturn no doubt contributed to that console's early demise).
While the official US launch date for the Nintendo 64 was intended to be Sunday, September 29th, 1996, as advertised, the vast majority of retailers broke that release date and began selling them before the start of the weekend. Following its successful launch, the Nintendo 64 achieved modest success throughout its life. The decision to stick with cartridges in the age of the compact disc, along with a slight lack of third-party support, would cause Nintendo's system to be pretty handily outsold by Sony's PlayStation console. However, the Saturn's early departure from the field, combined with an absolute wealth of outstanding first and second-party titles, still solidified the Nintendo 64 as both an unquestionable success for Nintendo, as well as an object of great affection for Nintendo fans, and gamers, everywhere.
GoldenEye 007 (Nintendo 64) (Rare, 1997)
Game Changers is a semi-regular column featuring games which have had a significant impact on me over the years. Games that were so incredibly stunning and awe-inspiring, they changed my conception of what a game could be at the time. Previously, I have written about Out Run, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Red Dead Redemption.
When the first-person shooters first rose to prominence, they were almost entirely non-existent anywhere besides the PC. Console controllers at the time simply weren't equipped to handle movement and aiming together in any kind of intuitive way. That all changed with Rare's 1997 smash hit, GoldenEye 007.
Rare made expert use of the uniquely designed Nintendo 64 controller when implementing the control scheme for the game. They utilized the brand new controller features like the analog joystiq, yellow C buttons, and gun-like Z trigger for more natural-feeling movement and shooting than had been possible before. The brilliance of their control scheme was that it worked so well with Nintendo's oddball controller. A device design that had previously left many fans scratching their heads suddenly made (some) sense. It seemed almost as if Nintendo had designed the controller for GoldenEye, and not the other way around. What's more is that for the first time, a game developer had successfully created an acceptable way to enjoy the wildly popular first-person shooter genre on a home game console.
While the first-person shooter control scheme may not have ultimately achieved perfection until 2001's Halo on the original Xbox, GoldenEye represented an absolutely crucial stepping stone along the path; basically, the only real stepping stone. The game opened up the world of first-person shooters to millions of people who only liked to play games on their television sets. The genius of this timeless classic cannot be overstated and the controls are only but one of the numerous reasons why.