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Nintendo 64 NINTENDO ULTRA 64

Nintendo 64
Aqua Design

The Nintendo 64 is the world's most advanced video game system, providing unsurpassed 64-bit graphics and CD-quality sound at a blistering 93.75 MHZ. With real-time rendering and awesome anti-aliased graphics, the N64 immerses you in a heart-pounding video game world!

You can have your N64 and Super NES connected to your TV simultaneously (see instruction booklet for details).


NINTENDO 64 TECH SPECS:

CPU: MIPS 64-bit RISC CPU (customized R4000 series) This is a customized version of a CPU used in Silicon Graphics workstations. Clock Speed: 93.75 MHz

MEMORY: 36Mbits RAMBUS-designed 9-bit DRAM (4,5MB) Transfer Speed: maximum 4,500M bit/sec.

CO-PROCESSOR: Reality Engine 64-bit RISC. Built-in RCP: SP (sound and graphics processor) and DP (pixel drawing processor) incorporated. Clock Speed: 62.5MHz

RESOLUTION: 256 x 224 ~ 640 x 480 dots. Flicker-free interlace mode support.

COLOR: Maximum 16.8 million colors 32-bit RGBA pixel color frame buffer support. 21-bit color video output.

GRAPHICS PROCESSING: Z buffer, Anti-aliasing, Realistic texture mapping: Tri-linear filtered MIP-map interpolation, Perspective correction, Environment mapping.

AUDIO: Stereo 16-bit PCM 64 channels at 44KHz.

BENCHMARK PERFORMANCE: Main CPU clocked @ 125 MIPS. Graphics co-processor clocked @ 100 MFLOPS (millions of floating point oprations per second) 100,000 polygons/sec with all hardware features turned on.

DIMENSIONS: Width 260mm (10.23") x Depth 190mm (7.48") x Height 73mm (2.87")

WEIGHT: 1.1kg (2.42 lb.)

The Controller

The Controller

Attain new levels of accuracy and play-control with the ergonomically designed Controller, featuring 14 buttons and an analog Control Stick. The N64 Controller gives you complete control over every move through 360 degrees. There's a quick-action Z-trigger on the bottom and a multi-directional Control Pad. The N64 Controller Pak (sold separately) can save game statistics and data, your favorite Controller button configuration, built-up character strengths and more!

Plug & Play

Stereo AV cables are included for the highest-quality picture and stereo sound. RF Adapter available separately. Nintendo Power Source' s Consumer Service area has all the details on how to hook up your Nintendo 64 system.



Nintendo 64 Disk Drive

NINTENDO 64 DISK DRIVEOnly available in Japan, the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive is the first writeable bulk data storage device for a modern video game console. The 64DD stores 64 megabytes of gaming data on a writeable magnetic disk drive. The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive includes a 4 megabyte RAM (Random Access Memory) upgrade for the Nintendo 64, which brings the total RAM for the console to 8 megabytes. However, the Expansion Pak, which is available in the United States, also upgrades the N64 from 4 megabytes to 8 megabytes of RAM. The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive will only enhance games that have been developed to take advantage of its functionality. No such N64 games are sold in the United States.

Technical Details

A variable amount of the space on the Nintendo 64 Disk can be designated as readable or writeable. There are several different ways the data can be divided between readable and writeable, ranging from a split of 38 megabytes writeable and 26 megabytes readable, to having the entire disk's 64 megabytes of read memory only. The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive is a "burst access" device. This means that it does not stream data to the N64, but rather sends them in high speed bursts. Because of this, the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive is not ideal for full-motion video or for streaming audio. Disks for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive are bootable, meaning that that they can be used without a Game Pak in the system (although they can also be used in conjunction with a Game Pak). The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive contains built-in Read Only Memory (ROM) data files that can be accessed by Nintendo 64 Disk Drive developers. The drive also features a real-time clock.

Speed

The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive reads data at about 1 megabyte per second, which is roughly comparable to a 6X PC CD-ROM drive.

Physical Appearance

The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive unit sits beneath the Nintendo 64 console and plugs into the EXT. expansion connector on the bottom of the console. The drive uses a disk that is physically about the size of a 3.5-inch floppy disk, but is twice as thick. The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive's ruggedized features include a locking bay drive door that will not open unless two small rails on the Nintendo 64 Disk are inserted into it. Each disk has a durable case and locks up tight when not in the drive.

On the Development Side

The Nintendo 64 Disk gives the developer up to 64 megabytes for code and data. As with the Expansion Pak, the extra 4 megabytes of RAM allows for large frame buffers and custom sound wave tables. The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive's writeable capability allows players to save customization data and stats.

Release Schedule and Price

The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive is only available in Japan. There are no plans to release the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive in the United States.




All contents copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Nintendo of America, Inc. All rights reserved.



Nintendo 64: The start of a long journey

Inside Nintendo 64

Examining the Power Station

1. Nintendo 64's central connector slot accepts cartridges and also extends through to the PCB's underside where it will serve as an expansion port for the 64DD mass-storage device. This section is the entry point to all of the system's internal technology.
2. Nintendo 64's CPU is a 64-bit MIPS custom R4300 CPU running at 93.75Mhz. Unlike an unaccelerated PC, the ultra-fast operation of this chip is unhindered by a heavy graphics overload.
3. The much-vaunted Reality Engine co-processor is a re-engineered version of the multimedia engine designed for high-end SGI work stations. Running at 62.5 MHz, it's divided into two parts: the Reality Engine Signal processor (which calculates all the geometry) and the Reality Display processor (which draws everything to the screen).
4. Nintendo 64 contains 4MB of Rambus-designed DRAM. This unified memory system is shared between sound, game logic and graphic data, and will work in conjunction with extra 64DD RAM in future.
 
Nintendo 64

Taking Control

     Uniquely, Nintendo 64's joypad, like the console itself, has been designed to be upgradable. The port on its underside enables it to take Memory Paks which can be used to save game positions and also game performance data. A good example of the latter use is in Mario Kart 64, where players can save best-lap data and give their Memory Pak to a friend who can race against their ghost image.
     Plus, "accessories such as the Rumble Pak will add new dimensions to the gameplay experience, with the addition of tactile feedback," claims NOA's Steve Okimoto. "There's been a lot of interest from developers who are eager to support the Rumble Pak in their games."
     "I don't think Nintendo 64's joypad is revolutionary so much as evolutionary," says DMA'sJohnWhyte."Inthe future we'll no doubt see a lot of gimmicks based around the joypad, but I'm also sure that we'll see a lot of revolutionary ideas make their way into the mainstream..."

Nintendo's alliance with computer-visuals powerhouse Silicon Graphics ensured it an immediate edge over its 32-bit-focused competition when it re-entered the console market with 64-bit hardware on June 23, 1996. The machine got off to a healthy start in Japan but really got into stride when it launched in the U.S. on September 30, where a sales period of 13 weeks saw the system accounting for over half a billion dollars in retail sales after 1.75 million units shifted. It officially became the fastest-selling console in history. Moreover, retailers told Nintendo at the time that they could have sold another 750,000 units had supply met total demand. In the U.K., the 20,000 launch units found their way into eagerly grabbing hands in no time.

Nintendo 64's custom R4300 CPU, coupled with its Reality Engine co-processor, affords the machine access to a wealth of features — notably anti-aliasing and bilinear filtering — that developers can call upon with ease. The imagery the system is capable of projecting has become the new benchmark in home videogaming, and this inherent power has given it the obvious advantage over its current competition and, arguably, the potential to become the most popular system in the next couple of years as it battles with 32-bit systems.

Most importantly, though, Nintendo's in-house development teams have delivered gameplay experiences to do justice to such powerful technology. Super Mario 64, a game so ambitious that it could have been a disastrous affair had it not been honed to perfection over some five years, is already the stuff of videogame legend, and at least half a dozen games set to appear this year should send heads spinning once more. John Whyte, head of development on DMA Design's Nintendo 64 title, Body Harvest, believes the "N" factor to be a big reason behind Nintendo's 64-bit success:"I think Nintendo 64's strength is simply the fact that Nintendo is producing software for it. I've never seen anyone produce a game with the amount of thought and design that Nintendo puts into its own software."

It has been said that Nintendo has come up with the perfect package for anyone in the habit of whiling away their hours fixated with shoving pixels around a television screen: the leading hardware specs; the killer apps; unrivaled joypad support as standard; the unique control interface;future-proofing — it's all there.

Steve Okimoto, a software engineer at Nintendo of America who's responsible for providing technical support to third-party Nintendo 64 developers, sees the machine's most obvious strengths as "its graphics and the creation of videogaming's first real-time three-dimensional worlds. Just as important as the graphics are the gameplay features of Nintendo 64 — everyone looks at Wave Race and 'oohs' and 'aahs' over the realistic-looking waves, for example, but you've got to have the controller in your hand, sliding through a turn, to feel how the waves actually buffet your watercraft, to give you the feeling that you're actually jet-skiing."

"Or look at the four-player option in Mario Kart 64. Players have their own view windows, without losing any of the graphic quality of the one-player mode. And the four-player version of Star Fox 64 is even more incredible. It's something you can't do on other systems, not without throwing frame rate out the window."

"In the long run, Nintendo 64s biggest strength is its progammable graphics engine. By providing updates to the microcode, Nintendo can add new features to the software library. Developers have only just started to explore the vast capabilities of the system. There are incredible things yet to come."

Updating microcode is all very well, of course, but the third-party development houses on the receiving end have to be up to the task of making effective use of it. Though Nintendo 64 has already seen some revolutionary titles — without which, it must be said, it would not have enjoyed the level of success it has — there have also been some decidedly lackluster games (most famously Cruis'n USA and Mortal Kombat Trilogy) to dampen owners' spirits.

Obviously, as technology increases in complexity, the framework of game design and development expands accordingly — a factor which could hamper the potential of software on power-heavy machines such as Nintendo 64. "The Nintendo 64's biggest weakness is just the flipside of its strongest attribute," believes Okimoto. "It requires a top-notch developer to produce a high-quality game of the caliber of a Super Mario 64. Nintendo has provided developers with all of the flexibility of many versions of microcode, video modes, rendering modes, and audio configurations; it does leave the developer with many choices. Deciding which options make the most sense can be a hurdle for developers to overcome. We figured a more flexible environment, instead of a very restrictive environment, would be a good trade-off in the long run."

"To begin with, getting to grips with the hardware proved difficult," says Whyte. "Any new system is going to have teething troubles as far as development is concerned and this was no exception. But once the developers are aware of and can use the capabilities, it makes the whole process pretty straightforward. The hardest part for developers is going to be matching the quality set by Nintendo with Mario 64, and that's a matter of design more than anything."

So when will garners begin seeing Nintendo 64's potential being reached? "It'll take a long time," reckons Okimoto. "Many of the early development problems lay in the flexibility of the hardware. But this flexibility is also the machine's biggest strength. It's impossible to estimate what potential the machine has until we actually take the time to dig deep into the hardware, and that kind of thing takes time — but is generally worth the wait. It's kind of similar to the Amiga situation, where the hardware could be made to do all sorts of tricks that the original designers would never have even thought possible."

Nintendo 64's detractors would point the finger at lack of third-party support and consequently a relatively meager software library as two factors that will hamper Nintendo's chances in beating off its strongest rival, Sony. But the company doesn't look likely to change its "quality, not quantity" stance. Nor is the third-party community likely to give it the chance to change it.

Another controversial factor is Nintendo 64's use of cartridges. "There were a lot of people in the industry who were absolutely amazed that a game environment as vast as Super Mario 64 would be able to fit in a cartridge," says Okimoto. "But Nintendo was able to pull it off. And with cartridge size rapidly approaching 16MB, there's still plenty of room left for growth." He does, however, recognize that large-scale storage capacity has a valuable place in videogaming:"[By praising cartridges] I don't mean that games wouldn't benefit from even more data space. With eight times the capacity of Super Mario 64, 64DD games can feature much larger levels, more texture maps, more audio tracks."

"The 64DD's biggest contribution will be its ability to write back data to the disk. The implications in terms of gameplay are tremendous. Current RAM sizes max out at about 32MB. With up to 38MB to save data on the 64DD, game creators will have the ability to record whatever information they want. This can include new characters, new levels, new textures, new puzzles, whatever the creators can dream up. And with the equivalent throughput of a six-speed CD-ROM, the 64DD will be able to pull this data off the drive in a flash. A ton more space, with no waiting."

Whyte is similarly optimistic about the add-on: "I think the 64DD's a good idea. Having a large writable medium isn't something which has been tried with console games before, and I think Nintendo is going to make pretty good use of it. As far as third-party games go, it'll make porting over some of the heavyweight PC games an awful lot easier."

Nintendo is not about to drop cartridges upon the arrival of the 64DD, even though the peripheral is expected to sell better than any console add-on in history, with every fanatical Nintendo 64 user already itching to get their hands on the unit thanks to its launch title, Legend of Zelda 64 — a game set to push the boundaries of 3D gameplay beyond those of Mario 64. But what else can garners expect from the 64DD? "I think it'll probably just lead to a more diverse selection of titles," says Whyte. "You'll still get the same type of game you get now, but you'll also see products that make use of the portable storage medium in ways that don't make sense to do on a cartridge — painting programs, for example."

But do console owners want painting programs? Well, perhaps not (although Nintendo has confirmed an Nintendo 64 version of Mario Paint), but the flexibility of the 64DD medium will give console-game developers the freedom to move in other new directions, too: Software Creations, for example, is producing Creator, an astoundingly freeform, brave new "game" direction. Most importantly, the keyword with 64DD software, no matter how diverse, will remain "entertainment."

Despite its detractors and the unknown quantity lying ahead of it in the form of the 64DD, Nintendo 64 seems certain to find itself a place in millions of homes around the globe. After all, as Okimoto puts it, "There is only one Mario, and he belongs to Nintendo. And if you want Donkey Kong, Zelda, or Star Fox, you have to have a Nintendo..."

/ NEXT GENERATION #30, June 1997 /


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