Category Archives: Nintendo 64

California Speed

Released in the arcades in 1998 and the ported to the Nintendo 64, here you are racing across various locations across the sunny state which range from cities to the beach. Many of the tracks are quite wacky, with you racing up the rails of the golden gate bridge, in a spaceship, a volcano or inside a trippy computer, in a way it feels like a roller coaster ride, of which there is a track where you can drive on a roller coaster.
The game has various similarities with other Midway or Atari racing games like Rush or the Crusin games, which were also on the Nintendo 64 and plays like an arcade racing game, back in a time when this sort of racing game was popular before they all degenerated into racing sims.

There’s a good selection of cars which feature different stats like the handling, acceleration and speed. The N64 version allows you so alter the cards slightly by changing the colour hue, and the engine whilst they are fixed on the Arcade version. There’s a good verity of vehicles from muscle cars, pickup trucks to golf carts and sports cars.
Music is pretty good using its own soundtrack inspired by various genres that were popular towards the end of the 90s, with grunge and progressive style rock tracks to techno and house, with a folk inspired track on the farm course.
Like Crusin USA there are opponent cars and AI oncoming traffic which you have to avoid.

Arcade

The arcade version is using the 3DFX graphics processor paired with the MIPS R5000 CPU which Atari were proud of as it is present on the billboards plastered throughout the track. You can even see the 3DFX chip towards the final stage of the Silicon Valley track, since 3DFX were based in California.

The arcade mode features a single race or a Do The State mode which takes you though all the tracks

This is one of the few arcade games that runs off a hard disk, thus required a separate CHD file in order for it to run in MAME. Hard disks gave advantages compared to the CD_ROM drive as they were still able to offer a lager storage capacity and faster loading times, important for arcade games since the user does not want to wait for the game to load. Typically most arcade game uses surface mount ROM chips that stored the game data. Multiple versions of the game exist, this is version 2.1a of the game.

The arcade version of the game runs on a MIPS based CPU paired with the 3DFX graphics accelerator. You can race in a similar fashion to Cruis’n USA with ‘Do the state’ – in this mode you complete a series of races

The arcade version is also uncensored, as you are able to hit people in the mall (this can be an optional settings within the games setup mode) hitting them just causes them to scream and bound away down the track in a comedic fashion.

Nintendo 64

This was a conversion of the arcade version, and there are some differences in the presentation of the game.
Graphics have had a noticeable reduction with lower resolution textures being used in place of the detailed ones used in the arcade, the environment has also been changed slightly with the N64 having less items in the background. However the N64 does have its trademark fog effects to cover the draw distance which leaves the impression your racing on a foggy autumn day, whilst the arcade is set in the summer and has nice backdrops and sky textures
This version is also censored, as in the mall track its possible to run over the shoppers in the arcade version, but they don’t exist on the N64 version, this isn’t violent as you don’t see any blood or guts, in fact it looks like there bouncing around the mall when your call collides with them. Another change was the bikini girls that appears at the start and end of the race.
The most noticeable change is the music, with everything being converted to MIDI instead of using the Midway Sound System on the arcade
Sadly the game was only released in NTSC regions, A PAL version of the game exists and the Rom is fully playable in both emulators and an actual PAL N64 but was cancelled close to release. It even has support for five common languages in Europe (German, Spanish, Italian & French)
The gameplay itself its slightly different with different cups being offers which offer a series of racers (around 6) to complete. Like the arcade, ‘Do The State’ mode exits which takes you through all the tracks in the game.

As mentioned in the arcade version, some elements of the game have been removed, most notably are the track/trophy girls that appear when you win a race and the removal of people in the mall track.

The game was officially released for NTSC (America) regions, a PAL version was planned and a ROM of it exists but was never released to market, until now.

Comparison

Arcade

Nintendo 64

Start screen, the arcade version had an attract sequence, whilst the N64 version shows a static screen that cuts to a demo sequence

Winning a race on the arcade version causes a group of bikini clad girls to appear to celebrate your win, which don’t appear on the N64 version. On the arcade version, the effect looks creepy because they sometime appear when you can is still moving and since they follow the car, it looks like they are moving at 30mph whilst standing still…

The track selection screen, the arcade version looks similar to the crusinUSA screen. The N64 version is split into different series of racing, known as Light, Sport. Each series has 5 tracks to race accross different weeks, which unlocks cars.

The LSD tunnel in San Francisco track

The start lady appears when the race begins for the arcade version, she does not appear in the N64 version

Entrance to the LSD tunnel, building resembles a workstation PC of the era. Although the front looks more like a PC speaker

Tree are much more detailed in the arcade version

The pier section, just before the rollercoaster part

Inside the LSD building which also simulates parts of a computer, you can see the 3DFX chip in the arcade version, and the Nintendo/SGI chip for the N64

Drving on the rollercoaster, the arcade version has a better draw distance with the sky being visible, the N64 is fogged out

South Park

South Park 1998 PC N64

The game based on the popular TV show, came out very early in the shows life, along with a hit number 1 single

Story mode does not make for a good game, with the enemies being repetitive to the point of tediousness. The first level starts you off in your home town where you are attacked by deranged Turkey’s (who have the most horrible sound effect, and it’s horrendous if there’s 3 or more enemies present) and throughout the first three levels its just ongoing Turkey’s, with the occasional cow thrown in (only on the PC version, I’ve not seen the cow in the console versions on this level).

South Park 1998 PC N64
A Tank version of the turkey.

On the next stage you encounter Tank enemies which are larger Turkey’s that have the ability to spawn more turkeys that will attack. The tank’s have much more health than regular turkeys and will start to run into the beginning of the level when their health goes below 30%. If a tank manages to make it to the start point of a level, than another stage will need to be completed after you complete the level, where you have to kill the tank enemies that escaped, with a replenished health bar. You will need to do this before they destroy the town, of which depends on how many tanks had escaped. For this reason its a good idea to kill the tanks in the main game, since you are going to have to beat them regardless. What’s frustrating to me is they speed run back to the start of the level, meaning you have to chase them whilst firing, and causing you to backtrack. This makes the level much more tedious since you hare going through areas you have already passed.

South Park 1998 PC

The next levels don’t change much, replacing the turkeys with clones, robots, aliens and moving toys, however its mostly the same type of enemy throughout the level which become boring fast. Some of the later enemies becoming literal bullet sponges, taking 20-30 hits before they go down.

The multiplayer on the other hand is rather fun, playing as a regular FPS with a interesting selection of guns. The console versions let you play with two players, whilst the PC version supports LAN netplay. If there is one reason to play this game, its for the multiplayer mode.

The Nintendo 64 version has 17 different maps to choose from, all with a variety of weapons. The PC version has the most maps, with 26 in total This includes all the N64 maps, plus some PC exclusive maps. PlayStation has an alerted version of the multiplayer mode, discussed in its section.

Nintendo 64

The first release of the game, and was the best version of the game until the PC version, however it remains the most accessible. Multiplayer supports up to four players on one console with a range of multiplayer options, including deathmatch. This version also features a high score table and supports 16:9 aspect ratio and a ‘High-Res’ mode with the use of the expansion pack.

Downside to this version is the significant frame drops when there’s a lot of action on the screen, and the short draw distance being disguised as fog.

Below is running on Retroarch Mupen64plus with Angrylion RSP plugin, I do own a copy of the PAL version of the game, but my N64 is one of those models that only supports composite out (No RGB or even S-Video, way to go Nintendo)

PlayStation

Released a year later (1999) and used a revised soundtrack compared to the MIDI N64 version, the cutscenes are captured from the N64 version instead of being pre-rendered on a workstation like many other games of the era. Graphically its a downgrade compared to the N64 version, and the multiplayer only supports two players, known as head to head in this version.

The PlayStation version comes with a head to head mode that has 6 maps, some of which are modified from the Nintendo 64 version. DM1 is based off the Ravine level from the N64, but with some alterations like the removal of water. DM4 is based of the badlands level, DM5 off badlands 2 and DM6 is based off the Gym Class map. DM2 and DM3 look to be unique maps for the PlayStation version.

Captured on Duckstation emulator with bi-linear filtering and rendered at twice the original resolution, with GTE accuracy enabled

Windows

The definitive port of the game, with better graphics and CD audio. Also comes with a proper multiplayer mode that use the Gamespy client (now defunct) to organize games. However there are issues running this game on modern systems, as the game only seems to work on Windows 98/Me systems (95 untested but assumed to work) this could be down to DirectX/Glide support on modern systems.

Below is running on the PCem v17 emulator running Windows 98, emulating a Pentium Overdrive MMX 200Mhz, 3DFX Voodoo graphics, with a Aztech sound galaxy soundcard.

There is also a software rendering mode that renders the games graphics in just the CPU, ideal if you do not have a dedicated 3D accelerator or one that is unsupported. Unfortunately it gives PlayStation level graphics at a weird screen aspect ratio.

Cheats PC

These were hard to find, so I thought i’d put them here

Press the Esc button, select Options and move the mouse cursor to the lower left of the screen and then click, you can then enter the below cheats. Sometimes you may have to move the cursor so it goes off the screen before you can enter a cheat.

DESCRIPTIONCODE TO ENTER
All Weapons & AmmoSWEET
Big head modeEGOTRIP
Display framerateFRAMERATE
Enable all cheatsBOBBYBIRD
God modeBEEFCAKE

External Links

acclaim.com: South Park (archive.org)

Cruis’n USA

Wooo! ahhh! ohhhh – The House Special Lady

A racing game set across the USA, you play from point A to point B with a single lap, giving the impression you are travelling through (Cruising) the USA. Each track has unique scenery and opponents, with rival cars and traffic becoming a hinderance, thankfully the controls are easy to adapt although collision detection can be an issue.

Not to be confused with Cruising in my 64, An Eazy-E song

Tracks

All of these tracks are set around different parts of the USA, and vary in environmental scenery and difficulty.

Golden Gate Park: The first track in the game which features the golden gate bridge. Very easy with only slight bends and wide roads

San Francisco: Featuring rolling hills and an increase of traffic from the previous track, ends with a tunnel.

US 101: Set in a rural desert, the track here is narrower and features a lot more bends, there are also gaps in the road which your car must drive over

Redwood Forest: Continuing from the desert and into the forest, the road here is a lot more narrow which gives little space to navigate through opposing traffic and rival cars.

Beverly Hills: Featuring Bel-Air style houses and mansions along with the Hollywood sign. The scenery here can be distracting so try to focus and concentrate on the road.

LA Freeway: There’s a lot more traffic on this one

Death Valley: Sounds a bit morbid but is set in a rural desert area, this one also features a narrow road so watch for traffic

Arizona: Set in a rural desert in the first half, this one has powerlines as obstacles that can be knocked down but will impact your cars speed.

Grand Canyon: Drive through the Grand Canyon itself, again has powerlines as obstacles that can be knocked down, also features Mount Rushmore

Iowa: Set on rural green farm which looks more like an English countryside, has narrow roads and powerline obstacles and a toll booth which you have to be careful not to hit the hubs in between

Chicago: Features factories and an urban like environment with large buildings and an underpass. Be careful not to hit the overhead railway columns

Indiana: Very similar to Iowa

Appalachia: Track with a bumpy road and a lot of curves and hills, defiantly one of the more challenging tracks.

Washington DC: The final stage with a lot of nice scenery but equally as difficult as Appalachia, Ends with a money tunnel

Completing Cruse the USA mode unlocks a faster car, and the arcade features a very special ending FMV featuring the then current Present and the First Lady

Arcade Version

Released in 1994 on the Midway V Unit arcade board, it was one of the early textured 3D racers alongside Ridge Racer and Daytona USA.

Not much is known about Midway’s V unit 3D hardware, originally believed to be based upon the Nintendo Ultra 64 that was in development at the time, however closer inspection of the specification revels the hardware to be very different. With the V Unit running a Texas Instruments TMS32031 CPU at 50Mhz compared to the NEC VR4300 MIPS CPU in the Nintendo 64. Whilst the N64 is complemented by the SGI Reality co-processor, the V unit uses an currently unknown 3D processor, which accelerates the 3D graphics used. As it was released in 1994, there are a few possible vendors:

  • A PC graphics accelerator like the Yamaha Tasmania 3D or Matrox Millennium
  • SGI (Possible the V Unit is a very early design of the N64? unlikely since SGI have always used MIPS CPU’s, unless they wanted to cut costs and use a TI CPI instead)
  • Or it could be an entirety custom chip Midway had designed…

The boot screen of the arcade version is interesting, the first seems to going into some hardware test routine, whilst the second looks like its downloading something off a remote server, or simulating it. OS-WMS is mentioned, and the next line reads WMS Satellite COMM, CHANNEL 42, which makes me think the game was capable of being distributed over the air via satellite? its not out of the ordinary since that’s how Nintendo’s Stellaview worked, and BSB’s data service allowed you to broadcast data in the early hours of the morning whilst its TV channels were off air. The last command looks like it’s trying to retrieve something off an external FTP server, despite the game being stored in ROM. These messages appear every time you start the game, so its not some first-time utilisation process.

Graphics-wise its similar in vein to the other arcade racers of the time, Ridge Racer and Daytona USA, however this is clearly running on lower-end hardware with the framerate and resolution being reduced. Winning first place nets you a free race (adjustable in the games test modes) otherwise you will need to add credit to progress onto the next track. Completing the game gives you an ending cut-scene set on top of the White House.

Nintendo 64 Versions

Released early in the N64 life, Cruis’n USA took a downgrade in the resolution and censored a few aspects of the game. The former caused critism since this was one of the first racing games on the Nintendo 64, and the game was promoted as being built on Nintendo 64 technology, so it was expected to be a perfect port of the game. Meanwhile the PlayStation enjoyed a satisfactory port of Ridge Racer, however by that point it was already two years old by the time it was released in 1996, had the N64 came out in 1995 as originally planned, the port may have been better received.

NTSC

Graphics took a reduction in this version with the textures being downgraded to fit into the Nintendo 64 memory limitations. The framerate is also inconsistent, since having many cars and track objects on screen to reduce it to a crawl, which can frequently happen when you crash into another car, CPU cars will also crash into you and have no awareness of the track, often resulting in a slideshow when there are a lot of cars and track objects on screen. Saying that, the N64 does benefit from perspective correction, which means no warping polygons or textures, and there is also bilinear filtering for the textures, although for this game the arcade unfiltered textures look better.

The sound has also been altered, since the Nintendo 64 didn’t have a dedicated sound processor and had to render the sound on either the CPU or the reality co-processor, depending on how the game was designed, the arcade version has extra fidelity since it was done using the Midway DCS sound system.

One other thing to mention was the saving issues on the Everdrive64, as the game uses the gamepak in order to save data, but upon starting the game it complains about the pack being corrupted/invalid and will not start, removing the gamepak results in another error messages instructing you to insert the pak back into the controller. The only was to start the game was to boot without the controller-pak connected, which results in the game saving to the cartridge memory, which the Everdrive can emulate.

Comparison

Left: Nintendo 64 – Right: Arcade, which has the indicator on the bottom

Textures are generally more detailed on the arcade release, but the Nintendo 64 makes use of texture filtering with the arcade being unfiltered.

N64 version looks more blurry, whilst the arcade version looks sharper.

Transmission select screen

Heads up display of both versions, the N64 compensates of the PAL/NTSC overscan by creating a buffer for the HUD design. The arcade cabinet has illuminated lights which indicated the games status which MAME emulated as an on screen display which can be seen at the bottom.

An example of censorship of the N64 version, either that or the woman must have felt cold. A nice feature with the arcade version was you got a free race if you came in first place (dependant on that feature being enabled in the games settings)

I wonder if that’s the same Matt Booty at Microsoft Studio’s?