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Sin & Punishment Team Talks N64 Development Hell

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

The console "didn't work at all"

The paradigm shift from 2D to 3D that game developers faced in the 32/64-bit era was so drastic that not only did developers have to grapple with new tech but also figuring out how on earth their games would work in a new dimension. It didn't always work out so well, but when it did it was magical.

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata sat down with members of Treasure's development team behind N64 blaster Sin & Punishment, which happens to be one of those magical moments, and its just-released-in-Japan sequel for a Creator's Voice interview (translated by Siliconera) where he got them to shed some light on the blood, sweat, tears and headaches that went into the original game.

Namely, how much the N64 sucked to develop for.

Atsutomo Nakagawa, director, Treasure: …Yes. That’s why we thought we could work on the Nintendo 64 too. But, the Nintendo 64 … sure was something (bitter laughter).

Iwata: (laughs) It was a machine that was hard to create things for and didn’t work at all.

Nakagawa: Y-Yes. It didn’t work at all…

Iwata served as the CEO of HAL Laboratory in the N64 era and helped pump out a few small games for the console, so he shares their pain. But...why was it so bad?

Iwata: Because the Silicon Graphics Co.8 architecture was just dropped into play. The Nintendo 64 had all sorts of limitations, but in the end, it was a 3D machine to the core. It’s just that, even if it was one to the core, there were those limitations, so it was hard to use and turned out to be a machine that didn’t work at all.

For a machine that didn't work at all, there sure were a lot of amazing games made for it.


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User Comments (25)



Chrono_Cross said:

Yeah I found the N64 not as great as the SNES game wise andnot as great as the Gamecube in general. Though I still love the system to death, I CAN see why someone would hate it or in this case dislike it.



CH405K1N6 said:

The N64 one's fun factor was severely crippled by the control scheme. One stick to aim, the other to move. And you had to take your hand off of one to shoot or do anything else. Seriously, what the f*ck?



timp29 said:

there was a trigger and shoulder buttons for that reason... I thought the n64 controller was revolutionary.
the n64 had some absolute gems... but they were mainly gems for the amazing transition to 3d.
The game library on the n64 was small compared to the previous consoles... perhaps an indication of the development issues.



Corbs said:

That's hilarious. I always read that it was difficult to develop for, but you have to give credit to those who were able to pull off some great things with it. I guess that makes it even more impressive.



JonWahlgren said:

@timp29: "The game library on the n64 was small compared to the previous consoles... perhaps an indication of the development issues."

Possibly, I'm sure this along with sticking with cartridges instead of CDs didn't help either.



cheetahman91 said:

The N64 wasn't that bad. The Saturn on the other hand... that's where the real hell comes from.



thewiirocks said:

At least the Saturn was well documented. Try coding for the Jaguar. Especially in an age when the concept of having a separate Graphics Processing Unit was unheard of...



Raylax said:

Is Iwata going all depressive on us? First "the Wii is not in a healthy state", and now the N64 "didn't work at all."
Tommorow he'll state how much he thinks the DS fails, his inner hatred for the Vitality Sensor, and exactly why the Super FX chip was the worst thing Nintendo ever built, before finally snapping and going on a killing spree across Japan. IT'LL BE FUN.



V8_Ninja said:

I can see how S&P wasn't easy to program, but I doubt that most games were as hard to make as they're saying.

& @Raylax



StarBoy91 said:

That's not a good indicative picture, and it might negatively influence some. Still, wow...



well that was interesting <_< who could ever knew...



CanisWolfred said:

Huh, I never quite realized the N64 was difficult to develop for. I mean, I know the Saturn had problems...I guess the PS1 was the only "developer friendly" console of its day.

Still, I'm impressed that so many managed to make games that weren't utter crap.



NotEnoughGolds said:

Just rip on Castlevania 64, will ya?
The cameras were a little iffy but other than that, it was an awesome game.



Ren said:

I'd always read the same thing, even at the time; that it was really hard to develop for and made everything just take forever. This is precisely how the PS was able to take off since it was able to churn out games from 3rd parties that loved it.
This says nothing of the games that were actually made for it, though, it just took longer. Some of the n64 games were the best of anything that generation, and the controller was also a fantastic idea in that it was the first to bring back the joystick for all the 3-d games that it was made for without losing anything else; it was an odd first that needed polish but lead the way. The N64 was basically the guinea pig for the direction that all the consoles went in, though the cartridge crutch killed it.
The point is that with N64 engine, when designed properly the tools were there for amazing playable 3-D games, but everything had to be built from scratch and crammed onto a cart rather than the pre-rendered 3D junk that was becoming so popular with CD's. There are so many fantastic gems for it that still stand up today. I always loved "Body Harvest". one of many buried classics on N64.



jangonov said:

I have heard the 64 was hard to develop for before. I remember a lot of people in the dev community at the time ripping on how hard everything was and how it was "limited". "limited" was a popular word then for it



JimLad said:

Best console ever
Slate it all you want developers, but you cannot deny the magic of those crappy textures bathed in beautiful lighting effects.



Sabrewing said:

Um, Castlevania 64 was a fine game, and Legacy of Darkness was even better. Just because it wasn't a good CASTLEVANIA game doesn't mean it was complete garbage.



Ristar42 said:

The Saturn was my favourite console at this time. If you liked 2D shooters and SNK and Capcom's beat 'em ups, and could import, it was the best...
Some of problems with multi-format games came from trying to quickly port PS1 stuff, though I think I do remember a quote from Mr Shenmue himself saying the Dual Processor was difficult to optimise, and Daytona was a technical disaster. Must have got around that by Virtua Fighter 2.

I liked the N64 but the PAL version had a pretty fuzzy picture quality on top of some awful reduced speeds and 50HZ boarders.

Thats why I wish they would put more N64 stuff on the VC, it looks much better!



blank_user_1 said:

I love my 64 to this day. Zelda, Banjo, Rainbow Six-- which regarding hostage rescues, is one of the best on any Nintendo console.



CanisWolfred said:

Heh, so this explains why the N64's library was so pathetic? I guess there's worse way to lose your 3rd Party support...



HiroshiYamauchi said:

@ JimLad

I share the same opinion, the companies that developed for the N64 with passion (Rare, Nintendo, Camelot, Treasure, Hal, Hudson, Boss, Atari, Midway, etc) released some of the biggest masterpieces of the video game industry.

I have no doubt that the Nintendo 64 is the best console ever made, IMO.



Jolted85 said:

question is which system was tougher to program for?

The N64 or the Saturn, Saturn you had to work with 2 processors, developers can barely get around one processor

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