Released in Japan on June 23, 1996 and in the US on September 26, 1996, the Nintendo 64 game console was billed as the first 64-bit home platform ever created. Unlike the (then) next-generation competitors Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, which both read games off CDs, Nintendo 64, like Super NES before it, was a cartridge-based machine. Developed with Silicon Graphics International it includes a custom chip originating from a MIPS R4000 cpu.
It was the price of the the carts that ultimately made the console a disappointment in Japan, but Nintendo 64 was an outright success in America where it has sold through more than 17 million pieces of hardware (and 32+ million worldwide).
Many factors were against the console at the moment of the release: price of memories increasing, cheaper media for rival gaming systems, small storage system capabilities for carts and high licensing fees. On top of this, it was also difficult to develop games for it, so many game developers switched to different consoles.
The Controller for Nintendo 64 has been the most advanced controller so far, possibly also because it was the first to introduce many new elements in the home market. First of all, as one can notice it can be handled in three different postions, and it has been the first to introduce the analog stick (the one in the middle). The first game to use it has been Super Mario 64, this game lets you control the way Mario moves by simply pushing the stick completely in one direction or just by a little: you can walk and run at so many different speeds. Since it has been the first gaming console to introduce the analog stick, designers at Nintendo thought it could be a better idea to leave the orignal 8-way directional pad as the main control way. But as games developed, not many titles use the original control pad; the analog one offers better control in 3d worlds with changing perspective, driving games, rpg games and even platformers, with the possibility to choose the speed of the character.
Every way you take the controller in hand you will end up with a trigger at the bottom or on the shoulder of the pad. It has been greatly designed to offer maximum comfort in all 3 postions.
Though the look originates from the old Super Famicom one, some buttons have been removed and other splitted. The most particular one is the yellow C butoon, which is made by four different buttons originating another control pad. This configuration makes possible to move a camera (like Super Mario 64 does - you can change the point of view while running around a mountain and even zoom to Mario's eyes) or to control movement, like in Turok. You cannot imagine how simple is to control a character in a first person view with the Nintendo 64 Controller: holding it like the 3rd example posted here, with the yellow buttons you control the movement on the ground, and with the analog stick you can look and shot freely around while running in another direction. It gives you better and easier control than a mouse and a keyboard, believe me.
Ideas behind this controller have surfaced in both Playstation, Dreamcast and now Gamecube, which takes the concept even further by keeping all the good point of the Nintendo 64 one and by adding two accelerator-like buttons at the top.
One of the first thing that comes to the mind of people thinking about Nintendo 64 are the colors of controllers. They were introduced first with the different standard controllers. Since the Nintendo 64 comes supplied with 4 controller ports, checking which controller is connected to which port could be difficult to spot while playing, so they started to produce the base set of six colors: Nintendo grey (one was supplied with the console), red, green, yellow, black and blue.
With the release of Mario Kart 64 (check Box Art section), they also produced one mixed controller made by the bottom part of the grey one and the upper and plug part by a black one. Intended as a limited release first, it was later released separately along with the other ones.
This move was very succesful, and 3rd party hardware producers started to develop colored Contollers with matching Controller Paks and Rumble Paks. After that Nintendo started to supply different consoles as well, one transparent pink and one transparent blue with the bottom half transparent white. Separated controllers were also available.
The release of a limited edition black transparent one (with matching joypad - exactly like the keyboard and modem) came on the market for people who wanted to buy a Nintendo 64 / 64 DD bundle at a special price. This, along with the clear ones stayed on the market for a while even after dropping the 64 DD. The same color has been part of the extra 6 for the american Nintendo 64. Scroll below to the 64 DD area to see them connected together.
Other colors that made it into the american (and then european) market are the limited edition transparent purple and transparent orange consoles with accompanying controllers. The first is like the other two, transparent white on the bottom and transparent purple on the top. The second one is transparent orange on the top but the standard Nintendo 64 color on the bottom.
Since Nintendo 64 was much more succesful in the USA, Nintendo of America followed another way, making available 6 different transparent colors for the console (with matching joypads) and 2 extra colors only for joypads; gold and grey / black as the limited japanese Mario Kart 64 one. They were referred to as "Grape, Watermelon, Ice, Jungle Green, Fire and Smoke" colors.
Along with the debut of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the USA market - which the first, limited edition came in a gold cartridge (like the old NES titles) - they released a limited edition gold controller. This move in Japan was followed by the release of 2 gold controllers with different boxes, both limited. Later on in the USA and Europe a bundle with a gold controller / gold Nintendo 64. Useless to say that after Nintendo 64 almost EVERY console started to show colorful units and accessories.
First editions of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask came in gold cartridges and started "coloring" also for carts that were not limited: gold, yellow, red, blue, black...
One special mention is needed just for this because with Pokemon stuff and the related games and hardware Nintendo has made billions of dollars and pushed some interesting ideas. Nintendo is the only company which sells and develop videogames and merchandise about these little creatures. Although I personally hate these kind of stuff, I must admit the games concerning Pokemons are awesome titles, with lot of features, an awesome life span and supported by dedicated hardware (from Gameboy to Nintendo 64 to Game Boy Advance and so on..). About Nintendo 64 the first noticeably thing are the limited edition light blue / yellow and orange /yellow consoles and controllers that were released a year ago in Japan and then in blue /yellow (not limited) in the other countries. Those, came first alone and then with the VRS unit + game (see below). Somewhere else the Pokemon version came as a standard console but with different colors and some stickers on it. With those 2 other controllers were issued to match the colors of the console. Though ugly in my opinion (Pokemon stuff is designed with young kids in mind - 12 years and under) colors are very nice. Note that this version doesn't have the expansion port for the (already defunct at time of these consoles' release) 64 DD unit; and thanks to that stupid Pikachu the Z64 doesn't fit on top of it.
About the games, the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy ones are the only games for console that have been translated in almost all countries where Nintendo 64 has been released. In the Game boy titles, which are rpg-like games, you can find, train and exchange Pokemons with other people. The first bunch of games released comprises the red, yellow, blue and green game; each one features different Pokemons to find and different plots. The Game Boy cartridges are the first to have a built-in clock to keep track as time passes by. Some of the creatures that you can find can only evolve by time, exchanging with other people or by things that can happen only if you connect more different games together. Why are Game Boy games and Nintendo 64 so tied together? Beacuse with this in mind, the engineers at Nintendo developed the Transfer Pak, that allowed people to bring their self-trained creatures in a 3d environment to battle! After the awesome success of these games Nintendo did it again with the release of 3 additional games for Game Boy (respectively Gold, Silver and Crystal) and (more advanced in terms of connectivity) matching Nintendo 64 games. Fortunately the Transfer Pak has evolved from the Pokemon lovers' niche and some beautiful games were developed for it.
Exact the same for connection/colors is happening now (though evolving) for Game Boy Advance and Game Cube.