Nintendo 64 Limited Edition Green
Nintendo's code name for the N64, "Project Reality", stemmed from the bold belief that the hardware's advanced CGI capabilities would rival supercomputers of the era. The console's design was revealed to the public for the first time in late Spring 1994.In the West, it had been given the name Nintendo Ultra 64. Pictures of the console showed the Nintendo Ultra 64 logo, a ROM cartridge, but no controller. (The final N64 console would retain the shape pictured by the Ultra 64.)
During this timeframe, Rareware(UK) and Midway (USA)released two arcade titles, Killer Instinct and Cruis'n USA, which claimed to use the Ultra 64 hardware. Although Killer Instinct did use the same CPU as N64, a MIPS R4300i, neither title were powered by Ultra 64 hardware. Killer Instinct featured pre-rendered character artwork, and CG movie backgrounds that were streamed off the hard drive and animated as the characters moved horizontally.
The completed N64 was fully unveiled in a playable form to the public on November 24, 1995, at the 7th Annual Shoshinkai Software Exhibition in Japan. Nintendo's next-generation console was introduced as the "Nintendo 64", contrary to speculation that it would be called "Ultra Famicom".Photos of the event were disseminated on the web by Game Zero magazine two days later.Official coverage by Nintendo followed later via the Nintendo Power website and print magazine.
Due to delays announced by Nintendo, the Ultra 64 did not reach the North American market until September 1996. By this time, Nintendo had adopted a new global branding strategy, assigning the console the same name for all markets, the Nintendo 64. The word "Ultra" had already been trademarked by Konami, for its Ultra Games division, leading Nintendo to drop "Ultra" from the console's name. Despite the name change, the official prefix for the Nintendo 64's model numbering scheme is "NUS-", a reference to the console's original name, "Nintendo Ultra Sixty-Four".The console was finally released in Japan on June 23, 1996, but the PAL introduction was further delayed, finally being released in Europe on March 1, 1997.
Box front view
Box rear view
Box side view 1
Box side view 2
Central processing unit
The Nintendo 64's central processing unit (CPU) is the NEC VR4300,a cost-reduced derivative of the 64-bit MIPS Technologies R4300i. Built by NEC on a 0.35 µm process, the VR4300 is a RISC 5-stage scalar in-order execution processor, with integrated floating point unit, internal 24 KB direct-mapped L1 cache (16KB for instructions, 8KB for data.) The 4.6 million transistors CPU is cooled passively by an aluminum heatspreader that makes contact with a steel heat sink above.
Clocked at 93.75 MHz, the N64's VR4300 was the most powerful of the competing consoles of its generation.Except for its narrower 32-bit system bus, the VR4300 retained the computational abilities of the more powerful 64-bit MIPS R4300i,though software rarely took advantage of 64-bit data precision operations. N64 game-titles generally used faster (and more compact) 32-bit data-operations,as these were sufficient to generate 3D-scene data for the console's RSP (Reality Signal Processor; see below) unit. Though powerful, the CPU was hindered by a a 250MB/s bus to the system memory; not only that, but in order to access the RAM, the CPU had to go through the RCP (Reality Co-Processor), and could not use DMA to do so (The RCP could). This problem is further compounded by the RDRAM's very high access latency.
Emulators such as UltraHLE and Project64 benefit from the scarcity of 64-bit operations in the game's executable-code, as the emulator is generally hosted on a 32-bit machine architecture. These emulators performed most calculations at 32-bit precision, and trapped the few OS subroutines that actually made use of 64-bit instructions.
Nintendo 64's graphics and audio duties are performed by the 64-bit SGI co-processor, named the "Reality Co-Processor". The RCP is a 62.5 MHz chip split internally into two major components, the "Reality Drawing Processor" (RDP) and the "Reality Signal Processor" (RSP). Each area communicates with the other by way of a 128-bit internal data bus that provides 1.0 GB/s bandwidth. The RSP is a MIPS R4000-based 8-bit integer vector processor. It is programmable through microcode, allowing the chip's functions to be significantly altered if necessary, to allow for different types of work, precision, and workloads.The RSP performs transform, clipping and lighting calculations, triangle setup. The "Reality Display Processor" is primarily the Nintendo 64's Pixel Rasterizer, and also handles the console's Z-Buffer Compute.
The RSP was programmable through microcode (µcode). By altering the microcode run on the device, it could perform different operations, create new effects, and be better tuned for speed or quality; however, Nintendo was unwilling to share the microcode tools with developers until the end of the Nintendo 64's life-cycle. Programming RSP microcode was said to be quite difficult because the Nintendo 64 µcode tools were very basic, with no debugger and poor documentation. As a result, it was very easy to make mistakes that would be hard to track down, mistakes that could cause seemingly random bugs or glitches. Some developers noted that the default SGI microcode ("Fast3D") was poorly profiled for use in games (it was too accurate), and performance suffered as a result. Several companies, such as Factor 5,Boss Game Studios and Rare, were able to write custom microcode that ran their software better than SGI's standard microcode.
Two of the SGI microcodes
Fast3D microcode: < ~100,000 high accuracy polygons per second. Turbo3D microcode: 500,000–600,000 normal accuracy polygons per second. However, due to the graphical degradation, Nintendo discouraged its use. The RSP also frequently performs audio functions (although the CPU can be tasked with this as well). It can play back most types of audio (dependent on software codecs) including uncompressed PCM, MP3, MIDI, and tracker music. The RSP is capable of a maximum of 100 channels of PCM at a time, but this is with 100% system utilization for audio. It has a maximum sampling rate of 48 kHz with 16-bit audio; however, storage limitations caused by the cartridge format limited audio size (and thus quality). The RDP is the machine's rasterizer and performs the bulk of actual image creation before output to the display. The Nintendo 64 has a maximum color depth of 16.8 million colors (32,768 on-screen) and can display resolutions of 256 × 224, 320 × 240 and 640 × 480 pixels.The RCP also provides the CPU's access to main system memory via a 250 MB/s bus.Unfortunately, this link does not allow direct memory access for the CPU. The RCP, like the CPU, is passively cooled by an aluminum heatspreader that makes contact with a steel heat sink above.
The final major component in the system is the memory, also known as RAM. The Nintendo 64 was one of the first modern consoles to implement a unified memory subsystem, instead of having separate banks of memory for CPU, audio, and video, for example. The memory itself consists of 4 megabyte of RAMBUS RDRAM (expandable to 8 MB with the Expansion Pak) with a 9-bit data bus at 500 MHz providing the system with 562.5 MB/s peak bandwidth. RAMBUS was quite new at the time and offered Nintendo a way to provide a large amount of bandwidth for a relatively low cost. The narrow bus makes board design easier and cheaper than the higher width data buses required for high bandwidth out of slower-clocked RAM types (such as VRAM or EDO DRAM); however, RDRAM, at the time, came with a very high access latency, and this caused grief for the game developers because of limited hardware performance.
The system provides both composite video and S-Video through the "MULTI OUT" connector on the rear of the system; however, the Nintendo 64 removed certain pin connections for providing RGB video, despite the DAC chip used in early models having the capability built-in. In most countries the system came bundled with a composite cable (AKA Stereo AV cable) The composite and S-Video cables are the same as those used with the earlier SNES and later GameCube systems. Available to buy separately was a RF modulator and switch set (For connection to older TV's) and a official S-Video cable, although the latter was not sold in stores and could only be ordered direct from Nintendo of America. In the United Kingdom, the N64 was shipped with a RF modulator and switch set, but was still fully compatible with the other cables.
Hardware color variations
A Nitendo 64 console and controller in Fire Orange color
The Hey You, Pikachu! special edition Nintendo 64 console with controller and VRU.The standard Nintendo 64 is dark gray, nearly black, and the controller is light gray. A Jungle Green colored console was first available with the Donkey Kong 64 bundle. The Funtastic Series used brightly-colored, translucent plastic with six colors: Fire Orange, Grape (or Atomic) Purple, Ice Blue, Jungle Green, Smoke Gray and Watermelon Red. Nintendo released a yellow banana-like Nintendo 64 controller for the debut of Donkey Kong 64 in the United States.The Millennium 2000 controller, available exclusively as part of a Nintendo Power promotional contest in the United States, was a silver controller with black buttons. A gold controller was released in a contest by Nintendo Power magazine as part of a raffle drawing. In late 1997 through 1998, a few gold Nintendo 64 controller packages were released worldwide; in the United Kingdom there was a limited edition GoldenEye 007 console pack which came with a standard gray console and a copy of GoldenEye. Also, a limited edition gold controller with a standard gray console were released in Australia and New Zealand in early 1998, endorsed by an advertising campaign which featured footage of N64 games including Top Gear Rally and ended with Australian swimmer Michael Klim wearing the gold controller as a medal around his neck. Nintendo released a gold controller for the debut of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in Japan. Soon after, bundle packs of the game, controller, and gold Nintendo 64 were released for the US and PAL markets. The Pokémon Edition Nintendo 64, with a Pokémon sticker on the left side, included the "Pokémon: I Choose You" video. The Pokémon Pikachu Nintendo 64 had a large, yellow Pikachu model on a blue Nintendo 64.It has a different footprint than the standard Nintendo 64 console, and the Expansion Pak port is covered. It also shipped with a blue Pokémon controller; orange in Japan. A Limited Edition Star Wars bundle, available during the time of the release of the film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came bundled with Star Wars: Episode I Racer and a standard gray console.
The majority of Nintendo 64 game cartridges were gray in color; however, some games were released on a colored cartridge.Fourteen games had black cartridges, while other colors (such as green, blue, red, yellow and gold) were each used for six or fewer games. Several games, such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were released both in standard gray and in colored, limited edition versions.