|Developer(s)||Left Field Productions|
Excitebike 64 (エキサイトバイク 64 Ekisaitobaiku Rokujūyon?) is a video game published by Nintendo and developed by Left Field Productions. It was initially released in North America on April 30, 2000 for the Nintendo 64 video game console. It is the second installment in the Excite series, and is the first 3D game in the series. It is the sequel to the acclaimed Nintendo Entertainment System game Excitebike. It was later succeeded by the Wii game Excite Truck.
Players can choose from one of six riders, each with his own pre-set handling attributes. Players control the bike by using either the control stick or D-pad. They can use the gamepad to accelerate, brake, slide, and use turbo boost. Like in the original, holding down gives the player more air on jumps, while holding up aims the front wheel forward to enable landing on slopes. The player can also tilt the bike to the side while in the air, to adjust the angle at which they hit the turns, and can sideswipe their opponents. Besides the tracks main course many of the levels have hidden shortcuts, that require the player to slow down and change direction, or use a speed boost for jumping over chasms, from hill to hill, over other vehicles and buildings, choosing to follow the original game in its "extreme" jumps and physics.
The main game features a 20-track season mode. Completing races unlocks more tracks and features. There is a tutorial that teaches players how to play through the 17 different tracks. There are a variety of exhibitions and time trial modes that lets players do more activities other than the main game. A major feature is the track editor, where players can create their own fully functional track and save it into the game. The announcer, Limua, shouts out the tricks and crashes throughout the race. Also featured is the original Exitebike, and a 3D remake of it with the same obstacles called 'Excite 3D'. There are also several other mini games such as a 'Stunt Course', 'Hill Climb', a 'Soccer' game with giant human sized soccer ball, and an "infinite, randomly generated" 'Desert Track' where the player needs to put out ten campfires by driving over them, which Nintendo Power called "one of the coolest concepts ever." As bonus features to the game, cheat modes were introduced, requiring the player to press buttons in a certain order to unlock a hidden 'Cheats Menu'. From there they could enter passwords that unlocked additional features, such as Invisible riders, Big heads, Debug mode, Midnight mode, and even unlocking a picture of the programmers in the game's credits.
While in development some of the main features they concentrated on were the game's sense of speed, the jumps and the ability to perform tricks, similar to the original game, as well as taking inspiration from the earlier released Wave Race 64. To recreate the riders movements and tricks the developers used a technique called 'inverse kinematics' to create a life like feel. While other parts of the tracks were littered with bumps, log bridges and streams to run through. Using the N64's Rumble Pak allowed the player to feel these game experiences, as well as such things as making a hard landing. Besides the standard tracks, several mini games were also added as unlockable content. The 'Desert Track' was fractally generated for an endless desert, however despite the random building of its dunes, it also keeps the current configuration in the game's memory allowing the player to return to the same spot that they once left. The game was revealed by Nintendo to the public at the pre-E3 conference on May 12, 1999. The game was later shown playable the next day.
Critical reception was generally positive. N64 Magazine mentions the low quality of other similar games released around the same time and gave it a 90% stating that "After the lackluster efforts of Jeremy McGrath and Supercross 2000, we now have an intelligent racer." IGN commended the game for its "fantastic 3D engine, delightfully realistic physics, intuitive control, brilliantly detailed graphics, ingenious subtleties and tons of options." Game Fan stated "In addition to the superb animation, the game sounds awesome... Its dirt bikes actually sound like the real thing--none of that high-pitched tin squeal you'll find in other sub-par racers." TotalGames.net stated "The tracks are stunning and the physics engine manages to feel realistic, but also work perfectly as a game." CheckOut stated that Excitebike 64 is "A near flawless game that never tries to get too fancy for its own good. It's simple and simply awesome." Electric Playground stated "Added bonuses like the inclusion of the original side-scrolling turbo-cooling itty-bitty-bit masterpiece plus a tremendous hybrid of classic and new with 3D-ified straight and narrow, linear and delineated track design adds great gobs of icing to the cake."
While the game received high praise, certain publications voiced complaints. Gaming Maxx commented that there's "a small drawback if you're coming to this game for the music." Game Critics stated that "The game isn't perfect—I would have liked even more tracks to race on as well as a few more racers." GameSpot stated that "Some will cry about the frame rate, and some will wish the game featured real riders." GameShark stated that "The control isn't the easiest to get the hang of, there were times I thought about snapping that little analog stick right off the controller!"
Another problem the game encountered was, that it was one of the last games released for the N64 in Europe, having been released over a year after the Japan and U.S. releases. The delay was due to Nintendo's struggle to keep up with the demand for the games Pokémon Stadium and Perfect Dark. Leaving some to feel that it was released too late in the system's life and if it "Had appeared earlier... it would have been a bigger hit."
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