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Nintendo 64DD

The Nintendo 64DD ("DD" being short for "Disk Drive") is an expansion system for the Nintendo 64. It was named the "Dynamic Drive" at the start of its development, and plugs into the N64 through the EXTension Port of the Nintendo 64's bottom side. It was a commercial failure.

History

The 64DD was announced at 1995's Nintendo Shoshinkai game show event (now called SpaceWorld). One of the games that was featured for use with the 64DD was Creator, a music and animation program by Software Creations, the same people that made Sound Tool for the Nintendo Ultra 64 development kit. The game advertised that it could be implemented into other games, being able to replace textures and possibly create new levels and characters. Unfortunately, there was no playable version of Creator available at Shoshinkai 1995. At E3 in 1997, Nintendo's main game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto speculated that the first games to be released for the new system would be SimCity 64, Mario Artist, Pocket Monsters, and Earthbound 64.

However, the 64DD was delayed until its release in Japan on December 1, 1999. Nintendo, anticipating that its long planned-out disc drive peripheral would become a commercial failure, sold the system through a subscription service called RANDnet, rather than selling the system directly in Japan to retailers or consumers. As a result, the 64DD was only supported by Nintendo for a short period of time and only nine games were released for it. Most unreleased 64DD games were either cancelled or released as normal Nintendo 64 games.

Hardware

The N64DD has a 32-bit coprocessor to help it read magnetic disks, and to transfer data to the main console. It was intended to be Nintendo's answer to the Compact Disc that was used for Sony's PlayStation, which was cheaper to produce. Sony's CD storage could hold approximately 650 megabytes (MB) of information, compared to the Nintendo 64's 4 to 64 megabytes (MB) cartridge.

The new media for the N64DD was rewritable and had a storage capacity of 640 MB. The games on normal N64 cartridges could also hook up with DD expansions, for extra levels, minigames, even saving personal data.

The drive works similarly to a Zip drive, and has an enhanced audio library for the games to use. The main N64 deck uses its RCP and MIPS4300i to process data from the top cartridge slot and the I/O devices. To hook up with the 64DD, it needed an extra 4 MB of RAM for a total of 8 MB. Unlike the N64, the 64DD can boot up on its own, without the need of a cartridge on the top deck, because it has a boot menu. This would later be carried over to the Nintendo GameCube, Wii and the Nintendo DS.

The 64DD had its own development kit that worked in conjunction with the N64 development kit.

Accessories

The released version of 64DD included a modem for connecting to the network RANDnet, an audio-video (female RCA jack, and line in) adapter called the Capture Cassette to plug into the main cartridge slot, and a mouse and keyboard that plugged into the controller inputs.

RANDnet

Much like the Super NES had the Satellaview online service in Japan, the Nintendo 64 64DD had the RandNet service (named for the two companies involved with the project, 'Recruit' and 'Nintendo'). Launched in December 1999, the RandNet service allowed gamers to compete against each other online, play new unreleased games before they hit the stores, surf the Internet, listen to music online, and much more. The RandNet Starter Kit came packaged with 64DD machines and included everything a gamer would need to access the service (the subscription cost was ¥2500 per month):

  • Nintendo 64 Modem: The Nexus-developed software modem was housed on a special cartridge that plugs into the N64's cart slot. The Modem Cart has a port to plug in the included modular cable which then connects to the network.
  • Expansion Pak: This 4 MB RAM Expansion brings the N64's system RAM to 72 megabits. The rest of the world received this item for free with purchase of Donkey Kong 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
  • 64DD: The writable 64 MB disk drive attachment made network use and data saving possible. Without it the RandNet service is useless.
  • Randnet Browser Disc: This is the disc that lets users access the "members only" information exchange page as well as the Internet.

Once logged on to the service players could choose from a variety of options for fun and games:

  • Battle Mode: Gamers play against each other, swap scores, and compete against players from all over the country.
  • Observation Mode: Spy on other players and watch their game sessions.
  • Beta Test: Play a few sample levels from upcoming new games.
  • Information Exchange: Online message boards and e-mail for communicating with other users.
  • Community: Swap messages with the actual game programmers and producers about their upcoming products and old favorites.
  • Internet Surfing: Surf the Internet with the custom web browser.
  • Digital Magazine: Check online sports scores, weather, and news.
  • Music Distribution: Listen to CD-quality music, some of which has yet to be released in stores.
  • Editing Tool: Create own custom avatars to interact with other users.

RandNet was a semi-popular service, considering the limited 64DD user base. One of the most substantial group of games to include RandNet support was the Mario Artist series that allowed users to swap their artwork creations with others. Contests and other special events also occurred every now and then. However, the service was not successful enough to justify its continued existence, so in February 2001 it was discontinued, leaving all the RandNet hardware useless. Nintendo bought back all the RandNet-related hardware (gamers could keep the 64DD which was more than able to function on its own) and gave all users free service from the time the closure of the service was announced until the day it actually went offline.

Legacy

The 64DD may be seen as the Nintendo 64 equivalent of the Famicom Disk System, the aborted SNES CD, or the Sega CD for the Genesis. The concept of downloading information was earlier seen in the Satellaview for the Super Famicom. It was the last in a long list of failed console add-ons.

Software

Games

Proposed games

The Nintendo 64DD had several games announced for it that ended up either cancelled or being released on cartridge format only, the following is a list of those games:

References

See also

Nintendo 64 accessories

External links

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