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October 30, 2011 / jwaxo

Perfect Dark (Hardware Upgrades)

Reload animations haven’t been exciting since.

In the dark ages before we received our own Nintendo 64, we had to resort on wretched, other means to get our fix on 3D, joystick-using gaming times. Sometimes this was with rentals, but renting entire consoles was kind of expensive for us kids and we had to rely on the extremely rare occasion to talk our parents into signing up for that. Sometimes we would just go over to friends’ houses and play their video games. But, on very strange days, we might end up with a friend’s console over at our house.

This was how we first encountered Perfect Dark.

We had already played the heck out of Goldeneye a couple times, so we had experienced the rush and fun of that classic first-person-shooter. And we had also been seeing commercials for this sci-fi themes shooter all over (previous discussed in this post), getting us more and more pumped for this game coming out for a console that we didn’t even own. So, when given a brief chance to play the game on an N64 we didn’t even own, we jumped at the chance.

Rather, I jumped at the chance, sneaking into the room where the N64 was staying when my brother and his friend were distracted by whatever the heck they did in his room.

“Yesssssssss. Leave usssssssss.”

And boy, was I impressed. Here was how FPSes should be: a wide variety of awesome guns, all of them with second abilities and unique reload animations. Enemies that didn’t just run out and shoot you but took cover and had their guns jam and reloaded as well. A sweeping story that seemed epic and awesome, and an awesome multiplayer that had a bunch more modes and options than Goldeneye before it. And finally, get this, a female protagonist (we were never really into Tomb Raider, although it had certain features that interested us).

Eventually, the N64 and the game were pried from my cold, dead fingers, and I was forced to dream about the day that I would own both.

Well, as you know, I very shortly got my own N64, and, with some time and some money (and a full summer of Goldeneye) I saved up enough to buy Perfect Dark. I tagged along with my mom to Target, browsed around until I found the game, checked the back of the box for fun while I walked through the aisle–

–and stopped cold. There was a big section of the box taken up with a bright yellow sunburst and a picture of a weird black box with a red top. “Requires N64 Expansion Pack!” it joyfully, callously exclaimed. “Most features inaccessible!”.

Target had Expansion Packs, in a sad corner of the game section. They were $30 a piece, $30 more than I had on me.

I sat in the car a sad boy that day.

Plus, the guy at the counter was a jerk and blocked my mom from letting me buy an M-rated game.

Although the arrival of our sound card into our mute computer was the first experience of upgrading our computer, this was my first experience of realizing my hardware was obsolete and needed a costly upgrade in order to even play the games I wanted. Sure enough, Majora’s Mask, which would come out later that year, required an N64 expansion pack, too. I didn’t even know what it did, but now my console, something that I previously didn’t even think you could upgrade, wouldn’t be good enough.

The unfairness of it all struck me as rather profound. I didn’t realize this was something I was going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. Not even with video games, either, although the sadness of a new game coming out and the realization that your current system is getting on in years is something too disappointing to put into words, but with more expensive, important software. Need to have this animation rendered in two days? Maybe you should have thought of that when you were buying your last video card! Need to download all of these files to upload to your client’s website? Too bad, your harddrive isn’t big enough; better find a workaround while you furiously shop around for something that won’t empty your wallet.

After you have the upgrade, there’s a brief period of relaxation and joy. After all, you’re all caught up: there’s nothing to fear. But no. There is. It might be a month, it might be a year, but you’ll eventually, once more, be obsolete. And then you’ll be reaching for your wallet again.

Plus, waiting to buy Perfect Dark meant I got it for $15 at the outlet mall. Nice!


Leave a Comment
  1. GameSquire / Oct 30 2011 4:26 PM

    It is a frustrating fact that everyone has to upgrade some sort of electronic sooner or later, doesn’t matter if its a video game console part like the Extension Pak for a N64, switching VHS movies to DVDs then to Blu-Rays (I didn’t replace all my VHS movies yet!), the need for more memory on your PC etc etc.

    It was sure good times though with Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64. I am SOOOOOO glad I didn’t get ride of my N64 collection, somebody has to take it out of my cold dead hands before that happens.

  2. jwaxo / Oct 31 2011 1:26 PM

    I’m worried that the ridiculousness of next month will make me realize that my computer, only a year old, desperately needs an upgrade. But then I think of how much more awesome it will be after said upgrade…

    Stupid conflicting brain.

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