The Weird History of the 64DD
Right, there was a point to this thing. It was a 64 MB magnetic disk drive. The idea was to stick the Nintendo 64 on top of the 64DD.
It would then allow the console to use proprietary 64MB magnetic disks—for better rewritable data storage and other fancy gubbins.
In short, it led to better graphics, more memory, and some pretty innovative ideas. Such as letting players create basic movies. Or take pictures of themselves and add them into a Microsoft Paint type scenario.
It was a neat idea, one we see now in consoles like the Xbox, but in the mid-1990s when the add-on was first touted—the technology wasn’t there.
Mario Artist and Mother 3 (Earthbound 64) were touted as big games releases for the 64DD. With a hopeful sequel to Super Mario 64 on there, too.
But Nintendo released many previews of Mario Artist, mainly, with Polygon Studio being an example of the creativity the add-on purported to allow.
It was eventually released in Japan. But only in Japan, in December of 1999, and that’s after many, many, many delays.
It came across that Nintendo was never happy with the thing. And its eventual release seems like the effort to rekindle some profits lost due to developing the peripheral.
This was kind of a trend at the time, anyway. Sega released so many add-ons for the Mega Drive it was ridiculous.
After its announcement in 1995 (before the Nintendo 64 was even out), there was that vast delay until its eventual launch. Some fun stats:
- It launched on 1st December 1999.
- It was discontinued on February 28th, 2001.
Only ten disks launched for the add-on. Most of which were creatively inspired, designed to make gamers create things.
The problem there is that’s only going to appeal to certain people.
Trying to turn the Nintendo 64 into a mini-PC was a bold idea. It even had basic online features, which was radical for a games console at the time.
Reviews weren’t impressive, though. 6/10 from IGN highlighted the tumultuous history of the 64DD. It comes across as an exaggerated Microsoft Paint type add-on.
One of the few games released for it was Doshin the Giant (and its sequel). A bizarre god simulation game—you can see why the 64DD didn’t make it to the west.
This also got an expansion pack in 2000. That’s an early version of DLC we see all the time now—downloadable content.
It had the catchy title Kyojin no Doshin Kaihou Sensen Chibikko Chikko Daishuugou. IGN gave it 2.5/10.
Doshin the Giant did eventually get a port over to Nintendo’s next games console, the far more popular GameCube.
Other games included SimCity 64, a golfing simulation, and an expansion pack for F-Zero X.
There was also a mysterious breeding simulator called Cabbage that was abandoned. It eventually formed into the popular Nintendogs title.
So, the 64DD’s legacy is strange. At the heart of it we have one of Nintendo’s major selling points—that constant strive towards innovation. To do something different.
Nintendo could do a Sony or Microsoft and just release a console as powerful as possible. But it doesn’t, instead focussing on new and engaging ideas.
Like Nintendo Labo in 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. You know—cardboard games! In an era where most gamers are obsessed with the most lifelike graphics possible.
Nintendo Labo was well received, but the 64DD sure as hell wasn’t.
Along with the Virtual Boy in 1995 (that gave players headaches after a short while), it marks a coda in Nintendo’s history as one of its weirdest product.
Failed? Yes. Innovative? Indeed. A bit misguided? Well, the technology just wasn’t really there. But noble intentions, Nintendo.