RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Oct 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Doom 64, Doom, Switch, N64, id Software

As the Switch nears its 3-year anniversary, it's been interesting to watch the role it's embraced. Not just a home/portable hybrid gaming machine, its trajectory has more than a bit in common with the ill-fated Vita. Sony's Ferrari-of-a-portable turned into a fantastic way to play PSN and PS1 games on the go, and in a similar fashion, Nintendo's latest is giving new life to all the great Wii U games no one played, as well as hosting ports of a lot of mainstream games that usually wouldn't come Nintendo's way. This is no doubt due to its successful sales numbers, and given their recent buddying up with Xbox, it seems Nintendo has been courting 3rd party publishers pretty hard. There's been quite a few games I've bought on the Switch that I already own on other platforms, simply because the idea of playing them on the go is such an intriguing prospect (e.g. Diablo III, Doom 2016, etc.). One of the best examples of this role of giving overlooked titles another chance is the recent announcement that Doom 64 would be coming to the Switch.

Regular readers may know how much I adore Doom 2016. It not only made my Best Games of 2016 list, I spoke many words of praise for it on an RFGen playcast episode last year. One of the things I mentioned in that podcast was that I thoroughly enjoyed the franchise's oft-forgotten entry on the N64. I've always been surprised at how rarely I hear the game even referenced, and when I do, it's not usually with much fanfare.

It wasn't the first time a Doom game came to a Nintendo console. The original game got a SNES port in 1995. As many videos across the internet will attest, the 16-bit machine really struggled to do the game justice, but it was still a way for those without a PC to see what all the fuss was about. It's disappointing the sequel didn't get a port as well, but I would argue that what would come in 1997 was even better.

Sadly, there's no reload animation for the super shotgun, but it sure sounds good.

There are those who think Doom 64 is a port of the original, and fair enough, I suppose. But those who gave it a shot discovered it was a completely new game. And not only was it new, it was massive, boasting a new story, 32 unique levels (compared to Doom II's initial count of 30), and incorporating all the previous game's added enemies, weapons, and power-ups. It even went further by including a brand new weapon, a new ambient soundscape, a new final boss, and a new polygonal 3D graphics engine that still holds up fairly well today, unlike the vast majority of N64 games. It's ending even folds in nicely to where Doom 2016 starts off. This is all the more impressive when one considers the fact that this game wasn't even an id Software product. It was developed and published by Midway, of all companies.

I don't remember how I learned of Doom 64, but I do remember how hard I fell for what it was doing. It wasn't perfect. The N64's mutant trident of a controller took some getting used to, but in the absense of a mouse and keyboard, its first-of-its-kind joystick worked surprisingly well. The controls were also fully customizable, so pretty much anyone could find a suitable configuration.

The debut of the new look for the cacodemon.

Some people were also upset at the loss of the iconic fake-guitar-fueled soundtrack we all know and love. That's valid, but personally, I love what Doom 64 chose to do instead. Rather than the rock-inspired tracks of its predecessors, Midway went with an eerie suite of atmospheric sounds more reminiscent of a horror movie. In much the same way Limbo used its audio to accentuate and disturb, Doom 64's music made me feel isolated and alone as I wandered its demon-filled environments. This had the added effect of letting the rest of the sounds stand out. Every pinky I heard before I saw, the thunk of every rocket I launched at a distant hell knight, every thunk of a pair of shells sliding into my super shotgun, it all felt impactful.

There are two criticisms that I feel have merit. First, the Unmaker weapon, which you don't find until you're a good two-thirds of the way through the game, fails to impress. It's an organic-looking weapon that fires thin laser beams. I give the developers credit for trying something new and weird, but the weapon doesn't feel nearly as tactile or satisfying to shoot as the other guns in your arsenal. The laser it fires can be upgraded if you're willing to seek out the alien artifacts to do so, and even does more damage than the legendary BFG in its final form, but it's so unfulfilling to shoot that I never even had a desire to use it, let alone seek out its upgrades.

It's not just me right? Super hard to see anything beyong the demon trying to eat my face.

The other main issue I have with Doom 64 is that it's without a doubt the darkest game I've ever played. I know I'm getting old and my night vision isn't what it used to be, but even as a kid I would turn the game's brightness setting all the way up, and even then would often turn up the brightness on the TV itself just to help me see what was happening on the screen. I'm not sure if it's an issue with the game's lighting engine or if it's just that my eyes are especially garbage, but I've never been able to play it at the default brightness setting.

All in all though, these are pretty minor problems. Doom 64 is a fantastic entry in the franchise, and any fan of the series who passed it by back in the day would do well to seek it out. It's just as satisfying to play as the first two games and will be a great companion piece on the Switch when it comes out alongside Doom Eternal. It's also worth noting that while it never received any official ports outside the N64, the internet collective has produced an unofficial PC version of the game, complete with mouse and keyboard compatibility. Those with knowledge in tracking down such things shouldn't have too much trouble finding it, and I can confirm that not only does the game hold up in a PC presentation, the mouse and keyboard controls work quite well.

Thankfully, not every scene is drowning in darkness.

It's my hope that an official Switch port alerts new players to this long lost Doom game, and makes it more accessible for those who are willing to give it another try. I couldn't be more thrilled to have a way to play it that's both legit and conveniently available. Yes, it could be criticized for basically being Doom: More Doom, but as a throwback to the demon-slaying gameplay of old, I highly recommend it as a combination of "new" Doom content and a reminder of where the franchise came from.

Has anyone else played this game and want to back me up in supporting it? Is anyone planning on picking it up to play for the first time? Am I just crazy and this game should stay in the dustbin of forgotten software? Let me know in the comments below, and always remember to rip and tear!

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I also did not realize that Doom 64 was a unique game until I heard you mention it on the Playcast just a few weeks ago.  For a while, I was grabbing up games on the switch for the same reason.  Playing on the go OR just playing on the couch while my kids could still watch TV was a great convenience.  In the past year as my kids have gotten older and I'm not traveling as much I find myself rarely playing the switch without my kids so more mature games have been put on hold for a bit.

The point you make about Doom 64 being dark is one of my biggest concerns with any switch game.  Because of the reflective screen, playing brighter games like Splatoon and Mario Odyssey aren't much of a problem, but I CANNOT play Skyrim in handheld mode unless I'm in a dark room, I can see anything except the reflection of my dumb face.

Still, I would give Doom 64 a try on the swtich and play it docked if the cost if correct (See what I did there?)  Nice write up, Travis!
I think the worst thing about DOOM 64 was it was far too dim, but eventually emulation fixed that.  I do plan on getting the Switch port, but not if they don't also port over the Aubrey Hodges soundtrack.  While DOOM on PC was about pure speed, the soundtrack on the 64 and PSX was about horror.  That was a huge part of what drew me to those games, and while I dream about the frenetically-paced and metal-fueled insanity that is DOOM (2016), I think DOOM 64 and PSX are my favorites.
I've never played DOOM 64, and wasn't aware that it was more than just a graphical upgrade with a few features added. The fact that it's a whole new campaign makes it more attractive. I'll have to look into the Switch port! Good write-up.

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