Secrets of the N64 Expansion Pak (Ft. Matt McMuscles) | Punching Weight [SSFF]Feb 27, 2020
The Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak... ...is junk, almost completely useless and sold on a bed of lies. But I'm still going to find some amazing stuff with this little guy, because this is Punching Weight, a celebration of the weird, ambitious and unnecessary, and the N64 Red Top here is all three! So whether you're a hardcore collector or just interested in weird Nintendo peripherals, strap in, because we're going to take a deep dive into the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak. But first, a shout out to our Patreon supporters! This is a Patreon sponsored show, stay until the end of the video to see all the people who made this show possible.
On with the show! So what is the Expansion Pak? It is a peripheral that replaces the original Jumper Pak and increases the power of the Nintendo 64, doubling the RAM with an additional four megabytes of power! It's easy to think that this is the product of a bygone era, like the Sega CD or the 32X. Yeah, they did dual versions of that. But how different is it really from the Xbox One X, PlayStation 4 Pro, or S iPhone models? Well... except this is a hell of a lot cheaper. But really, this is a Nintendo classic! They love to update their stuff!
More Interesting Facts About,
secrets of the n64 expansion pak ft matt mcmuscles punching weight ssff...
The NES Top Loader, the Super Game Boy, the DS, the 3DS, the New 3DS, don't forget all the Game Boys, I mean the reason the Wii U failed was because everyone thought it was just an update tablet for the Wii! Which, yeah, I guess in a way it was, but let's focus. The Expansion Pak was salvaged from the 64DD, which means this thing was built for something else entirely. Perhaps that's why so few games used it, and those games that did didn't benefit much from the extra juice. How is the Expansion Pak used? Well, in the front of each system there is a small hatch with a small cartridge.
This is the Jumper Pak, also known as the TERMINATOR PAK. I'm not kidding, that's what it says in Japanese on the front. Pry up with the official Nintendo plastic thing, or failing that, a screwdriver or table knife, and slide in the old Red Top, and bam! Your Nintendo 64 has now been supercharged! ... except it hasn't. The sole purpose of the Jumper Pak is to allow the system to boot without the Expansion Pak. I'm not kidding, this thing might as well be empty. Now, by designing it this way, you'd think most of the library would support it, so before I get into what Red Top does, here's what it doesn't: It doesn't improve any unsupported games.
It won't improve the frame rate of GoldenEye or Smash Bros., nor will it improve your speed of Mario 64. However, it works like a normal Jumper Pak in those situations, so you don't have to worry about swapping packs, something Nintendo recommends you do. do not do. Though it's probably worth sticking with your original Jumper Pak, just in case. More on that later. The Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak won't tell you where to suck it, either, like the pro wrestler X-Pac. That covers the unsupported games, what about the supported games? In North America, just over sixty games are supported by Red Top.
Now, I know that doesn't sound very impressive, wait, it's actually even less impressive than that. The most common improvement was an increase in resolution and texture quality, but at the cost of frame rates: games would look better but run worse. Bad news for a game library that already had big problems with chug. High-resolution options are usually best left alone. This is the case with most Turok and Star Wars games, as well as some sports games. There are some edge cases, such as South Park and Duke Nukem: Zero Hour that have the option of upscaling the resolution or frame rate.
Other games enhance the graphics in different ways: The World is Not Enough aka 007 TWINE! offers a vivid color mode and Quake II 64 offers more colors and a small increase in frame rate. But some of these games are still exclusive to the N64, so the additional graphics options are still an interesting little novelty. Not really worth getting into, but it's cool! However, some compatible games have been ported to other, more robust systems such as the Dreamcast, PS2, and PC, making graphics less of a big deal these days. But I'm sure at that point it kept the N64 in the conversation as new systems came to market.
In fact, the more I think about the Expansion Pak, the clearer it becomes that it was just marketing BS, another example of games' tired but still marketable quest for graphics. So, I'll be honest, you'd be forgiven if you dismiss this entirely, but digging deeper, the Expansion Pak is still in the middle of some mysterious and fascinating stuff! So enough farting, it's time to really get in the mud! The Red Top had a more interesting and complicated relationship with a handful of parties, enough to justify its existence. I still wouldn't say this is one of Nintendo's best products, but… …man, you know I love this kind of thing!
I had to make a video about it! And before we get too far, for the record, we're capturing all in-game footage from the original hardware, using the standard composite cables. There is no emulation for this video! Not that we have any problem with emulation, but for this video it was important to get the real thing, just for the sake of due diligence and journalism! And of course, we must begin our deep dive into the Expansion Pak with the three games that required it: DK64, Majora's Mask, and Perfect Dark. First of all, DK64. Here in the United States, it was the only N64 game included with the Expansion Pak; this is how i got mine.
In other parts of the world, it was also bundled with Perfect Dark and Majora's Mask, but here in the US, it was only bundled with DK64. On its own, the Expansion Pak retailed for $30, maybe more depending on your region, making the bundle a pretty good deal! It also came with a Jumper Pak ejector tool and an instruction book that referred to this piece of plastic as a Jumper Pak ejector tool. Yeah, that fancy red top doesn't actually make it any easier to remove from the system. For your amusement, this is what DK64 looks like when you try to play it with the Jumper Pak.
Yes, just this screen and nothing else. He could have at least let us listen to the DK Rap! DK64 was advertised as such a massive game that it needed the Expansion Pak just to fit everything! ANNOUNCER: "It's so big we included an Expansion Pak to include it all!" And it was a great game! Many would say it's too big, but it also housed some fancy lighting and a decent frame rate. However, it's worth noting that Rare's next platformers, Banjo-Tooie and Conker's Bad Fur Day, released in 2000 and 2001 respectively, were also pretty massive games with impressive graphics that not only didn't require, if not even THEY USED the Expansion Pack!
So what gives? DK64 was Nintendo's big Christmas game of 1999. Nintendo expected it to do Ocarina of Time numbers and was given a huge advertising budget. The advertising was effective: All this time I really thought it was so big that it needed the Expansion Pak to work! ANNOUNCER: "This is the first game that requires the use of the N64 Expansion Pak!" Yes, yes, yes... but it turns out that it was all a marketing spin. There was actually a game-breaking bug that Rare couldn't fix. The real reason DK64 required the Expansion Pak was that it was an easier fix for this random game crashing bug.
It was an expensive solution, but Nintendo needed its Christmas hit. Delaying the game was out of the question. And besides, the Expansion Pak didn't even fix the bug, it only severely mitigated it: if left on for more than ten hours, the game will still crash. This isn't really an issue for N64 owners, however for emulation and Virtual Console gamers who use save states instead of saving and exiting the game as they normally would, this is still an issue. The bug is apparently due to a memory leak and may have been the result of an inexperienced development team within Rare.
It's true that Rare, as a company, created some amazing games for the system, but for most of the DK64 development team, this was their first game for the N64. According to some tea spilled by members of Conker's Bad Fur Day team, their game didn't need the Expansion Pak because they did a much better job optimizing the graphics than the DK64 team. SEAVOR: "Donkey Kong 64...they used it, didn't they?" MARLOW: "They certainly did! They had to use it!" SEAVOR: "Which means we did a better job of optimizing the game!" MARLOW: "There's also a good story behind why that happened." Wow!
Damn, that's some serious shade! However, this leaves two places: either the Expansion Pak just fixes the bug, or it does more than just fix the bug. If the problem was just the bug, then... technically, DK64 can run with the standard Jumper Pak. Theoretically, if some genius could hack into the system with a GameShark or something, or bypass the Expansion Pak controller at startup, the game would work just fine! I mean, it would probably still crash all the time, but if it's true that you just fixed the bug, it shouldn't need extra RAM to work, and the Expansion Pak... even more useless than I thought.
But here's what I can't figure out: DK64 was released in November 1999, but the announcement that it would require the Expansion Pak came in May, six months earlier. Six months!! And it is not known when that decision was made internally at Nintendo. Now, I'm not a programmer, but that's not exactly the eleventh hour. If the Expansion Pak just fixes the bug, that means, with at least six months of development left, no one said, "Okay, since we have to use the Expansion Pak," "it might improve the graphics and frame rate while we're at it." ". do it again." Now, it's entirely possible no one ever said that, but when the truth about the bug came out, the world seemed to declare "Okay, case closed!", but there are still mysteries to be solved with DK64.
And one last thing: people are too hard on this game! It's definitely not a masterpiece, and probably Rare's weakest N64 platformer, but it deserves a remaster and a second chance! Moving on, another game that requires Expansion Pak: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Majora's relationship with the Red Top isn't quite as juicy as it was in DK64, but it's still very interesting and again for the funny ones, this is what it looks like when you turn it on with the Jumper Pak. It's weird how some of the text is blurry. It's just a text message, what's the problem?
The Legend of Zelda and the Expansion Pak go way back. Both Zelda 64 were planned at some point for the ill-fated addon disk, the 64DD, which, as d ihe before, it's what the Expansion Pak was originally made for. However, like many 64DD games, Ocarina shipped without Expansion Pak support, although there are beta versions of Ocarina that do require the Expansion Pak, though they may have been tech demos for the slightly improved GameCube version, as evidenced by the copyright of 2003 on the title screen. During a hot minute, there was a third Zelda project separate from Majora's Mask, an
expansionfor Ocarina called Ura Zelda for the 64DD. (Expansions are what they used to call DLC, kids!) From the ashes of Ura Zelda rose the Master Quest mode, which made its way to a port on the GameCube and the 3DS remake.
Now what does all this have to do with the follow up, Majora's Mask? Majora is powered by the Ocarina engine and reuses a ton of assets, so I never understood why exactly this game requires the Expansion Pak. And listen, what I mean by that is that it's clear what the Expansion Pak does to Majora's Mask: its graphical improvements over Ocarina are numerous and well documented. However, why wasn't the Expansion Pak optional? The closest explanation I can find is that Majora had a very short development time. The story goes that because the Ocarina took four years to make, Shigeru Miyamoto wanted a quick change for the next Zelda game.
Eiji Aonuma was given the baton and made Majora's Mask in just one year. Even reusing the Ocarina engine and its resources, the team may not have had time to optimize Majora for the Jumper Pak. But I think it goes deeper than even that: it needed the extra RAM for its historical time mechanic. The world of Majora's Mask is teeming with dozens of NPCs, and keeping track of their location and your progress with their side quests at all times was a huge memory drain! I imagine it's similar to how the PS3 and 360 versions of Shadow of Mordor have a heavily stripped down Nemesis system because those older generation systems just don't have the specs.
I think it's possible that Majora is the opposite of DK64 - Aonuma knew that the timing mechanic wouldn't be possible without the extra RAM, so they improved the visuals while doing it! This is one of the few times the Expansion Pak was used to overcomestinks? MATT: Yes. DEREK: Right. Thanks for watching everyone! Check out Matt's channel, he's currently working on an amazing eight-part retrospective on the Prince of Persia games, and he's done at Matt's Flophouse. You are watching Stop Skeletons From Fighting, we are a Patreon supported show, a big thank you to all the wonderful people you see on screen here, they made this video possible.
You know who else made this video possible, our friend Alex from S House Studios, thanks for helping with the editing! Once again, to support the show on Patreon.com, one dollar goes a long way, but two dollars gets you access to our activity feed and our private Discord, check it out, thanks so much for your support, thanks so much for watching, and stay powerful!
If you have any copyright issue, please Contact