Successfully downscaling an intense PC game to the N64, Star Craft is complex, rewarding and challenging, if a bit much.
(-) the learning curve is really steep; lacks many of the features in the PC release
This sci-fi strategy game first made waves on the PC. The game hosts a bucket-load of uncanny features and depth, requiring you to memorize how much points it costs to develop certain mutants, or what's your best defense against an air attack. This deep and engrossing multiplayer phenomenon was clearly made for the PC, so people could play within the same house via different computers linked together in the same network. The game's presentation was also sensational, with lush graphics and sound that easily succeeded in implying just the right mood for the player. Several years later, most of all this excitement was stripped down and ported over the the Nintendo 64, which it holds up pleasantly well playing on a television rather than computer. But there's a nit-pick here or there that had to be sacrificed.
The game offers a single player mode where you control one unit and you must survive through the isothermal sci-fi world around you, requiring you to gather resources and use those to make payments for building structures as well as more units to help you on your quest. There's also a narrative that goes along with it, spoken dialog through text between your creature and others that you meet along the way. The multiplayer modes are a lot more complex, but the single player can actually be thought of as an unintentional tutorial for it, because you have many missions that require you to build a certain building or command an attack on a certain army, forcing you to take many of the faucets of the game into account.
And as for the muiltiplayer mode, Star Craft is a very challenging and invigorating experience that can intimidate even the most seasoned gamers. Basically, you take control of an army in a base, have miners gather resources and take them to a factory building, as well as more energy known as Vespine gas, to build different structures and recruit different minions or people to either defend or attack other bases. Doing this will demand extensive gathering of resources, but as well as sending units out for attack, you must have liable defense in your base to withstand any surprise ambushes. But doing this you'll have to consider a lot. There are both ground and flying units, and some minions will only attack one or the other. You'll also need to repeatedly build a structure or minion, depending on your team, to produce above a certain limit of units. The AI in Starcraft isn't very forgiving, and even the best players can be throttled once in a while at their weakest moment when seemingly thousands of beasts come strolling through their base.
Many would wonder how a game specifically build for a mouse could be ported over to a system like the Nintendo 64. The controls are actually quite serviceable, but mainly only for those who haven't played the PC version. You move the cursor with the D pad, and use that to get the attention of your minions, and control their movement and attacks with commands from the buttons. This takes some time to get used to, as do all the complexity, so really achieving skill at this game takes a lot of time and dedication. It can be easy to give in after being attack by a million enemy units and never returning to the game ever again, but if you stick to it and give it a chance, you'll become less overwhelmed and have a worthy challenge and intense experience.
You can choose as one of three different unique teams to play on, which each have their own specific strengths and weaknesses and can satisfy nearly any playing style. As the Terrans, you will play as humans who have access to some pretty advanced technology. Unlike the other two teams, they can build any structure at any given place without first making a building to enhance their building range. Gathering minerals can reward you with soldiers that shoot machine guns and even flamethrowers, medics that can repair damage on structures and soldiers alike, have moving automobiles that shoot missiles as well as slow moving gun ships. The Terrans can also produce a nuclear missile, which when aimed with care can cause some devastating damage to enemy bases. The Terrans are the more balanced force to work with, having the right combination of force and power as well as development processes.
The Zerg are monster life-forms that have beasts that attack with their own organic energy as well as blunt force. The drones that mine actually mutate and become a structure that they build, but building monsters is more inexpensive than the two other teams and you can also frequently produce more than one, when you see larva creeping near your hatching colony. The Zerg team produce small monsters such as Zerglings, which are quick to move and attack, as well as more strong and a bit slower Ultralisk, but many existing minions and structures in Zerg must be upgraded to another form to build certain units or minions. For example, the Ultralisk can mutate into a spider, which can burrow and attack ground units, which is great for base defense. Overlords also serve multiple purposes, while giving the player more ability to build units passed an alloted limit, can also drop off ground warriors on another location and detect hidden units. Zerg is the least strong team of the three, but their quick and cheap to produce units and are best used for outnumbering opponents.
The Protos are alien-lifeforms that use extraterrestrial energy to produce incredibly witted minions and units with devastating power and effect. They can build mutant slugs, spiders, and other vicious beasts that excel in ranged attacks as well as strategic special moves. However, units are more expensive and take longer to produce, but the Protos is the single strongest race of the three. But no matter which race you pick, they are balanced well all across the board, so no team will inevitably dominate the other because deep in their core they maneuver nearly the same way.
As far as the audiovisual side of things, it's plain to see that Star Craft on the 64 was downscaled pretty far from its PC counterpart. But that's not suggesting that it's ugly. The entire game has a distinctively dark look to it, but the environments and the creatures are adequately detailed and the game can handle a surprising amount of action without slowdown, considering you're not playing split screen multiplayer. What held even better though was the sound, which you still have the eerie war music that gets you more involved with the experience, the sound of destruction is fluid, but hearing "Proceed" and other commands every time you click a Marine to move somewhere can get somewhat grating after a while.
It's impressive how much of the best selling PC hit was transmitted to this version on the N64, which while it lacks online play and many other features that computer gamers enjoy, when you think less about what you're being left out of and more about what's available, you have one incredibly engrossing and involving game that will push your skill to its limit. There's a lot to see and do, and getting good requires a lot of practice, but Star Craft 64 is one of the best experiences you'll have with your Nintendo 64.