Nintendo 64 :: RGB205 / MY LIFE IN GAMING
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Nintendo 64 :: RGB205 / MY LIFE IN GAMING

September 7, 2019


– It was a visit to Toys R Us in September 1996 that would in an instant turn my disinterest toward the soon-to-be-released Nintendo 64 into hype of the highest magnitude. To my eyes, this was real. I didn’t see the pointed polygons, the blurry textures, the flat trees. I was in a world where I could go in any direction, do anything. It was unlike any experience I had ever had before. Too real to be real. How could this power possibly be something that could soon be purchased and brought into my own home? The N64 hit at exactly the right time to become a defining element of my teenage years. I’m still a big fan, but its dated graphics, quirky controller, and a multitude of circumstances have caused it to go down as one of Nintendo’s more divisive consoles. Believe it or not, the N64 has easily been the most-requested topic ever since we began the RGB Master Class series. How do you clean up THIS mess? It’s like people are hoping for a miracle? one that we didn’t think existed. But? we might actually have something now. Welcome to RGB 205. (theme music) – Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in Japan and North America in 1996, and worldwide in 1997. Based on a power-efficient derivative of workstation CPUs, Nintendo quickly backed up the console’s 3D prowess with highly polished early software. Nintendo’s most famous gamble with the N64 was its choice of cartridge-based media over CDs, a decision that had the benefit of fast-loading games, but this approach ultimately cost the company third-party support due to the high cost and comparative lack of storage. As a result, games on Nintendo’s hardware tended to lack the voice acting and full motion video that was a often a selling point for story-heavy games on competing consoles. Even though the N64 can’t realistically handle pre-rendered videos except in a very few special instances, its real-time graphical capabilities were top-notch for its time. But these days, many people are very dissatisfied with how the N64’s visuals have aged, particularly regarding what a blurry mess it is on modern displays. To understand the N64’s graphics, we have to first talk about anti-aliasing. Quick lesson for those who don’t know what that means. Aliasing causes the so-called stair-step effect that you can still see in many games today. Hard edges between objects and areas of contrast create an unnatural and distracting jagged edge. To solve this, various methods are used to soften the edges a group of techniques called anti-aliasing, which can give the impression of a cleaner image. Software-driven anti-aliasing can be very taxing on the hardware, so results do vary. However, unlike its competitors, the N64 actually supports anti-aliasing on a hardware level, and games nearly universally take advantage of it. Unfortunately, it’s also the chief culprit in why N64 image quality is such a tricky matter. With only a few exceptions, N64 games output at a 240p resolution, which is typical of all consoles up until the Dreamcast’s release in 1999. At the time, anti-aliasing may have seemed to be very forward-thinking, but in retrospect, perhaps it just doesn’t make sense for games running at such a low resolution. Here’s what 240p looks like on the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, versus the N64. This is obviously going to be a very subjective matter, but many people do feel that the N64’s look has aged poorly. Quake 64 actually has a unique option for disabling the anti-aliasing filter. It’s an interesting look at what could’ve been? but we’ll leave it up to you to decide which is best. A select group of N64 games do have the means to push beyond the console’s normal limitations. In 1998, Nintendo released the Expansion Pak, which doubles the N64’s RAM from 4 megabytes to a whopping 8 megabytes. While a few games require the Expansion Pak to even work, optional Expansion Pak features range from higher resolution textures to smoother framerates, and even 640 by 480 image resolution. Playing N64 games in 480i is kinda neat, and the hardware-based anti-aliasing is far less offensive at a higher resolution. Check out the Expansion Pak-enhanced intro for Pokemon Stadium 2? it’s kind of insane just how crisp and smooth it is when properly deinterlaced. But be warned: these benefits can come at a cost. I can’t imagine anyone would want to play the high res mode in Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness with a framerate like this. And furthermore, games that switch between 240p and 480i between menus and gameplay can cause sync issues with video scalers. So yes, the Expansion Pak is an important accessory, but it’s simplest to just think of the N64 as a 240p console. Generally speaking, you’re fighting against low resolution graphics with heavy anti-aliasing. That’s just the way the system works. But now that we understand what we’ve got to work with, let’s see what we can do about it. – Alright, buckle up. We’re about to go from RF to RGB, and beyond. Recent developments have changed what’s possible with the N64’s video output in significant ways, but as always, we’re gonna start from the bottom, and work our way up, so that you can decide what solution works best for you and your setup. Ah yes, it’s the good ol’ Nintendo AV Multi-Out port, though this time around it lacks the native RGB capabilities that the Super Nintendo has. You might also notice that there’s no RF output, originally, I had to resort to routing the N64 through a VCR? or, a friend of mine bought an official RF switch, which included an external RF modulator? this can also convert the composite video and stereo audio from certain other Nintendo consoles to an RF signal. Back when the system released, and up to this day, the simplest way to hook up an N64 is with the standard Nintendo A/V cables? these are the yellow, red, and white RCA cables? composite video and stereo sound. But this simple and readily available connection is also the source of much of the frustration that people feel nowadays regarding the N64’s video quality. The N64 can do S-video, and if you’ve got an older TV or a scaler that supports it, you should definitely take advantage of it. However, perhaps due to the anti-aliasing, I find that the difference between composite and S-video is less pronounced on the N64 than it is on other consoles. One of the big rumors that we wanted to investigate was regarding the Funtastic consoles. These are semi-transparent consoles available in multiple colors released much later in the N64’s life. Around the Internet, you might find talk about many Funtastic consoles featuring sharper composite video and S-video output than other N64 consoles. Is it true? We borrowed a clear-black North American console and well, I guess there’s maybe some kind of difference? It’s most noticeable on 2D elements, but it’s probably not worth buying another console for. Much of the discussion regarding this topic seems to revolve around European consoles, so we don’t have enough concrete information to confirm just how widespread this is for any particular region. So what about RGB mods, can they really make a difference? Well, yes, absolutely, but I always tell people to keep their expectations modest. RGB, as you may know, represents the best that analog video has to offer, but it is not compatible with North American consumer televisions. However, we can use it through devices like the Framemeister, which cleanly scales retro consoles to HD over HDMI, or professional video monitors like Sony PVMs. RGB can be carried through cables like SCART, JP-21, or BNC breakout cables. Be sure to buy the correct cable for your equipment, and DON’T mix SCART with JP-21. There are two main types of RGB mod for the N64. First, the older type of RGB mod. If you have an early N64 with a serial number that begins with NS1, NUJ-1, or NUS-001, then it’s possible that it can be equipped with a simple and inexpensive RGB mod. The required chip on the motherboard for this sort of mod is the VDC-NUS, open your console to be sure. These systems can be modded with a THS7314 circuit to restore RGB output, just like the SNES Mini. Though I understand that it is possible to wire up CSYNC with this mod that’s the cleanest sync method for RGB it’s far simpler to use sync-on-luma cables, or well-shielded sync-on-composite cables, both of which can provide equivalent picture results to CSYNC. Up until fairly recently, owners of any but the earliest N64 consoles were just out of luck. But thankfully, Tim Worthington, the designer of the groundbreaking NESRGB board, designed a similar board for the N64, and it’s universal for all N64 consoles worldwide. The N64RGB board is somewhat more expensive than the parts for the older mod, and neither produces a superior result to the other, so choose the best option for your console. Check Tim’s website for a list of regional distributors and recommended installers. The end result for either mod is a clearer image, cleaner colors, and more defined textures. It’s not a revelatory experience compared to RGB on other consoles, but it’s a definite upgrade. Don’t let difference in brightness levels fool you? RGB is definitely clearer and shows off more color depth. We’ve also tested the HD Retrovision SNES component cables with both types of RGB mod, and they work great! HD Retrovision cables will not work on unmodified N64 consoles. RGB-modded Funtastic consoles are no sharper than any other N64 console with an RGB mod. So is that it? To be honest, we thought this episode was going to be a bit of a disappointment. RGB is nice and all, and it does help, but it doesn’t stop the N64 from smearing an anti-aliased mess all over your screen. There’s just nothing you can do about that. Or is there? The newest development in the world of N64 video quality is the Ultra HDMI. This is an HDMI mod kit created by Retroactive, resulting in a clean mini-HDMI slit just under the AV Multi-Out. It’s universally compatible with all N64 consoles, and we had the chance to borrow a review unit equipped with near-final firmware. At first, I expected this to be nothing more than a simple but high quality connection for people who don’t have RGB or a Framemeister, and just want to play N64 games with comparable results. But I was soon able to see that this is far more than that? the Ultra HDMI is a total game-changer. I do have to emphasize that the Ultra HDMI is not going to increase the internal resolution of games from 240p or 480i. It does, however, cleanly scale to HD resolutions, up to 1080p, and a variety of options, available through an on-screen menu brought up by a special button combination, allow you to adjust the image to your preferences. According to the Ultra HDMI website, latency averages less than one frame, depending on settings. I was personally unable to feel any noticeable lag. There are two primary schools of thought regarding the best look for retro games, and the Ultra HDMI is equipped with options that should please both camps. For the group that wants the old-school tube TV experience, a retro mode is easily selectable in the menu, which loads specially-chosen presets, complete with scanlines and a softer, slightly bloomed image, which can be further tweaked. This is perhaps the best artificial scanlines look that I’ve ever seen? I could definitely see myself using this mode if I weren’t playing to record footage. However, many purists would consider me a heathen for generally not using scanlines, and preferring extremely sharp pixels. I like sharp pixels for any 240p source, even in a 3D game. And this is where the Ultra HDMI offers a solution that I can’t believe is possible. In addition to smooth and sharp pixel scaling modes, it is also able to undo much of the damage caused by the system’s video interface, or VI, which normally produces significant horizontal blur think of it like an unnecessary extra pass of anti-aliasing, which the Ultra HDMI is able to reverse with smart algorithms. It doesn’t sound like it should work, but check it out, it’s freaking witchcraft. 2D elements in particular are represented with perfect clarity a total revelation. And though subjective, I think the removal of the excess blur is of benefit to polygonal graphics as well, creating a happy middle ground between the completely unfiltered PlayStation look, and the excessively blurred N64 look. Some games do run at oddball resolutions, in which case the De-Blur effect may produce undesirable results. With automatic settings, it’s able to detect in real-time if VI De-Blur is a good match for the currently displayed resolution meaning the vast majority of N64 games, which are rendered at 320 pixels wide. The sharper settings can highlight flaws like dithering a bit more strongly, but in my opinion, it’s overall a major improvement? I can’t get enough of it. But if it doesn’t suit your tastes, you can of course turn this function off. I did find that the text in Zelda games wasn’t particularly flattered by sharper graphics. I am less impressed with the Ultra HDMI’s handling of 480i, in which case some slight interlaced combing remains visible, even on a variety of settings. This doesn’t bother me too much, because I tend to avoid and disable 480i modes on N64 games whenever possible it’s just not the system’s forte. While I was only expecting a simple means to connect an N64 to an HDTV, the Ultra HDMI turns out to be a far more robust solution than I expected a device specially tuned to the N64’s visual quirks, optimizing the image in a way that external scalers simply can’t account for. It’s not cheap, but I’m really missing the review unit? this mod is a miracle for the N64, and I can’t wait to buy one for myself. Learn more about how the Ultra HDMI is being distributed at Retroactive.be – If you’re a fan of the old-fashioned scanline look, like me, then this part’s for you. For some people, scanlines are a requirement for retro gaming, and absolutely nothing can replace a real CRT. In the case of the N64, a strong argument can be made for scanlines playing a critical role in making its special blend of low-res blurry graphics more palatable. The Framemeister has various settings for generating scanlines. In fact, all of our backgrounds in this episode come straight from the Framemeister. Check it out: N64 RGB with the cleanest sharpest settings the Framemeister can produce, versus N64 RGB with artificial scanlines. Which is your favorite? While we’re at it, let’s compare these same settings with the default retro presets on the Ultra HDMI. These are both great options for simulating the look of a CRT and hiding the N64’s graphical flaws, but how does the N64 look on a real CRT? If you have the right set for it, S-Video or RGB to component conversion are your best bets. As for playing the N64 on professional monitors, we recommend checking out Phonedork on YouTube. Phonedork is a big fan of the N64, and has tested the console on lots of Sony PVM and BVM units. Let’s take a look. Simulated scanlines on the Framemeister and Ultra HDMI, versus a regular consumer CRT in S-video, versus my 19-inch Sony PVM in RGB. So while the Ultra HDMI seem like the ultimate solution for N64 games on an HDTV, if you want to play on a professional CRT, RGB mods are still the highest-quality solution for analog video, not to mention less expensive. With the RGB Master Class, we always focus on what you can do with original hardware. But emulation, whether official or unofficial, is something that we just can’t ignore in the case of the N64. Emulation is the only way to run N64 games at a higher native resolution and framerate than they were originally expected to run at needless to say, for these early 3D games, that’s a very enticing prospect. As for official methods, Nintendo first experimented with N64 emulation on the Gamecube, releasing the N64 Zelda titles on promotional discs, running at a resolution of up to 480p. Further refinements to Nintendo’s emulator were brought to the Wii Virtual Console, also presented in 480p? there seems to be a bit of input lag, though. N64 games are also available on the Wii U Virtual Console, but we’re unimpressed by the fact that it’s just a 480p upscale to 1080p? it’s unfortunately not a clear improvement over N64 Virtual Console on the original Wii hardware. Ironically enough, Rare Replay on the Xbox One provides a look at far more robust N64 emulation, featuring several games running at 1080p. Unfortunately, this highlights an issue with all N64 emulation: 2D elements don’t survive the scaling quite so gracefully. When it comes to preserving the clarity of 2-dimensional images, no N64 emulator to our knowledge has been designed to match what the Ultra HDMI can do. While some 2D elements seem to scale well in emulators, others do not, Pop-in, inconsistent framerates, and various glitches can also cause issues, especially with unofficial options. Though N64 emulation does offer some graphical advantages, its inconsistency makes it an imperfect alternative to the original hardware. – The N64 was a revolutionary console with games that established the template for 3D gameplay that we still see the influence of in modern games to this day. Though it was powerful for its time, Nintendo’s engineers may have reached just a bit too far with their methods for representing the final video output. But thanks to the N64’s creative and loyal following, stunning new solutions for enjoying this aging console in a modern gaming environment have continued to be developed to this day. Whether you play on an HDTV, a professional CRT, Wii U, Xbox One, or heck, just some old TV with RF input? if you’re having fun, then that’s the only thing that matters. (theme music)

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  1. I was screaming ParaLLEl64 at 20:34.

    You gotta check it out. It accurately emulates the N64's video renderer and VI output, including dithering and optional VI filtering, via low-level emulation of the microcode and VI. It supports both software (CPU) rendering and Vulkan, and a GTX 1050Ti, or perhaps a GTX 1060 for games with heavy use of pixel shaders such as Perfect Dark, should be enough to run it at full speed; for software rendering (which is more accurate) you'll need a top-of-the-line i7 or Ryzen 7 CPU. It also properly does modesetting, running at the game's native resolution.

    I don't think it does emulation at higher resolutions, though. You can do that with classic HLE emulation, but it will just look like any other emulator.

  2. Ultrahdmi is great n all…but for the price….. ahh its probably worth it to grab an old crt and play the system what it was meant for….i mean 200 bucks for the kit at best…no thanks..i mean i solder all kinds of stuff and am advanced in it …at least make it more affordable…they would sell a ton more if they knocked down the price….people are settling for rgb because of that

  3. Does anyone sell the ultra HDMI kit for a reasonable amount or is it no longer made and costs hundreds of dollars? When this video was made in 2015, guess these devices were cheaper.

  4. Any idea what a HDMI Modded N64 down converted to RGB, via adapter would look like? Worse than a straight up RBG mod? (PVM)

  5. miss my n64 , should never have sold it . should really go and buy one with an old school Sony Trinitron, emulating just isn't the same

  6. thats funny i was given an N64 and around 1998 and thought it was pretty good back then but now i feel like i got jipped seeing as i had no idea how much id love quake and PC gaming

    imo the 64 is the most popular yet weak ass strictly limited barely performing console ive ever seen :S

    i honestly dont get how nintendo fans just dont care what theyre missing out on because of "good game design" which is just as subjective as valuing performance and current standards.. other consoles actually reach ahead in performance in ways PC might have hard time being as optamized as.. but nintendo doesnt reach ahead in terms of hardware they use cheap cost efficient crap from like 7 years ago and just slap a new coat of paint on mario or zelda :S

    I did not choose nintendo, nintendo was chosen for me by a parent.. just like the company wants

    i just cannot enjoy most of the 64 games anymore and i cannot stand using the controller ever again like ever.. I dunno not enough nostalgia there for me to enjoy what now feels short, empty and generally inferior to other classic 3D experiences >.>

    what is also kinda funny is the next console from Nintendo the Gamecube i still believe is Nintendo's best console and library ever and i havent enjoyed nintendo at all since the cube

    if you dont have boner for zelda mario or pokemon then nintendo is just not that great in terms of features and 3rd party support and now they force these motion control gimmicks and lock content behind collectable shitty memory cards/amiibo's and i would actually almost wanna play the new star fox if it didn't have its core gameplay variables locked behind more purchasable plastic crap

    just release a stationary console with 1080p 60fps shipped with a regular controller with a real LAN input and i might give a crap about the over-hyped exclusives but i am not fucking with motion controls or portable graphics.. and those joycons are just an awkward pain in the ass for me

    if nintendo thinks their audience doesn't need more current graphics and regular controls and regular micro-transactions then Nintendo is dead to me >.>

  7. "anti aliasing- still something you can see today"

    NO.

    you are showing examples of 360 games which are like 10 years old now.

    too many jaggies is almost strictly a nintendo thing now.

    I see them on character thumbnails in smash ultimate way too much like how the fuck are still images that noticeable.. i havent seen jaggies for over a year on the 4K xbox or PC and barely notice them on playstation.

  8. "scanlines are a requirement for retro gaming"

    D:

    I… they.. wha..

    my brain hurts.

    I must literally not be able to fathom what nostalgia is and may never be capable of experiencing it :S i thought i loved asteroids and ghetto atari stuff but that must not be nostalgia cuz these other descriptions of nostalgia sound like.. like if you.. masochism?

    shrugs some people like being kissed some people like being spanked. what a world.

  9. this song, this man, this gaming life…gets me so hype and i can contain how hype i get even in public. i just dance, or shake violently to release the hype.

  10. Well none of these fix N64s huge flaw of going 3d before 3d could be made to look good. All the 3d N64 stuff just looks blocky to me, antialiasing or not, and I thought that when it first came out too. IMO N64 went 3d too soon.

  11. MLIG – This channel is easily in my top 5 channels on YouTube if not my number 1! Coury and Try4ce, for me at least make the situations talked about so 'familiar' I really look forward to every upload even if my PAL GameCube is still causing me no end of trouble! Great channel guys and GREAT content, its a bit cliché but "Keep Up The Good Work!" – MJ

  12. In that 5th gen comparison, a better comparison would be to use an N64 game that looks better than Ocarina of Time. Why not Banjo-Kazooie?

  13. Actually my N64 looks amazing on my Sony X900E TV. For picture mode I use Photo-Custom mode and adjust the Clarity Settings to Reality Creation-Manual, Resolution-25, and set the Sharpness to 75.
    Photo-Custom mode is amazing because it almost has no input lag!

  14. Is the de-blur on newer Tim worthington RGB boards equivalent to the ultrahdmi to the point where rgb on the framemeister is more or less the same as ultrahdmi?

  15. Let me 1st say that if Nintendo was to ever release a classic edition with 1080p support i would buy it. But for now just go get the Emulator for your PC and play these games in full real 1080P that look 1000x better then any mod you can do for your N64. Seriously a toaster of a computer can run the N64 emulator.

  16. Thanks for the info! I watched this video awhile back and decided to buy the ultrahdmi and have it modded. The N64 looks amazing on my 4K tv and as the centerpiece of my TV stand once again.

  17. 6:25: Wait, you can play composite signals through a VCR connected to a coaxial port? Can you also play coaxial signals through a VCR connected to a composite port?

  18. Well to me, emulators like project 64 and Rare Replay look WAY better than the N64 consoles, or the Virtual Console, because the 3D character models look like 3D character models, as they should. On N64 consoles and the Virtual Console, the models look so pixelated. With the anti-aliasing, they should've just stuck to 480i as the standard resolution, as shown by what the Pokemon intro you showed earlier can look like in 480i.

  19. I can appreciate how this couple found something neat they can do together, I imagine it extended the excitement Their relationship.

  20. Btw. There might be a game that doesn't use anti-ailiasing. It may sound weird, but it's Lego Racers. I used to have it for the console, but I can't remember well enough to know if it does, but you could pop it in and see if it does! If so, that's pretty neat!

  21. So, do any RGB mods support deblur? You guys mentioned in this video how they could support it, but do they? I don’t know, but I expect you guys do.

  22. Nintendo would make a killing releasing a classic console that addresses the graphics and issue with the controllers analogue stick.

  23. Honestly, why not emulate? You can play it much better than this, for a cheaper price, get a usb to n64 adapter and play

  24. I want to do an RGB mod for my N64 to connect to my PVM, but I hardly see much of a difference here. I feel like the composite output on a PVM is good enough for me.

  25. New HDMI Plug & Play adapter by EON has just been announced! Please do a review once it comes out!
    https://youtu.be/diwQSAq1YRA

  26. My gawd, that fucking intro music always gets me. Its retro, dramatic, kinda sad and upbeat at the same time, and it sounds like a Sci-Fi movie soundtrack.

  27. If only it can output the N64's native 240p and 480i signals so I can just ditch the RGB mod and get a HDMI to component cable for my JVC CRT

  28. I'm sure you ninjas know this…
    On Tim Worthington's latest RBG board for the N64 you can get a DE-BLUR switch fitted onto the side of the console. You can flick it on and off on the fly. IMO the DE-BLUR is a must have and as you said "a game changer". Its really cool that DE-BLUR isn't limited to the ultra HDMI board anymore.
    Cheers for the vids dudes – Peace

  29. Looks like all of the N64s are RGB capable these days. I wonder if Ultra HDMI is available for the NS2 consoles (NUS-CPU-05)? Also, for the next video series, may you please do a video about the Hyperkin HDTV cables for the Nintendo systems (SNES/N64/GameCube, and Wii), Sony PS1/PS2, Sega Master System/Genesis (and Nomad), and Dreamcast, and Original Xbox (you can do them one by one per system)?

  30. I notice the monster premium s video cables don’t plug into the retrotink… does anyone know how to hook this up I’m having trouble and can’t figure this out. I was thinking maybe a high end switch box to solve the problem but still even then I’m not certain on how to plug that from my n64 to the retrotink and then to my hdtv. Hope someone more knowledgeable could help!! Thanks

  31. How do you guys get RF output into your scalers? I'm planning on getting into pre-2600 consoles that only output RF video with no better quality mods available, and I've had a hard time finding any sort of converter online.

  32. It is possible to turn the built in anti-aliasing off using a game shark which not only improve image quality but also performance too.

  33. If you want a great N64 picture, but don't want to shell out a lot of money, you can buy s video cables and use them with a s-video to HDMI converter. Great way if you can't afford a framemister or oscc!

  34. Man I guess this Try4ce dude will never stop grinning in every video. 😂😂😂 Even his over the top voice won't stop either. 😂😂😂

  35. I'm definitely doing this HDMI mod.. but you guys should make an N64 part 2 video with the Mclassic to see how far the N64 can go.

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