The Nintendo 64 may not have aged quite as well as other systems, with the dawn of 3D graphics ushering in jagged, polygonal characters that look woefully outdated by today’s standards. But the draw of developing for what was, at the time, an extremely powerful console, was great for even the smallest studios. If developers couldn’t get their hands on a legitimate development unit, however, the “V64” was their answer.
The Centre for Computing History managed to snag a Doctor V64 console from the Hong Kong-based Bung Enterprises. Sold for $450 (substantially cheaper than an official development unit), the device is attached below the Nintendo 64 through its expansion slot, with an official Nintendo game cartridge placed above it to override the system’s region lockout chip.
CDs are then placed into the V64’s disc drive — even video CDs are supported — and are loaded into its RAM. Once the N64 is turned on, as well, you can play any N64 game with ease. This setup does, however, more easily facilitate playing copied versions of games — likely the main reason Nintendo didn’t show any support for the tool.
One major change that comes with the move to discs on the Nintendo 64 is the time it takes to actually start a game. Each disc loaded into the V64 can hold about 16 games, according to the Centre for Computing History, but they all must be loaded completely before you can make your selection and actually turn on the Nintendo 64. That being said, once the games are up and running, they appear to play just as smoothly as they would on a standard system.
If you’ve gone disc-free, you can actually still use the V64 too. A port on the back of the system allows for easy connection to a PC, allowing you to load far more ROMs than is possible on a basic CD. Just don’t play Cruisin’ USA. Like the Centre for Computing History’s Adrian and Phil say in the video, it’s a horrendous game, no matter how much nostalgia can convince you otherwise.