How Evangelion 64 almost consumed my life

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I was watching Adult Swim’s presentation of the new (old in Japan) Evangelion movies. While I was watching the combined snore fest of “You (are)not alone” and “You(can) not advance”. I got to reminiscing about Evangelion 64. Via emulation, Eva 64 was my first contact with a game based on the  famous(now infamous) anime. At the time there were no usb controllers at my place and playing through the game on a keyboard made the experiences a bit more difficult than it had to be.However, I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to finally get to play through the events of at the time, one of my favorite giant robot anime.

I had gotten into Neon Genesis Evangelion at a “rough” time in my life. I had just been broken up with  by the supposed “girl of my dreams” and was in the throes of teenage angst and depression. Around that time a close friend of minelent me his DVD boxset of Evangelion (looking back, could I really call him friend after this?). An anime known for it’s depressing characters and even darker themes. It was like a match made in heaven, I smashed my way through each episodes trying to understand the characters, their motivations etc etc.

What many Eva fans (and even non fans) are acutely aware of is that the original Evangelion tv show and movies were rife with religious symbolism and is steeped in it’s own self created lore. This is what captivated me the most, I would spend time at the school library printing up sheets and sheets of information off of different websites (this was a bit before wikipedia, so I had to do some amount of research). I would then take these massive packets of paper and gorge myself on all the information I had sought out. “What are the Angels? where did they come from? why are the named after Judeo-Christian themes?” I was basically a young Fox Mulder, not in some FBI basement but in my bedroom, trying to piece together some kind of grand puzzle.

Around that time that same friend who lent me his Evangelion DVDs, put me on to Nintendo 64 emulation, I had been happily playing Ocarina of time and Majora’s Mask up uuntil that point..that all changed. During one of my fevered search engine snooping I found out that there had been an Neon Genesis Evangelion game released for the Nintendo 64 at some point. My head started spinning “Evangelion 64?” I would think to myself constantly “how could I have not known?. I immediately went about tracking down the rom image of the game, the excitement coursing through my body as the game slowly downloaded to my puny 64MB USB memory stick was as palpable as Emperor Palpatine’s force lightning strikes hitting Luke Skywalker’s reclining body in Return of The Jedi.

I couldn’t wait to get home, both my mother and father were off at work and my sister, who generally didn’t bother to meddle in my affairs wasn’t going to snitch to my folks that I had been playing games instead of doing homework right after school. When I finally got the chance to get home and boot up the game, I couldn’t have been more excited. Looking back, I was also extremely lucky that the game’s menus were in English instead of Japanese. After calibrating the keyboard controls appropriately, my adventures as an Eva pilot begun.

Evangelion 64 followed the plot of the anime and one of the films (I forgot which movie, maybe “End of Evangelion”? I’m not sure) and functioned as a collection of mini games filled with situations where you occasionally fight an Angel as an Eva. The minigames were all varied and were very interesting in how they were implemented in each episode from the anime. One of my favorite minigames happened to be in my favorite episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Episode 9, “Both of you, Dance like you want to win!”. In this episode, The protagonist,Shinji Ikari and one of the other main characters,Asuka langley Soryu, must deal with an enemy that can only be killed if they attacked it as a synchronized unit. The way the game deals with this episode is through a rhythm game not unlike DDR, you pressed the C buttons on the N64 controller in unison to the prompts on screen, which is of course done to the music of that episode. The battle between the Eva and the Angel(s) plays out like a cut-scene where you tap out the button patterns on screen, if you messed up even once, the scene would end and you were defeated.

Another scenario had you play sniper and had to shoot down a giant Angel while under assault, which meant you had to fight with the controls and lock the reticule on the monster and fire before you and your robot were obliterated. I remember getting up to a certain point within the game where pin point accuracy was absolutely  necessary to bring down an enemy, unfortunately due to my being on a keyboard instead of actual Nintendo 64 controller, the level became extremely frustrating, frustrating enough for me to quit the game all together.

What made Evangelion 64 so amazing, was that it was one of the few Nintendo 64 games that had full voice acting. Even though said voices were in Japanese, it still gave the game an atmosphere. The constant chatter of the characters made me feel like I was actually playing through an episode of the anime. For me, at the time it was exactly what I needed to escape the pain of that breakup. For a good several years I remained a devoted fan to Neon Genesis Evangelion and I played several different Evangelion games since Eva 64. However, none captured that same sense of adventure as Evangelion 64 did for me, if you try and play the game today, be prepared. It’s rough looking and dated, if you go through the emulation route, it looks a bit cleaner and runs pretty smooth. Would I suggest that you play this? maybe, if you have patience and a vested interested in the world of the anime than yes, by all means dive right in. Hell if you’re a mecha anime fan and you’re trying to whet your taste for some of the first forays into the genre on the Nintendo 64 console were like, than yes go for it! Hell, you can find some gameplay on youtube thanks to a dedicated few. Either way I hope you, the reader, find the time to check out Neon Genesis Evangelion 64 and if you do, shoot me a message.

Bon voyage!

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