Long ago, in the days before Starcraft and Age of Empires, Command & Conquer was the pinnacle of real time strategy gaming. Based on Dune 2, but boasting more options, more intelligent AI, and the ability to play both sides of the conflict, C&C took the world by storm.
In the years that followed there were add-ons, sequels and even console ports. Dune was released for the Genesis, C&C was released for the Saturn and then made a couple of appearances on the Playstation. Left out of this RTS frenzy, however, was the N64, but Westwood has finally smiled down on Nintendo's 3D machine and released the original C&C, with updated graphics and exclusive missions not seen anywhere else.
For those three people that missed the C&C craze of yesteryear, the story takes place in the near future as a new substance called tiberium has been discovered on earth. The substance has the unique property of leeching valuable minerals and chemicals from the ground and converting them into easy-to-mine, priceless crystals. Immediately, of course, the world is ravaged by war as two powerful factions vie for control of the areas containing the crystals. The first of these powers, the Brotherhood of NOD, is a conglomerate of powerful terrorists seeking to gain political power through control of the tiberium. Opposing them is the GDI, or Global Defense Initiative, a UN-like organization of world powers. The game can be played through as either group, attempting to seize control of the world one territory at a time.
Missions take on various forms and differ nicely between the NOD and GDI campaigns. Most missions involve building a base and then deploying troops to wipe your opponent off the map, but there are also missions to kill certain people, retrieve or steal particular items, or simply survive. Although porting a primarily mouse driven game has given developers problems in the past, Westwood handles it beautifully, using the analog stick to simulate the mouse's movement and allowing the same simple point and click interface as the PC. Selecting a group of soldiers requires only dragging the cursor over them and then each group can be assigned one of the C buttons which can be used to auto select-them or jump to their location. In fact the entire interface is equally responsive and well planned.
C&C also gets full points for presentation. Graphically it looks nicer than one usually expects on the N64, especially in hi-res mode. Two-dimensional landscapes have been replaced with fully 3d maps that boast rolling hills and give wonderful depth to the battles. Shadows are cast down from overhangs, allowing stealthy sneak attack maneuvers and grenade wielding troops have become more important than ever, since now there are places a mini-gunner could never reach. The audio is the real gem however. While the full motion cut scenes of the PC version would never have worked on the N64, Westwood still manages to involve the player with stills and a combination of both background audio and the most competent voice acting to ever to appear en masse on the platform. Furthermore the battles come alive with techno music, perfect sounding explosions and the agonizing cries of the wounded.
The only thing that fails in this new version of C&C is sadly, the N64 itself. The greatest part of playing C&C has always been the multi-player mode and this is sadly missing. To give developer Looking Glass credit, though, the only way they could have done it without a modem would have been split screen, and in a game where sneaking up on the enemy is key, it would have destroyed the whole point. Still it makes us wish for a link cable for the N64 like we never have before.
The Bottom Line: Command & Conquer was a great game when it first came out and the N64 version is a port that keeps the spirit of the game perfectly while adapting it wonderfully to the limitations of the N64. If you never played this game the first time around, pick it up now.