For part 1 (Excitebike), click here.
Though the legacy of the original Excitebike has continued in various forms since the original’s 1984 release, it was not until 16 years later that the game would see its first true sequel. Released in North America on April 30th, 2000 and followed by a June 23rd release for Japan and nearly a year wait for its June 8th, 2001 European release, the 16MB Excitebike 64 arrived near the end of the console generation of which the Nintendo 64 was a part.
This time, however, Nintendo passed the development chores on to an outside developer, Left Field Productions. Left Field would go on to innovate the Excite brand, stuck with much of what worked in the original Excitebike, but would also add a number of unique features and distinctions from its predecessor, forming what felt like a true 3D sequel to the original NES game.
As with many games of the era, control was by the driver-friendly analog stick, though the control pad was still an option as well. The A button once again handled acceleration, but thanks to the greater number of buttons available on the N64’s unique controller, the B button held a new function by letting the player brake. The turbo boost was instead moved to the controller’s L shoulder button or underside Z trigger, but just as in the original, abusing the turbo can cause the bike to overheat, momentarily taking you out of the race. Another addition is the R button’s ability to let the player drift around corners, so that they can maintain their speed.
Unlike the first game to bear the Excite name, Excitebike 64 borrowed an attribute which has been shared by numerous racing games that have appeared since: The ability to select one of several (in this case, six) distinct drivers, each of who possess their own names, characteristics, and attributes for handling their respective rides. And that’s just the beginning of where they began to shake things up.
Excitebike 64, much like its predecessor, differs from other motorcycle racing games in that it isn’t meant to be an accurate simulation; rather, it opts to create a more “exciting” atmosphere by using more exaggerated jumps and physics. And much like the original game, players can still control their Excitebikes in mid-air, pressing down to lower the front wheel for more hang time, and pressing up to pull back and allow a safer landing on slopes. This ability also led to what has become a staple of the Excite brand: The ability to perform stunts, which are activated through use of the R button, control stick, and L/Z buttons.
Unique additions for the Nintendo 64 title include use of a number of the console’s accessories, including the Rumble Pak, the Expansion Pak for hi-res mode, and the Controller Pak for saving data.
The game features both single and multiplayer racing, with the main portion consisting of a Season mode of 20 international tracks, nine of which are outdoor and eleven indoor. Racing through earlier tracks will unlock more tracks as the player goes along. In addition to the Season mode, Exhibition and Time Trial modes add a bit more variety to the proceedings, and there is also a training mode to help new players get used to riding. And if that isn’t enough, Excitebike 64 brings back a favorite staple of the original title: The ability to create and save your own fully functional track. In fact, one could save up to 16 of their own custom tracks, thanks to the Nintendo 64’s Controller Paks.
Something else new to the Excite experience was a special “cheat menu,” through which numerous codes could be entered to varying effect. Mirror mode, big heads, invisible bikers, invincibility, and night mode among others allowed for a much greater variance in gameplay. Plus, straight out of Mario Kart came the ability to challenge yourself or friends with ghosts, 40 of which could be saved to the Controller Pak.
It might be argued that though Excitebike 64 scored well with reviewers, it didn’t receive the true recognition it deserved from gamers, who were likely caught up in that year’s PlayStation 2 fever and the dawning of a new generation of video games. Fortunately, Left Field Productions left enough of an impression that this would not be the last game in the Excite series, which would go on to be a part of the 2006 Wii launch with Excite Truck.
Meanwhile, Left Field would go on to create other offroad biking games, including MTX Mototrax for Activision (PS2, Xbox , and PSP ), Dave Mirra BMX Challenge for Crave Entertainment (Wii  and PSP ), and the Excitebike-esque Nitrobike for Ubisoft (2008, Wii and PS2).
However, none of these games were received as well as the company’s Excite-brand effort, or those of their successor, whose first entry we’ll be looking at next week.
Go to part 3 (Excite Truck) here.
“Building Excite-ment” is a three-part feature which was originally published on Kombo in the weeks leading up to the release of the Wii title Excitebots: Trick Racing. The original post for this second part, Excitebike 64, can be found here.