Excitebike 64 is another fun Nintendo racer for the Nintendo 64—no surprise when you consider how much it has in common with Mario Kart 64, Wave Race 64 and F-Zero X. They're all structured exactly the same, but that's okay. All of those games were way fun, and each gave us a different way to race—go karts, jet skis, futuristic hovercraft. With Excitebike 64, we get the Nintendo treatment with dirt bikes, specifically Motocross and Supercross racing.
Dale already explained why Excitebike 64 is so much fun, but what really makes the game special is how it keeps the spirit of the original NES game throughout its 3-D composition. I love new games that give props to their old-school roots, and this game does it the way it should be done. There is as much new stuff in the game as there is old stuff, so it has this broad appeal that you just don't see much anymore. I like to think of Excitebike 64 as more of an interpretation of the old Excitebike rather than an update of it because it's presented at such a different level. Excitebike 64 is much closer to the actual sport that the first one was. Though it's not a simulation, it aims (and succeeds) at depicting off-road motorcycle racing in the most realistic way possible without sacrificing any of the fun. And although this game is somewhat more difficult than Nintendo's previous racing efforts, it is indeed entertaining. However, it's the way it recalls the past that makes it stand out in my mind.
Excitebike 64 coordinates the gameplay of the original with the new design wonderfully. From the sky-high jumps to popping wheelies, all of the trademark moves remain intact, and many more have been added. In short, you can do everything in the new game that you did in the old game. It's subtle way of showing appreciation for its vintage origin. And I'm so glad Nintendo didn't put in some kind of "retro museum" like a lot of other companies like to do. Instead they just included the full version of the NES classic, so it's a hands-on trip down memory lane as opposed to a nostalgic pictorial. Totally cool. I can't express how happy I was to hear that old theme song again. The other extra game modes are fun as well, but the Excitebike 3-D game (literally the update of the old game) was a very nice touch.
Best of all, you don't have to be a fan of the original—or even a fan of the sport—to enjoy this game. Credit the developer, Left Field Productions, for making this game accessible to anyone, and at the same time providing a challenge for the serious gamer. Excitebike 64 actually left my hands sore for a couple of days. But you know a game is good when it puts a-hurtin' on you and you keep coming back for more. I thought about deducting half-a-point from my score because the game sticks to the same Nintendo racing format, but I had such a good time playing it that I really can't justify taking anything away from this game. It seems there aren't many people left in the industry who favor pure enjoyment in a game over anything else. Thankfully, Nintendo has always followed that credo, and Excitebike 64 is just another testament to that belief.