Because the Nintendo 64 used cartridges as opposed to compact discs like its rivals, games were, by and large, designed to save your progress without the need for a memory card – but that didn't stop Nintendo from making one anyway.
The N64 Controller Pak (part number: NUS-004) plugged into the back of your N64 pad and allowed you to transfer data between consoles – handy for when you were visiting a friend's house and wanted to use your own data on a particular game (like taking your team with you to play in a competitive sports title, for example).
Some titles – such as Mario Kart 64 and the Japan-only Animal Crossing title Animal Forest – required the Pak to get the most out of them, but surprisingly few first-party games actually use it; even so, it soon became an almost essential accessory for N64 owners thanks largely to third-party publishers supporting it in lieu of equipping their games with the ability to save data on the cartridge (which would cost them more money when it came to production).
The issue with using the original Controller Pak today is the fact that the 256kb of SRAM is kept alive by a CR2032 battery – and once this dies, your data is lost forever. You can, of course, change the battery and give yourself another couple of decades of use, but a far more convenient solution is now available thanks to the talented people at 4Layer Technologies.
The Forever Pak 64 is a dead ringer for the official Controller Pak, with one vital difference: instead of relying on a battery, it uses modern nonvolatile memory which doesn't require power to retain data, meaning that it can, in the words of 4Layer, last "indefinitely" (although we'd personally be cautious about saying "forever" as nothing really lasts that long).
Available in six different colours (original grey, translucent green, translucent red, translucent blue, translucent black and translucent purple), the Forever Pak 64 offers the same amount of storage – 256kb – as the real thing, which might come as a disappointment to those of you who owned a third-party Controller Pak which offered more space than Nintendo's offering.
Still, at $34.99, it's hard to grumble – especially as the Pak itself is manufactured from high-quality plastic and comes with two (count 'em) stickers so you can keep track of what data is on it.
We've put the Forever 64 Pak through its paces and can confirm that yes, it functions exactly like the real thing. Sadly, we'd have to wait a few decades to see if this can truly outlast an original Controller Pak when it comes to memory retention, but we feel much more secure owning it – and if you're a seasoned N64 player who uses a Controller Pak often, then we think you will, too.
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