Nintendo Throws Rare Bone To Modern EU Gamers Via N64 60 Hz Toggle

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Monday, Nintendo of Europe announced a very region-specific — and era-specific — tweak for its upcoming collection of N64 games on Switch: an option to switch between the video standards PAL and NTSC. While the announcement may sound ho-hum to outsiders, anyone in Europe with a vested interest in classic gaming will appreciate what the toggle affords. The issue boils down to differences between NTSC and PAL, the leading video broadcast standards on CRT TVs during Nintendo’s ’80s and ’90s heyday. North American and Japanese TV sets were configured for NTSC, which has a refresh rate standard of 60 Hz, while PAL sets dominated Europe with a slightly higher pixel resolution and a lower refresh rate standard of 50 Hz.

Should you merely watch TV series or films on both NTSC and PAL sets, the difference between each is noticeable yet mild. But for much of the ’80s and ’90s, many TV video games, especially the ones made by the largely Japanese console industry, suffered in PAL because they were coded specifically for NTSC standards. In order to port them to PAL, developers generally didn’t go back and reconfigure all of the timings, especially in the case of early 3D games. Instead, their internal clock speeds were often slowed down to 83.3 percent to match European TV refresh rates. This meant both slower gameplay than originally coded and slower playback of music and sound effects. (These also often shipped with NTSC’s pixel maximums in mind in such a way that they were squished to fit on PAL displays, as opposed to being optimized for them.)

Sure enough, last month’s announcement of N64 games on Nintendo Switch Online put fear into European classic-gamer hearts. That region’s reveal video included slightly slower timings of classic N64 games compared to videos posted by Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Japan, since they were emulating the original European retail releases. At that time, Nintendo of Europe did not immediately reply to social media questions about whether European Switch owners would get an option for 60 Hz N64 gameplay — especially in an LCD TV era, where such CRT-related restrictions no longer technically apply to most EU and UK TV owners. Monday’s announcement confirms that European players will get a 60 Hz option by default for every N64 game in the Nintendo Switch Online “Expansion Pack” collection, along with the option to access a game’s original 50 Hz version if it launched with multi-language support. Reading between the lines, we believe this means that if a European N64 game only had English language support, its Switch Online version will be the North American NTSC ROM.

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