a very n-gaging thread

after listening to the VGHF podcast episode about nokia's ill-fated tacophone, i am feeling nostalgic for the little weird GBA that could make calls.

the first n-gage in my life was the original model i received in july of 2004. i was due to start at a new school in september, a 40 min bus ride away, and my parents understandably wanted a means of communication in case of situations like "the bus is late" or "the bus has crashed" or "i missed the bus and am stranded three towns over". they were also doing pretty ok at the time financially (this would not last!), and my dad as an elder computer game-enjoyer always kept an eye-and-a-half on what new tech/gaming stuff was coming out. so it was, my first phone was nokia's big mistake, a good idea executed badly at the wrong time, and i loved it.

there were only ever a couple of official nokia carts in the house. i would guess that this is partly because they didn't make or distribute very many, but also partly because we quickly worked out how to load free roms onto it. [_Red Faction_](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFlmOOyMqxc) and [_Pandemonium_](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPx3mx1XdC8) are the games we definitely had legit copies of, although i don't recall enjoying them very much. Pandemonium looked great compared to the GBA games i'd played (which, for a depressingly long time, was only the dreadful port of [_Pinobee_](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrqh050Puns) ) but even then, i could tell it was not a decently-performing piece of software. sluggish, rough to play _and_ look at, but then that's true for most of the n-gage's library. pandemonium couldn't live up to the amount of 2d mario and sonic i'd tasted, nor could red faction compete with james bond nightfire for my affections.

the few games i really remember getting stuck into were

  • - _Sonic N_ (a decent port of _Sonic Advance_)
  • - _The Sims Bustin' Out_ (again, ported from the GBA)
  • - _Rayman 3_ (ditto!)
  • - _Tony Hawks Pro Skater_
  • - _Splinter Cell_
  • nothing in the n-gage library is anything close to a noteworthy experience, or the definitive version of a given game, but in 2004 i was on the school bus with a phone, 256mb of mp3s and a decent library of interact-able distractions. all in one device. i don't think many people had that sort of thing in their pockets until the smartphone explosion, where it was "done right" for probably the first time. (i did, when my thirst for more music exceeded those megabytes, used to take an already-obsoleted minidisc player, and load up my school blazer pockets with stevie ray vaughan and guns n roses bootlegs. i was 11! everyone thought i was weird!)

    we became an n-gage household for about half a decade. my brother got one, and then my dad got the revised QD version, which was a better phone and had a hot-swappable game card slot, which i got handed down to me when he upgraded again.

    i haven't yet watched the Stop Skellingtons From Fighting video on the n-gage but... _i was there, man_. (i did fire up what looked like their n-gage vid and it was a world of tanks advert? and a very loudly youtubular person being far too enthusiastic? i need to be in the right mood for that kind of thing lol). i'm no expert on anything but conversations on- and offline have shown me that my years with the n-gage are more than a little bit unusual!

    there is so many baffling decisions in that weird little phone. and it is a phone, a weird and bad phone reshaped to be more suited to games, but the guts are all phone. the dark portrait screen, the card slot under the battery, the operating system. it's something trying really hard to be something it ain't, but it occasionally did an ok job. it was no giant, but you could probably argue that the modern gadget industry is built on its shoulders and around its mistakes.

    I only ever saw one N-Gage out in the wild and it was owned by some kid who thought he was hot shit being able to badly make calls and badly play games on the same device. The only thing I ever remember seeing him play though was some sort of Temple Run style game and it looked dreadful.

    That whole system and its launch was pretty wild from what I remember; frankly ridiculous amounts of money being spent on the launch only for it to fully die on its arse within months.

    @“Syzygy”#p36851 oh my god! i definitely played this one a good amount! i had totally forgotten until i saw that screenshot. if they'd had the inspiration to push more of those weird little games instead of crappy PSX ports, it might have been a different story.

    @"LeFish"#p36850 that's what's so weird. as the SSFF people say on the VGHF podcast episode, despite being an abject failure almost immediately, nokia kept trying to support it and revise it for over half a decade. somebody there was smart enough to see that it _could_ work, but nobody there could actually make it work.

    90% of my memories with an Ngage is standing in a branch of the UK video rental store Choices playing Pandemonium as the Gamecube kiosk stood next to me.

    I always wanted one but the recent SSFF video scared me off a bit since it sounds like it requires a little bit of effort to get running, not as straight off as buying and slapping in a game. They're neat curios.

    The fact that something like this had all these PS1 ports is amazing.

    never touched an N-Gage but always extremely cool to me that Xanadu Next originated on it

    [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/6fZ23Id.jpeg]

    I was at almost all of the US N-Gage press conferences! I wrote about them for insert credit and enjoyed the absolute bizarre and uniquely cluelessly european spectacle of it. One of the PR people was named Gerard Wiener and he was built like a tank. Every time he raised his arms even slightly it looked like his shirt was going to burst.

    I have about a dozen N-Gage games - Pocket Kingdom is one of the few originals (like glimmerati, xanadu next, etc), and was based more on Dragon Force than anything, according to Scott Foe, who was the spokesperson for it on the Nokia side. The producer was the lead programmer on Knuckles Chaotix!

    Anyway the N-Gage was a bad idea that was fun to make fun of, but it was also fun to imagine better games for. Why were there no (or very few!?) vertically-scrolling shooters? Almost every game was a horizontally-oriented game that got sliced up into a vertical experience.

    I have a strong nostalgia for the days for the N-Gage, Gizmondo, and Tapwave Zodiac, when everyone was trying and failing to make a high end 3D handheld game system and Nintendo was just like "here's a snes with a screen more or less" and consumers were like oh yeah let's do that.

    I remember back then going into my local CompUSA and seeing demo units of at least the NGage and Gizmondo with suuuuuper limited games actually available to purchase on the shelf.

    I had an N-Gage! It was the original model - I used it as my main phone and I played the heck out of Tomb Raider on it (it‘s a really impressive port). I do miss it and if I ever find myself with enough money I’ll definitely buy another and write articles on as many games as I can get my grubby mitts on :smiley:

    Re: Xanadu Next - I remember poking around the PC game's files (the original release, not the Steam one) and spotting references to a second player - now I know why! I didn't realise it was from the N-Gage port!

    Bizarrely it was a uni friend‘s N-Gage that convinced me that handheld 3D games weren’t so bad and got me excited for the PSP.

    @“rootfifthoctave”#107 First I've heard someone else mention playing the GBA port of Pinobee. Well…… I can think of at least three threads to post about Pinobee in now.

    My only N-Gage sentiment is that I was there. I saw the magazine ads, and I went to electronics boutique to touch it. I wanted to play Sonic. It had football. The Elder Scrolls on it looks like the only Elder Scrolls game I want to play.

    Easy to forget that regular Nokia phones also had similar games on them. Remember when Snake was on every cellular phone? Later on, the Sims Stranded Island Adventure was one that a couple of my friends enjoyed playing ironically, even back in 2008.
    I imagine owning an n-gage was like relying on any other full-color nokia phone for gaming, only swith lightly better software production budget.
    I doubt anyone's youtube video would compare to your experience. I can't watch that stuff. Only the most basic takes, being delivered as fact. Not very intellectually n-gaging.

    @“treefroggy”#p36924 in fairness to those guys on youtube, it sounded like they‘d done a pretty good job on Frank & Kelsey’s podcast, and i also understand that there‘s a youtubeyness that it’s in their interest to play into, but it's not my cup of tea.

    how mad is pinobee on gba? that soundtrack is one of the worst things to hit the human ear, it was shockingly recently that i heard the ps1 soundtrack for the first time!
    you can kind of hear the elements of the original music in the GBA versions. i'm pretty sure someone just lifted the original MIDI files onto some sample sounds the GBA could handle, did precisely zero other work on it and went home for the day.

    linking to the video since it is really good.



    Everything about that system was odd. Like @"exodus"#3 said, very European. Here's some commercials I ripped off their old website ages ago. Gives a real flavour of the time.

    “I was there” too yet I remember less the N-Gage itself than the sidetalking meme and website that the N-Gage made possible. I am not sure who is luckier that sidetalking predated Youtube and Twitter by just a few years. Nokia themselves? Or the people who participated in the meme?

    I have one N-Gage anecdote. A friend of mine in Paris (that @"exodus"#3 knows well too) had a brief moment in his life around ^2004~2005 when he kept getting into trouble in the streets, especially at night. One of those times, he got mugged off his phone. Can’t remember the details but I think he managed to convince the thugs to spare his SIM card or something? So now he needs a new phone for his SIM, and asks around. One of his acquaintances, a tech journalist, had been given a first generation N-Gage, which he never used obviously. So that guy lends/gives my friend his abandoned N-Gage. My friend can now phone and message his many Swedish girlfriends again, and we can make fun of him whenever he uses his phone. Everybody wins.

    Fast forward a few weeks later and, once again, my friend turns around the wrong corner at night and gets mugged by three guys. So the thugs’ leader “asks” for his phone. And my friend gives him the N-Gage. And the thug goes something like “WTF is that!?”. And my stressed friend is suddenly forced to answer many embarrassing questions on behalf of Nokia, explaining what’s an N-Gage, and how it works, and where the speaker and mic are located, and why it has a weird screen in between keyboards and buttons, yada yada. And after two minutes of the worst possible sales pitch, the thugs give up and give him the phone back.

    So yeah, I guess that’s one positive thing about the N-Gage? Not worth mugging for, apparently.

    @“hellomrkearns”#p36973 they didn't have any sex jokes to make about sonic, I see.

    @"chazumaru"#146 yes, he did manage to talk them into letting him keep his sim card, as I recall! I forgot the second half of the story where the N-Gage is given back though. In a way, this is the N-Gage's greatest triumph. The phone you can keep even when someone wants to steal something from you.

    “the n-gage - not even worth stealing”

    This thread was epicly n-gaging and I n-gathered lots of info, I feel we've all been rather n-trigued by all of this,



    @“exodus”#p36868 One of the PR people was named Gerard Wiener and he was built like a tank.

    incredible sentence. also man, from knuckles chaotix to an n-gage exclusive – not a whole lot of luck in that guy's career, i'd reckon... (though i bought chaotix when it came out, it was the only play my 32x ever got, and i loved it at the time)

    i visited my parents last week and did find an n-gage in a drawer. i would not want to try to charge that battery, though i imagine it still works if you can replace it. the form factor of the thing is very good i think, compared to the slick and hefty OG psp. it was kind of grimy, that kind of sticky dust that covers things left in drawers for years. i‘ll try to see if i can source a replacement battery and charger next time i’m down that way, clean it up and see if it works.

    I won my N-Gage. There was a gaming exhibition touring the UK at the time, might have been Game On or something of that ilk. Nokia had an N-Gage stand, and were offering an N-Gage to whoever set the best time at some motocycle GP game each day. I decided that it was going to be me that day, so started hanging around the stand and asking for another go whenever someone posted a better time.

    It was looking good until about five minutes before close, when suddenly there was a time better than mine. I rushed back over and asked enthusiatically for another go before they closed! The staff then revealed that they were just teasing me and had made up the faster time. A few weeks later and I had my N-Gage! Mostly ended using it as an FM radio. Did play a bunch of the built in skateboarding game though.


    @“Toothball”#p38984 The staff then revealed that they were just teasing me and had made up the faster time.

    That’s kinda adorable. I am surprised I’ve never seen that plot in one of the twenty eight thousand teen-oriented “coming of age” movies, sitcoms and animated series I consumed in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.