Nintendo 64 PSA: The Expansion Pak is not always ideal

I have never heard anyone talk about this, yet the info is out there. The reason I joined this forum is to plant seeds of information that hopefully permeate through the collective consciousness.

There are a handful of games that require the N64 Expansion Pak, so generally it sounds like most N64 owners opt to leave it in their console, sometimes throwing away the Jumper Pak, which was included with the stock console. According to a[ likely incomplete list on Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_64_accessories#Expansion_Pak), there's 3 games that require the Expansion Pak. There is a much larger swath of games that do not require the Expansion Pak, but have *enhancements* which are enabled, often not by any software option, but solely by the insertion of the Expansion Pak. Rarely, some games have these enhancements in the options menu, most of them do not-- using the Jumper Pak is the only way to turn them off.
If these enhancements were always preferable, it would make sense to leave that red-topped, heat-sinking ram expansion Pak in your unit for 100% of your games. However, many times, it's not....

The most common *enhancement* is a hi-resolution display mode, a step up from 240p to 480i. Now, I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of what that means. Some people may prefer 240p over 480i for N64 games, and with the vast quantity of display options from CRTs to HD upscalers, your results may vary. I think it's worth noting if you use the latter however, because typically you wanna know if you have the choice between 240p and 480i, since upscalers and hdtvs can be very finnicky with that stuff.

_Here's the catch: these hi-resolution modes almost always sacrifice **frame rate** to get a higher resolution image._
Again, this is up to personal preference, but it has been proven time and time again that frames per second are preferable to resolution, particularly for action games. On Nintendo 64 especially, I would think most people would prefer smoother animations and movement with a progressive scan over an interlaced scan with less frames.

Often times, this is not advertised at all, and I would bet that the info on Wikipedia and the internet at large is incomplete, especially when it comes to Japanese games. Therefore, it is my opinion that it is highly preferable to use the Jumper Pak at all times, unless prompted otherwise. Yes, it is highly inconvenient. Yes, only major Nintendo 64-heads would even give a crap to begin with. But there it is.

There were third party expansion paks back in the day that had a physical switch on top to swap between jumper pak and expansion pak features, but due to cheap and aging hardware, it just introduces a point of failure, and jumper pak failure mid-game can damage your console.
Recently, with the release of the[ forever pak 64](https://4layertech.com/products/forever-pak-64), a new Memory Pak that includes fram, there has been discussion of aftermarket Expansion Paks. According to some experts, this may be impossible due to the availability of such minimal RAM. If such a thing were to ever exist, I'd hope they'd have the sense to include a switch on it.
It may also be possible to modify an Expansion Pak with a switch that makes it just a simple Jumper Pak, but until this information gets out there, I don't think any expert modders have cared to devise such a thing. In theory it would be very simple, and while I have some skills, I don't trust myself enough to mod my Pak, since I couldn't afford a new one if I broke it.

Some games have increased frame rate with the expansion pak when you select low res mode in options. Some games also have higher resolution textures with the expansion pak. So, you know, maybe for some people having it in all the time is preferable. It depends on the games you are playing....

This was educational.

Is there still a big original-hardware N64 scene? I can't imagine many N64 controller joysticks have survived to this day, so there must be a strong aftermarket controller situation as well...?

I had this conversation with a friend of mine recently and I was surprised to learn that this was the case, though in hindsight it‘s probably something that I should have otherwise realised? The only game that I know of that runs poorly is one of the Castlevania games, I believe it’s Legacy of Darkness.

I don't really recall many of the games that optionally used it. Turok 2 certainly did but that allegedly ran a lot better with it. I still use both my N64 systems somewhat regularly and it's useful to understand what works best.

I remember Hybrid Heaven having some annoying drawbacks when you used the Expansion Pak and being generally better without it (and me learning that after I played it with the Expansion Pak, of course). It cursed the game with huge framerate issues, notably, so that fits @treefroggy ’s observation.

I know the Tony Hawk games let you turn High Res mode on or off at the start. Though I always pick High Res as the game is just a blurry smear without it. I also feel like the letterboxed mode the expansion pack offers on games like Road Rash just looks wrong for a game of that vintage.

well I hope I still have that jumper dealy lying around… I might have lost it or never had one to begin with.

@whatsarobot to your question, absolutely. The N64 original hardware scene is large and ravenous. Game stores can't keep (non-sports) N64 games in the store for more than a day. There was a youtuber N64 renaissance a while back and now I regularly see (or saw pre pandemic) young teens rolling in trying to buy any N64 thing they can. There are also aftermarket [joystick repair kits](https://www.etsy.com/listing/1055983971/n64-kit-replacement-gears-bowl-joystick) that work pretty well.

@“exodus”#p46110 wow! thanks - i had no idea that was the case. i wonder if the same thing is happening over here. haven't been out to the game shops lately.

Bumping this because Gamesack made a pretty comprehensive video list of US region games and their specific features with or without the RAM expansion. Appropriately he does recommend against using the RAM expansion for games like castlevania and Hybrid Heave (both konami games, hmm), because the resolution boost is not worth it at the cost of framerate, like I said in the OP!

Personally, I use the jumper pak by default and opt for RAM pak for games that need it. when I‘m gaming at 240p already, increased resolution doesn’t matter so much compared to framerate.

https://youtu.be/cWs3tdo9h5c

It would be useful to have information on more Japan exclusive games too like Doubutsu no Mori and the unreleased N64 version of Doubutsu Banchou aka Cubivizzle.

This is a really interesting subject.

For a long time I felt like a sap for selling my SNES to get an N64, but in the end I think I made the best choice I could have (it's not like it was a 1-chip)*. Still have the jumper pak too, thankfully.

*[size=10](My real shame came in 2015 when I found a busted up SNES in the snow outside a Salvation Army, and kept it for a long time meaning to repair it, but then I stupidly curbed it when I moved. That could have been a fun project to totally soup up with a custom case and everything. Alas.)[/size]

The real souvenir to hang on to is that magenta warning label (threw mine out)

>!

[upl-image-preview url=https://i.imgur.com/OAv2VwK.jpeg]

oh my god, who wants a [gross sticker with a RAMBUS jumper attached](https://www.ebay.ca/itm/165546884411?epid=1800611763&hash=item268b5cfd3b:g:wxoAAOSw6~Bitdrb&amdata=enc%3AAQAHAAAA4EQgxjIWcjLAu16RESmfnJmdK3o0cHFLlQoW3QrBRDSBv3%2F7xVy7HUCy%2BTkEiQSIwfqQr4FWCFXIufpVdncCXtm%2BfsJOlhXUJoK67Q4IJU9d1UKuaTic6%2FqETH0aofE9724eMPdi3WsK6w7LYZ1MrPdT%2FUukA2AOnR6pP6chTjQ1CgPt9dlGoyWciSYar5bMXjXGyAIuqAB%2BHSb7Le7rZgAwKk6xkLpCfJxqOZr2q6e06zMWX1UM3HcLUQFW67%2BLS0qs0fsjk5G0SKSz%2FzwDetoMnYvTq8WwaRWj0SN%2Bg71e%7Ctkp%3ABk9SR6K4irnqYA) for $10 plus shipping

@“connrrr”#p85180 Very much here for the very system engineering framerate > resolution chat, and the RAMBUS name-dropping.

>

@“treefroggy”#p85175 both konami games, hmm

Totally fascinating that Konami's hardware engineering and expansion legacy from the Famicom days (since we didn't get the VRC mappers in the states) was brought forward into the N64 days. And now it's all hardware-enhanced Konami Castlevania Pachinko machines all the way down. 😋

Could a rom hack of say Hybrid Heaven make it so the extra 4MB of RAM are being used to maintain the framerate and not up the resolution? Or meet somewhere in the middle? Has any game been hacked to alter how the expansion pak affects it?

@"antillese"#p85247 I think I should have said "terminator" and not jumper, though. I remember working in a computer store after RDRAM went out of style and the parts bins were sick with those things. "These RAM sticks are empty!!"

@“connrrr”#p85248

Frame rate is CPU bound rather than RAM bound. But you need the RAM to store the bigger frame buffer. So say, scaling the RAM up 10x won't improve your ability render the frames per second, just permit you to increase the resolution of them. You'll need the CPU speed (which goes up linearly per-pixel) to keep up the frame rate.

For those of you who are huge nerds, it is bad for electromagnetic interference and also signal integrity to have un-terminated leads and traces flying around inside your system. So you have to do specific things when you have high-speed data busses flying around to empty connectors. If you don't, the pins on the connectors make effective radiating antennas at say DRAM frequency, or whatever is next to the empty socket gets accepted into the pins and screws up the signal integrity in your mainboard.

I had forgotten you needed to terminate some of those technologies!