Hello again, retro gaming fanatics, and welcome back to The Last Official Release. Throughout these pixels, projected outwards into your eyeballs, I take you through the final games released for your favourite consoles. I’ve covered quite a few consoles thus far (a full list of such can be found below) but I’m on a bit of an oddity kick right now – so, following on from consoles such as the Fairchild Channel F and the Atari Jaguar, today I’m checking out the N-Gage released by Nokia in 2003.
Some would call it a PDA with mobile phone capabilities whilst others would call it a mobile phone with PDA capabilities (other would simply refer to it as a monstrosity) but one thing is definitely clear – it played games. And not like how modern smartphones are capable of interactive entertainment either, being downloaded and such, but with cartridges, much like a Game Boy. Specifically, the Game Boy Advance.
You see, Nokia was hoping to encroach on Nintendo’s territory by introducing a device that not only was a mobile with PDA and multimedia functions but a gaming tool as well – combining all within the same handy device. Keep in mind this was well before the iPhones, Galaxy’s and Pixels of today, so quite a concept in the early 2000’s was promising. Ultimately, though, it may have been a little too ahead of its time and never really caught on with consumers. 3-million N-Gages do exist out there, but I guess that wasn’t enough for Nokia as they discontinued the device in 2005.
The game library, on paper at least, is quite impressive. Just shy of 60 games were released and there are plenty of recognisable IP’s such as FIFA, Tomb Raider, Sonic the Hedgehog, Call of Duty, The Sims, THPS, Red Faction and The Elder Scrolls. In fact, there aren’t many unknown games at all – so why did this fail? In short, the N-Gage was unwieldy to operate. While it was capable of fully textured (if simplistic) 3D environments that were impressive for a portable device at the time, the button’s built-in were not ideal for gaming as they were very similar to what was found on most mobiles during that period. There was also no joystick, which was a problem for the 3D games – and over everything, it just wasn’t a great phone to use as… a phone. It was an odd shape to use as a communications device and ended up with the nickname, the “taco phone”. Delicious.
Enough history, though. What was the last game?
Released on the 2nd of March, 2006 a port of Civilization was the last game to ever grace the MultiMediaCard format. While not a direct port of the original, it was its own thing incorporating rules of the second and third games and included graphics much the same as Civilization II, although scaled for the N-Gages small, rectangular screen.
If you’re not in the know, Civilization is a strategy series based around ‘raising’ a society from around 4,000BC to well in the future. There are plenty of rival civilizations too – all of which you can either conquer or, alternatively, sign peace treaties with. The game is over when you either destroy the competition, destroy yourself or fly to space – and overall, the games series is considered to be quite addictive. So how does the N-Gage port compare?
Reviews of the time were reasonably positive, however, most of the critiques are to do with the N-Gage its self. It’s a difficult game to control with the hard, plastic mobile phone buttons and the resolution leaves a lot to be desired for a game with so much detail on-screen. The lack of multiplayer was a shame too since many N-Gage games supported it through Bluetooth or the internet-based N-Gage Arena service.
It’s quite a rarity now, regardless. As of writing, I couldn’t find a consistent price or even an expired listing on eBay. So, here’s a decently produced trailer instead:
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Previously, on The Last Official Release:
Fairchild Channel F – Alien Invasion (1981)
Atari Jaguar – Worms (1998)
Virtual Boy – 3D Tetris (1996)
Sega Saturn – Undefined Japanese Game (2000)
Intellivision – Spiker! Super Pro Volleyball (1989)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System – Metal Slader Glory: Director’s Cut (2000)
Sega Genesis – Frogger (1998)
Sega Master System – Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge
Game & Watch – Mario the Juggler
PS1 – Schnappi: 3 Fun-Games
N64 – Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3
Game Gear – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
NES – The Lion King
Atari 2600 – Klax
Game Boy – Shikakei Atama o Kore Kusuru: Kanji/Keisan no Tatsujin
Dreamcast – Karous