While the N64 was an awesome console with some of the most cherished games of all times, the graphics haven't really stood the test of time well. It managed a measly resolution of 256 × 224 (lowest) up to 640 × 480 (highest, which was used by very few games) and most games had ridiculously tiny textures spread over big areas, resulting in highly blurred textures all around.
So let's be thankful for emulation and the wonders it brings. While there's a whole bunch of emulators out there, I'm most at home with Project64, so this is the one I'm going with. And while there's quite a few high-res texture projects out there, only a handful are (in my opinion) worth your time. Mainly Djipi's Cell Mod for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which makes the game look something like this (click to expand):
If you don't prefer the Wind Waker inspired cell-shaded look the author, Djipi, was going after, there are also other, more realistic high res textures available, but more on that later.
So, how do we get all this together? It's quite simple actually:
- Hop on to Project 64's download page and download the latest free (version 1.6) installer here, install Project 64 to your desired directory
- Download the latest 1964 video plugin from here and put it in your Project 64 1.6\Plugin\ directory
- Make a 'hires_texture' directory inside of the Plugin directory
- Get Djipi's Final Cell Mod from here and extract (using WinZip, 7-zip ...) it to Project 64 1.6\Plugin\hires_texture directory, so you get a Project 64 1.6\Plugin\hires_texture\The Legend of Zelda\ directory
- Download the Ocarina of Time ROM from one of many ROM places (Google is your friend) and hopefully have the original cartridge so you're not meddling in piracy
- Open Project 64 and set it up:
- choose Options/Settings/Plugins from the menu, select "1964Video N64 Video Plugin community version" and click OK
- choose Options/Configure Graphics Plugin ... and:
- in the General Options tab set your desired Window Mode and Full Screen resolution
- if you want to, you can enable Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering in the DirectX tab for a much nicer picture
- in the Texture Enhancement tab check 'Load hi-res textures if available'
- Open the game by double-clicking on it in the list
Also, if you experience cracking and popping sounds while playing, try opening 'Options/Configure Audio Plugin ...' and checking 'Sync Game to Audio'. Helped in my case.
You can get different texture packs for Ocarina of Time and completed texture packs for other N64 games here, or you can follow the progress of unfinished packs (including Djipi's incredible Majora's Mask texture pack and his 2011 update to Ocarina of Time) right over here.
Some examples of the game with regular textures (left side) and Djipi's high res textures (right side):