While there were many points
of interest at E3 this year, the most consistently really crowded booth was
Nintendos, where gamers flocked, nay swarmed, to see the GameCube. For those
skeptics out there who think the general mediocrity of the N64 experience has soured
gamers, witness the intense interest shown for the new system. Lets face it, the N64
has suffered from a general lack of titles, and some companies have released really
terrible games for it, further causing pain to gamers who have been forced to pursue the
"any port in a storm" strategy (Big Mountain 2000 comes to mind, er, flashes
painfully across my memory). However, there have been some very good titles, and its
no mistake that the best titles on the system have been made by Nintendo and its 2nd
party developer, Rare. Nintendo is, in many ways, the Disney of the gaming world
they have created and continue to create incredibly popular and lasting characters, who
appear in all sorts of games and have firmly lodged themselves in the hearts of mainstream
USA (as well as mainstream everywhere else).
The GameCube should
nicely re-instill Nintendo in the hearts of gamers everywhere. In many ways, it is
the only true "gaming system". Although Microsoft insists the Xbox is for pure
gaming, Microsoft press releases regarding the South American launch of the Xbox cite
their strategy as offering affordable Internet access to folks who dont already have
it. The PlayStation 2 is an obvious multimedia machine, and Sony touted it as "not a
gaming system" at E3 2000. While both of these systems are undoubtedly built to game
on, they are not exclusively gaming system. Nintendo has made the conscious choice to
remain focused on games, being noncommital about their modem and online gaming, and going
with a DVD-format mini-disc that, while protecting from piracy, also makes the GameCube
unable to play DVD movies, the only next-gen system that is hindered in such a way.
However, thats obviously not a hindrance to the games. Nintendo showed both
broadband and analog modem network adapters for the GameCube, which may or may not be
available at the launch.
The little purple
box is much more appealing after viewing and playing games on it. The graphics are
uniformly spectacular, and the gameplay continues the Nintendo tradition of mixing
traditional elements with innovative new concepts. The controller seems to be the most
controversial element of the system. Some have said it is too small and crowded, while
others rave about the feel and quality of control. But the GameCube will not suffer from a
shortage of controller options, including an official optional controller, the Wavebird.
The Wavebird will not be packaged with the system, but will allow gamers wireless play
using RF technology. This technology is a big thing in gaming now, especially with
RCAs adoption of Eleven Engineerings Spike technology, so expect wireless
controllers to become de rigeur for the next-gen systems. The GameCube also supports
digital video output, and an optional digital video cable will be available at launch. In
addition to all these doo-dads, the GameCube connects to the Game Boy Advance, making it
the smartest controller out there. Details about what the connection will allow,
precisely, are sketchy. Still, it looks cool.
For adult gamers who
feel the purple and that big handle will clash with their chic living room furnishings,
Panasonic unveiled their own version of the GameCube, developed in secret until E3. The
chrome unit looks very much like a bookshelf stereo system, features all the hardware and
ports of the GameCube (including the four controller ports and memory card slots), as well
as CD and DVD playback, and a suave digital display. Details about the Panasonic version
of the system are sketchy, but look for many more GameCube tie-ins between Panasonic and
Nintendo. In addition to the second version of the system, Panasonic will manufacture
special 64 MB memory cards to allow the GameCube to interact with Panasonic products.
Normal memory cards for the system are 32 MB Flash cards.
The most significant drawback to the system is the number of games available. Nintendo
owners are either frustrated with or resigned to the fact that fewer games come out for
the N64, and many hoped for more titles on the GameCube. While the GameCube will
undoubtedly be supported by many developers, and I have high hopes for more titles coming
available on the system, it will only launch with five titles, and only another three will
come out between launch and Christmas of 2001.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
StarFox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet
NBA Courtside 2002
Wave Race Blue Storm
Titles due by Christmas 2001:
Phantasy Star (Online? Maybe, maybe not.)
In addition to these games, titles announced for the GameCube include: Metroid Prime
(2002), Kameo: Elements of Power (2002), Raven Blade (2002), Donkey Kong Racing (2002),
Disneys Mickey (2002). Fear not Mario fans, as Nintendo has confirmed that a Mario
game will be released, but had no time frame for or details about the game. On another
note, Working Designs has announced that they will begin making titles for the GameCube,
although they havent announced any titles so far.
Overall, the GameCube will be an important next-gen system, and the high quality of the
games available for it at launch will make it painful to pass up. For many folks, the
GameCube is the only system worth waiting for, and I dont anticipate much of an
effect on either the sales of GameCube or Xbox because of their incredibly close release
dates (GameCube will beat Xbox to market by three days). At a $199 price tag, the GameCube
is possibly the best value out there for your gaming buck.