Nintendo GameCube Console Review [03/15/02]

Launched in September 2001 in Japan and subsequently in November 2001 in North America, Nintendo's follow-up console to the N64 was at one time code-named the Dolphin. This small console and the lineup of games for it shows Nintendo's desire to make a game console for the whole family, without diluting the hardware with what they feel like needless add-ons. For more information, check out the GameCube site.

Out of the Box
Grade: B-
When you pull this console out of the box, the first thing you're going to notice is how small it is. Or at least I did. But then again, it may just be because I'm a fairly big guy and this console just feels so compact. Either way, for the $200 price tag you get what you pay for - a sturdy little console that's easy to pick up (with the handle) and take with you anywhere. On the downside, the console doesn't come with a demo disc or even a RF adapter (for those of us still using old televisions), so you will have to shell out some extra cash off the bat just to play on it. Since Nintendo has switched from the cartridge to a disc-based format, you won't be able to play old games on it and there's no DVD option. But, I applaud Nintendo for choosing to focus their energy on making a game console and not another "entertainment box".

Console Hardware
Grade: A-
Initially, the graphics don't seem much more powerful than the PS2, but that it just taking into account that the console is still in it's first generation of titles. I except later games to look wonderful and impressive. GameCube already sports great loading times and a lot of smooth edges. Also, it's capability to make the best of texture mapping will no doubt be useful for developers. Construction-wise, the GameCube doesn't feel as fragile as other recent consoles and is compact enough to go most anywhere. There are four controller ports and two memory card ports. On the underside are a group of ports for the online adapters that Nintendo plans to implement at some time in the future.

Controller
Grade: B
The controller for the GameCube is designed well to fit in your hands. It's obvious that it's built for smaller hands, but the button layout is still comfortable and takes very little time to get used to. One of the pluses is that the A button is large and placed centrally, removing any confusion as it's focus as the primary action button. On the downside, both of the analog sticks, especially the C-stick, feel small on the fingers. Also, the cord is probably one of the smaller controller cords available, meaning that you may have to move a little closer to the console to play. Luckily, Nintendo has an official remote controller on the way in the form of the Wavebird. Also, there are reports floating about that the controller buttons tend to stick after some length of gameplay.

Memory Card
Grade: B
Unlike the PS2, the memory card for the GameCube is relatively cheap at $19.99. While it is required for a lot of games, the cost is far easier to swallow and picking up a few won't bankrupt you. Unfortunately, though, the card doesn't seem to hold a lot of information and still saves on a slot-basis rather than file size. Certain games will take up a good space on the card, so it's not unheard of to have only a few games on one card. But, for the cost, it's not such a bad thing.

Games - Launch
Grade: B+
The GameCube had a fairly good selection of games at and right after the North American launch of the console. With quality titles like Pikmin, Rogue Leader, Super Monkey Ball and Super Smash Brothers Melee available early, gamers had something to play right off the bat. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no must-buy Mario title (except the fairly watered down Luigi's Mansion) that always manages to help in selling the new console. A decent flow of games within the first month helped the console get a good start.

Games - Short Term
Grade: C-
Okay, let's be honest - there's been a drought of good, original games for the console, especially if you own other consoles. A lot of the games that have come out have been ports of games from other consoles, so unless the GameCube is your only console, most of the games weren't worth getting excited about. Even worse, there seemed to be few and far between in the release list, giving gamers very little choice in what to pick up on a weekly basis.

Games - Long Term
Grade: A
When Nintendo does get around to putting out the big titles, this console is going to be hoping. New games for Mario, Legend of Zelda, Star Fox and Metroid are in the works. Also, expect a slew of Resident Evil titles from Capcom and other new games from everyone from Sega to Rare. Other titles, like Animal Forest Plus, Turok and Eternal Darkness look to fill the void between Nintendo's "killer apps". GameCube owners should have more than enough to play in the future.

- - Kinderfeld

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