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
Out of the Box
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".
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.