The Gamecube: A Retrospective
The Wii U is right around the corner, and as I said in last week’s Buy or Sell, I’m pumped about the release. Well, I’m about as pumped as a jaded gamer with a past history of Nintendo early adoption can be. The Nintendo DS, the DS Lite (one of the best gaming decisions I’ve ever made), the DSi (second worst gaming decisions I’ve ever made), the 3DS, the Wii…without sounding like a giant fanboy, I’ve been pretty dedicated in my efforts to pick up Nintendo systems early. And I’ve been burned practically every time. So this week, I refuse to write about the new system that’s bound to break my heart in one way or another when I eventually buy it (because I know I will). Today, I write in memoriam for the handled-box that I put entirely too much time into: the Nintendo Gamecube.
Still young enough to get presents that were neither socks nor sweaters, I awoke at the asscrack of dawn on Christmas morning to find a Gamecube, The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition, and Megaman: Network Transmission under the tree along with a “Spice”-colored controller. I have no idea if “spice” is yellow or orange, but I know that I never let anyone else use that controller. EVER. Regardless, everything, naming conventions included, tipped off that the Gamecube was a system aiming to be different than the rest of the market. Bizarrely-shaped controllers, an ass-backwards system acronym, and midget-discs that would fall out of your standard-sized CD cases…the Gamecube had “FAIL” written all over its peculiar backside handle. And in many ways, it failed…hard.
Codenamed “Dolphin,” the Gamecube had the distinct displeasure of being the follow-up to the Nintendo 64, a system that holds a dear space in many of our hearts, but also allowed Sony to become a viable console competitor by opting for a cartridge-based design instead of the PS1’s disc-based system. Releasing after the Sega Dreamcast, PS2, and almost simultaneously with the original Microsoft XBox, it had a ton of competition. And considering its strongest launch titles were Super Monkey Ball, Luigi’s Mansion, and possibly Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, it had a long way to go to catch up with the likes of games like Metal Gear Solid 2: Guns of the Patriots and Sonic Adventure. But Nintendo had some tricks up its sleeves, and the Gamecube with time would be able to hold its own in the market.
The Gamecube wouldn’t have held up at all if it weren’t for first-party support. Games like Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker breathed fresh life into long-running franchises and created new experiences that could only be obtained on the GCN. Combined with the awesome selling power of the multiplayer brawler Super Smash Bros. Melee, Nintendo made sure to provide gamers plenty of solid reasons to pick up the system. The Gamecube also experimented with peripherals, trying to find new ways to enhance console gaming.
Following up on the success of the N64’s Transfer Pak, which allowed players to carry over data from their Pokemon games on Game Boy to the TV screen in Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2, the Gamecube allowed players to use their Game Boy Advances as controllers for certain games like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (a personal favorite). Tie-ins were made with GBA games so that save data could be taken from Mario Golf: Advance Tour, F-Zero: GP Legend, and Metroid Fusion, amongst others. The Gamecube’s modem and broadband adapter were the first to support online console gaming, And the Game Boy Advance Player replicated the awesome function of the Super Game Boy, taking Game Boy Advance games to the TV screen. If there’s one thing that can consistently be said about Nintendo, it’s that strive to offer unique gaming experiences.
Regardless of whether we’ve got our Gamecube sitting right next to our current-gen systems, collecting dust in a box somewhere, or perhaps it was sold off to a game shop a long time ago, I’d venture most of us have at least a few great memories with the Nintendo Gamecube. And perhaps that’s the best way to look at the sequel to the Nintendo Wii; neither as a ground-breaking ‘revolutionary” Wii, nor as a mystifying “Dolphin”, but simply a system that’ll likely create some good memories for all while pushing the envelope of what we define console-gaming as today.