The Nintendo GameCube might not have sold that well, it sure as heck didn’t sell well here in Australia. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great console. There were a lot of fun games and fun times on the little purple lunchbox.
The GameCube has left behind a legacy, not only for Nintendo with new franchises, experiments and innovation but also for the gaming industry in general. It did some things really well.
It’s been 10 years since the GameCube was released (here in Australia, a bit longer everywhere else) so let’s look back at what made the system great and what it left behind.
Before the Wavebird, wireless controllers sucked. They lagged, they were mostly infrared and required you to point the controller at a connector. The batteries didn’t last very long and the controllers themselves had terrible range. Just bad, bad, bad. Enter, the Nintendo Wavebird.
The Wavebird ran on RF (radio frequency), it had essentially zero lag on all games and the battery life running off two AA batteries was extraordinary for its time. It was missing the rumble motor that standard GameCube controllers had but no one complained, this was wireless controller heaven.
At the time of its release it was a novel thought to lay back on your couch or lean back in your chair without having to worry about cables getting in your way. Multiplayer sessions with cables strewn over the floor, toppled consoles and cords pulled out during crucial Melee fights were now a thing of the past. It’s something that people take for granted in 2012. With support for up to 16 players, you could have multiple GameCube consoles setup and everyone could enjoy wireless play.
These days every console has a wireless controller. It’s a standard feature and like the Wavebird they’re all pretty good. Lag, battery power and range aren’t things we have to worry about with a wireless controller anymore. They just work.
We do wonder where wireless controllers might be without the Wavebird though. Here’s to you, our little grey friend.
Little to No Loading Times
Loading times suck, they really do. They sucked back in 2002 when the GameCube came out and they still suck now. Bigger, richer games have made it all but inevitable. However, there was a time where loading times didn’t exist. Thanks to the GameCube’s smaller disk size, most GameCube games had little to no loading times. It wasn’t all sweets and cream though, those disks did have a downside. They were small in size not only phyisically but also with the amount of data they could store. For most Nintendo games, this didn’t matter.
Take Super Smash Bros Melee for example. You can boot up that game and get into a match within seconds. There’s no 30 seconds to a minute of publisher, developer and middleware logos, it boots and there’s the game. The Metroid Prime games have great expansive and open worlds to explore. Loading in that game? Doesn’t exist. Sometimes it will trip up and you’ll be left waiting a few seconds for a door to open but it’s not often. Luigi’s Mansion, Wave Race Blue Storm, Eternal Darkness all either hid their loading times or were so short you couldn’t even notice. This isn’t to say that some games (especially third party titles) didn’t have loading times but Nintendo seemed to care enough to not inconvenience the player with a golden spinning amulet in the corner of an OLED screen for 30 seconds. You know what we’re talking about.
Hands up if your launch Xbox 360 is working? What about your Dreamcast? Does its laser still read discs without trouble? What about your NES? Well maybe that last one isn’t fair but the point remains.
The GameCube is a durable and a well built piece of kit. We asked an open question on Twitter (sure its not a scientific process but good enough to get a fair idea) of how a whole bunch of peoples GameCube’s are going and the results are as you would expect. Even 10 years on, nearly all the people who were asked still had a GameCube in perfect working order.
The drives work and the systems body is still perfect. Because it’s made out of solid plastic and has a tight compact design the GameCube is a resilient bugger. The weakest part of the system is possibly the lid, which some people reported to have stopped working.
The only problem the GameCube really had was hairline cracks around the power and lid buttons. That was due to the plastic moulding and it was fixed in later versions or the system.
If you haven’t noticed Nintendo never seem to do anything without giving it a ‘test run’ first. Motion controls, online, voice and connectivity between console all have spawned from smaller ideas that Nintendo gives a game usually a chance to see how it does. The peak of this perhaps was with the GameCube where some really crazy things were tried.
Many lamented the GameCube’s lack of online. Little did they know that there was a broadband adapter for the console and it indeed could go online. Sadly the amount of games you could’ve actually played online, you can count on one hand. There were also some games that you could play via LAN play. These include Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, 1080 Avalanche and Kirby Air Ride and like most console gaming setups, you needed multiple consoles and TV’s. Something not many people we know ever bothered with.
There were less traditional accessories as well including the bongo peripheral used for playing Donkey Konga and the very awesome Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. The Game Boy Player (which allowed people to play Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games on the TV) was neat too and Nintendo even dabbled with voice controls with Odama.
Nintendo’s biggest expirement with the GameCube came in the form of a link cable that linked up your Game Boy Advance to the GameCube for various, sometimes cool reasons. Many games ended up supporting the cable, some games used it in-depth like Wind Waker with the Tingle Tuner. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles used in multiplayer for a personal information screen and then there was Pacman VS. If you can’t remember that one, then you might remember this.
Nintendo even spent most of its 2003 E3 presentation showing off just how cool it was going to be to hook the two systems up. However most gamers never thought much of it. Now in 2012, without wires, it looks like handheld/console connectivity is making a comeback. The PlayStation Vita has already dabbled in it with cross-platform play between some games and remote play. Nintendo is pinning its next connectivity move with Super Smash Bros on the 3DS and Wii. How that’s going to work remains to be seen.
Having a laugh? Hardly. Sure the GameCube’s handle copped a lot of flack back in 2002. The handbag, the shopping bag, we’ve heard them all. Having your console easily handled with the handle was a god send.
Just look at it, how could you hate it?
The GameCube will be remembered by most as the little console that ‘should’. Should have done better, should have been a success and should have been better supported. However, you know better. The GameCube is a fun, durable, inventive and exciting little console. It had a wealth of great games and a bunch of technologies and innovations in it that many take for granted today.
Go get out your GameCube, plug it in and have some fun. It’s calling you. Except for this guy (kiddies don’t watch this);