From the golden days of the NES to the current experimental period of the Wii, no other Nintendo console has been as consistently or resoundingly controversial as the GameCube. The big N’s fourth outing, it was a system that was poised to dominate like no other – a potentiality which turned to ash within only a few years’ time.
A decade on, what does its failure look like? How about its successes? Its games? Its controller? A spur-of-the-minute, quick-fire roundtable is needed to get unfiltered remembrances from some of Nintendo’s biggest supporters (and, oft-times, critics, as well).
Marc N. Kleinhenz, gaming ronin:
It just now dawned on me – yes, I've been very, very busy, thank you – that the GameCube is turning a decade old. To celebrate, I wanted to get some off-the-cuff comments from you all. Any memories that are particularly potent? Any gaming experiences that stand out? Did you want to write a few quick lines to serve as a retrospective or elegy?
Andre Segers, GameXplain editor-in-chief:
The GameCube was an odd little system, but after playing games like Super Smash Bros. and Rogue Leader at E3 2001, I knew I had to have one. It was actually the first – and last – system that I would wait overnight for. And this was in Seattle, which gets pretty damn cold by late November. I remember finally getting it home the next morning after about 30 hours without sleep, booting it up, throwing in Rogue Leader... and simply not giving a damn. I had never been that tired and it sapped the fun right out of it. I vowed that I would never again camp overnight, and now thanks to pre-orders and the internet, I don’t have to.
Unfortunately, my lack of excitement, as it turns out, wasn't just due to the lack of sleep... instead, nearly every major installment of my favorite series would greatly disappoint me. Super Mario Sunshine was a mess, Wind Waker was boring, and F-Zero GX simply didn't click with me at all. And it was even worse as a multiplayer system, paling in comparison to both the older Nintendo 64 and, of course, its competitors, which boasted online multiplayer (and in the case of Xbox, some kickass LAN opportunities, too).
Honestly, things never had seemed darker for Nintendo. But there were some rays of hope. Pikmin was a wonderfully creative title that really captured the best of Nintendo's flair for combining charm and innovation. Luigi's Mansion was another unexpected, but delightful, adventure. And the system is also home to the absolute best version of Mario Kart. Even the Mario sports games helped fill the multiplayer gap somewhat (Mario Superstar Baseball is criminally under-rated, and Strikers was a blast).
Though oddly, in the years since, I've found myself revisiting much of the GameCube’s library with increasing fondness. I absolutely detested Pikmin 2 at the time for some of its gameplay changes but thoroughly enjoyed it upon a recent play-through. Metroid Prime sucked me in like never before. Paper Mario and the Thousand-year Door charmed me in ways it didn’t seven years earlier. And Wave Race: Blue Storm may simply be one of the best racers ever made.
In hindsight, the GameCube was pretty all right. Not Nintendo's best, but still delivering some of that classic Nintendo fun, even if it took me a few years to discover it. While the lack of a decent Mario or Zelda will forever weigh against it for me, I’ve learned to enjoy its smaller offerings.
I just can't believe it's been 10 years already...
Sam Bishop, TotalPlayStation editor-in-chief:
Man, the GameCube is ground zero for the single biggest career-destroying thing I've ever done, and, sadly, I'll have to leave it at that, but, oddly enough, the bulk of my experience with the system wasn't in playing games (though I did that; Metroid Prime was mind-blowing, and I loved the REmakes and RE4) – it was actually in painting them. After leaving the Bay Area and moving down to Orange County (aka Lucifer's Bunghole), I ended up taking over the operations of one Color Consoles, a very small-time operation that I ran solo... by converting my bedroom in my single-bed apartment into the paint room. Plastic all over the floors, walls – all that fun stuff. I still have a couple of the first Cubes I tested out, and while the company did fairly well, it wasn't enough to pay the bills, so down it went.
On the plus side, I did learn how to easily mod the system with a single wire hooked up to a switch that could switch regions from JP to US and back easily. Surprisingly fun, and it didn't allow for "backups" or anything; you could just play Japanese games on any US system. The level of painting quality was definitely nowhere near the coloring operations now, though, and I doubt it would have survived much longer even without my insane rent.
So... yeah, that's my GameCube flashback.
Marc N. Kleinhenz, gaming ronin:
I've said it before, but I'll say it again: the two Super Monkey Ball games are some of the best multiplayer offerings in the entire history of the medium. My buddies and I are still known to fire up some Monkey Golf or Target from time to time...
Andrea Campton, NintendoGal editor-in-chief:
Ahh, the GameCube. When it was released, I wasn't in Nintendo's camp at the time. No, I had an uncle who worked for Microsoft. This put me squarely in the Xbox camp (I was young, naive, and needed a "side" at the time). I have amusing memories of debates with a childhood friend saying how much he hated Microsoft and that they had no business in the gaming space. Meanwhile, I was blasting the GameCube for not having a DVD player, a fairly common stance at the time. That's not to say I wasn't a huge fan of the Nintendo 64, especially with how many hours I logged in Ocarina of Time, but, for some reason, I just wasn't interested in this new console.
Fast-forward to the late teens, early twenties of my life, where I had a boyfriend of sorts. We would spend the days I visited playing Super Smash Bros. Melee with lightning rules, turning it into a Starfox/Falco death-match. Once we grew bored of that, we moved on to more imaginative activities and then concluded with snacking on cheap Chinese food. Those weekends were strange now that I look back on it.
Still, even with my odd encounters, I grew to enjoy the console. I just had to get away from others and experience it on my own to get a full appreciation, ironically, seeing as how it was touting multiplayer. Before I moved down to California, I actually managed to pick up a GameCube with an LCD screen on top, for a decent price, to boot!
Douglass C. Perry, Metacafe Games editorial director:
I thought Nintendo's second-party strategy worked to the Japanese publisher's strengths – which was to lean on a handful of reliable American and European teams that could, hopefully, replicate the kind of success that Rare enjoyed on the N64. It was a good tactic in theory and, to some degree, in practice. From it we got Retro Studios' Metroid Prime, Silicon Knights' Eternal Darkness, Factor 5's Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (or, better, Factor 5's Rouge Squadron – loved that one), and so on. This strategy made sense to me in the beginning, and I thought Nintendo would have a good run when it first came out. Then, of course, other stuff happened.
I can't say the GameCube is one of my favorite Nintendo systems. The controller was awkward, the media system was suspect, and it really did look like a Fischer Price toy. I was disappointed with Wave Race: Blue Storm, and I thought Luigi's Mansion, fun for a few hours, was really an extended tech demo.
But I still have fond memories playing The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Capcom's Resident Evil 4. Wind Waker, I'll admit, fell into a cloying fetch-quest in the second half, but I felt the first half was genius. RE4 is well documented as a ground-breaking game, and I concur with all the praise it's received. I thought it was in turn scary, anxiety-producing, challenging, surprising, impressively long, and an example of the way to improve and change a franchise for the better.
Craig Harris, Sega affiliate marketing manager:
Nintendo's GameCube was a baffling little beast. Clearly as powerful as the current generation but absolutely gimped with some terrible internal decisions. What's with the single shoulder Z-button? How about that tiny disc?
The GameCube was a console made for Nintendo game designers. The company clearly didn't care what its competition was doing in and to the market, and this absolutely hurt the GameCube's saturation. Nintendo's always had third-party support blues, but it was this system that brought it all to a head. Not enough disc space and not enough controller buttons to get the best version of a non-Nintendo game.
Still, as a Nintendo system, there were some fantastic experiences, and my most memorable one is my months-long addiction to Animal Crossing. I already had a taste of the Japanese N64 release, but it didn't all come together until the GameCube title in English, and I spent days upon days making up an NES game room – complete with sprite-based wallpaper and a familiar town jingle. The addition of GBA connectivity was pure icing and definitely offered something you just couldn't get on any other console.
But even with some great memories, stacked up in Nintendo's console legacy, GameCube comes in pretty much at the bottom of my list.
Andre Segers, GameXplain editor-in-chief:
Marc – you're right that Monkey Ball was pretty awesome; I was speaking more from a strictly Nintendo-published games perspective. Of course, the system is home to one of my favorite games of all time: Resident Evil 4, as Doug also mentioned. Unfortunately, the worthwhile third-party titles were even fewer and more far between than the first-party ones.
Craig did remind me of the good times my friends and I had with Animal Crossing, though... hilarious times, actually. I remember about three weeks into playing the game, a purple ape moved into my village who was a huge jerk and bore a striking resemblance to Grape Ape. As we were in our teens, he instantly became known as Rape Ape – and at that moment, a meta-game had begun. The only rule was whoever had Rape Ape living in their town lost. It then became a matter of pissing off Rape Ape to try and get him to move away into one of our friend's towns. Whether it was by kicking stray soccer balls into his face or pushing him into holes we dug for that express purpose or littering furniture and paper all over his lawn, whoever had Rape Ape tried their damnest to get him to move away.
Fortunately, I didn't lose. But when my friend discovered his town's new surprise... let's just say my village was missing a few more trees than normal the next day.
Rus McLaughlin, Bitmob features columnist:
The GameCube remains one of those interesting anomalies for me, because it's the one Nintendo console that I personally associate with almost no Nintendo games. I think about the 'Cube, and I think TimeSplitters 2, I think Rouge Squadron and Viewtiful Joe, Eternal Darkness, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Resident Evil 4, and even Metroid Prime, which got its marching orders from Kyoto but was built in Texas. And yeah, it did have Animal Crossings (which I escaped), some Pikmen, a Zelda, and a Mario Sunshine, but those games didn't define the platform like they might've for, say, the Wii. Yeah, it had its quirks, but with the clarity of hindsight, I'd have to say the GameCube's catalog is probably one of -- if not THE -- most diverse and engaging to be had on any Nintendo system. It would be a thing of beauty to see that kind of expansiveness and inclusiveness again.
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Marc N. Kleinhenz has covered the gaming industry for a dozen publications, including Gamasutra and TotalPlayStation, where he was features editor. He also co-hosts the Airship Travelogues podcast for Nintendojo.
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