Happy Birthday GameCube!

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Ah, GameCube. How I loved you so. From your wonderfully ergonmic controls, with analogue 2-stage shoulder triggers, portable (almost) cubic design, to your barely used expansion port for ethernet, to your teeny-tiny little discs…even the curious omission of a DVD drive (apart from the Japan-only Panasonic GameCube of course)! First thing’s first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

So, what’s the story? Well, it’s a long one really. I’m writing to you, dear readers, to express a few kinds words, fun facts and general chit-chat about Nintendo’s supposedly failed 6th generation console. Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox (original) fanboys look away now, because this is an Ode to the GameCube, the wonderful little console that could!

Originally “Project Dolphin”, due to it’s Graphics processor: “Flipper”, the Gamecube was the successor to the Nintendo 64 (N64), that famously didn’t sell very well compared to it’s sexy disc driven competitor: Sony PlayStation (PSX). It appears that Nintendo wanted to get serious in he rapidly-evolving technology industries. Thus, they developed the first console in their already rich history to have disc media as it’s proprietary format. This is not inclusive of the nearly-console: SNES-CD (eventually referred to as the PlayStation), developed with a Sony-manufactured disc drive. The strange device is said to have been canned due to a disagreement over licensing and rights, with Nintendo seeking partnership with competitors: Phillips.

Nintendo PlayStation
Nintendo PlayStation?? Image Credit – www.endgadget.com

The Gamecube burst onto the market in 2001 in Japan and North America (2002 Europe and Australia) with a quirky marketing campaign that had visual connotations of total gaming immersion. Glass  cubes were GD’d into odd public places, depicting manic mock scenes from upcoming releases such as Wave Race, Pikmin and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. It’s plastic, chunky exterior turned off a lot of buyers, pigeon-holing the console into having a kid-centric focus. Games such as Geist, Resident Evil 4 and Viewtiful Joe, which all debuted on the console (the latter of the two eventually releasing on PS2), shut down those claims to any sceptic who will listen.

Nintendo, of course, are renowned for being that bit different. The Gamecube was no exception. Visually, with it’s “Hey, I’m kinda portable” handle, 4 controller ports ala N64 and mad peripherals such as the GameBoy Advance Link Cable that allowed the user to connect their GBA for some cross-platform action (see The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures) all set the Gamecube apart from the rest. Easter eggs hidden in the software for pure whimsy are always fun too! Holding down the Z button on a controller during boot-up, gave hilariously different start-up audio, as did holding down Z buttons on all four! Similarly, the audio was played with on the options screen, which has since been found to be a 16x slower version of the Famicom Disc System startup music.

Nintendo GameCube Controller
Nintendo Gamecube controller, Image Credit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GameCube_controller

For me, personally, the GameCube represents a very positive part of my life, spent playing immersive Adventures such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, action platformers like: Mario Sunshine or having three buddies pile ’round to my house for a 4-player gaming fest, on the likes of Nintendo IP variety brawler: Super Smash Bros. Melee and superbly designed: Mario Kart Double Dash. Further to these fond memories, to this day, I applaud the embrace of the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise onto the machine with Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle; I reminisce about the wonderfully mad Donkey Konga and it’s Bongos peripheral.

Donkey Konga Pak
Image Credit – http://www.computinghistory.org.uk

Most of all, I love how brave Nintendo were to ship out a chunky, colourful and DVD-less gaming-only machine when the internet was becoming king and users demanded more and more from their consumer experience. They said “No, we’re making a game console” and the resultant Gamecube was a wonderful literal testament to that notion – and with quality, often challenging titles like PikminChibi Robo and Doshin the Giant who could argue that cutesy was only for kids?

So, you know by now how I feel about the little purple meanie, punching well above it’s weight against the altogether more mature PlayStation 2 and Xbox; but was it a failure like so many claim? Well, the GameCube sold roughly 22 million copies. That’s dwarfed by the PS2, coming in at a whopping 155 million, but is only just short of the original Xbox and outstrips the poor old SEGA Dreamcast *sniff* which only just about scraped 9.1 million before it’s eventual demise in 2001. To put the Gamecube into perspective against it’s ancestors and children, it only managed to out-sell Nintendo’s current effort: the WiiU. A console which is still on sale at the time of writing. This isn’t saying much, as the impeding announcement of the NX is sure to spell the end for the 13 million WiiUs out there.

SEGA Dreamcast
The ill-fated SEGA Dreamcast was way ahead of it’s time, sporting online capability out-of-the-box and the innovative Visual Memory Unit (VMU).It turned 17 earlier this year.

So, before I let you go, let me conclude by expressing my gratitude to Nintendo for giving it a good go with the GameCube. It was small, it lacked movie playing and online capabilities, but it delivered a large enough and varied library of high quality titles, some of which were prettier than many Wii games that came after. Commercially, it was a success in that it didn’t fail (and cause the company to fold out of the console market like SEGA’s Dreamcast), but I’m quietly confident that most of the 22 million owners were happy people indeed. I enjoyed many, many hours of single and multiplayer gaming entertainment on this little block of indigo gaming-gold. 15 years later, I’m still inclined to crack it on and play some neo-classics – whether or not you’ve played this beauty before, I strongly urge you to do the same! There’s only one thing left to say:

Happy Birthday GameCube

Phil has been gaming since the MEGADRIVE days. Other than his (very understanding) family, his life is GAMES! He studied Games Design in university, had a short stint working as a level designer in the industry and now writes about games (when not playing them). All platforms, all genres, all concepts - but goes easy on the survival horror, as he's a big wimp!

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