So it'll be my birthday kind of soonish, so I'm using it as a flimsy pretext to write this. I don't really care about my birthday, in all honesty, it's just another day to me, but sometimes they can be awfully nice. I get some rather nice books from my siblings, my parents give me a bit of money - which I use to pay my council tax because being a grown up sucks - and I'll get the usual boxes and/or tins of chocolates that people always get on birthdays or at Christmas from assorted acquaintances that don't really care enough about you to put any real thought into your present. But there's still one birthday that really sticks out in my mind as being particularly butterfly inducing in the lead up to it and that's my eleventh birthday, the year I got my clammy little paws on a Nintendo GameCube.
Let's get all of the dreary facts out of the way first: the GameCube was Nintendo's sixth generation console, following up the Nintendo 64, set to compete - though the word 'compete' suggests it ever stood a chance - against Sony's Playstation 2 and Microsoft's original Xbox, it amassed over four-hundred titles by the time it went out of production, it had a weird little handle on the back for some reason like it was a techy Happy Meal or something, it was 11cm high, 15cm wide and 16cm deep, blah blah blah, etc. None of that's the reason I loved, and still love, the GameCube though.
I went to the midnight launch for the GameCube at my local GAME on May 3rd, which also happens to be my mum's birthday and, to this day, I credit it for helping me remember that particular birthday every year that followed...I also only just realised, whilst writing this, that my mum went to a midnight launch of a console on her own birthday for me so...yeah, thanks for that, mum, and thanks for letting me play Luigi's Mansion for a couple of hours even though I had school the next day.
The GameCube was something of an oddity, and this article is going to act as kind of a defence for the console as well as a love letter to it because it wasn't short on critics at the time, and nor was I short on critics at school for choosing it over the other big contenders - LamePube and GayCube are a couple of insults that still stick with me, because children can be not only cruel but also frighteningly unimaginative and sort of homophobic. Upon its release the GameCube was criticised for a number of things, but the big ones were its lack of features, its considerably short list of release titles in comparison to the Xbox and Playstation 2 and the fact that the release titles that it did have weren't exactly what anyone had really been expecting or wanted. And all of that is why I loved it.
I do understand why the GameCube was criticised for its lack of features, the sixth generation of consoles were, after all, sort of the catalyst for Sony and Microsoft's consoles becoming the multi-media machines they are today rather than something to play games on exclusively. Unlike a lot of people at the time though, I never saw the GameCube's lack of features - you couldn't even play CDs in it, let alone DVDs because it only supported those, frankly adorable, 8cm discs - as Nintendo coming up short or anything like that. I saw it simply as them sticking to their guns and keeping their sights dead set on what they were good at. I saw it not as a failure on their part, but just them saying "We don't need extra features because our games are good enough on their own." It's unfortunate that very few people agreed - the GameCube only shifted 21 million units, paltry in comparison to Sony's 155 million, and even falling short of the original Xbox's 24 million - fine for Microsoft's first outing but embarrassing for a well established company like Nintendo.
Let's look back at some of those four-hundred odd games released for the GameCube. Obviously with that amount of titles released there were bound to be some...misfires, but good god they made some amazing, and amazingly weird, games for that console. We were introduced to Pikmin, a game I still don't really know how to describe properly, Pokemon Colloseum was the closest Nintendo have ever come to that 3D Pokemon game that everyone's been loudly demanding for years and that will never ever happen, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was a terrifying and underrated gem of a horror game, Mario Kart: Double Dash still holds up as the best entry in the series (though, in all fairness, I haven't played Mario Kart 8) and, to this day, I'm baffled as to why there hasn't been a sequel, and, on top of all that, we got The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, that turned out, unexpectedly, to be the best game in the whole series (it is, don't bother arguing).
Even above all that, I love the GameCube simply because throughout its entire history it always seemed to be something like a benevolent troll in console form. Nintendo spent most of their time with the GameCube doing the exact opposite of what their fanbase wanted or expected and still turned it into gold. "Oh, you expected a Mario game at release? Well, here's a weird game with Luigi hunting ghosts, and he can't even jump, by the way. Oh, you wanted a Zelda game at release? Here's monkey pinball instead." And both of those games that no one ever asked for turned out to be incredible. Even when Nintendo did eventually announce the games that everyone had wanted at release, they certainly weren't what people had been demanding nor what they expected. "Oh, you just wanted Super Mario 64 with better graphics? Well, here's a weird water jetpack game. You want a realistic looking Zelda game? Well, we made an interactive cartoon instead, and remember the water temple? Yeah, the whole game's nothing but water. Enjoy." Remember that? Remember the backlash over Wind Waker? Jesus, people came down on that like the gust of a thousand winds, and guess what? People were fretting over nothing. Nobody really gave Nintendo a chance, all anyone really did was bitch and whine over pretty much every game released during the GameCube's tenure - then again, people love to hate on beloved franchises when they try something different - and they blew everyone away, with several franchises getting some of the best games in their history, as well as releasing some of the most original new IPs in a long, long time. Kudos, Nintendo, kudos.
There were/are many reasons for my love of the GameCube but I think that maybe, on some subconscious level, the real reason I love it so much is because it was something of an analogue for who I was at the time: it was small, dumpy, weird and not a whole lot of people really liked it (I know, the guy who writes about video games didn't have a great time at school, what a shocker of a plot twist). Thanks for the good times, GameCube, I love you, I really do, weird little handle and all.