Weekend Reading: Goodnight Gamecube

“My point is that from a first-party perspective, just like Microsoft doesn’t put out new original Xbox games, Nintendo is no longer supporting GameCube. Can you confirm that?”

“Right, that’s correct.”

This is what we heard Perrin Kaplan, Nintendo’s VP of Marketing, say to GameDaily in a recent interview.

Even if Nintendo officials say that the GameCube isn’t in fact dead, the product has long since been on an automated life-support. What Kaplan said was just gamers coming to term with what we had all known for a while: it’s time to move on from the GameCube.

So this week, I invite you to come take a look with me at the life of the GameCube, which came to us in November of 2001, and for me, has left my hands recently. No, I didn’t sell it off; I gave it to my girlfriend, so she can enjoy Animal Crossing and Timesplitters 2 whenever she wants.

[Thanks to Fronz for the ‘shop]

If you take a look at the GameCube’s system specs, they’re mighty impressive. In terms of its capabilities, the GameCube was able to produce some very pretty graphics, as it was actually more powerful than the PS2. If you look at most any Nintendo title, the characters were smooth and very visually appealing, producing something that was well beyond most of the PS2’s library, and even surpassing some of the Wii’s current library. This feature wasn’t really exploited too much, and should have been reason enough to put more visual-based games on the GameCube as an exclusive.

One of the GameCube’s biggest problems was that it had acquired a “kiddy image.” The Nintendo 64 staved off this image with hit titles like Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark, but the GameCube lost all that. Part of it was the acquisition of Rare by Microsoft, but it was also the fact that few developers and publishers bothered to step in to fill the gap. Browse the dwindling GameCube section of any store, and most likely there will be 60% kid’s games there, with Resident Evil 4 and Prince of Persia being the only saving grace from thinking you’re now at Disneyland.

As we all know, the lack of good games in the GameCube’s library is what killed it. Pretty much all the titles were either first party exclusives, or they were platform-crossing titles. Ubisoft, Capcom, Konami, and Square-Enix all let the ball drop on the system, with the majority of their games released being cross-platform games that were only going to really sell on the PS2 (Prince of Persia, for example). Capcom, I would argue, did the best for the GameCube out of this lot, because they put out both the Resident Evil series and the Viewtiful Joe titles on the system. Resident Evil was a good move to build up some more mature titles on the GameCube, culminating in the release of Resident Evil 4.

At its heart, though, the GameCube was great for parties. Mario Party was incredibly fun until Nintendo started whoring out the title unnecessarily. Games like Freedom Fighters and Timesplitters 2 provided plenty of enjoyment. Let us not forget Namco’s Donkey Konga games, which are a blast to play (although they’re no Taiko Drum Master).

Do you still want to throw some money at the GameCube? Well, here’s $100 worth of games that are really worth your time to go buy, but aren’t necessarily the ultra-popular titles that are a no-brainer for the GameCube. Also, these titles are readily available to be ordered from GameStop, so I’d assume that they’re not too hard to find.

Freedom Fighters – $12

Freedom Fighters is probably one of my favorite games on the GameCube. For any history fan, this game is filled with your porn (a.k.a. alternate history). The game is a solid story that follows an underground resistance fighting the Soviet forces that have taken over America. The thing that makes this game special, and a reason why you should purchase it on the GameCube, is the multiplayer. There’s nothing more fun than doing some squad-based gaming with some friends, using guerilla tactics to attack each other. This is one of those titles that I wish EA would continue doing something with, but of course, we have to get Arena Football: Road to Glory first.

Eternal Darkness – $13

This is one game that took me forever to start playing, and I regret not starting it sooner. The game, while not very scary to me, draws you into the plot and just doesn’t let go. They drop so many subtleties into the game that you’ve got to appreciate it. My only gripes are that the combat system is not the best, but otherwise, this is one of those games that really tried to remove Nintendo’s kiddy image.

Skies of Arcadia: Legends – $25

One of the few RPGs available on the GameCube, Skies of Arcadia: Legends is a remake of the Dreamcast Skies of Arcadia. The gameplay is good, albeit the combat system can be slightly boring when running through a dungeon and fighting useless fights, and provides plenty of hours of gameplay. Also, you get to have ship battles, which is something that I would normally expect to remain only in Sid Meier’s Pirates.

Timesplitters 2 – $7

This game is a wonderful FPS for the GameCube. The gameplay is strong, but the true strength lies in the multiplayer. There are so many different options and modes to play with, that the game guarantees to entertain your friends for a long while. Coupled with the multiplayer map creator, this game, for me at least, is the FPS that I’ll play long after the GameCube is dead.

P.N. 03 – $5

One of the GameCube exclusive games, P.N. 03 was marred by control issues. At this low a price, it’s really not a bad purchase to check out the game and see one of Capcom’s attempts at helping the GameCube line.

Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II – $10

This is probably one of my favorite Star Wars games, with Battlefront II a close second. Really, for any Star Wars fan, this game is a no-brainer, and for those who have passed up this game, it’s a great piloting game that puts you in an environment that’s familiar to most everyone. The gameplay and controls are very solid.

Killer 7 – $9

A total psychadellic adventure, Killer 7 is the type of game that provides a mindf*ck that’s rare to see on the GameCube, except for in Eternal Darkness. Many reviews point out that the game had better controls and graphics on the GameCube, as well as a faster loading time, so you might as well pick up this version.

Baten Kaitos – $18

Baten Kaitos, along with Baten Kaitos Origins, are two more RPGs that make their appearance on the GameCube. With virtually no support from SquareEnix, Nintendo lost itself to the RPG crowd, and is going to have a hard time bringing itself back. Baten Kaitos, though, gave the system a game with deep story and worthwhile gameplay, and anyone who owns a copy of it fiercely loves it.

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