Nintendo Cubed: Why I Own A GameCube
My first computer was an Atari 600XL. It had a keyboard, a cartridge slot, and two joysticks. Really basic joysticks - you know the ones, with the rubbery stick, and the big red button. All you could do was move, and fire. My brother Garth and I had two games: Galaxian and Ms. Pac-Man. I loved Ms. Pac-Man. I played it for hours. But I digress.
My first computer was an Atari 600XL. It had a keyboard, a cartridge slot, and two joysticks. Really basic joysticks - you know the ones, with the rubbery stick, and the big red button. All you could do was move, and fire. My brother Garth and I had two games: Galaxian and Ms. Pac-Man. I loved Ms. Pac-Man. I played it for hours. I remember the bittersweet joy of defeating the final level (it had bananas!) only to find that, instead of being rewarded with a happy animation of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man getting together or Junior Pac-Men running around, the level just repeated. What a rip-off.
The next system we had was a Nintendo. With the Nintendo came Tecmo Bowl, my first introduction to the wonderful world of football. In Tecmo Bowl, you were either offense or defense. You picked one of about six plays, hoped (if you were offense) that your opponent didn't pick the same play, or (if you were defense) that you'd chosen the same number. That was pretty much it. It was a blast.
Fast-forward to the winter of 1996. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, bought me an N64 for Christmas. (OK, I asked for it, but she did come through.) In true Nintendo form, it came with only one controller, and no games (more on that later). At first, the controllers were big and awkward, but one quickly became comfortable with the ergonomics. This system was revolutionary. The graphics were awesome, and Mario could run around in three dimensions! Life was good. And Mario Kart... perhaps the best multi-player game ever made. A friend of mine had an N64-dedicated 32" TV and four controllers. Needless to say, he threw the best parties. And within a year, my social life had virtually ended at the hands of Tetrisphere, which besides the main game has a great puzzle section and a wicked techno soundtrack.
After a cross-country move, my N64 spent some time in storage. I played a friend's Dreamcast, and my social life fell prey to yet another video game: Soul Calibur. I don't know if it's the range of characters, the excellent graphics, or the various modes of play (including two-player combat and single-player missions), but Soul Calibur has a very wide-ranging appeal.
But I digress. Just in time for Christmas 2001, Microsoft and Nintendo both released their latest consoles. I'd taken informal surveys of friends who'd played both, and was undecided on which unit I'd want to own. Dilemma solved when Santa (aka my brother and personal video-game guru) came through with a GameCube. Garth had a few reasons for choosing the Nintendo system. His first, and most simple, was that he thought of me as "Nintendo-y." He's probably right... I like stuff that's cute, and Nintendo's reputation as having a lot of "cute" games is earned. I loved the various adventures of Mario and clan, and had a great time with games like South Park and Beetle Racing on the N64 (as well as the aforementioned Mario Kart). Also, the GameCube (CDN $300) was significantly cheaper than the Xbox (CDN $450). Finally, he said he bought me the GameCube over the Xbox because he has a PS2 and he didn't want me to have a better console than him. Hmm.
The box in which the GameCube is packaged is deceptively large. I was delighted to pull out the actual console and find it compact enough to hold in one hand. This unit is made to take to friends' places - it has a handle, and even my mom could hook it up. I found the controls to be an improvement over their predecessors - they are the same shape, but slightly smaller, and of course have a few more buttons (how did we ever manage to play anything when the joystick only had one button?). We went out the day after Christmas and picked up another controller and a memory pack, bringing the total to around CDN $400. (Super Monkey Ball, a trademark "cute" Nintendo game, was part of the gift as well. Even the game discs, mini-CDs, are cute.)
Super Monkey Ball is a fun game, and really well designed, with lots of different play modes. The premise of the game is that you're a monkey, in a ball, and you're trying to complete different courses (and score bananas along the way for extra lives). There are additional games that are unlocked as you gain "play points" (the more you play, the more games you can play). There's a flight-simulator, and monkey bowling. I think my favorite so far is Monkey Race: Up to four players can race on a variety of tracks, a la Mario Kart. Technically, while the graphics aren't a giant leap the way the N64 was from its predecessors, the smoothing is beautiful. Bonus: The controllers include rumble support (you don't need an additional pack like you did with the N64), which means they vibrate when you hit something (or get hit) in the game.
The selection of games available for the GameCube is surprisingly good. The boyfriend picked up a used copy of Madden NFL 2002, and it's awesome. They've included the Texans expansion team, and there's a training feature that's a lot of fun. (There are a lot more play options than Tecmo Bowl, too.) I'm a little disappointed that the first Mario Bros. release features Luigi, but I'll deal. I've heard rumors, but still have no confirmation, that Namco is developing Soul Calibur for release on the GameCube. While that would rock, I'm not holding my breath. Browsing the current titles available and coming soon reveals a wide variety, from Jimmy Neutron to Crazy Taxi, as well as the usual plethora of Xtreme Sports games (like Jeremy McGrath's Supercross World) and action / adventure (including a 007 title). NBA Street is next on my wish list, and hopefully Soul Calibur will be out in time for my birthday in June.
What about you? Gamecube, Xbox, PS2, or diehard PC gamer?