Ed's Spaceworld Impressions

by Ed Shih - September 13, 2000, 3:54 pm PDT

Take a look at Ed's impressions of the GameCube unveiling!

Okay, it's been almost 3 weeks since the big night on the GameCube unveiling. Spaceworld 2000 has come and gone and it's about time I officially weighed in on the subject. So without further ado, here are the impressions of this Planet staffer.

Hardware

I'm pretty impressed with the GameCube's hardware design. Admittedly, I'm no tech guru, but from what I know and from listening to people who do know, GameCube is a very sleek piece of gaming goodness. The 8-cm DVD drive seems like a nice compromise between memory capacity, loading speed, and portability. Having an option for a broadband or 56k modem seems like a nice decision that allows Nintendo to use whichever network solution is popular at the time. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, they aren't going to force broadband down everyone's throats, but will certainly use it if it viable at launch. The easy connectivity to Game Boy Advance is one of the most exciting aspects of GameCube for me. Hopefully, developers will be able to create unique ways for the two systems to interact and revolutionize the way gamers experience console and handheld games. As for the specs, while they may be confusing and the official polygon count may be disappointing in comparison to PS2 and Xbox, the "rumors" from some guy name "J" at Factor 5 have helped set the record straight. The hardware is powerful, easy to work with, and capable of pushing more polygons than the official number. Apparently, the Gecko CPU, "Cubesynth" GPU, 1T-SRAM, S3 texture compression, and every other piece of the GameCube work together very nicely to produce the stunning graphics we saw in the tech demos...which gives me a "clever" chance to segue into my impressions on the...

Tech Demos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much can you get for a few minutes of video? Probably the highlight of Spaceworld 2000, the tech demos are the best example of what gamers can look forward to in the coming years. While they, ahem, "may not represent actual games in development" and, um, are "simply technical demonstrations of what gameplay may look like" on the GameCube console, the demos certainly captured my imagination. They definitely show off one of Nintendo's greatest strengths, their premier game franchises. What better way to entice gamers than revealing "tech demos" of their favorite franchises? I'm sure I'm not the only one who saw his dreams of new Metroid, Zelda, Mario, Wave Race, and Star Wars games realized by these brief videos...and I'm sure my little cousins would be similarly enthralled with the Pokemon clip. Oh, and let's not forget the interactive "Mario 128" demo which showed that the power needed to do the "tech demos" in real-time should be readily available on the GameCube. The polygon numbers and other system specs are pretty much obscured when you look at the actual videos in action. If they truly represent the capabilities of the GameCube, Nintendo fans will be in for a real treat that'll make the long wait worth it all.

System and Controller Design

I'll probably reserve final judgement on the controller until I get a chance to hold it. However, it looks cool in a weird kind of way. I like the idea of the camera stick. The main action button with the 3 satellite buttons seems cool, too. I didn't mind it on the IGN64 mock-up and the ideas really starting to grow on me now. Plus, Nintendo only made the shoulder buttons analog which I like a lot. I've always felt that face buttons don't have the right degree of movement to provide good analog support and it seems like the people at Nintendo feel the same way. So on the whole, I'm very happy with the controller design and may fall in love with it completely once I get my hands on one (hopefully at GDC 2001, but probably E3 2001). Heh, none of that "make all the buttons analog and call it revolutionary" approach here! No sir, this is Nintendo, and they have the balls to try to revolutionize controller designs. I wonder how long before we see the Dual Shock 3, with only analog shoulder buttons, resized action buttons, and the position swapping of the right analog stick with the movement buttons? I'm betting on summer 2001.

As for the design of the actual GameCube... well, I think it's neat. Cool in a sort of retro way, I think. Admittedly, it does not have a very high tech, 21st century look to it (well, maybe a Buck Rodgers 21st century look to it) but I'm fine with that. However, as a plain utilitarian cube, I could see some marketing problems with the hip Playstation gaming crowd. But with the right color schemes, some highlights/styling on the final system and a good logo, the GameCube could definitely look a lot cooler to the U.S. crowd. I don't think the name is a big problem either. I like it better than StarCube and it goes along with the GameBoy name (though, technically, shouldn't GameBoy then look like a boy?). Of course, hardcore gamers could care less about the console's look and name but, instead, will concentrate on the look and play of the games, areas in which Nintendo should excel.

Peripherals

Two peripherals stand out immediately to me; the SD memory card and the Wavebird wireless controller. The SD memory card will allow large amounts of game data to be saved on a portable rewritable medium. This could actually Miyamoto and other game developers to utilize new gameplay ideas that never saw the light of day with the 64DD's demise. Perhaps that failed experiment will provide something useful after all. Hmm, I wonder if the Virtual Boy will provide any useful ideas in the future? :> And the Wavebird? Well, it's been a long time coming, tha's for sure. I think I can go back to at least my NES gaming days to when I wanted a good wireless controller. Judging from Miyamoto's public demonstration, it seems Nintendo has finally delivered the goods. I just hope Wavebirds don't end up getting misplaced like so many other types of remote controllers.

As for the other peripherals, well, I covered the modems in the Hardware section. The normal memory card doesn't seem to warrant much comment, other than the fact that it is fairly small on memory capacity. I hope they don't cost too much, though I think I'll use an SD memory card most of the time anyway. The digital video cable is a nice extra, though. It should let those with HDTV and kick-ass monitors to enjoy their GameCube video experience even more. And I think that about covers it. Spaceworld 2000 gave a lot of answers at once, let's hope that's not all there is until E3 2001.

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