Sizing Things Up

by Rick Powers - August 27, 2000, 10:00 pm PDT

Rick Powers makes a guest-appearence to comment on Spaceworld.

It's been a long time

It's been a long time, and just when it seemed the world couldn't wait any longer he returns. And returns in a BIG way.

Luigi, of course. Who did you think I was referring to?

Surely by now, every Nintendo fan has heard the news of GameCube, the "next-generation" videogame system set to grace US shores in October of next year. And in uncharacteristic fashion, Nintendo bared all for the media showing finished hardware, polished "demos" of what we can expect from GameCube, and even the internals and specs. All they withheld was the price.

Note to Nintendo: $199 looks very good.

But all is not right in the land Nintendo calls SpaceWorld. While the machine is certainly avant-garde, it speaks volumes to the fact that Nintendo wants this machine to be seen as a toy. For a company who is trying very hard to skew their audience a bit older, this is a huge step backward.

And that name! Whichever marketing dropout came up with the blatantly obvious "GameCube" needs a lesson in cool. "Dolphin" was imaginative and already in the subconscious of every Nintendo fan. But "GameCube?" Please. Even Nintendo3 (read: Nintendo Cubed) would have been better slightly reminiscent of the generation before, but just cutting-edge enough to appeal to the more cerebral of us (third dimension, see?).

At least the font is cool.

But the simple name and toyishness of the whole package is clearly geared towards parents looking for the hot gift to buy their kids for Christmas. Nintendo is protecting their existing niche of being a family-friendly company with good, clean, wholesome games. They're relying on the fact that the more "adult" games will bring the older folks running to play with their kids and siblings.

Look out for those Gold and Silver cases those are what all the "big kids" will be gunning for.

Finally, there's the controller itself. While diehard fans are sure to mangle their fingers every-which-way in order to adapt to this new renegade style, others are wondering if Mr. Miyamoto has fallen off his rocker. It's similar enough to the Playstation controller to illicit sharp looks from Sony's lawyers, but just on the outside of awkward for everyone else. Is this supposed to be a machine for the ambidextrous only? While it's obviously learned lessons from the overly awkward Nintendo64 controller, it seems to be taking a step or two back, in offering less buttons and a decidedly strange layout of the ones that were included.

Note to Miyamoto: Repetitive stress injuries are not my idea of a lasting game experience.

All of that aside, we've always said, "It's the games, stupid." And if anyone wasn't absolutely floored by the pictures and videos they've seen so far, then they have no right to call themselves a Nintendo fan. Nintendo has said that "tech demos" shown by other companies do nothing to tell you of the games you could play on the system. Now we know what they meant, as they showed movies (some real-time generated, some rendered on dev kits) showcasing the kinds of experiences we can expect to have on the GameCube.

Despite Nintendo's protests that the video we've witnessed is not game footage, you'd be an idiot to think that all of those are not in the works. Of course, they won't play like that; those were clearly cinematic setups. However, Nintendo has listened to the cries of its fans by delivering Mario (ok, his brother then), Zelda, Metroid, WaveRace all for the product's unveiling. Nintendo's got their guns locked and loaded.

Hell, even Rogue Squadron looked interesting. That's an accomplishment.

Inside that Crayola-colored lunch box, there beats the heart of the system that makes those visuals possible. The ArtX designed chip is everything Nintendo promised, and the Gecko processor is fast enough to handle anything a developer throws at it. It even uses DVD, albeit a smaller, proprietary form of DVD, not the open format many had wished for. Everything else is accounted for: wicked fast RAM, more than a gigabyte of storage, four controller ports, wireless control, modem and Ethernet connectivity even a handle! Which leads one to ask, will Nintendo cover the repair for dropped consoles under warranty? Where do you put the controllers in transit?

And at the end of the day, Nintendo delivered. Huge promises were made, but they delivered on all of them, in spades.

Except that launch date thing. I can't believe that I bought Christmas 2000.

Otherwise it's been an incredibly successful show for Nintendo, and it looks to be an incredibly fun time ahead for us gamers. Not to mention a tremendous battle for the industry. Sony should be shaking word around DevTown is that Nintendo's hardware is a snap to write for, compared to the excruciating pain they call development for PS2. And if Sony is shaking, Sega must be passed out on the bathroom floor.

Microsoft? Are you kidding? They don't fear anything. They're the frickin' Borg, for Pete's sake!

Still, there is a glimmer of hope for those companies looking to stave off the Grim Reaper. Rare was very conspicuous in their absence. Sure, there was a brief glimpse at Joanna Dark, and some Banjo-Kazooie footage, but it was all Rare could muster to get that ready. Is it possible that Nintendo is leaning on Rare to keep the 64-bit console afloat, much like they did for the SuperNES? It's likely, but don't count Rare out. Nintendo knows how valuable those Brits are, and rumor has it they have surprises that just weren't ready to be unveiled yet. And if Rare is listening to it's fans as Nintendo has shown they can, perhaps we'll soon see Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong maybe even Killer Instinct, all on a Cube near us.

Can you say E3 2001? I knew you could

This is just the beginning. Like the mythical Phoenix, rising from the ashes, Nintendo is poised to reclaim the game industry throne. The next fourteen months are sure to be very interesting indeed.

Rick Powers (rickpowers2k@hotmail.com)

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