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How NGC can be a Killer System

by Dustin Wood - April 5, 2001, 12:38 am PDT

Dustin Wood's name sounds like a prank call to Moe Tavern but this won't stop him from explaining what GameCube needs to be a "Killer System." LOOKOUT! He’s jaded & doesn’t mince words!

Now let’s face it, you could’ve just got done making the biggest, highly budgeted, technologically superior game system on the planet and it still wouldn’t be squat if you didn’t have the right games at launch to support it. Sound familiar? The most recent example I can think of is the launch of the Playstation 2. I stood in line for 13 hours to get one of those bad mutha’s the day it came out, and I’m just now getting games for it that make me feel that my investment in it as a game machine is finally starting to pay off. It’s great that I have my own (and very portable) DVD player now and the backward compatibility has given new life to some of my PSX titles. However, would I even notice these features if I had fantastic launch titles to play? No. Were there tons of excellent games even available? No.

I don’t want things to be like that with the launch of the GameCube. I want there to be a plethora of games to choose from on the day it hits stores and I go to pick my system up (who knows how long THAT line will be) – not just a few paltry titles to choose from, one or two “killer apps” among a scattering of mediocre software.

Actually, what I meant to say was I want there to be a plethora of quality third party games to choose from. After all, we all know that Nintendo is going to have THE games to play at launch, but these third party developers need to take a cue and put some time into quality not quantity - I’m sorry to evoke this tired Nintendo phrase but I’m also getting really sick and tired of plunking down the lettuce for a new game system and games, just to feel cheated because the third party games look 300 times better than they control and play.

Increasingly it seems that more thought is put into hyping games and systems opposed to making them enjoyable. That’s wrong somehow.

With Sega now strictly in the software business, this could be a godsend for the GameCube if it can have some killer games ready for launch. Any system with games from both Nintendo and Sega would get any gaming-fool’s attention. We’re already getting Sonic for GameBoy Advance. Come on Sega; make me soil my pants with what you’ve got up your sleeve for your long time arch-nemesis/newfound business partner. Virtua Fighter 4’s a coming for the PS2, so what GC needs is some Streets of Rage, whether or not we get VF4. So what if X-Box is getting “premieres” of franchises like Jet Grind Radio on X-Box? Premiere doesn’t mean exclusive and besides…there is still plenty of Sega love to go around. Sonic seems like an obvious choice but how about Shinobi? Perhaps some Golden Axe? The NGC’s four controller ports would be AWESOME for a new hack-n-slash party game and I know I’m not the only gamer who thinks a new Golden Axe game is long overdue.

But Sega’s new to the third-party game… How about tried and true third-parties? Namco is getting pretty vocal about supporting the Cube we’re bound to see Tekken in some form – apparently Tag Tournament (anyone heard those Virtual Fighter Vs. Tekken rumors?? Could NGC be so lucky?!), Ridge Racer and who knows what else? Capcom has the confirmed, NGC exclusive Resident Evil 0 which should be ready for launch, will Capcom have anything else? A RE game is a lot but any additional Capcom franchises will help give the NGC credit. Konami supposedly could be bringing Metal Gear Solid to GameCube… Whoa. But besides this rumor what do they have to bring? Apparently not Silent Hill 2, claiming the NGC is too kiddie. Whatever. Just give me Castlevania and Contra, don’t let either suck and you’ll be forgiven. EA is the final example I’ll mention, since it’s really good that it has signed on for NGC support. However, I hope that it will have more that souped-up versions of what its PS2 offerings by the time GameCube is released.

Whatever GC projects these and other developers have hidden in the depths of their secret underground laboratories, let’s hope that they scare other third parties into actually putting some more of their time and money into good gameplay and controls instead of the old eye candy. Not that I’m discouraging developers from making games that look sweet or anything, but I’d encourage anyone from the industry out there reading to just spend your budget on the controls and the f@&*ing 3D camera systems. Otherwise games seem overpriced and are underplayed completely and that equals a waste of time and money. Yours AND mine.

The saving grace of the GameCube may not come just from third-parties but Nintendo’s own second-parties. Although many of their projects remain shrouded in mystery, these are all companies that are being kept under the watchful eye of Nintendo, ensuring that flash does not take precedence over function. Nintendo has entrusted these second-parties many of its own franchises: Wave Race, Metroid, 1080… Many, like Silicon Knights are cooking up ambitious projects of their own. Although the names may be new, these second-party developers may play a large part in preventing the NGC launch from being like the Playstation 2’s – not enough quality launch titles. They may even set some good examples for some of the much ballyhooed third-party companies too… We’ll see.

Naturally, since it is more about the actual games than the companies, there are some things that are pretty important this time around. The change from the old cartridge based format alone brings up a whole new issue: LOAD TIMES. Oh, the dreaded load time that comes from a disc format! It’s almost a bigger problem with PS2 on some titles and something that anyone producing software for the NGC seriously needs to take into account. Although load times themselves may be inevitable they don’t have to be annoying.

I remember seeing one or two games in the past that did some intuitive things to cover up load times. I believe it was Ridge Racer for Playstation (if my memory serves me correctly) that had a game you could play during the game loading—an excellent idea to at least cover the load times up by keeping you busy during it. Since Game Boy Advance will hook up to GameCube, mini games on the GBA during load times should be a way to reward us for enduring loads, not punishing us. Nintendo has maintained a very “anti-load time” history over the years so you figure they gotta be trying to do something clever to cover it up.

Multiplayer games should also be a point of focus too. GC should have the power to smoothly do 4 player split screen games without a low frame rate and I don’t think I’m asking too much when I DEMAND that Perfect Dark 2 must not have slowdown in multiplayer. I will not allow this. I will personally maim any developers who do not get this through their heads. Slowdown and low frame rates can no longer be an issue on a next generation system. Compromises had to be made last time – this time, there is no excuse (or shouldn’t be).

I noticed everyone seems to be in a big scurry to move to online console gaming. Hopefully Nintendo will get to sega.net before Sony actually wraps up an exclusive deal. If Nintendo gets left offline, they could suffer greatly. Hopefully in all senses, Nintendo (and it’s licensee’s) has learned from other companies’ mistakes and there is every indication it has big plans online. Will they be ready in time for launch? Let’s hope something is, or is soon.

That’s my take on the important things GameCube needs to dominate. Either way, I know I’ll be waiting in line on launch day, I just hope that my patience is rewarded. C’mon GameCube! We’re counting on you to bring Sony and Microsoft to their knees!

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