Jonny takes a look back at the GameCube’s launch lineup and shows which titles stood the test of time. You might be surprised...
Other than not having a true Mario game, most of us were fairly pleased with the GameCube’s initial software lineup for North America. But how have the first GameCube titles stood up against time? I thought it might be interesting to look back at the launch games I bought or rented to see how well they lasted.
After reading Billy’s impressions and review of this game after the Japanese launch, I already knew that it wouldn’t be a purchase for me. However, I still wanted to play it, if nothing else than to prove to myself that I was right for not laying down the $50. So as soon as Blockbuster got their first set of GameCube software to rent, I picked up LM and laid into it hardcore. I’ll spare the full review, but suffice it to say that I found it to be a fun but far too limited experience...not just in the brevity, but in the scope of the gameplay itself. It felt like a mini-game taken way too far (and yet somehow not far enough). Luigi’s Mansion is probably a game I’ll want to rent again someday just to experience again, but otherwise its replay and lasting value are very low.
Star Wars: Rogue Leader
For many, Rogue Leader was the true “system seller” for launch. It is certainly a beautiful game with many challenging, interesting missions. However, much like its predecessors on N64, Rogue Leader was a short-lived experience for me. I plowed through the dozen or so missions very quickly and spent a couple of days finding upgrades and trying to earn the easiest medals. Since then I’ve gone back a time or two to try for more medals, but the difficulty of earning them turned me off before long. Now it’s probably been almost two months since I played RL. Don’t get me wrong...I do feel that I got my money’s worth out of the game, but it’s just not a particularly long game. I feel kind of bad for those who bought it and are even suckier than me, because they’ll get an even shorter experience. The worst part is that Rogue Leader is so good...we want to keep playing forever! I really hope Factor 5’s next game of this type will have multiplayer of some kind, randomized missions, multiple missions per environment, a more forgiving bonus system...anything to stretch the game out.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
This was somewhat of a surprise launch title, or as close to one as possible. Neversoft really harnessed the power of GameCube to port their smash hit PS2 title in record time. Unfortunately, the port wasn’t 100% clean, with a few framerate problems here and there and the loss of online play (which is Nintendo’s fault), but THPS3’s gameplay overcomes those nit-picks to deliver a fantastic experience. Although the game can be beaten very quickly once you become proficient with the trick system, it’s worth it to play again and again for alternate mission objectives with different characters and for the opportunity to unlock some thirty or so hidden bonuses. THPS3 is one of the few GameCube launch titles I still pop in frequently, if only for a quick run around the Airport or maybe an hour (or four) of two-player mode. In retrospect, I’m not sure if I wish Neversoft had taken a bit more time with the port; stable framerates and maybe an extra level would have been awesome, but it was so amazing to have this PS2 system-seller available for the GameCube launch...
Super Monkey Ball
A pretty weird game in the Sega tradition, Super Monkey Ball was considered by many to be a sleeper hit for the GameCube launch. Extremely simple and yet inherently playable and atrociously fun, SMB won the hearts of many who doubted its depth prior to the launch...including yours truly. In my case, Super Monkey Ball has stood the test of time better than any of its peers. There’s enough breadth and challenge to the single-player mode to last quite a long time (although the game could be a bit less frustrating), but the multiplayer modes make this game chock full of value and replayability. I still have people come by all the time wanting to play a round of Monkey Target or Monkey Fight, and my sister is an expert at Monkey Golf. Super Monkey Ball was a game that may not have garnered much attention during the launch, but I look back with more affection for this little arcade port than any other GameCube title release at the time.
Wave Race: Blue Storm
I actually didn’t get around to playing the final version of Blue Storm until January. Maybe I could have appreciated more back at launch when I had fewer choices; as it is, I found BS to be a very promising game with many, many flaws in balance, physics (mainly the physics out of the water), and learning curve. Please note that I am NOT simply complaining about the controls, which are pretty good once you get used to them. The game is simply too hard, which is acceptable in the later circuits, but an experienced gamer like me shouldn’t be cussing at the game on the second or third track. It’s too bad, because there’s a ton of potential replay in the numerous levels and all the weather patterns that can so drastically affect each one. As it is, Blue Storm is so abusively difficult that I gave up long before unlocking those possibilities. I’ll rent it again if I ever get a GameShark.
So that’s that. Three months later, GameCube’s launch lineup (or at least the games I played) looks to be above average, but with no supreme stand-out title that I’m still playing all the time. (GTA3 on my buddy’s PS2, on the other hand...) Luckily we’ve gotten some pretty cool games since launch, if sparsely so. Pikmin is short-lived but mind-numbingly addictive while it lasts. (I beat the game and immediately started a new file from scratch, something I’ve never done before.) SSB Melee is premium in every sense of the word and deserves to still be played daily if you have friends who also dig it. On the whole though, I don’t think GameCube has really carved out an identity for itself via the software library. Let’s hope that changes this summer and on into the holiday season with the advent of Mario and a few other key first- and second-party games.