Triforce

by Aldo Merino - March 4, 2002, 2:05 am PST

PGC welcomes longtime colleague Aldo Merino to our ranks with a look at Nintendo’s new arcade hardware made in collaboration with Namco & Sega. The Legend of the Triforce is just beginning…

Although any real concrete GameCube news has certainly been sluggish in the last few weeks, seemingly limited to only more screenshots of Resident Evil, Metroid Prime and Mario Sunshine gradually seeping through to the public, one of the bigger announcements has certainly come as a bit of a surprise. Back in September 2001, Nintendo, Namco, and Sega all jointly entered an agreement to “to expand arcade video game market; to create a cost- effective environment for arcade video game development; and to establish a totally new game system that will bridge game play between the home and amusement facilities.” An interesting move as Nintendo has pulled away an distanced themselves from the arcade scene for around 20 years now, thanks in large part to due its booming home console business which has proven to be its bread and butter of income in those last two decades.

But with the globally languid arcade market (you know something’s wrong when long standing arcade player, Midway, had to pull out due to unprofitable investments), it seems that a little stimulation is in order, something Nintendo could play a big role in if the Triforce takes off. There are several interesting aspects to this agreement, which could have some very positive for ramifications for Nintendo and the GameCube. Clearly, by utilizing the GameCube technology in the arcade board, the three companies are looking to streamline a lot of expenditures, by altogether avoiding the need to rally up technology, manpower, and money needed to create a new one. Perhaps it’s a bit ironic that in this day and age, it’s taking a home console’s power to fuel a new series of arcade games, where up until only around three years ago, arcades clearly had the superior graphical advantage.

Some would argue that the GameCube hardware is dated material; that it won’t capture the fickle arcade audience’s eye as much as new hardware would or even more powerful technology, such as that seen in Microsoft’s Xbox (Ed. note: the GameCube’s CPU and graphics chip, Flipper, are used in the actual Triforce circuit board). There’s certainly an air of truth to that argument, but a limited one. Although outdated, the GameCube hardware should be more than sufficient to power some amazing projects, as between Factor’s 5 first-generation crack at the hardware with Rogue Leader and the first demo shots taken from the AOU 2002, there’s definitely a lot of potential for developers to produce some amazing looking arcade titles. Nintendo’s maintained from Day One that the GameCube hardware would be developer friendly, cost effective, and efficient, and from all reports, it certainly seems they’ve done just that. Amusement Vision is already tapping into the hardware, with what looks like a port of Virtua Striker 3 running on the Triforce hardware or, although less likely, Virtua Striker 4.

But there’s undeniably more good news to this announcement, which points to implications that we may be hearing some big rumblings in developer support for the arcade system and, if Miyamoto-san’s words are any indication, for the GameCube as well. In a recent interview in Europe, Miyamoto noted that other companies are, obviously, more than welcome to develop for the Triforce, including companies like Capcom which he firmly believes will develop arcade games based around the Triforce architecture. Further more, Miyamoto-san clearly laid the way for a big surprise announcement in March or April, where he states, “I’m sure it will surprise you quite a lot.” Looks like the developer support will expand from beyond the Big Three arcade developers (Sega, Namco, and Capcom) and include some new faces, although there’s no indication as to whether we’ll be looking at big wigs that typically adhere to home console development or a long laundry list of smaller developers. For Nintendo’s re-entry into the arcade business, it seems they’re making the rounds to ensure healthy support, which shouldn’t be surprising as Nintendo seems intent to making this venture a profitable one.

One other positive indication for non-arcade goers, is Miyamoto’s last point during the course of this interview: “Another important point is that whatever software is made for Triforce will be readily available for GameCube.” Whether this is a stipulation in the agreement for developers to create games for the Triforce or not is unclear, but it could simply mean that developers will be more inclined to porting Triforce games to the GameCube to offset game development costs and increase profits; this is a cost effective measure after all. Although the GameCube is getting its share of PS2 ports, arcade ports are almost like new games as they don’t exist on other home console platforms. Now whether you’ll argue the longevity issue over arcade games, I don’t think anyone GameCube owner would object to seeing Amusement Vision’s long rumored Planet Harriers show up on GameCube.

However, let’s put a little perspective on things while we address this point: Namco and Sega’s (both are long standing arcade supporters) previous arcade board partner was none other than Sony, where they produced the PS2-compatible System 246 arcade board. So what games used it, you ask? Games like Soul Caliber 2, Tekken 4, Bloody Roar 3, Vampire Night, and Ridge Racer V Battle to name a few; and if I’m not mistaken, AM2’s Virtua Fighter 4 as well. Add Capcom’s arcade games into the mix, including the Marvel vs. Capcom and Street Fighter franchises, and we have one of the best fighting line-ups one could hope to see on a console (something the PS2 is benefiting from as a result of that partnership). Although it’s wishful thinking to expect to see a repeat of all those big name franchises on the GameCube, as arcade hardware typically suffers from a shorter lifespan than home consoles’ technology, it would be a step in the right direction.

And a step in the right direction is definitely a good thing. Let’s just hope things don’t get dela ---, no scratch that, let’s not jinx ourselves.

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