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by the NWR Staff - December 28, 2001, 10:40 pm PST

The last Mailbag of the year! Get the scoops on 3rd party accessories, football games, LucasArts, Eternal Darkness, and the "kiddie" image... again.

MontyBurns asks, With brands such as Interact and

Mad Catz toiling away to making game equipment, what in your opinion would be worth buying

and what should we stay away from? I'd like to hear your opinions, since I'm tired of

buying the so called best things, only to have a piece of junk an hour later.

TYP Says: I don't know about the other staffers,

but I'm reluctant to say anything. We have hardware reviews for these sort of things, but

as you can see from the lack of reviews, we prefer to stick with 1st party stuff. From my

limited experience, you don't usually have to worry about 3rd party A/V cables or

extension cables, but controllers are way too risky. Overall, peripherals for both

handhelds and systems are quite hit-and-miss (though there are a lot more for handhelds).

The same company can make a great product and then another that's a piece of trash.

Rick Says: I have yet to find a third-party piece

of equipment that was better than the original.

Third-party is fine whe there is no first-party alternative, but there's a very good

reason why most of us never BUY any third-party controllers or memory cards.

Mike S. Says: I would NEVER trust a third party

memory card. Those things have a torrid history of just losing data for no reason. As for

controllers, I usually stick first party. Nintendo's gear in general is much better than

the competition's. For things that Nintendo doesn't make, like LCD screens and the like, I

guess it'd be ok to go 3rd party.

Rize Says: I have a friend who put some cash down

on a 3rd party controller. I should try to borrow it for a while and do a review. To be

honest though, although the workmanship of Nintendo's controller is very high quality, it

does have its flaws. For one, the d-pad really is too small. If you try to play Tony Hawk

3 with it for too long, you might need bandages for your thumb. Then there's the whole

button collapsing thing. My B button is now completely deflated (although it does work

just as well, it is now sensitive to the slightest touch rather than a firm press). Maybe

it wouldn't be a bad idea to try out a 3rd party Cube controller. Just keep an eye out for

shoddy designs. I've seen 3rd party N64 controllers with broken analog sticks (that is,

they top is broken off). As for memory cards, stick with Nintendo or you may regret it.

Ty Says: I'd have to disagree about Nintendo's own

control pad, I've played hours upon hours of Tony Hawk with it and my thumb feels fine...

As for the 3rd party ones, I've bought the Mad Catz, InterAct, and Pelican ones - while

none of them are as good as Nintendo's, they ARE worth the $20. If I were pressed to pick

a favorite, I'd have to say, ah, the Pelican one.

Jonathan Says: I circumvent the D-pad issue

altogether by playing THPS3 with the joystick. Suck on that, Trebek.

As for third-party stuff...my universal advice is to stay away from it. Occasionally

something comes along of excellent quality, but that happens so rarely that it's not worth

worrying about. I'll agree with Rize that Nintendo's first-party GameCube controller isn't

quite as durable as its products usually are... I can already feel my primary black

controller's buttons and triggers softening, but then I've played the hell out it.

Regardless, the difference in quality and compatibility is worth the five dollars more you

have to spend on first-party gear. The only exception to this rule is officially licensed

hardware, but Nintendo doesn't really license hardware these days. I think probably their

standards for the licensing process were so high that the third-party companies just said

screw it.

Mike H. Says: I did a

href="http://www.planetgamecube.com/reviews.cfm?action=hwprofile&id=49">review for

Interact's SuperPad, and I was generally satisfied with it. I wouldn't recommend it for

control-precision games like Super Monkey Ball. No controllers out there are better than

Nintendo's, but I don't think that makes them crap all around. Nintendo just makes really

great stuff in general, and everything else is (sometimes unjustly) considered secondary.

I would recommend 3rd party controllers only for those on a tight budget.

As for memory cards, I'll get my hands on Interact's Mega

Memory 16x pretty soon. We'll see how that goes, as Interact claims that it has,

"undergone rigorous testing to virtually eliminate file corruption and lost

saves." We'll see about that.

Mike asks, I’m a big football fan, and especially one of NCAA football. I was

wondering if EA or Sega intended to release there college football games?

Jonathan Says: Starting in fall 2002, all Visual

Concepts Sega Sports games will appear on all three platforms, and simultaneously at that.

So next year, GameCube will be getting NFL2k3, NBA2k3, etc. at exactly the same time as

PS2 and Xbox. I don't think a new college football game has been announced from Sega

Sports, but if it ever is, it'll come to GameCube too. With EA, I'm not so sure, but their

GameCube support is already looking better than their N64 support. We'll just have to see.

Chewie asks, Have you heard of anything about any Lucas Arts adventure games? Maybe a port

of Escape from Monkey Island or a GameCube version of Sam and Max?

Also I'd like to say that you guys kick major ass. This isn't one of those, "if I

suck up I'll get my letter posted" letters. You really do kick ass. PGC Rules.

Mike H. Says: Yes it is. And it worked.

TYP Says: What I say is probably so outdated that it's funny. Back in January I had

an interview

with Hal Barwood (Sorry about all of those vocal fillers I decided to leave in... It

was my first day on the job!) Anyway, Hal himself didn't seem all too excited about the

GCN at the time, but he wasn't pessimistic--just unsure. Before GCN launch, I would have

said "One LA-designed multi-platform game to test the waters," but after RL2's

success, I guarantee you the company is taking the system more seriously. What will we get

from LucasArts itself? I honestly don't know, but I'd still put my money on some sort of


Mike S. Says: Personally, I really have no faith

in LucasArts anymore. To me, everything they have developed after Dark Forces II: Jedi

Knight has been just plain bad. I'm really glad people like Factor 5 exist to make good

Star Wars games for LucasArts to publish. I'm hopeful that the new Sam & Max game will

make it to the cube, because the first was funny as hell and also fantastic. But no, I

myself haven't heard anything about it.

Jonathan Says: Actually, I hated Dark Forces too.

But I'll tell you one LucasArts game that still brings a twinkle to my eye... TIE Fighter.

I'd give my left nut to have a new TIE Fighter on GameCube.

Someone asks, Eternal Darkness is supposedly 60-70 hours of gameplay, but it's a

one-player game. So, are there are an unbelievable amount of levels? I mean, no Zelda game

ever took me that long to beat. Also, what's up with Too Human? It looks awesome, but has

it been thrown under the rug till ED is out?

Mike S. Says: 60 hours is a long

time, but it's not like a game hasn't hit that before. Skies of Arcadia, one of the best

RPGs (if not THE BEST RPG) ever, took me about 60 hours to complete.

As for ED, there will probably be a ton of secret stuff in the game. That 60 hour estimate

is probably the time it takes to beat the game and get everything you possibly can.

Rize Says: Well, ED is supposed to contain quite a

bit of story telling. That could attribute some length to the game. However, even Metal

Gear Solid 2, which had a huge story, only took me about 14 hours to complete. We've heard

that there are also three different ways to complete the game (each "path" is

selected in the first area of the game). We honestly don't have any clue what will be

different according to the path you choose, but it's supposedly going to be enough to

warrant replaying through the game two extra times. Even if the game is only 40 hours for

a good player, it should still have quite a bit of replay value.

Jonathan Says: First, let me reiterate that we

know absolutely nothing about ED's story or really even its overall design (as in, how

everything is tied together and played out). I can tell you that we'll definitely have a

lot more info on the game next month, but the story will probably remain mostly secret

until the game is actually on the shelves in early February.

Now then, I can give you a bit of speculation and intuition. If you look at Eternal

Darkness as a Resident Evil clone, yeah, it's hard to imagine how it's gonna be such a

long game. That's why you should realize that the two games are actually MUCH different,

and it looks like ED will be more of a traditional adventure game... a really scary Zelda,

if you will. At least that's how I'm envisioning it for now. Rize made an excellent point

about the story being a major factor. Another thing to understand is that Eternal Darkness

has been in development for around four years now... that's a LOT of time to flesh the

game out and give the player lots to do.

Not that I trust most developers' time estimations (heh), but I think Silicon Knights has

projected about 40 to 60 hours for the average player to beat Eternal Darkness. That's

taking one of the three paths. Hardcore fans can play through all of that two more times

via the other paths, and although we don't know just how different the paths are, Denis

Dyack has assured us that they're unique enough to make the effort worthwhile to devoted

fans. Plus, there are reportedly TONS of possible endings, with probably at least one only

possible if you beat the game on all three paths. It wouldn't surprise me to see something

like Chrono Trigger's New Game + as an option.

Seriously, although I don't have any details right now, I can promise you that Eternal

Darkness will be a huge game. A dozen playable characters practically assure that, and

don't be fooled by the ten-minute mini-quests they each had in the E3 and Cube Club demos.

Chris rants, About the only reason this video game industry revolutionizes is

because of Nintendo. They innovate controllers and gameplay mechanics with each new system

they bring out, and every other game designer (except a few) take the control schemes and

ideas and run with them. Mario 64 and Zelda single-handedly made almost every game great

because of the control innovations THEY introduced, and everyone one else copied. Yet

everyone calls Nintendo "kiddy".

Well if Nintendo is so "kiddy," then why do these "mature" game

creators rape the controls from Mario and Zelda, which are suppose to be for

"kids," throw in some dark story, and then get praised for it? All I have to say

is this... if everyone thinks that Nintendo sucks, or Nintendo is just for kids, I want

you to find a great 3D adventure game that doesn't have key features such as z-targeting

with a combination of Mario 64 controls. The only ones that come to mind are Metal Gear

and Resident Evil. The industry needs Nintendo, and Sony proved it, that's why they still

have the same controller right now.

This is not to say no developer is creative anymore. Shinji Mikami, Hideo Kojima, and the

whole Sega squad can speak for themselves. It's just that Nintendo is, for the most part,

THE revolutionary of this industry, and they have the proof to back it up.

Mike H. Says: Nintendo is absolutely the crown

innovator, but that's not to dismiss the great efforts by the many others.

Great ideas can come from games designed for a younger

audience too. "Kiddy" doesn't equate to "inferior."

Frankly, in my opinion, as an old friend of mine so elegantly put it (shout out to Vito),

people that insist Nintendo doesn't cater to kids needs to come out of denial. The Mario

cast? Pokemon? Kirby? Trading cards? Saturday morning cartoons? Kid cereals? Figures?

Stuffed toys?

Come on. I don't see many Mario shot glasses or Kirby hunting gear.

That said, I don't mind one bit that Nintendo caters to kids. I play games for fun, and

that sometimes includes feeling like a kid again! Ok... a lot of times. I don't see

anything wrong with it. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with those that like

Nintendo's games that aren't precisely in Nintendo's target audiences either.

Nintendo being "uncool" because it's "kiddy" is a marketing strategy

that has existed since Genesis vs. SNES. Sega knew, and now Sony and MS know that Nintendo

absolutely owns the younger audience, so of course they deliberately target and market

their consoles elsewhere to be an effective alternative... filling the void. They're

simply focusing on different markets. As little respect Nintendo gets from some hardcore

MS and Sony fans, they can never take away the innovations that anybody has accomplished,

deny it if they choose. Many developers will admit that Nintendo's innovations influence

their work, directly or indirectly. Your frustration shouldn't be with any developers. The

fans tooting the "mature" horn are making the noise.

Of course, I'm preaching to the choir. Those that dislike Nintendo for whatever reasons

aren't going to change their minds by anything you tell them. And likewise, they won't

change our opinions either. As the saying goes, for those that understand, no explanation

is needed. For those that don't, no explanation will do.

Just as an FYI: None of the Top 20 games

sold in 1999 were rated M. And in 2000, only one of the Top 20 games was

rated M. This is from IDSA data. It sort of deflates the suggestion that Mature is the way

to go.

Rick Says: Mike said a lot of accurate things. But

to add...

Nintendo doesn't just market to kids. It also markets to FAMILIES. Nintendo is a company

that parents can feel good about not only buying for their kids, but enjoying WITH them.

Sony and Microsoft want to be the cool, hip console companies. Nintendo is satisfied with

getting the business of everyone MATURE enough to not care about that kind of stuff.

Mike S. Says: Yeah Nintendo innovates but you

really can't forget about Sega. That company is innovative to the max. The problem is,

they were so innovative that it kinda hurt them. Their products, at times, were just too

wacky and out there to be accepted by the general public. So, the critics called these

games great and then a bunch of other companies took the ideas and "dumbed them

down" to be more acceptable in the mainstream market.

Rize Says: To be honest, the only Sega game I've

ever really enjoyed is Super Monkey Ball. I love that game to death! As for the whole

"Nintendo is kiddy" thing, it's unfortunate, but there isn't much to be done

about it. This started far before the SNES and Genesis battles. The "in" thing

has been around for decades in many other markets, and it isn't always the best thing.

The only thing Nintendo can do is fight back at the risk

of losing their reputation with parents/kids and never gaining one with the

"in" crowd. Where would that leave them? To be honest, I think Microsoft has a

good chance of taking Sony's place in the United States sometime in the future. If

Nintendo continues to provide a solid platform for the younger generations in this market

as well as Japan's, perhaps we'll see more popular Japanese games made for or ported to

Nintendo's systems (considering that it would be easy to port it to the US as well, where

as a PS3 game would have to be ported to XBox2 to hit the same market over here). This is

all very hypothetical to be sure, but who knows where we'll be five years from now!

Jonathan Says: Nintendo is the Disney of the

gaming industry, except without all the gay sex references. The games are essentially for

kids, but with enough sophistication and style that older siblings and parents can enjoy

them too. I don't have a problem with that, as long as Nintendo gives a bit of freedom to

its (highly talented) second-parties to make what they want, even if that means something

only for the older crowd. I don't expect Shiggy to bust out his own gory first-person

shooter, but I don't want him censoring second-parties who do. Nintendo's second-party

strategy is just starting to really get into high gear, and I think the whole industry

will see the brilliance of it within a couple of years. Nintendo themselves can keep

making kids games for their core audience, while their subsidiaries make games for teen

and mature audiences...we gamers have our cake and eat it too. To say that GameCube itself

is a kiddie system is ludicrous; a console's image can only (or rather, should only)

be defined by its game library, and I expect GameCube's overall library to be about half

"kiddie" and half non-kiddie when it's all said and done. That's a pretty good

ratio IMO, and I'm sure Nintendo's market analysts feel the same way.

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