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My Belated Impressions

by Justin Nation - September 5, 2000, 10:00 pm EDT

After taking a moment to absorb everything slopped onto his plate at SpaceWorld, Justin Nation is ready to dig in while sharing it with everyone else...

OK, OK, OK... so I've been slacking. Sort of. It figures that on the very day the smack came down from Japan when GameCube was unveiled my wife ended up mashing her finger in the sliding door to the van, necessitating a trip to the hospital, stitches, and me generally taking over care of the baby. At least I had time to enjoy some movies first. Anyway, so my ever-so-egotistical buddy Rick has managed to come back from the grave to give his impressions (as well as try to take some credit for Planet reaching 1 million hits, gotta love him) so now it is time that I got around to mine. So here goes, hopefully I'll touch on all of the bases people would like.

The Name

Eh, I know many people may not be enamored with it but considering the history Nintendo has in this area (Nintendo Entertainment System, Ooooh, the SUPER Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64)... well hopefully you get my point. The way I see it they're thinking the GameBoy is a dumb name too but since it has managed to rake them in zillio-millions over its lifespan why not abuse that stating the obvious naming convention. Honestly the name Star Cube had become bearable to me as well by the time of the unveiling, so with Star Cube as the other option GameCube sounds almost cool. I do agree though, a system named Dolphin would have had its own coolness, especially with a translucent blue casing ala iMac. Oh well, the world keeps on turning regardless.

Grade: B

The Specs

Well, I've seen people being very critical in this area concerned with the smaller amount of total RAM than some may have hoped for. Hell, I was hoping for a RAM filled ass-whooping machine too. Thing is, as long as it is getting the job done reasonably better than the likes of the PS2 and the price point is still significantly lower then I don't think Nintendo has done anything wrong. Lets face it, the specs don't matter as long as what you see on the screen is impressive and low amounts of RAM or not I believe Nintendo is delivering very well in that area. Now, of course people can bring up X-Box and the oodles of RAM it will possess in comparison. Of course it needs that much RAM if it wants to play PC games, there are PC games out there basically requiring 64 MB of RAM just to boot them up. Add in support for DirectX and other API goodies Microsoft puts in to make things easier on developers and you really probably will need a good chunk of that RAM to make it all work smoothly. Basically X-Box will be much more than just a gaming machine... it will also have to make itself a quasi-PC, which will require sacrifices somewhere. So all things considered people are going to nit pick the specs until the machine is in their hands and the games make them forget about them. A good showing, enough to put down the competition short of X-Box, and a good strength considering Nintendo's machine will remain game-only.

Grade: B+

The Controller

Well, just as with the unveiling of the N64 controller I think there is a little bit to have to get used to. At first glance it looks a bit odd and one has to wonder how it could possibly be comfortable to hold that funky thing. Funny thing is though, Nintendo has absolutely never failed to deliver on a comfortable (for the majority of people), functional, and effective controller since at least the SNES days. As long as comfort isn't a factor Nintendo seems to actually have every base covered in spades with this puppy too. A ton of buttons that are finally laid out in a glance-free way (think about it, if you have a big button as home base, finding the others should be simple... I often couldn't quickly keep track of which c-button I was using in a pinch), analog shoulder buttons that look nicely contoured to make holding the controller more comfortable, and the camera stick may just be the next big thing if Nintendo implements it well in their launch titles showing people how it is done (which they'll inevitably do). Even being odd I would easily predict that the only people they have to worry about making a better controller are the folks in Redmond, Washington. Laugh if you want at me saying Microsoft could deliver in this area but as an avid PC gamer I don't usually buy any controllers that aren't made by Microsoft anymore. They make some very comfortable, reliable, and highly functional controllers. It will be interesting to see how they enter the console field since up till now they've never produced an integrated controller that acts as both a gamepad and a joystick. A likely Nintendo win all around.

Grade: A

The Look

While I may have never been a fan of Apple computers there is one area where the company excels... in marketing. With the iMac Apple managed to generate itself a ton of free publicity and interest from people who may have never paid them attention before purely based on aesthetics. The iMacs look very slick and if Nintendo is determined to go in that vein then I don't think it is at all a bad thing. Even though some people in the States may be turned away by the more "toyishness" of the GameCube look I think that overall this look will do them more good than bad. If people are determined to look at anything Nintendo puts out as being for kids they'll think that way regardless, why not appeal to those people who like something trendy and aesthetically functional (though compared to the butt-ugly PS2 it wouldn't have taken much to outdo Sony in that department). I'm glad, though, that those may not be the final colors... I had a hard time picking which one I'd most like to have. Not in to the metallic thing but at the same time plain old Nintendo black would seem to be a waste. Oh, and I LOVE the handle on it, another brilliant marketing gimmick when paired with its small size and (I'm assuming) light weight. It is brilliant to emphasize portability to people and being able to just pick it up and go is a good thing.

Grade: A+

The Peripherals

Uhmmm... Wireless Controller... 64 MB flash card capability... Both 56k and broadband modem support... *drool*

Grade: A+

The Games

Yes indeed, it does all come down to the games. While Rare was a no-show and we didn't see even hints of any of Retro's sports titles, let alone any games from third party companies that are sure to be out there in force... already it looks like Nintendo is going to be ready with some big guns for GameCube. While Nintendo chose to play coy and say that the demos weren't necessarily representing games in active development (I'd consider that a good thing in the case of Zelda) you know that many of those shown are... and what we saw was pretty impressive.

Whether you like Pokemon or not just take a long look at the Meowth party... in particular look at Meowth. We're talking a lack of polygon edges people, he looks like he's made entirely of curved lines. Now, this may have been a trick with a lack of environmental elements to take away from the polys they could throw at him, or to do with other factors, but just the fact that you saw that at all makes you think ahead to second and third generation games where we could be seeing such things beginning to show up... that would be impressive.

Luigi's demo... wow. Not only was it fast and furious while looking good, it also was a real world demonstration of what Miyamoto has been promising. While the haunted house certainly looked cartoony and the ghosts still had a Disney-ish quality, what a progression this look is. Without the barriers of system power and media size making them stick to the primary-colored, super happy worlds it appears with GameCube Nintendo may be flexing the boundaries and pushing into new territory... promising indeed.

Metroid and the official return of Samus Aran... oh man. While it wasn't much, the sight of the swarming aliens chasing her down the corridor (there were freaking TONS of them) was enough to put my interest into overdrive. Mix that sort of scene, with her blasting away at the alien hordes, with terrifying sci-fi level bosses that you have to use every ability you've accumulated in order to defeat, and this could be the HUGE impact game that we've all been hoping it could be. Miyamoto and Nintendo even joking on this one not being in development was a nervous laugh on the part of the gaming press everywhere... they're just continuing to pull our chains, right?

The Mario 128 Demo... HAHAHAHAHA, leave it to Nintendo to find the most f#$&ed up way possible to demonstrate the power of the system. That said, the demo was damned impressive while absolutely pissing on the power of the N64. While their behaviors were pretty basic and repetitive it was still impressive to see 128 of those little buggers moving around independently at once... and even more impressive when mixed with Miyamoto deforming the actual environment they were in. Additionally, something about this demo showed me that Nintendo seems to be finding a way to show more of their flair for showmanship than usual... with things like the surface turning into a pizza in the demo. Nintendo could finally be loosening up a little, go figure.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron... wow. Let me say it again... WOW. Actually, I'll even upgrade that to a HOLY $#!T! I was already sporting a serious woody when they showed the full squadron of X-Wings coming towards the Death Star ala the movie itself (though you guys missed the heads turning in the cockpit... tsk tsk) but when they showed the scattering TIE Fighters flying in all directions as you approached them. Oh man, almost enough to give a guy a heart attack with a pure excitement injection. Mix that with Factor 5's trademark incredible sound and my Dolby 5.1 surround sound setup? Oh my, looks like I'll be joining the Rebel forces big time when GameCube finally makes its debut.

You knew it was coming. I have to say something about Wave Race. As an opener it was pretty good. The reflections on the water were WAY high though and I found that to be very distracting. Also, the flip really looked awkward and unrealistic... there needs to be some tweaking. I did very much like the water effects when the riders turned though. At first when I heard a description of the somewhat blurring effect they used to do it I thought it sounded odd. Seeing it happen though, wow, that looks very cool. My one major beef, though I'm sure Nintendo may not want to show it all just yet, is that we didn't get to see any big waves and that's what made Wave Race so special. Anymore when I play I need to set it on maximum chop and even that isn't enough for me. If I had my way there would be a Perfect Storm caliber setting with towering waves for me to combat as I try in vain to get through the markers. Bring on the challenge, the more and bigger the waves the better!

Grade: A++


This is one hell of an opening volley for Nintendo, no matter how limited the showing and no matter how late in the game it may feel. While there could always be more I think Nintendo has shown exactly as much as they needed to at this time to drive some final nails of doubt into people who are on the fence about what system they want. Certainly the biggest thing hurting Nintendo in making a bigger impact is the launch date, but then again if they're shooting for the biggest and most powerful launch in their history they're going to want that time to get it all together. The only hope now is that Nintendo will slowly trickle out even more information and will maybe pull back the gag order on some of its second and third party partners, giving us more glances on a regular basis so we don't end up losing interest. One thing there can be no doubt of though, E3 2001 is going to be an absolute war fought on many fronts and thank god for the sake of the games industry we lucky game lovers will be caught right in the middle of it.

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