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Gamecube (Part 1): The Battle Begins
Written by: Chris Lee

 

Hi everyone, it looks like it's about that time again. Time for the next Nintendo system and time for the next entry into the system wars.. First I want to let it be known that I'm not a Nintendo fanboy, I play games for every system and currently own all the systems. I simply enjoy playing new and innovative titles. Most of the time, not exclusively, but most of the time Nintendo and their developers are the ones who bring us true innovation. Whether or not you like Nintendo or their "type" of games, you have to admit that they do what they do better than anyone, and that's make great games. The purpose of this editorial is to talk about some of the arguments for and against the Nintendo Gamecube. I'm going to look at things from both sides of the coin and be as objective as possible. No matter what you feel about Nintendo and their new system this will bring all of the current issues to the forefront. We're going to cover everything from the mundane to the outrageous right down to the truth. These will be arguments that we've all heard or stated ourselves. And remember everyone, I'm more into the end-user side of things rather than the technical, stocks and bonds, chipset side of things. It's all just raw gaming opinions from a gamer. Let's begin.
 
--The name "Gamecube" sounds foolish or child oriented

I'll admit that personally I'm not exactly ecstatic about the name. It's not a hard-nosed kick butt type of name, nor is it a technological representation of what the system can do. However, last I checked, noone was too fired up over Sega's system name either. "Dreamcast" didn't do much for anyone but look how that system has come along and developed. The name itself doesn't help dispute people's "kiddie" arguments but I think it accurately represents what the system is. It's a game system plain and simple, it's not made to play DVD's or be the little black box that runs all your appliances, it's a VIDEO GAME system. And on a smaller note, people always come up with little synonyms, I've already heard NCube, GCube and the Cube. So the name won't really be a big factor unless you want it to be.

 
--The systems' design is unappealing or "kiddie"

I'm not really sure how to approach this one. Yes, it's a big cube shaped system. Yes, it comes in multiple colors. But what does it matter what the system looks like if you can have fun playing the games? I've heard the argument somehow that because of the shape and different colors that it's for kids. I'm still not sure how that really makes sense. Any of you that know me or have read anything I've written know that I think Sony had a lot to do with making Nintendo's image childish. It didn't seem to matter how much blood and guts the N64's games had, people would still site 2 or 3 games and say the system was a kid's system. Sony sure has one thing down if nothing else and that's marketing. They made it seem like the Playstation was for adults and mature people because they had edgy adult themes and controversial issues. The backlash for Nintendo was that they were kiddie because many of the games weren't risque or had bright colors. This seems to have carried over now and it's just a really tired argument. More on that later but as I said, I don't see what a systems shape or color has to do with games. Oh well.

 
--The games they showed at Spaceworld were rehashes of the same old games and they're just going to have the same old stuff

Well excuse me but the last time I took a look at the PS2 release list over HALF if not 75% of the games were sequels or the same series that had been on the Playstation. Why isn't anyone downing Sony because of this? One thing that people seem to happily ignore is that the Cube isn't going to be out for another year and what they showed at Spaceworld were TECH DEMOS. Yes they were actual games that are in development but do you really think Nintendo is going to launch another system with a handful of games? I don't think so. They know what they're in for this time Yamauchi and Miyamoto themselves have said that they can't be successful with a PS2 style launch, they want to have more new titles and innovate the old instead of rehashing the same old stuff. A friend of mine said "I don't want another Mario or Zelda game, it's the same old thing.", well that's like saying Mario Brothers 1-3 were the same old thing or saying that Mario 64 was the same as any of the older Mario titles. There's a reason that they keep making these titles folks, it's because they're fun and people love the characters. Not only that but they always do something NEW with their "old" titles. What were the real differences in the Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider games from a gameplay standpoint? Little to nothing. Now, as I was talking about in the previous argument, Nintendo seems to have this aura of kiddiness around them no matter what they do because people are so willing to believe what someone tells them. From what I recall, both systems had the same "kiddie" style games like the Rugrats, Looney Tunes, and Disney titles while the Playstation had pretty much exclusively the Sesame Street titles. And yet people call games like Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Diddy Kong Racing, Donkey Kong 64 etc. kiddie titles? Those were games that were fun and challenging that people of ALL ages could play. I guess Nintendo should just put bikini clad women, ebonics, and sex into their games to make them more fun. I can see it now "Mario does The Mushroom Kingdom".

 
--The Controller looks incredibly awkward

Now where did I hear this one before? We went through this same thing with the N64. Everyone yelling and screaming because the controller looks "weird". People just don't seem to want to learn. The N64 controller was one of the best ergonomic and comfortable controllers I've played with. It was function over form. They knew what they were doing when they designed that one and they knew what they were doing when they designed this one. In all fairness we won't know until we hold it in our hands but as I said, we've been through this before and it was a total non-issue. And more than likely it will be a non-issue again.

 
--There are only two memory card ports

While this hasn't been a major topic yet I thought I'd cover it. This really isn't too big a deal for three simple reasons. Number 1:Memory cards are easily swappable and it isn't much of a hassle to do so. Number 2: Normal memory cards aren't forms of medium that need to be read continuosly. Memory cards aren't like CD's or cartridges where they need to be constantly accessed. They are simply memory storage devices that, once read, don't really need to be inserted until it's time to save. Number 3:For the special 64MB memory card (that essentially acts as a 64DD, according to Nintendo's top executives) you won't need four of them at once anyway. Even if there is a writeable game that allows four players to play, 64 MB of space is more than enough. It'll only be used for certain things like faces, stats, characters, and the like, not graphics or video. So really there is no foundation for that argument either.

 
 
--The Gamecube uses 1.5G mini-DVD's and the PS2 uses 4.7G DVD's

This issue is already starting to heat up and I was pretty sad to hear about it. This is probably the most valid argument of any that I've heard against the system. Already the fur is starting fly with the same old arguments that Nintendo is a dictatorship and they went with this propietary format so that they can lord over all the developers and charge them more for having to put it on Nintendo's own mini-DVD's. Well, you know what? Maybe it's true and maybe it isn't. I really don't know. I'm not going to hit you with a bunch of technical jargon or facts and figures but I'm just going to give it to you straight. Yes comparatively it's a MUCH smaller size medium and there's really no way to argue that. The Playstation uses regular size CD's that can hold somewhere in between 600 to 700 megs right? How many games on the Playstation actually used all of that space? And even if they did was it gameplay or was it FMV that took up so much space? The Dreamcast uses about the same size format as the Cube will but does anyone have a problem with that? I haven't heard anything. People seem to have the misconception that because the disc only holds 1.5G that the games will be short or not have as much substance and so on. But what you have to realize firstly is that, 1.5G is a LOT of space. Secondly, it doesn't take more space to program for the system just because it's advanced, it's code and programming tools are made and refined for the medium. Just because it's a powerful system doesn't mean the storage medium needs more space. With compression techniques and code refining you'd be surprised how much you can fit on a "measly" 1.5G. So in effect we don't know how much of the mini-DVD will be needed in most cases anyway. Lastly on this subject, people seem to think Nintendo is doing this so that it costs more to make and perhaps buy these games than games for the PS2. Extremely untrue. The Dreamcast uses propietary discs as well but they're prices haven't been jacked to the moon. Nintendo themselves have even stated that their licensing fees are comparable to the PS2's if not lower. So that's a non-issue. So yes they're smaller than PS2 discs, no they won't cost more to us or the developers, and the true test will be when we see what games they can put out on it.

 
--It doesn't play DVD movies

No it doesn't play DVD movies. It's a videogame system. Some would argue that this is a mistake but I have some common sense viewpoints on this. If you depend on a system to play your DVD movies for you, much like many are doing with the PS2, what if for some reason it breaks down? Or little brother spills something on it? And so on. You're not only out of a gaming system but a DVD player as well. To me, it's just not important that a game system play movies. Yes having that ability will give it appeal to a wider audience and definitely boost sales for that reason. But that's why I say that I'm not so sure Nintendo is trying to compete with Sony. The only company I see that'll be trying to compete directly with Sony is Microsoft because they have simliar approaches to the industry. Nintendo is a game company, period. They're not a hollywood studio, appliance company turned game company, or a billion dollar computer company. They're a game company plain and simple and that's all I want them to give me. What they have elected to do, instead of forcing a DVD player down your throat thereby jacking up the price, is have Matsushita design a seperate machine with a DVD player included for those gamers that may not already have a DVD player. The system will run $299 (incidentally the same price as a PS2). I like this move because I already have a DVD player and I don't want to have to pay for something I'm not going to use. Good move Nintendo.

 
--There's no modem packed in

Once again folks, Nintendo is giving you a choice. They're going to let you choose between 56k and broadband modem support. Once again I think this is a good move because internet play is far superior using broadband rather than 56k. However they're going to give you a choice as to what YOU the gamer want. Some people may not want to play online (no modem), some people may want to do that exclusively (broadband) or some people may be unsure (56K). Whatever type you are, there's a choice for you. Another good move.

 
Well that sums up most of the main arguments against and surrounding the Gamecube release. What we all need to remember is that the release is still a year away so we have a lot of news and announcements to look forward to. You must also remember that the Gamecube will be second in system power only to the Xbox, and no matter what the arguments may be, the system is going to have some of the best games ever created. This is just the first in a series of editorials we'll have up until and (hopefully) long after the release of the Gamecube. Feel free to send any comments or suggestions to Chris@vgf.com. Until then, happy gaming!

 



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