Has it been a decade since I got my little black box?!
My, how the time flies. I remember the unbridled hate for the Gamecube – that people hated the silly controller (it was a little daft!), how they hated that Luigi took center stage for the opening party (And now we all look back at Luigi’s Mansion and say – yeah, actually, it was pretty decent). How people spat fire at the idea of Resident Evil 4 running on it – it just wasn’t cool enough for that.
But, time has been kind to the Gamecube, even if the gaming community wasn’t. It came with a slew of games that redefined Nintendo as the makers of top-quality games; Eternal Darkness, a survival horror steeped in Lovecraftian mythology, and damned fine it was too. Very high-brow, very understated, very good. Metroid Prime – Metroid as an FPS? What were Nintendo thinking giving it to Retro Studios?! Except, as it turns out, it was one of the smartest decisions they made – it reinvented the franchise. Pikmin – a cute little strategy adventure, with enough depth to make most games today shrivel in humiliation. Super Smash Bros. Melee. And of course, Wind Waker. A game most are ashamed to like – why?! It’s a good game!
Similarly, it became a breeding ground for top-notch remakes and intelligent experiments. Killer 7 and Viewtiful Joe were on the Gamecube first before they found their way to the PS2. Resident Evil 4 I mentioned – but what of the Resident Evil Remake? Still one of the finest re-imaginings ever done. Resident Evil Zero – a prequel that explained things, rather than throwing out ideas it couldn’t cash in on. Star Wars and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes – games which had a real edge to them. And when it came to the technically best interpretations of games, how we forget the graphics the Gamecube could throw out – Beyond Good and Evil and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time looked slick and crisp on the hardware, which was more capable of producing the high-end looks that many sought.
And yet, as I said, the Gamecube wasn’t cool. It looked a little dorky – a big box that took tiny little discs, where the primary colour people chose was a putrid purple that made it almost embarrassing to look at. But as a machine, it was up there with the Dreamcast – a misunderstood gem that it is only now we can look back on and say, “That was a good day.”
With the newly redesigned Wii dropping Gamecube support, it is a sad but inevitable truth that time marches ever onward, and the Gamecube must now after ten years come to an end. But it helped Nintendo establish itself as a company that made great games – if not great choices, Four Swords needing four GBAs hooked up to it was a daft idea.
The depressing part is, we bemoan Nintendo until we are clear of its past generation, and then we look back and decide actually – it wasn’t all that bad at all! It was actually rather nice. Okay, the controller wasn’t the most beautifully designed thing in the world. Aesthetically it wasn’t exactly pushing boundaries – after all, the Dreamcast was so achingly pretty it hurt just to tear your eyes from it. The Gamecube, by comparison, was shut behind a door for me. It was there. We just didn’t try to look at it.
The Gamecube, much like the N64 before it, was a triumph of imaginative gaming experiments and re-imaginings, a breeding ground for a more intelligent kind of design. A place which had the audacity to dare new ideas with old formats – even if they did come up rather short. Star Fox Adventures and Super Mario Sunshine to name two rather awful concepts.
But in this, I salute the Gamecube. Of course it wasn’t perfect – but Nintendo marched to the beat of their own drum, and it created for them the basis of the Wii – a machine that saw them become once again the dominant force in the gaming scene, a presence that is felt far and wide. It was the predecessor to their current success, not their much anticipated downfall.
It’s another machine I will have to accept is over. But I will always look upon it with fondness – because I played Eternal Darkness on it. Without any knowledge of what was coming before I played it. And my oh my, I enjoyed it!
Now Nintendo, how about that Eternal Darkness 2 for the Wii-U? Pretty please with cherries on top?!