Nintendo GameCube Launch Report
Review by: Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Editorial Posted: November 24, 2001

It has only been one week since the release of the Nintendo GameCube in North America. Many of us, including myself have been awaiting the launch on November 18.

On launch day, I had to do what you probably thought, and that is to actually get a GameCube, a game, and a memory card.

Road to Cube

I'm not one of those silly people that camped out for the system, it was not necessary. I arrived at the local Wal-Mart a few minutes before its opening at 9:00 AM, but there was a line outside already...after they opened doors, I had to wait almost an hour, to get the goods. From what I saw, there were about 50 people in line, it's not as bad as I thought it would've been. There were more than enough for everyone. Myself, I got an Indigo GameCube and Luigi's Mansion, but from what I observed, there didn't really seem to be preference for the either Indigo or Jet Black.

The Experience

When I got home, I opened up the GameCube box, and my god was it small. The box was so small, and when I took out the GCN, I was even more stunned, it's amazing how they package all that hardware into a little cube. Inside the box, there were the expected things, such as the system, controller, manuals, etc. The Canadian versions of GameCube hardware and software have bilingual (English and French) packaging and manuals.

After staring at the box for a little bit, I got the A/V cable, and connected it to my TV. The A/V cable is the exact same as the ones that came with the N64 and Super NES. There's also an optional component video cable that you can use, for more advanced TVs, such as HDTV. If you have an older TV, you probably won't be able to use it.

Mini-DVD Format

The GameCube uses a mini-DVD format, which are 8 cm wide. These discs supposedly have protection to piracy. PlayStation 2 and Xbox both use regular DVDs for their games. This means that it won't be possible for GameCube to play DVD movies, which is one thing that the GameCube is lacking. It doesn't really hurt the system, but it would be a good addition to have. The games cases though, the size of standard DVD movies, they are modified to only fit the GCN media, and a memory card.

Graphics

The only game I got with my GameCube was Luigi's Mansion, and I was quite amazed at the graphics. I used a regular A/V cable connection on my Sony WEGA TV. The game looks as good as a rendered movie, such as Toy Story. There are also superior lighting effects, since in the game, Luigi uses his flashlight to help him through the way. Transparencies are also done well, for the ghosts, as you can see through them. The game is filled with "oooohs" and "ahhhhhs". The animation is very smooth, and flows very well. The graphics produced by the GCN are simply stunning.

Sound

Another great thing with the GameCube, is that it supports surround sound. Everything sounds crystal clear, and you can hear background noises clearly, if something is going on behind you, you'll hear it on your rear speakers, it's really nice. Even if you don't have surround sound, it's still not bad, but if you want the best experience, you'll need the extra speakers.

Controller

After looking at the pictures of the controller, I found it to look really strange, and odd. But after using it, it actually feels really good, with the grips on the back. There's also a built-in rumble, which was a no-brainer. There are two analog sticks on the controller, one main one, on the left, and a C-stick to control cameras. There is also a big A button, and a little B button, and two kidney-shaped X and Y buttons. The L and R buttons are grooved, and have a good feel to them. The weird thing is that there is a Z button, right above the R, but it doesn't exist on the other side.

I found the controller to be a crossover between the Dreamcast and PS1/PS2 controllers, it had the PS look, but the one of the analog sticks is in the main control, rather than the D-pad, like the DC. The D-pad though, is a little hard to use. Some may say the controller is kind of small, but the way it is designed; it doesn't cramp your hands.

The Future

The GameCube is open to all sorts of expansions, there's a modem expansion coming, and two other expansion ports. Who knows what Nintendo will do with these? And for some games, it will be possible to use a Game Boy Advance as a controller. The future looks bright for the Cube.

Overall Impression

To sum things up, in my opinion, the GameCube is going to become another great Nintendo system. Amazing graphics, lower price (compared to Xbox and PS2), and an great controller. It might be a little hard to buy one now, since Christmas is almost here. But according to Nintendo, new shipments are arriving to stores each week. The GameCube should've came with a memory card though, since it is necessary to have one to save, but they probably didn't include one to cut costs. The GameCube might not be very appealing right now, but as new Mario and Zelda games come out, that will most likely change.

-- Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)