Nintendo's Downhill Run
Review by: Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Editorial Posted: December 24, 2001

The year 2001 is almost coming to an end. And to Nintendo, this has been a great year for them with two systems released, the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo GameCube. But for the fans of Nintendo, it seems like another story. Nintendo is just nowhere as innovative as they were many years ago, but rather they are just following the competitors, at least that's what they did with the GameCube.

In the console business, Nintendo always seems to be the one that's falling behind, it's no surprise. The Nintendo 64 was released a year after the PlayStation. So it's not a surprise that the GameCube was released a year after the PlayStation 2.

A year is a long time, and many, many things happen within a year's time. Including one's choice to purchase a video game system. Some Nintendo fans might have been lost waiting for the new system, and perhaps it may have angered them so much that they decided not to get one after all.

But look at the GameCube, it's a purple (or black) box, that looks like a toy, well I guess, it may be one after all. With all that work into the design, it kind of seems like it was rushed. Nintendo wanted to get the system out as soon as possible, so they don't lose even more of the market.

While looks may be deceiving, the GCN is a joke with the features, compared to the PS2 and Xbox. There is no DVD movie playback, no CD audio, no hard drive, no Internet (at least not yet). The mini-DVD format that the GameCube uses is just a lame excuse to reduce piracy, and so they don't have to include the extras to save money in production of the system. But look, pirating a smaller disc is no harder than pirating a smaller disc.

And to add insult to injury, they didn't even include a memory card with the GCN, it is absolutely necessary to have one to save your games, so you have to shell out more money to buy one with your system. Smart move Nintendo, next time remember to leave out the controller.

And now since we're on the topic of the controller, it's not without problems either. While most of it is very well designed, there are a few flaws with it. The directional pad on the left of the controller is almost impossible to use, it would've made more sense if it was an analog stick instead of a pad, like it is on the other side of the controller. There is no left side button to compliment the Z on the right, so it seems like that it's unbalanced. And is it really necessary to have the A button, that big?

There are a few decent games on the GCN such as Super Smash Bros. Melee, Pikmin, Luigi's Mansion, Rogue Leader... but even right now, there doesn't seem to be the killer title, that everyone who gets the system will want, like Super Mario 64 was on the N64. SSB Melee is more of a rehash, then a "new" game, it seems very obvious, that the game runs on the same engine as SSB on the N64, with improved graphics. They even got stuff from Super Mario 64, and put it in, such as the Princess's Castle, and the flying boat. They even got retro backgrounds and music and stuck it in as well...

This lack of innovation reflects in the GameCube sales. And throw in the fact that Nintendo is associated with "kiddie" games. In the US, between November 11 and December 8, The PS2 and Xbox each sold over 900,000, and the GameCube sold just over 600,000. Consumers just don't seem to buy Nintendo's ideas anymore because they are not following the changing trends, and the evolving society.

The Game Boy Advance is having the most success, but it also has the most problems. The only reason for the Game Boy being the top-selling portable system since who knows when, is that there is virtually little to no competition in the portable video game market. You either get Game Boy, or you get nothing.

If anything, what really hurts the Game Boy Advance is its extremely poor screen. This has been talked about before, many, many times. The screen is nearly impossible to see unless you are having enough light, and at the perfect angle of lighting. It may be good to play at home, but if you take it out, man you're going to be in for problems.

This "screen problem" really takes the portable out of the Game Boy, as it becomes rather difficult to play on the go. Unless you get an external light add-on, which do an adequate job, but is nowhere as good as the sun, or internal lights. All these problems could've been avoided if the Game Boy Advance had a backlighted system, where the screen emits its own light, like a TV or computer monitor, or adding a light onto their reflective screen.

But Nintendo seems to have took the easy way out, and screwed their customers by not having any lighting solution at all. The Game Boy Color had a similar screen, but I have no idea why it does not have the screen problems as the GBA does. Perhaps lack of development, who knows.

When you think about it, Nintendo is making games to make money, that is the only reason. They are making money, and to them, that is all that matters, not whether or not you like the games and systems. They don't care if they are first or last, at the end of the day, it's the amount in the bank that matters. But if Nintendo continues to bring out poor quality software and hardware, their fans might just not support them anymore.

If Nintendo doesn't start doing something about their business strategy soon, it may not be long for them to abandon the console business, and work as a developer for other systems. It happened to Atari, it happened to Sega, and it can easily happen for Nintendo as well.

-- Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)