What makes the GameCube so endearing?
If you look around Internet forums, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll see that there is still a lot of love for Nintendo’s purple box of joy (though mine was black). Yet these same Nintendo fans were not as taken with the Wii as they were with the GameCube. This got me to thinking how could Nintendo’s most successful home console of all time not resonate with Nintendo fans the same way the previous console did? Especially seeing as the GameCube was quite a sales disaster for Nintendo.
In the UK at least the GameCube had an incredibly successful launch, it became the UK’s fastest selling console, but after the initial hype things went bad and fast.
The GameCube launched not with Mario but with his brother in Luigi’s Mansion, and having a new IP from Nintendo at launch was a refreshing change for fans. This was quickly followed by Pikmin, another new IP, and this time from the masterful mind of Shigeru Miyamoto. Along with these new IPs, Nintendo’s American studio Retro were tasked with bringing back the Metroid franchise with the sublime Metroid Prime. Retro Studios managed to bring the brilliance of Super Metroid and bring it into the third dimension, flawlessly!
By the middle of 2003 Nintendo had quite an impressive line-up of exclusives; Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Wave Race Blue Storm, Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Resident Evil Remake, Resident Evil Zero, Ikaruga, Star Fox Adventure, Super Monkey Ball, Super Mario Sunshine, The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker. Not only those listed, but Nintendo and their third-party partners also had a large number of announced titles for Nintendo gamers to be excited about by this point, including F-Zero GX, Tales of Symphonia, Resident Evil 4, Viewtiful Joe, PN-03 and many more.
Capcom, who were a strong supporter of the GameCube, were arguably at their absolute peak in that generation of consoles, with the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance and Xbox all seeing some incredible output from them. Resident Evil 4 was perhaps the absolute pinnacle of what Capcom has produced and this game was initially a GameCube exclusive, part of the fabled Capcom Five (only four arrived and only one remained as a GameCube exclusive). The wait for Resident Evil 4 was a long one, but it really was worth every single second.
Nintendo also expanded the GameCube’s library by creating a Game Boy Player for the GameCube that, much like the Super Game Boy on the Super Nintendo, would allow GBA games (including Game Boy and Game Boy Color games) to be played. This device was priceless to me, being able to play games like Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow at home, then to continue playing on the move with my GBA was a real selling point. Sure connectivity didn’t go down well, but we see this today in PlayStation Vita with Cross-Play. Being able to play on the PlayStation 3, to then upload your save to the cloud server and carry on with the Vita.
Nintendo it seemed were listening to exactly what their fans were after, pretty much every major Nintendo franchise had an outing or in some cases two on the purple box of joy. It’s not hard to see why the GameCube is so beloved among Nintendo fans. But why then is the Wii not reflected on in the same way? The Wii was Nintendo’s move to wider their audience beyond the core fanbase. Nintendo were pushing software now in the eyes of their fans at least, but if you look at the games Nintendo put out on the Wii the overall quality was actually very high; Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Xenoblade Chronicles are some of the finest games of their generation.
Despite these great games, Nintendo just didn’t show the same support to their franchises as they did with GameCube. I guess you can’t blame Nintendo for not wanting to spend money on bringing these games to market when they didn’t sell enough on GameCube to make a difference to that system’s bottom line, but for me I buy Nintendo platforms for the entire Nintendo experience, not just Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong.
There was a real hunger from Nintendo with the GameCube, Nintendo formed partnerships to help bring their games to market, as I said before nearly every Nintendo franchise saw an entry on GameCube. For me having the double whammy of GameCube and GBA was just like being back in the days of the Super Nintendo. The 3DS is very much in the same vein as that of GameCube and I hope that Wii U can one day boast a library filled with as much quality as that found on purple cuboid, or failing that just bring GameCube games to Virtual Console!