We're going to get a little personal today on Total Recall, and take a look at my favourite Nintendo console of all time. Not the best, not the biggest-selling, just...my favourite.
And that console is the Panasonic Q, a machine sadly never made commercially available in the West.
The Q, a very fancy version of the GameCube, was released in Japan in December 2001, the latest in a long line of Japanese consoles licensed for manufacture by a company other than the actual platform holder (the original console being made not by Nintendo, but by Panasonic).
It was something Nintendo fans in other parts of the world are still waiting for: a home console that doubled as a multimedia centre. Not only was the machine a GameCube, complete with all the controller ports and memory card slots of a regular console, but it was also a DVD player.
Why? Well, Nintendo feared - rightly so, it turns out - that the competing PlayStation 2's DVD player would be a major selling-point for the console, and since the GameCube lacked this feature, that its sales would suffer as a result. So it struck a deal with the company manufacturing the GameCube's optical disc drives, Matsushita (who own Panasonic), to produce a variant model of the console, which would be capable of playing DVDs.
The Panasonic Q in all its glory
That variant was the Q, which in addition to its regular GameCube components also boasted more advanced features like an optical out port (for true 5.1 surround sound support), a swish front-loading disc tray, a neat little LCD display panel at the top, a separate subwoofer output for the Q's "Bass Plus" feature and, best and most badass of all, a polished glass front with a stainless steel chassis.
Despite this more advanced feature set, and a price tag of around USD$450 (which wasn't that expensive), the Q remained something of an oddity, an ugly stepsister, and sadly never really took off in Japan. It was discontinued only two years later, in December 2003, and was never officially released outside Japan.
Because of its unique appearance and capabilities, though, the Q remains a favourite of hardware collectors, and can be had quite easily online for anywhere between $US300-$600.
Why, then, is the Q my favourite? Well, I've always had a very soft spot for the GameCube, because of its catalogue of amazing games, cute form factor and its innovative wireless control pads, so a heavily modified GameCube with a steel chassis is right up my alley. As a lover of the last generation's clear loser, it also acts as a sort of beacon of alternate history, which continually makes me wonder what kind of gaming industry we'd be wading through today if this more feature-packed console had somehow won out over Sony's PlayStation 2.