Happy 10th birthday, Nintendo GameCube. No one threw you a party. The GameCube is, I believe, the most wrongly disrespected console in gaming history. People laughed at it because it was a purple box that played a Luigi game in an era when more people wanted to play Grand Theft Auto III on a black PlayStation 2.
People thought, back in the day, that it was stupid that the GameCube was going to have Zelda that looked like a cartoon, though Metroid being a first-person shooter? That sounded like an even worse idea. (I’m blaming “people”, because, of course I didn’t think these things. Never!)
Oh, the GameCube. It is the sigh of the console wars. It contributed to a cultural moment of Nintendo gaming irrelevance, an era that made Nintendo’s top game creator “very sad“.
Stupid, PlayStation wannabe with your tiny discs and memory cards. You just had to ruin everything.
Except, here’s the thing: the GameCube was secretly awesome. That dorky Zelda? In retrospect, people loved it (except maybe for the sailing and the Triforce quest). That first-person Metroid? Uh, Game of the Year. Last June Nintendo showed people they were going to have Luigi’s Mansion 2 on the 3DS and suddenly people were all nostalgic for Luigi’s Mansion 1, that GameCube launch title that, well, actually it wasn’t that good.
The GameCube launched with an amazing Star Wars game called Rogue Leader (the Battle of Endor, people!) and it had Eternal Darkness and Resident Evil 4 which are the favourite survival games of people who don’t worship Silent Hill 2. It was so full of quality that I almost forgot it also eventually had Viewtiful Joe.
The GameCube wasn’t always awesome. It was plagued by software droughts and bad Star Fox games. It had an inferior Mario Kart (or is that no longer hated, either?) and its very own follow-up to Super Mario 64 was as disappointing as any Super Mario 64 follow-up ever could be.
The GameCube’s biggest problem, though, was that it wasn’t as cool as the PlayStation 2, as it missed a ton of great games while being steered by a Nintendo nutty enough to try to sell people a multiplayer Zelda game that could be connected to four Game Boy Advances and a Pac-Man game that could be connected to just one (this latter game being Nintendo’s show-piece game of their E3 one year… what a disaster!)
The PlayStation 2, however, is dead now — just about — so the GameCube no longer has to suffer comparisons to it. (Except in the above paragraph). Instead, we can celebrate that, today, it has been 10 years since I picked up a purple GameCube. Nintendo made a darn good console back then that had some stellar games. It made the last (and the first) game console that was designed to be an object worth looking at rather than hiding. Forget if games are art, that whole console was a piece of art.
One of the GameCube’s stellar games was Pikmin, a game about controlling a Mario-like space-man who could run around with 100 little vegetable men who could beat up giant bugs and tug yogurt lids back to their broken space-ship. It was awesome, and Pikmin 2 was better.
Pikmin came out a few weeks after the GameCube, in December 2001. After that, Nintendo, the creative powerhouse behind Super Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Yoshi, Wario, Luigi, Waluigi, all of those Toads, Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus and Tingle stopped making new characters. Clarification: for all the great success of the DS and Wii in the post-GameCube not-sad Shigeru Miyamoto years, Nintendo has answered charges that they don’t create good, new characters anymore by claiming that the Wii’s Miis are their new characters. Remember that island in Wii Sports Resort? They said that was a new character. And that thing in Fling Smash last year? New character. None of these counts because they don’t seem like they’d ever be in a Smash Bros. or headline their own game. Does Midna count from 2006’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess? Maybe… maybe not. She wasn’t a headliner.
OK. I’ll state it again. In December 2001, with the GameCube a mere infant, Nintendo released its last big new headline characters: the Pikmin. That was 10 years ago. Damn, GameCube, I always suspected you were are a hard act to follow! Good going, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that Spore was a better evolution game than Cubivore. It wasn’t. Plus, Chibi Robo was the best game about the decay of the modern family (that starred a small cleaning robot) that I’ve ever played.
Happy 10th, GameCube. May you finally get the respect your tubby little self deserves.