Why I Still Love My GameCube

I was poor, still waiting on my first paycheck, I couldn't understand a single word on the box, but still... I bought it. I shelled the 24,000 Yen I couldn't really spare, smiled politely at the sales clerk, and stumbled home in the dark with my brand new GameCube.

When history judges the GameCube, it won't be judged kindly. The GameCube sold poorly; Super Mario Sunshine was arguably the weakest 'canon' Mario ever made, Wind Waker wasn't for everyone. It was a console without direction, a trough in anticipation of a peak. The GameCube was the last straw for many — including my own brother, who never bought another Nintendo console again.

But, for me? It was a console I fell in love with; a console I fell in love playing. Some of my fondest memories are inextricably linked with the GameCube, to the extent that I can barely separate them from the games themselves.

I was living in Nagoya, Japan when I bought my GameCube, stumbling home in the dark, completely penniless. I had been living there for a single month.

It was May. I had just turned 22, I was alone in a strange country. Culture shock is a very real thing.

One of the first symptoms, in the very beginning, is a strong desire to remove yourself from your surroundings — to find respite from the culture you don't understand, to avoid the difficult task of assimilation. Back then I thought I was buying my GameCube because I wanted to play Soul Calibur 2 — but what I really wanted was an excuse, something to procrastinate with. I didn't want to engage. I wanted to disappear.

And it worked; for a short while at least. But there were obstacles: I could barely speak Japanese, let alone read it. A simple two player fighter was fun for a while, but it hardly gave me the respite I craved. I'd walk past video game stores — I'd look at Wind Waker in its small Japanese box, covered in Kanji I couldn't read, and I'd feel such frustration. This was the game I wanted to play, so badly, but couldn't. I'd simply walk past it, grumbling.

At the time I had no internet. I had to call my brother to post me English versions of Wind Waker, and Metroid Prime, along with a Freeloader — the disc that allowed importers to override region codes. I waited a month for them to arrive.

I'll never forget the day the games hit my mailbox — In a brown envelope that I ripped to shreds in seconds. I followed the Freeloader instructions to the letter, placed the small Wind Waker disc into the tray and sat cross legged in front of the TV like I was 10 years old again; the perfect man child.

But then... nothing — a flickering black and white image on my outdated Japanese CRT. Completely unplayable. The disappointment was palpable; almost physical. What the hell is going on, I asked myself, why couldn't I play?

I frantically cycled to the nearest internet cafe and did a Google search — turned out the version of the Freeloader my brother sent me was outdated and wouldn't play the games I'd been so. I had to wait another month for the new Freeloader to arrive... it felt unbearable.

By the time I was actually able to play Metroid Prime and Wind Waker, I no longer had that need to disappear. I had gotten through the first stage of culture shock and was knee deep in what experts call the 'Honeymoon Phase' — I had fallen in love with Japan, with the language, the politeness of the locals, the food. Everything.

I had made friends — I barely had time to spare. I didn't need to play my GameCube, I just wanted to. So I made time.

I remember shopping with this cute girl — intelligent, friendly, drop dead gorgeous. Being the terrible human being I am, I barely gave her the time of day; constantly checking my watch, fidgety, distracted. Within an hour I was on the train home. All I wanted to do was play Wind Waker.

Three years later that cute girl was my wife. How the hell did I pull it off?

Well, partly down to the GameCube.

I wouldn't say that my wife and I fell in love playing Pikmin, but it definitely played a part. It was the first time I ever introduced my wife to a video game.

"You'll love this," I said.

"Hmph," she replied. "Looks boring."

We spent hours playing the first Pikmin together, sharing tactics, laughing at each other. When Pikmin 2 came out we became ridiculously competitive over the multiplayer. I took it easy to begin with, letting every match feel relatively close. Within days, I had to scramble to keep up with her.

And then the next stage of culture shock.

After living in Japan for 18 months, I felt differently. I had become accustomed to living in another country, developed the survival mechanisms, gotten used to everyday life. It was at this point that enthusiasm began to wane, I started noticing things. Things I didn't like.

Just little things — the subtle racism. I'd thought nothing of having to carry my 'Gaijin Card' initially (an Alien Registration Card) but after a year and a half I'd begun to resent it. I couldn't shake the feeling that no matter how long I lived in Nagoya, there would always be things I couldn't do, places I couldn't visit — that's what it means to be a foreigner in Japan.

The looks on the street; the Aliens-only seats on the train (complete with little Roswell style doodles designed) invented as a result Japanese reluctance to sit next to white people — seemed less like a cute cultural quirk and more like a strange form of blatant racism. The longer I stayed in the country, the stronger that feeling grew. I would always be an outsider.

So I became more insular. I played the GameCube. And then, months later, I left.

I still have my old Japanese GameCube; a little memory box I dust off, every now and then — to relive the nostalgia of being young, of feeling awkward, of falling in love. The games are like worn photographs; dated and frayed. They're hardly perfect, and mean little to others, but I treasure them and the feelings that flood back as I play.

Next week the GameCube turns 10 years old. It was released in Australia on May 17, 2002. It seems so long ago. History will most likely judge it harshly, but when I look back all I can remember is my own personal history. The games I played, what was going on in my own life as I played — the memories are so vivid that I physically wince... then I smile.

The GameCube: what a great little machine. Awkward, naive, misunderstood...




      It's a good thing he was poor, didn't have to spend so much money due to the lack of good games for the console.

    The Gamecube was the first console I bought myself, and I loved it to bits. I completely agree, history will judge it harshly, but I will always defend the gamecube!

    The Gamecube was my favourite console of last gen too, Mark. So many great exclusives (Double Dash is my favourite MK - still bust it out (through the Wii these days of course), and even cross-platform titles held their own. And The Wavebird as my first wireless controller added to the brilliance.

    Forgotten Kingdoms for the win

    Nice peice - mine was a present from my then girl friend and now wife, she made me have the purple one (indigo was it?!) because it was prettier haha :-) LOVED wind waker and RE4 by the way - amazing system, i even have gamboy advance attachment!

    A flat mate of mine had a gamecube, and oh how we derided him for it...

    And then, one night, alone in the lounge, I fired up windwaker..... I think I left the chair about 3 days later.

    I really loved the Gamecube too. I played it through my high school days with everyone telling me how sh*t it was. Such good games!

    My Gamecube came at a time where it had been out for a while but I couldn't really afford one (I think they might have been $400 plus you'd have to buy a game). I had a PS2 but missed having Mario games to play, but then I heard that EB was putting them on sale for $200 so I scrambled there with my meagre savings and bought myself a little black one with Mario Sunshine.

    I loved that little console, like most Nintendo consoles I really just got it for the 1st party games, but I list Wind Waker as one of my most favourite games ever.

    I loved my gamecube, I was at the midnight launch EB ran at Chadstone. There were certainly some great titles on it. I was disapointed with the version of Wave Race released on it compared to the 64 version, actually the 64 version of Wave Race would probably make a good 3DS game. I did enjoy Sunshine but it was probably the only Mario game I started and never finished.

    The GBA link cable idea was interesting, I used it with Wind Waker to talk to Tinkle but because I would play Wind Waker for hours on end and the GBA had to be turned on and running off batteries the whole time, batteries of course would run flat. The Wii U screen controller idea actually reminded me of the GBA / Link Cable when they first announced it.

    On the subject of Gamecube, a cousin of mine got given an old gamecube recently and ended up borrowing my digital cable because they seem to be pretty hard to come by these days unless you pay a fortune. If anyone knows if you can still pick up cheat digital cables for these things, that would be ace.

      The GBA controllers for Crystal Chronicles was just amazing - having your own little screen on your controller that give you specific info that your multiplayer friend couldn't see and vice versa.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      Please return to the troll high elders and inform them of your failure.

      Actually, it's pieces like this that give Kotaku it's personality and sense of community. And turds like you who try and ruin it. Kindly go fuck yourself.

      It seems that 'self-indulgent' is the troll phrase of the week. How about some new material?

    I stil have mine set up (with the GBA Player attached) in my game cabinet :D

    The best games of last generation were all on 'cube, in my opinion, because they were different. They were exciting. They were Nintendo.
    And I must be one of the only people who loved Sunshine - with a disclaimer, though - apart from Mario Land on Gameboy, it was the first Mario I really got stuck into, and so its flaws fade into the backgnd of the overall experience.
    Metroid Prime is yet to be beaten for a seasmless blend of control, gameplay, art direction and immersion, in my opinion.

      I loved Sunshine too. The ending was pretty weak though, but Isle Delfino was awesome!

        I could never get through the lava stage at the end - also the last Shine in Pianta Village is so frustratingly hard that I gave up, otherwise it is a fantastic game, though only 8 worlds or so compared to Mario 64's 16 is probably why the game is considered a dissappointment, Wind Waker had a similar criticism - not enough dungeons - but I still played the hell out of it and finished it!

    Funnily enough my Gameboy player attachment arrived today.

    I never quite understood why the GC got that rapport, I loved it - the first one I got from Japan with a bunch of games all in Japanese, I fondly remember playing most of Pikmin in Japanese and somehow it was even more fun having to work it all out without being able to read anything. Wind Waker, Wave Race, Super Monkey Ball, they were all incredibly smooth and vivid and like nothing I had ever had on my tv before. (also Resident Evil remake, which was and still is absolutely incredible). CG showed me a whole world of quirky games and taught me that games can be so much more than grey corridors and the back of a car.

      Resident Evil (Remake) is my favourite RE to date, also the scariest IMO!

    First console I ever bought. God, how I loved my Gamecube.

    I was a Nintendo boy who started on a NES - Nintendo lost me about a year or two in the 64's life to Sony. I've never even touched a Gamecube. I've seen them though. I always do feel like I've missed out a little. When they were current and I'd switched to PSX, I looked at them with nothing but scorn.

    Although the amount of people with fond memories of them makes me pretty sure I missed out on something special. Maybe it might be time for me to look on eBay for one? Possibly!

    Loved my Cube - the PS2 became a dust collector once I bought the Nintendo square.

    Still have mine to this day. Haven't used it though due to the Wii's backwards compatibility. Still love the games. My brother and I have had so many close games of Mario Golf toadstool tour. My only regret is not buying the Mario Tennis that was released for GC. Ah well. Wind Waker tonight!

      But you can buy New Play Control! Mario Tennis for the Wii!

    The whole time I read through this I couldn't help but feel for your culture shock haha, I am 22 and moved to Shanghai randomly - And yeah, culture shock hits hard.

    I loved my little purple rectangular prism.
    And Windwaker was boss. Totally great game, even if it did have all that ocean crossing and triumph forks finding. Admittedly the style was a bit of a turn off -initially-, it was something that grew on you. I remember when I got my copy I slapped that disc in the 'Cube as fast as possible just so I could play... Ocarina of Time. It wasn't until I had 100%'d it that I considered giving Windwaker a go, lol.

    I also pissed many many many hours of youth away on Smash Brothers Melee. That game had so much. And then there were the Metroid Primes, my first proper forays into the Metroid universe (for shame!).

    The Gamecube was a great guy.

    An interesting read. It's fascinating the bonds we have with our consoles. For me it was with the PS1 and PS2.
    The PS2 was my console of choice last gen and I loved it.

    The little Cube that could. I loved my GameCube, still do. And now it gets even more love in my daughter's bedroom where she is currently experiencing a love-affair with Wind Waker.

      That is awesome, you get to live it again through someone else! The wind waker had the most amazing feeling of exploration and freedom, the perfect balance between guidance and faith in the player's intelligence and curiosity - I have more fond memories of just moving the camera around whilst sailing and listening to that music than I do of the most entire games.

        Wind Waker is definitely my favourite Zelda game. I loved just sailing around exploring .

    Most of my favourite gaming memories are from my time with the GameCube, and the N64 before it. They were simpler times, back when I almost completely ignored all other gaming platforms, and could only afford to buy a couple of games a year...but boy did I get my money's worth.

    I really miss being able to devote my attention to just one video game until I have completely sucked it dry. These days I pay far too much attention to game news, and as soon as the next big hyped up title is released, that's all I want to play, and everything else suddenly seems boring. Curse my short attention span.

      I totally agree. For me it started with Sonic 2 on the Megadrive. I played that game to death. Then with games like Ocarina of Time or Metroid Prime, you wouldn't think about any other game for weeks and months. Your conversations with friends at school were all about Ocarina of Time, all the little things we never even notice now. In a way, Steam and other similar ideas make it so easy to get games cheaply, and there's always something on sale so you rarely have the chance to get stuck into a game like the old days. I just played through Skyward Sword, but with the final boss battle behind me, I doubt I'll go through and search for the additional quests. There's just no time. Too many other games I haven't played through yet. Not exactly sure when I started feeling pressured by this awesome hobby?!

        I was thinking tha same thing the other day! Everytime is see a sale on steam or a new rpg comes out i'm all over it! Then i feel guilty when i look at my shelf and steam game list and promise not to buy another one...doesnt last too long! Haha

    I bought my Game-Cube when Resident Evil 4 came out , it cost me $70 from Gametraders with a wavebird controller no less.Ironicly RE4 cost more than the system I bought just to play it.

    Thus far history seems to be judging it far more kindly than when last generation was actually happening, honestly I can't see anyone but business majors or people that only think in terms of money judging it harshly at all, it had a great many of the best games ever to grace our lives.
    I also can't believe you thought Sunshine was weak 0_O. I challenge you Mark, to go and play Mario 64, and Sunshine side by side, and use all your objective journalism skills to compare, Sunshine really is the better game, it just doesn't have the same nostalgia effect on most.

    Also, best console ever. SNES comes close for me, but that purple box is still the go to machine for my mates and I.

      I'd say it's not that Sunshine was bad, just that it didn't feel as revolutionary.
      It also didn't feel as large as you were almost always in the same environment (unlike 64 or Galaxy where every level felt very different).

      Also: "Shine Get!"

      Sunshine dropped the long jump, so it felt like a step back fron 64 for me.

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