Round Table: Let's Talk About the GameCube and Wii

From a cube to the revolution

With the GameCube recently reaching its tenth anniversary and the Wii five years old, we decided to get together to discuss both consoles, assessing their impact and legacy. These two consoles are in an interesting position of being relatively close in terms of graphical technology, yet wildly different in gaming experiences.

Joining Features Editor Thomas Whitehead are Editor James Newton and writers Jamie O’Neill, Christopher Ingram, Jamie O’Neill and Mark Reece.

Thomas Whitehead: Firstly, please introduce yourselves to our lovely readers.

James Newton: My name's James Newton and I'm Editor here at Nintendo Life.

Mark Reece: I'm Mark. I guess I'm the new guy. If you visit Nintendo Life you've probably disagreed with at least one of my review scores.

Jamie O’Neill: Hi everyone, I am JamieO on Nintendo Life. I love retro games. I have been gaming since my Dad bought our family a Pong console in the very early ‘80s (possibly even the late ‘70s).

Christopher Ingram: I'm Chris Ingram and I mostly write News and Reviews for Movemodo and Vitagamr, but I try and sneak into round tables when I can.

Ron DelVillano: I'm Ron. I'm a US reviewer on the site and I'm the guy who gets to play all of the House, M.D. games.

Thomas Whitehead: Thanks guys. Firstly, when the GameCube was unveiled, what did you think of the appearance and concept?

Christopher Ingram: I laughed!

Mark Reece: I wondered what the handle was for, to be honest.

Jamie O’Neill: I remember I quite liked the codename for Nintendo’s next gen console as ‘Dolphin’, I think it was officially called GameCube around about 2000. I started saving for it really early on, but at first I was decidedly unimpressed by its chunky design, handbag handle and garish purple colouring. Many gamers unfavourably compared its design to a Fisher Price toy.

Christopher Ingram: I honestly didn't know what to think of it at first compared to the other systems on the market.

James Newton: At the time there was still some life in the Sega Dreamcast so I didn't take much notice!

Ron DelVillano: I was, and still am, confused by the choice of purple as the main colour for the console. It didn't look as impressive as other consoles on the market, but as a Nintendo fan I was still overly excited for it.

Thomas Whitehead: In terms of the appearance, was it an issue when you actually considered a purchase: was the image damaging in that respect?

James Newton: I rather liked the dinky design; compared to Xbox and PS2 it was nice and cute.

Jamie O’Neill: I always knew I would buy it for the first party games. Its 'look' was inconsequential in that regard.

Christopher Ingram: The appearance and lack of DVD playback kept me away from a launch purchase.

Mark Reece: I was a little late to the GameCube party, so the console already had a strong line-up of games to choose from. So in that regard, the fact that it was bright purple held little sway over me. I just wanted to get my Smash Bros. on!

Ron DelVillano: I agree with James in that I liked the size and design. Honestly though, the handle and design didn't really sway my decision to purchase it.

Jamie O’Neill: As the years passed, I grew to absolutely love GameCube’s design. The bright colouring is completely relevant in regard to Nintendo’s approach to games; I invested in a spice orange pad, a rainbow of peripherals (including a Game Boy Player) and a spare platinum console. I really wish I had imported the gorgeous looking Panasonic Q.

Thomas Whitehead: With the design and the carrying handle, do you think this was an attempt by Nintendo to continue the 'party console' vibe of the N64, that you'd take to friends’ houses, around dorm rooms etc?

Mark Reece: It might have been, but who knows with Nintendo? Those guys are a law unto themselves sometimes. I personally never took the 'Cube anywhere. My stance is that that's what handhelds are for.

Christopher Ingram: I honestly don't think I ever carried my GameCube over to any of my friends’ places, but mostly that was because they already had a GameCube themselves. If I had taken it with me though, I wouldn't have used the handle; it would have been in a protective pack instead!

Mark Reece: You're right there Chris. Can you imagine the looks you'd get swinging that bad boy around?

Christopher Ingram: I have no idea what Nintendo was thinking!

Jamie O’Neill: I truthfully think the styling of GameCube contributed hugely to the ‘mature’ gamer’s perception of it as a console designed for kids. Alongside a fun and colourful first party library of games, GameCube’s image was never ‘cool’ in the eyes of some of my friends or a mass core gamer audience. Therefore, its sales definitely suffered.

GameCube’s image was never ‘cool’ in the eyes of some of my friends or a mass core gamer audience. Therefore, its sales definitely suffered.

Ron DelVillano: I've never been a huge fan of multiplayer or party games, but I definitely took my GameCube with me when I went to friends' houses. I never used the handle as the primary mode of transportation (unless moving it around my house), but the GameCube was almost literally indestructible, and I think it really was built to travel.

James Newton: As usual, the industry was going one way — bulky black boxes and online gaming — and Nintendo went another.

Christopher Ingram: I actually saw a guy wearing a GameCube on a massive chain around his neck one time!

Mark Reece: Bling!

James Newton: And yes, I totally used the handle. On a chain around my neck once, in fact.

Christopher Ingram: You know, he did indeed have a British accent!

Thomas Whitehead: Yikes... On the theme of the GameCube bucking trends and expectations, how big a surprise was Luigi's Mansion as a launch title, and do you feel that the games library progressed well in subsequent months and years?

Jamie O’Neill: Luigi’s Mansion was brilliant, but it was not universally adored by gamers, especially those who complained about its short game length and that it was not a pure Mario platformer. As a Star Wars fan, the GameCube launch was all about Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, for me.

I imported my Cube from America and first played it on Christmas Day 2001. People compared Rogue Leader to an X-Wing sequence from Star Wars: Special Edition, but for me it felt like Factor 5 had opened up my imagination as a 7 year old child and recaptured all the best Kenner action figure moments. The detail and lighting of that game was incredible.

James Newton: I think Luigi's Mansion was a good choice for launch: new series but familiar characters. Of course the catalogue expanded brilliantly: I still consider The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Super Mario Sunshine among my top games in both series.

Mark Reece: It was a huge surprise! Here I was, expecting to see a new Mario title at launch, and we got his cowardly brother vacuuming up ghosts instead. With regards to the line-up evolving and progressing over time, I loved how SEGA took on the new role of third party development at full pelt and really gave the 'Cube some cracking titles, Monkey Ball was and still is a great franchise.

Ron DelVillano: I absolutely loved Luigi's mansion and was happy to finally see the other brother in a leading role. As far as the rest of the GameCube library goes, there were some real gems in the collection that still stand as some of my favourite games to this day, but I was never overwhelmed with the full line-up.

Christopher Ingram: Luigi's Mansion is an absolutely brilliant title and one that I'm ashamed to say got pushed to the wayside for me — along with the GameCube itself — until a year or so after launch. Despite the somewhat diminished success of the GameCube compared to other Nintendo consoles, it did garner some fantastic titles: Super Mario Sunshine, Eternal Darkness, Super Smash Bros Melee, etc.

Thomas Whitehead: Considering the modest sales (just under 22 million), but the positive words from you all regarding the games catalogue, does the console leave a positive or negative legacy?

Jamie O’Neill: As a Nintendo fan, and a fan of great video games, its library of games has definitely left an extremely positive legacy. Just look at Nintendo Life’s ‘Best Games on GameCube’ list, as well as games like 1080° Avalanche, Viewtiful Joe, Alien Hominid and Killer7. Its poor sales infuriated me. I remember one of the first retailers to stop stocking GameCube in the UK was Dixons. I was so peeved at this; I felt it was too early for GameCube to die, so I boycotted their shops. I have not stepped into a Dixons since the mid-noughties.

Mark Reece: I think its legacy is mixed and it truly divided fans up the middle. There're the faithful fans who stick with Nintendo no matter what - and with good reason; as Chris said, the 'Cube had some amazing games - but you can't blame the people who got disheartened by the poor sales, kiddy image and lack of online play.

James Newton: I think if you look at it as the “N64 2” it makes more sense: it didn’t really do anything hugely new over its predecessor, other than use discs and have better graphics, but as always the quality of Nintendo games shone through. For me, it’s my second favourite Nintendo console behind the Wii: Mario and Zelda were both superb on GC, as were WarioWare, F-Zero and about a dozen others.

Christopher Ingram: I couldn't live without a GameCube once Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes released! Looking back on the system though, the creative Nintendo titles like Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Donkey Konga and Chibi-Robo! definitely left the system with a good catalogue worth any Nintendo fans time.

Ron DelVillano: That's a tricky question for me because, as I said, there weren't too many GameCube games that I went crazy over. However, I do think that it was an important step towards the more family-friendly image that Nintendo has shaped for itself.

Jamie O’Neill: I am more nuts about the GameCube than I am for Wii. I love the Wii too, of course, but GameCube was the last technically proficient Nintendo console. It kept up with the specs of its competitors.

Ron DelVillano: I think that the games themselves were geared more towards fans of Nintendo franchises, but they started the slope towards being more light-hearted and family oriented.

Thomas Whitehead: Ron neatly moves us onto the more 'family friendly' Wii — What was your reaction when you first experienced the console and the Wii Remote and Nunchuk?

Mark Reece: I had the same expression on my face as when I saw the GameCube's handle.

Jamie O’Neill: Instead of saving for a car, I saved for a 32” HDTV and an import US Wii for Christmas Day 2006. I felt a teeny bit disappointed by the jagged edges on 480p Twilight Princess, but motion controlled Excite Truck blasting out my favourite SD card punk tunes blew away my brother. It felt like an arcade in the home. It was the Wii Sports version of Golf that truly brought my family together for motion controlled gaming that Christmas. That had never really happened before, in over twenty years of gaming.

Ron DelVillano: When I first saw the Wii Remote/Nunchuk design I was full of blinding rage. I convinced myself that Nintendo had royally screwed up and that I wasn't going to purchase a Wii. Thankfully, I was completely wrong.

Mark Reece: I agree there, Ron. It was like Nintendo had completely lost their marbles. I actually feared that the Remote/Nunchuk would sink Nintendo for good.

Christopher Ingram: After clearing out the entire living room and having a house full of folks, we played Wii Sports until we could hardly move our arms anymore. From the instant that I put a Wii Remote in my hand and bowled a game in Wii Sports I was sold on motion control and family oriented gaming!

James Newton: I worked in games retail at the time and I remember telling everyone I was getting my Wii a few days early. When the time came I did indeed get it a few days early, but had to promise not to tell anyone. Whoops! My wife thought I’d be really upset, so when she came home and I was playing Wii Sports tennis I think she was quite surprised! I remember being slightly disappointed by the Nunchuk’s motion recognition accuracy, but it didn’t stop me pumping hours and hours into Wii Sports and Twilight Princess.

Thomas Whitehead: I was intrigued, myself. I'd moved to PC gaming after the N64, but the Wii was doing something completely new. Wii Sports was an insane experience, playing games with family members was surreal but fun.

Jamie O’Neill: I agree with Mark and Ron, when I first heard about Wii's unique controls, I thought that Nintendo would continue a downward sales spiral, started by the GameCube. How wrong could I have been?

Mark Reece: Yeah, we misjudged that a bit, right Jamie? Good job we're not betting men.

Christopher Ingram: If you're anything like me Thomas, I played online shooters on the PC and the Wii Remote looked like the perfect fit for some great motion controlled FPS action!

Thomas Whitehead: Indeed! Metroid Prime 3 is glorious from a control perspective.

Christopher Ingram: Yep, Metroid Prime 3 did nail down the FPS genre pretty well on the Wii — much better than Red Steel did!

Ron DelVillano: I thought that motion control sounded like the worst idea in the world and that the Wii Remote/Nunchuk looked like the most unusable set of controls I had ever seen. I still think that FPS has failed on the Wii. I can't get it to work at all.

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