Colour like no other
Kilmarnock’s famous Indoor Market, the birth place of our obsession with video games. In amongst the stalls selling sweets, samurai swords and baby clothes, you’d find Games Centre. Games Centre was our local video game shop and it started right here and grew to be Scotland’s largest independent video game retailer until closing earlier this year.
It was here that we bought the games that helped define us, not just as kids that played video games, but they also helped to define our friendship. Now, I’ve mentioned in other videos and podcasts that I was a pretty casual gamer growing up and it wasn’t until I went to university when I finally started to get into video games and it was right here that I bought the console that’s probably responsible for all the videos we’ve made over the last eight years.
Last month, Nintendo announced that the Switch had outsold the GameCube. For many, the GameCube was seen as a novelty, as a failure compared to the more popular PS2 and the more powerful Xbox. The biggest games on the system couldn’t compare to the likes of GTA3, Halo or simply being able to play DVDs.
Everything Nintendo was doing, from making a cell-shaded Zelda to a Mario game where the big man becomes a street cleaner, seemed to be going against the grain of the time and although some games released on the system are still talked about in Best Games of All Time lists (Animal Crossing, Resident Evil 4, Eternal Darkness, Metroid Prime), it’s gone down in history as the misstep before the release of the incredibly successful Wii.
Well, I simply don’t agree. I think the GameCube was Nintendo realising that competing with other companies will only lead to a marketplace where everything becomes an incremental pissing contest. I mean, look at the PS2 and the Xbox; barring the bits of metal inside the plastic boxes, there’s not a lot between them and that’s honestly the same today.
Oh, this one does 4K, this one has HDR blah blah blah. The GameCube built the foundations that have led to you being able to play Breath of the Wild, one of the best games ever made, on the toilet. The Nintendo we love today is because of the boldness of the GameCube era.
By boldness, I mean, just look at some of the games; Wind Waker, Super Mario Sunshine, Double Dash, Pikmin and on and on. What set them apart from their peers on other consoles? Those colours, those bright and vibrant colours. When we were younger, we always said that the PS2 had the library, the Xbox had the online structure and the GameCube handled colours. But looking back, it wasn’t just that it handled colours well, it’s that it was the only console bucking the dark and edgy trend and making games that rejoiced in colour. Wind Waker is still, in my mind, the high watermark for cell-shading and Super Mario Sunshine is simply stunning to watch and at the time it felt like magic.
I still talk about the day Mario Kart Double Dash was released and we played every track in teams and how badly Joe and I were horsed at all but the first cup. None of the decisions seemed to play safe and, for me, the risks paid off.
I’d be lying though if I intimated that this was a widely held opinion; folk hated Wind Waker for looking childish, Sunshine for giving Mario a water pistol and let’s not even talk about Star Fox Adventures. While some third-party games were amazing, like Resident Evil 4, Killer 7 or Rogue Leader, it never had the same support as its competitors and even though the console launched at £130, it sold about 11 million units less than the N64 and about two million less than the original Xbox. But you can’t always measure success in numbers or in profit; the legacy and the memories are what make the GameCube important. The DNA of Wind Waker is in BotW; FLUDD from Sunshine is the grampa of the splatter guns in Splatoon; there’s a reason why folk still buy GameCube pads to play Smash Brothers.
For me, the fact that the GameCube was offering games that felt so fresh and exciting got me seriously into games and it’s probably formed a major part in many of the friendships I’ve made over the years and I doubt I’d be doing Bit Socket if it hadn’t been for the GameCube.
I’ll always remember nights spent playing Smash Brothers, moaning at Joe playing as Link in Soul Calibur 2 or coveting the daftest remake of all time, Twin Snakes.
But I don’t want to just throw praise at a company that while making amazing games can also be distant and notoriously litigious. Instead, I wanted to come here and remember the wee smile on the face of the guy that sold me my GameCube, thinking he was selling me an absolute dud. If only he’d known how much enjoyment I’d get out of it and all the games I’ve played since.
He should’ve charged me double.