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Nintendo GameCube Holiday Buyer's Guide
Written by Erich Becker
December 18, 2002

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So you took the plunge into the next generation with the PlayStation2, and here you are two years later thinking what to get next. Two distinct choices present themselves (along with the required Game Boy Advance purchase). You can either jump onto the Xbox or GameCube wagon or both, funds permitting. If you can only choose one, and decide to pick up the newest machine from long time console maker Nintendo, you will be treated to some of the best games since the days of the SNES.

The GameCube is a hardcore gaming machine. Be sure you know that before you decide to go that route. You won’t find a DVD player, CD player or any other bells and whistles that Sony and Microsoft boast about. Nintendo wants to own your living room by giving you a fun and enjoyable experience that is both rewarding and challenging at the same time. Through the course the GameCube’s first year on the market there have been some great games released, and while I can’t touch on them all, here are just some of our top picks.

Metroid Prime - 10 Perfect KeysDeveloped by second party Retro Studios, Nintendo's Metroid Prime has been, well, a prime example of how to reinvent a franchise in the third dimension. No where along the line does Prime loose any of its 2D influence. This "First Person Adventure," as Nintendo dubs it, is a masterfully crafted game where adventure and exploration take precedence above combat and blowing stuff up. The presentation of the game makes it a real winner with the acknowledgment that real Metroid fans constructed the game for all the other fans out there. Samus has been brought to 3D in marvelous form, and Retro Studios has a serious contender for Game of the Year honors.

Super Mario Sunshine - 9 out of 10 KeysWhile panned as not as revolutionary as Super Mario 64 (N64), Super Mario Sunshine has everything you would expect from a Super Mario game, and some things you might not. Gone is the setting familiar to gamers, this game takes place on a far off island where a masked painter has been befouling the island with a mucky goo and "M" shaped graffiti. Mario is blamed for these crimes and is up to you and your arsenal of new and returning moves to butt-stomp the baddies and clear Mario’s name. The colorful setting of Mario Sunshine is the biggest change in the series, but change isn’t a bad thing in this case. While the story still revolves around you rescuing the princess (a tried and true method in the Mario Universe) the adding of the water-pack that allows Mario to hover, shoot, and solve puzzles integrates a whole new dimension of gameplay mechanics to a whole new generation of gamers. While stout fans may find the departure from the norm disturbing and blasphemy, those open to a evolutionary course of the series will find the new setting and gameplay mechanics a rewarding experience. (see our past detailed review here)

Eternal Darkness - 10 Perfect Keys Another second party offering, and another contender for Game of the Year honors. Even in a year when both a Super Mario and Star Fox game were released, it was Nintendo’s satellite studios that came through to show the world that the GameCube has come of age. Eternal Darkness was developed by recently purchased Silicon Knights, whom you may remember as developing the original Blood Omen. Eternal Darkness started its development cycle as a Nintendo 64 game and while you play you will always be remember of this. Character models are constructed of polygons in very low numbers and textures can appear blurry and at low resolutions, but you don’t play Eternal Darkness for graphics. You may not even play Eternal Darkness at all — it plays you, much like Silent Hill 2. Through the course of the game you will be tied and twisted across nearly a dozen different time periods and characters as you learn of the true origins of evil. Gameplay is only enhanced by a buzzing spell system and a solid combat/game engine. The sound and the experience alone make up for the shoddy graphics (and only at times). The sanity effects might have you playing wondering if that statue is moving or if it is all in your head, or both. (see our past detailed review here)

Resident Evil - 9 out of 10 KeysResident Evil isn’t a new experience, but it is a new game. Capcom reset the standards for graphics when they went back and remade one of the most classic games to come out in the last 10 years. Resident Evil was a revolutionary experience that ushered in the genre we now call "survival horror," but it did more than just that. Aside from the horribly bad graphics and god-awful voice acting, the original RE immersed you in the world of the characters and delivered true scares and objects and enemies popped out of the least likely places. The remake for the GameCube is essentially the same game as its 7-year-old brother but with a whole new outlook on life. The environments and characters are photo-realistic, so much so that it is hard to see where the CG ends and the real-time begins. Spanning two discs, Resident Evil’s upgraded graphics and sound aren’t the only things it has going for it. For many, who missed out on the original for whatever reason, this gives them a chance to experience the game Capcom would have originally intended, but technology just wasn’t up to the vision. While the scares have been done before, and better in later games, the experience is still there. For fans of the series, there is enough new material and nostalgia to keep them happy until Resident Evil 4 is released. If you like Resident Evil, be sure to check out the pre-chapter, Resident Evil 0, which was recently released. (see our past detailed review here)

Sonic Mega Collection - 7 out of 10 KeysNostalgia is the name of the game for Sega since they have become one of the leading third party developers in the industry. While a bit of me will always resent them for canceling Shenmue 2 in the U.S. for my beloved Dreamcast, the other parts of me are just fine and dandy with the games they are putting out for the GameCube, PlayStation2 and the Xbox. Sonic Mega Collection is just what the name implies, a Mega Collection of Sonic games that spans mostly the Genesis years, when the real Sonic games were released. Including Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and the revolutionary Sonic & Knuckles, among other lesser-known games, this disc is packed with extras like comic book covers and other information on the "blue dude with a ‘tude." While it may look like a way to rehash games and make a quick buck, not many of us want to hunt down our Genesis and see if they still actually work, not to mention all the game cartridges that are condensed to one easy to store disc. They may be old, but they are classics.

Other games may not be as noteworthy but are certainly worth checking out. Star Fox Adventures puts you into the shoes of Fox McCloud as he attempts to save Dinosaur Planet from the clutches of General Scales. The game features a new way of presenting the Star Fox cast, outside of Arwings, and was Rare’s last game for the GameCube before being purchased by Microsoft. For those interested in saving the universe, Lucas Arts’ Star Wars Episode II: Clone Wars is a worthy game for at the very least, a rental. Putting you into different scenes from Attack of the Clones, Clone Wars features pick up and play controls and was developed by one of the PC’s most cherished and talented developers. For those looking for irreverent gameplay be sure to try out Nintendo’s Animal Crossing. If classic Nintendo games and addictive gameplay are up your alley, so is this game. You might want to play all of these games on your brand new wireless controller, the Wavebird from Nintendo. The Wavebird is slightly bigger than the standard GameCube controller but doesn’t have the hassles of dealing with cords: Pick a channel and play away. If you want some strategy to your life, be sure to pick up Nintendo’s excellent Pikmin that features a small space-explorer who crashes on a mysterious planet where the plant life has all the intention of helping our troubled-spaceman back into the stars. Pikmin has a unique charm and a variety of puzzles that require you to use your head to accomplish goals. Looking for some extreme sports? Look no further than the excellent Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 from Activision’s O2 Brand.

These are just some of the games I have been able to touch on, and there are countless others out there that deserve your attention. In fact, Nintendo claims there will be 180 games out by this Christmas. While not all of them should be purchased and played, a great many can offer you a way out from real life when things get too tough, or too boring.

If you decide to pick up a GameCube this year, you will find that it wasn’t a bad choice, and if you get anyone of the games listed above as a gift, you know that someone out there loves you. Of course if you get Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Sweet 16 you might be wondering what you did to deserve such punishment, at least you can use coal.

I hope these choices have enlightened you to some of the GameCube’s bright spots, and I hope you enjoy these games as much as we have. Oh and we have this little game called The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker coming next year, along with a slew of exclusives you won’t find anywhere else. Throw that in with the Game Boy Advance and it’s connectivity, the GameCube is a might fine prospect.



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