December 16th, 2006, 16:30 Posted By: wraggster
via the herald
LIVING IN THE shadows of two bigger, meaner consoles, the Nintendo GameCube has often been overlooked as a viable gaming alternative.
Still, with its bargain price, steady diet of kid-friendly titles and the occasional show-stopper game that thrust it into the limelight, the little box that could has had a decent run with the big boys these past five years.
And now as Nintendo fully ramps up its Wii marketing onslaught, the GameCube takes a bow and for all intents and purposes, exits stage left.
It’s a shame it didn’t have a more glitzy year to commemorate its retirement, but 2006 wasn’t without its moments. Here’s a bit of what caught my eye in the last year:
GAME OF THE YEAR
Runner Up No. 3: Harvest Moon: Magical Melody (Natsume)
Expanding on the success that was Animal Crossing, the cutesy characters and addictive chores really sparkled in this harmless little title. The presentation might have screamed preschool, but the gameplay found here was surprisingly engrossing and helped launch similar games like the Viva Pinata series.
Runner Up No. 2: Mega Man X Collection (Capcom)
Proving that there’s still some life in 2D gaming, this title boasted all six of the Mega Man X titles plus a new bonus game, ensuring players’ fingers and hands would be sore for weeks to come. Younger gamers loved the gameplay and the older set welcomed the walk down memory lane.
Runner Up No. 1: Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (LucasArts)
Even the most sceptical of gamers was won over by this inspired mash-up of two of childhood’s most endearing franchises. The attention to detail and great use of humour combined with the kind of action and adventure only Star Wars can provide made this game a colourful distraction with something for everyone.
Grand Prize: The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess (Nintendo)
It’s fitting the GameCube’s final great game would be one featuring one of its most iconic franchises. While heavily touted as a Wii launch title, this game packed almost the exact same masterpiece into the GameCube version. One of the most anticipated games on any console in 2006, Twilight Princess delivered the goods and then some in a staggering 50+ hour epic that ranks up there with any other Zelda game to date.
Honourable Mention: Chibi-Robo (Nintendo)
Small in size but heavy on the charm, this was a guilty pleasure of a game, a title you could just pick up and play without a care in the world. Quirky and unique, Chibi-Robo managed to turn a mundane homestead into a world of wonder, and players were keen on reaping the rewards.
SHAME OF THE YEAR
Stinker Award: The Ant Bully (Midway)
This hopeless exercise in mediocrity is a classic example of how Hollywood’s infiltration of the video game industry can choke the creativity out of game development. A plea to game studios: just because you CAN turn a movie into a video game doesn’t mean you have to. Please think of us gamers and not just your bottom line!
Dubious Mention: Super Monkey Ball Adventure (Sega)
Bright colors and loud noises might entertain newborns but they sure don’t make for a great gaming experience. Frustrating enough to drive away even the most resolute of players, this simian-laden nightmare of a platformer marked a precipitous drop in what was once a respected franchise.
HIGHS & LOWS
Biggest Surprise: Where’s Mario?!
It’s amazing to think that it’s been over a year since Mario starred in a GameCube game. Last seen in Super Mario Strikers, Nintendo’s ambassador to the world spent 2006 starring in a plethora of Nintendo DS handheld titles before popping up all over the Wii’s Virtual Console in games of yesteryear. He’s due back on the Cube sometime in 2007 in Super Paper Mario, but his absence was keenly felt during this console’s farewell tour.
Biggest Letdown: So Many Ports, So Little Interest
A staggering number of releases on the GameCube in 2006 were originally developed for other consoles and ham-handedly ported to the GameCube in a most unceremonious fashion. It’s hard to blame studios for obeying the whims and forces of the video game market, but when the majority of new GameCube titles are available to play in better form on other platforms, that leaves a lot of Nintendo loyalists out in the cold.
Nintendo might not have officially retired the Cube, but they’re definitely tuning up the band and getting a cake ready.
With a sharp decline in third-party releases in 2006, the determined push behind the Wii and boundless development opportunities on the handheld front, fans of the GameCube don’t have a lot to cheer about as 2007 draws closer.
Despite a relatively low sticker price, a healthy game library and rich character history, the GameCube will soon be fighting just to remain on shelves in many retail outlets as the next-gen slowly becomes current-gen and display space becomes limited.
With the PS2 well-posited to become the "cheap" gaming alternative of choice, the Cube will undoubtedly find itself detached from televisions across the nation and reduced to the roles of hand-me-down gift, flea-market mainstay or novelty relic.
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