Description: Though it looks like a toy, don't be fooled: the Nintendo GameCube
is a powerful video game console that rightly deserves its place
among the other next-generation game systems. In fact, its playful,
appealing design and small size (the unit is a not-quite-cubed 6
inches) aren't the only features that set it apart from the others.
For starters, Nintendo has quite clearly made this a game-only
machine. It doesn't try to play your CD collection, run your movies,
read your e-mail, or store your MP3 files. The company has concentrated
its efforts on games. All the prelaunch titles we've seen play smoothly,
with bright, fast graphics and great sound. Nintendo says its engineers
have removed traditional bottlenecks that have, in the past, slowed
down processing. New components designed by IBM and MoSys, as well
as a large-capacity secondary memory cache, keep instructions moving
through the system's microprocessor (MPU) at peak levels. In English:
the GameCube is optimized to push speed up while pushing costs down;
hence its position at the lower end of the price spectrum.
The GameCube is the first Nintendo video game system to use a disc-based
medium rather than cartridges for its games. Moving the software
to disc media generally means lower development costs for the publishers,
which, in turn, trickles down to the consumer not only in price,
but also in availability and quality, as it's then easier to try
out untested game ideas (Pikmin, anyone?). While most other systems
likewise have their games stored on discs, the GameCube's 3-inch
format is smaller than everyone else's, and is so designed to fit
in a shirt pocket as much as to deter would-be software pirates.
Of course, the main advantage of the GameCube is that it's the
home field of one of the world's premier game designers: Nintendo.
While powerhouses Electronic Arts and Sega make games for all systems
(including this one), you can play Nintendo games only on a Nintendo
system. And Nintendo, you might recall, has been hitting them out
of the park since it started with Donkey Kong. In fact, here's a
roll call of characters and series you won't find on the other consoles:
Mario, Legend of Zelda, Perfect Dark, Metroid, Kirby, and, of course,
Pokémon. A few names that the GameCube will share with the
other guys: Madden, Tony Hawk, Sonic, Batman, and Star Wars.
The system also comes with four built-in controller ports, so you
can easily plug in extra controllers and let friends join in for
the multiplayer games--it's even got a built-in handle so you can
easily move it to a friend's house. It comes with two memory card
slots for saving your progress through games, and there's the capacity
for future expansion into the world of online gaming.
In short, the GameCube isn't an all-in-one entertainment system,
and neither is it the most powerful of the modern video game consoles.
But for video game enthusiasts who want to stick with their favorite
characters, its value cannot be beat. --Porter B. Hall
MPU (Microprocessor Unit): 485 MHz custom IBM PowerPC Gekko