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Nintendo Gamecube

Once the predominant video game manufacturer and developer in the world, Nintendo has struggled to keep up with its competitors after a disastrous stretch in the 1990’s. Many fans attribute Nintendo’s current underdog status to their previous 64-bit system, the Nintendo64 (or N64). Their choice for a cartridge-based system when Sony’s first offering to the market (the Playstation) used CD-ROM technology proved to be the nail in the coffin for Nintendo at the time. Market share for Sony’s Playstation skyrocketed against the N64 and Nintendo found itself in the unusual spot of second place. With the introduction of 128-bit generation of consoles, the Sony Playstation 2 and Microsoft’s XBOX (a new system), Nintendo had to come up with a definitive answer for a new generation of console systems. Their answer was the Gamecube.

The instant you look at a Gamecube you can sense something different. Its elegant cube design is compact and features a handle for easy transport. The Gamecube uses a proprietary Matsushita optical disc technology that fits 1.5 gigabytes of data into a disc that is only 3 inches in diameter! The great thing about these little discs is that they’re easy to carry around and they simply pop into a static drive with a lid that pops open (thus negating problems with motors encountered in its competitor’s DVD-ROM trays).  Unfortunately since the disc drive is so small it cannot accommodate DVDs (so it can’t play movies!).

The entire design looks really sleek and reeks of Nintendo. The controllers for the system are by far the most ergonomic and fit your hands easily. There are only seven buttons and two small thumbsticks. I still think the controllers are the best out of the three systems. My only complaint about them is that they are a bit small (not really designed for bigger North American hands!) but you can purchase third-party controllers that are a bit bigger.

At the heart of the system is the "Gekko" processor by IBM based on the PowerPC 750Cxe. It is manufactured in a 180-nanometer process and runs at a clock frequency of 485 MHz. The system bus capacity is 1.3 GB/s at peak. The video processor is specially made for the Gamecube by an ATI subsidiary, ArtX. It’s called the "Flipper" and clocks in at 162 MHz. It has a 2 MB frame buffer and a 1 MB texture cache. Flipper can handle 10.4 GB/s of texture read, 2.6 GB/s of main memory bandwidth, and a polygon rate of 9 M/s running on 24-bit color.

What does this all mean in a qualitative sense? The Gamecube is pretty slick! Graphics are bright and vibrant, the sound quality is top notch, and its game library is uniquely Nintendo. Of course there are third-party games for GC that are available for both PS2 and XBOX, but it’s Nintendo’s franchises that really shine here. Classics like Mario Kart, Metroid, Super Mario Brothers, and F-Zero have all enjoyed extensive makeovers for the Gamecube. If anything, the Gamecube is geared more for the younger crowd that has always been Nintendo’s focus.