Nintendo Gamecube review

Nintendo GamecubeNintendo has just launched it's next generation console in the US, it has a neat design and there are some great game titles on the shelves but can it compete with Microsoft's Xbox?

Slightly wider than a Game Boy Advance and just four inches high, the GameCube is has a very compact design. Its basic rectangular casing features a top-loading optical disc drive, reset and open buttons on the top front corners, and a power button on the top back corner on the left-hand side. The GameCube console includes four controller ports, two Digicard memory card ports, a standard audio/video-out port, and a digital-out port for HDTV.

The bottom of the GameCube features a high-speed serial port, an expansion port, and a network adapter port for a 56K modem or broadband adapter. Nintendo launched the GameCube in Japan on September 14 in just purple, but it will eventually be available in black and orange in that territory as well. In the US, the GameCube will launch in black and purple on November 18, with other colors to follow in early 2002. Nintendo has promised to have 1.1 million GameCubes in US stores by the end of the year. The GameCube is the first video game console to include a handle.

Nintendo announced the initial specifications for its next-generation console, code-named Dolphin at an electronics show in 1999. Nintendo knew it was essential to start creating a buzz about its next machine, with Sony scheduled to show Gran Turismo 2 running on a PlayStation 2 development kit at the show. After the initial announcement, Nintendo retreated into its cave for more than a year until Space World 2000 last August, where the Dolphin's name was changed to GameCube, demos of several popular Nintendo franchises were shown, and the console's final specifications were released.

Nintendo was courted by a bevy of chip manufacturers hoping to score the GameCube contract, including NEC, the developer of the Nintendo 64's MPU. Nintendo chose IBM due to the company's advances in copper chip technology. IBM's copper chips run faster than Intel's aluminum Pentium chips at the same clock speed, feature low power consumption, and run much cooler than their aluminum counterparts. The GameCube's 0.18 Microns copper-based 485MHz MPU, dubbed Gekko, is based on IBM's PowerPC architecture and is very similar in design to the architecture found in Apple's G3 line of computers. While real-world benchmark tests can vary application-to-application, PowerPC chips that clock at 400MHz can achieve processing results at least equivalent to an Intel Pentium III line clocked at 700MHz or more. The GameCube includes 24MB of cutting-edge 1T-SRAM for its main memory, as well as 16MB of the same DRAM used in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

The GameCube's graphics processing unit (GPU) was developed by ArtX and will be produced by NEC. ArtX helped design the Nintendo 64 GPU and was recently bought by ATI, giving the longtime PC video card developer a foothold in the console market. Called Flipper, GameCube's 162MHz GPU includes 3.1MB of embedded MoSys 1T-SRAM for Z-buffers, frame buffers, and texture cache. The embedded memory will let developers keep information close to the graphics chip to decrease latency. Nintendo conservatively estimated the GameCube's polygonal output to be 6 to 12 million polygons per second in complete game environments, but developer leaks have suggested that the real number is more than 20 million polygons per second.

The launch games shown at E3 were already eclipsing Nintendo's conservative figures. Displaying textures should be the GameCube's most potent asset. GameCube will utilize S3's 6-to-1 texture compression, which will let texture data be shrunk to one-sixth its original size, with no appreciable hit on the hardware. In addition to the S3 texture compression, the GameCube will be able to display eight simultaneous textures per object, compared with the Xbox's ability to display just four in hardware.

Our Opinion

Nintendo have created what will undoubtedly be one of the greatest games consoles of all time, in the Nintendo Gamecube it will carry on Nintendo's great tradition of fantastic games consoles with outstanding games. However, although it may look sweet and tiny, beneath the Colourful outer-casing the Gamecube has enough power to rule the gaming world.

The back catalogue of Nintendo games is incredible, and all of Nintendo's stars will be making a return. Mario, Luigi, Pikachu and Link will all be back on Gamecube bigger and better than ever and of the early games to be release Luigi's Mansion and Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II looks amazing.

Nintendo know how to make great games, Microsoft and their developers don't have that track record. In addition the Gamecube will not just have cute cuddly but playable games that we expect from Nintendo...Capcom the makers of the Resident Evil series have already pledged allegence to the new console and some great 'dark adult' titles are in the wings including Biohazard and Eternal Darkness.

For pure gaming experience my money is with the Gamecube - sorry Bill

--Jamie O'Connell


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