Pocket monsters, British detectives, future warfare, and fake Fortnite are all vying for your dollars this week. Side note, I tried looking for a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for DS, but it’s like $100 bucks! Can they do a Switch remaster of that game? Okay, on with the new stuff.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl (Switch) – Releases Nov. 19th
There are now three mainline Pokémon games for the Switch and two of them have been remakes. I’m not really complaining, I loved the Blue/Red remake, and this Diamond/Pear remake is great because those old DS carts are stupid expensive. There has been some pre-release chatter due to some leaks that I won’t go over (I haven’t even seen them), but if you know anything about video game “fans” then you can guess their reaction. Meanwhile, normal people like myself will happily pick this up and play it in our spare time.
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One (PC/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 16th
From Ukrainian developer Frogwares comes their 9th game based on the famous character Sherlock Holmes. In this latest game, players will step into the shoes of a young Holmes who is just starting out as a detective, grappling with the recent death of his mother. You will explore exotic Mediterranean locales as you search for clues surrounding the mysterious circumstances under which she died. The game appears to be made up of four parts that you can either purchase in piecemeal or all at once. Fun fact, they also made that game The Sinking City, if that does anything for you.
Battlefield 2042 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 19th
Bro, do you like to fucking shoot shit? Get Battlefield 2042.
Nerf Legends (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 19th
Friend, do you like to freaking shoot stuff? Get Nerf Legends.
Far Cry 6 – Vaas: Insanity (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 16th
Vaas looks like a kid I went to elementary school with; he was also not very nice. I guess Ubisoft is planning DLC around the villains from Far Cry 4 and 5 as well, so if you’re a long time fan of the series then you’re probably excited about this news.
Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 16th
Hey, remember Kingdom Two Crowns from 2018? Here’s what I said about it on December 11th, 2018, “The original Kingdoms was released in 2015 and was called a “sidescrolling…minimalist…” game by the developers. Taking on a pixel art look, they designed a strategy/resource management game that took place in an old medieval kingdom. An expansion/remake came out a couple years later titled New Lands, which added more content and…land. Now a full-fledged sequel is coming that, again, according to the developers, “…expands upon the challenging micro strategy experience…” by adding a campaign mode, as well as the ability to play the game in a new co-op mode, both locally and online. I’ve overlooked this series, but I have the feeling it is going to be worth checking out at some point“. You might be wondering “did Andy ever check it out“? LOL, no.
DID YOU ALL PRE-ORDER YOUR COLLECTOR’S EDITION OF FARMING SIMULATOR 22??!!??!!!!?
- Grow: Song of the Evertree (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Nov. 16th
- Arcadia Fallen (PC/Switch) – Releases Nov. 17th
- Farming Simulator 22 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Nov. 22nd
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) – Released Nov. 20th, 2011: Wiki Link
The Zelda series is perhaps Nintendo’s most beloved, striking the right balance of fun and adventure that is appealing to both the hardcore and the casual player. in 2008, when hint of a new title in the franchise was coming to the Wii it sent tongues wagging, as it would be the first proper Zelda game on the Wii. While the system did launch with the Zelda game Twilight Princess, that title was technically a GameCube game and didn’t take full advantage of the Wii’s motion controls. By 2009 the new Zelda game was officially announced, but it had no title and no gameplay, just an image of Link and a new character named Fi. The art style of the game was kind of in-between the cartoon graphics of Windwaker and the the realistic graphics of Twilight Princess. As for controls, Nintendo announced that the new Zelda would take advantage of the brand new MotionPlus, which would be an add-on device for existing Wiimotes, along with brand new Wiimotes that would release with the new controls built in. The game was announced for 2010, but delays in programming caused the release to be moved to 2011. It was one of those famous moments where the series creator Shigeru Miyamoto indicated that they wanted to make sure they put the game out when it was fully done, not just when it was convenient for Nintendo, i.e., the famous “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad” mentality.
During E3 in 2010, Nintendo opened their show with the new Zelda and finally revealed the name, Skyward Sword. Just before this, Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aimé came out and took a pot shot at rivals Sony and Microsoft, decrying the buzz words of “motion controls” and “no controls at all”, meaning the PlayStation Move and Kinect. He went on to say that Nintendo was more concerned with the experience players would have, rather than giving them hollow technological advancements. He introduced Skyward Sword as an experience that many gamers had been waiting for, and proceeded to introduced Mr. Miyamoto, who would come on screen and describe the new Zelda game. On stage was longtime Nintendo employee and translator Bill Trinen, trying his best to use the motion controls. He awkwardly fumbled around before Mr. Miyamoto would “warp” onto the stage from the screen, using the Wii MotionPlus to slice open the screen and walk out. He then showed Bill the “right” way to play by being precise with the controller…and he of course had a terrible time getting them to work. It’s probably not as embarrassing as I’m letting on, but seeing a grown man on stage waving his arms around erratically, trying to be precise with a tiny plastic wand is hilarious and cringe-worthy.
Meanwhile, let’s go back a few years to 2006, right after the release of Twilight Princess. Longtime Zelda developer Nintendo EAD immediately started pre-production on Skyward Sword following Twilight Princess’ release, and were assisted in development by Monolith Soft who had just wrapped up Xenosaga Episide III on the PS2. Series producer Eiji Aonuma felt that Zelda was at a crossroads, wondering if the franchise could continue down the same path it had been following up until Twilight Princess, or if it was time to change things up. Seeing the unique ideas that were being done on the Zelda handheld games Aonuma tapped Hidemaro Fujibayashi to be Skyward Sword’s director, seeking a fresh perspective on the console side of Zelda. However, Fujibayashi was already slated to work on the Zelda title Spirit Tracks (in a non-director role) for the DS. This caused the first major delay in development, as Fujibayashi and his team had to split their time between both games, however, according to Mr. Miyamoto this was actually a good thing, as those first two years of development allowed the team to experiment greatly and incorporate a wealth of ideas into the game. Once Spirit Tracks was released in 2009 it was full steam ahead for Fujibayashi and his team as they worked through all of the ideas they had come up with.
The idea behind Skyward Sword’s design was that the game should appeal to both longtime fans as well as brand new players, especially since the Wii was responsible for bringing in all new audiences to video games, many of which who may have never even heard of Zelda. The idea to use MotionPlus for the game’s controls came from Fujibayashi, an idea that producer Aonuma was highly enthusiastic about, causing a second delay to the game as it would need to be started over from scratch to incorporate the new control scheme. However, the team had a really rough time in getting the controls to work properly and, at one point, things were so bad with the motion controls that Aonuma wanted to scrap them entirely. It wasn’t until the team saw what Nintendo EAD No. 2 were able to do with Wii Sports Resort’s sword fighting mini game that Aonuma was convinced not to drop the motion controls. They were able to get EAD No. 2 to give them the tech necessary to make swordplay work in a satisfying way, and in the process they would need to re-do all of the enemy AI to be able to counter Link’s sword swings. It should also be mentioned that the reason the game is called Skyward Sword is because of the MotionPlus, as Aonuma wanted players to experience holding their Wiimote straight up in the air, pointed towards the sky. In fact, the game’s whole story and motif was centered on Link’s most famous weapon; The Master Sword.
Skyward Sword’s story was also written by director Fujibayashi, with its main focus being all about the origin on The Master Sword, a longtime staple of the series, dating all the way back to the original The Legend of Zelda on the NES. He had initially also wanted to incorporate the origins of Hyrlue’s creation, but his ideas would often contradict already established Zelda lore. To finally get everything in the story locked down, Fujibayashi faked an illness so he could take the day off of work, holing himself up in a hotel room and cranking out the entire synopsis for Skyward Sword in one day. After completing the synopsis it was handed to the game’s cinematics director and writer, Shigeki Yoshida & Naoki Mori, so that they could create the game’s cutscenes, totaling to over 120 minutes of footage. In telling the origins of The Master Sword a new character was created, one that appeared in that first promotional art for the game, a blue humanoid named Fi, who was actually the spirit of The Master Sword. In bucking traditions, Zelda was not royalty in Skyward Sword, instead being a mischievous and playful woman who has been friends with Link since their childhood. Aonuma was tired of finding new and creative ways for Link to have to care about saving a princess he barely knows, so making them lifelong friends was a way for them to both get around that barrier as well as giving players a stronger emotional connection to the Zelda character. With the story and motivations set, the next piece was figuring out what this world looked like.
Typically, Zelda games would feature a large, outdoor, overworld with dungeons placed throughout that held new weapons/items and a McGuffin to collect in order to get to the final dungeon. Skyward Sword once again went past tradition and gave us one of the smallest Zelda worlds to date. First off, with the sky being so important, Skyward Sword has two major areas, a could based town that Link lives in called Skyloft, and the “Surface”, a land mass below Skyloft that is now considered a rumor. The Surface is divided up into three distinct sections, each of which carries conflicting topography and climates, therefore adding to the importance of Skyloft as a way to bring players between each Surface area with out making them look so strange to be mashed up against one another. This meant a lot of tedious backtracking for players, but it was necessary to move the game along, as Link would need to travel through each of these areas if he wanted to save Zelda from Demise. After a new trailer released at E3 2011, the game would be completed in June, going through the final stages of polish and balancing before releasing on November 20th, 2011.
Skyward Sword was a critical smash with reviewers calling it a masterpiece and one of the best games of 2011. Notirously picky Japanese magazine Weekly Famitsu gave the game a perfect score, making it the third Zelda game, and 16th overall, to ever receive such an honor. Other perfect scores came from Edge, Game Informer, Eurogamer and IGN. High praise was given to how different Skyward Sword felt from previous Zelda games, which likely delighted Aonuma, with critics saying it felt like a turning point in the franchise and hoped all future Zelda games would follow this new formula. Still, there were some negative aspects of the game, each of which seem to get more and more attention as the years go by. With the map being so small you would often find yourself performing menial quests for people in Skyloft, over and over and over, adding to the game’s tedium. There was a heavy dependence on using items for just about everything, and they would often require motion controls that were, we were starting to see, not as impressive as Nintendo made them out to be. What about making the game more accessible to new players? That meant endless tutorials, including a never ending succession of prompts from Fi every time you get an item, telling you what to do with it, how to use it, where to use it, then telling you where to go, what to do, etc., etc., it’s ad-nauseum. The lest favorable review came from Tom McShea at GameSpot who would praise the game’s dungeons, enemies, and visuals, but he was far from impressed with the motion controls, calling them unreliable and unnecessary. He specifically cited it as a poor experience, and I’m not sure if that was a direct dig at what Reggie said at E3 in 2010, but it kind of felt like it. Reggie said that Nintendo was more about delivering experiences over technology, but Skyward Sword failed on both accounts, despite its massive Metacritic score of 93/100. Even though it had some negative words for the game, GameSpot would call Skyward Sword the best game of the year, an honor also given out by EGM, Edge, and Nintendo Power. At the Spike VGA’s it would be given the award for Best Wii Game, while the DICE Awards would nominate it in three categories, failing to win any of them.
As time went on, critics and players started to find the cracks in Skyward Sword, giving the game more of a mixed reception today compared to its overwhelmingly positive reception at launch. The game has been criticized for its linear structure and poor motion controls. It also drew unfavorable comparisons to Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which had released a week earlier. That game was a massive open world experience that played with traditional button controls and offered hours of story content and gameplay. It felt more like a Zelda game than Skyward Sword did, and it was a key influence on the design of the next Zelda game, Breath of the Wild. In July of 2021 and HD remaster of the game would come to the Nintendo Switch, boasting improved graphics and controls, and removing many of the tutorials and other intrusive elements. It’s hard to ever think about a Zelda game being a failure, or subpar, but in some ways Skyward Sword was. That doesn’t mean it’s unplayable, or even a bad game, it just doesn’t feel as accomplished as previous entries. That’s okay though, because while it might feel disconnected, that is part of what makes it special to people, and with the HD remaster making theme more accessible to a wider audience, now is the perfect time to go out and give the game a shot.
GameCube – Released Nov. 18th, 2001: Wiki Link
Nintendo, the once dominant name in video games was in a bit of a slump by the start of the 21st century. The NES was a smash success when it released in 1985, and was still selling units well into the mid 90’s. Its follow up console, the Super Nintendo, was also successful but new competition from Sega and the console the Genesis were eating into Nintendo’s market share. Then in 1995 a second major competitor arrived when Sony released the PlayStation and it pushed both Nintendo and Sega to the side, becoming the dominant home console. Sega tried to counter with the Saturn, and failed horribly, while Nintendo put out the N64, but its use of cartridges turned off third party developers who were wary of the added production costs and the low memory capacity in comparison to an optical disc. By 1998, Nintendo knew it had to find a way to get back some of the market share they had lost due to increased competition and unpopular design choices, this was when the idea for the GameCube was born.
The first company that Nintendo reached out to was ArtX, a brand new company made up of former Silicon Graphics Inc. employees, many of whom had worked on the Nintendo 64’s graphics processor. Their job was, once again, to provide the GPU for Nintendo’s next generation hardware. The chip, codenamed “Flipper”, was built to appeal directly to game developers, with ArtX’s VP Greg Buchner stating that their intention was to put in tools and features that were simple to use, forward-thinking, and above else, would result in a lower cost to the developer. In fact, that was Nintendo’s guiding design philosophy for the GameCube, as its design document specifies that cost is of utmost importance, followed by space. At E3 in May of 1999, after nearly a year in development, Nintendo was ready to announce their new console to the public with the codename “Dolphin”. Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln told the audience that the Dolphin would be extremely powerful, but not expensive, and that he was confident that their graphics would match, and often exceed, those of the PlayStation 2. Lincoln also announced that the CPU would be provided by IBM, and that the console would not use ROM cartridges, news that came with wild applause. He would, however, not elaborate on just what the format would be. Behind the scenes, though, people knew.
Internet rumors began to swirl in 1999 in the weeks before E3, claiming that Nintendo’s new console was more powerful than the PS2, was easier to develop for, was cheap to manufacture, that several studios already had development kits, and that it was rumored to use DVD’s instead of cartridges. This rumor about the DVD’s were partly true, as the GameCube would use that technology for its software however, in typical Nintendo fashion, the discs wouldn’t be exactly the same as their competition. Instead of full sized DVD’s which can hold up to 8.5GB of data, Nintendo opted to go with mini-DVD’s that could only hold up to 1.5GB of data. This might seem strange, given that space was of major concern to Nintendo, but in terms of cost it was the right move, as the discs were cheaper to manufacture and did not require Nintendo or their partners to pay licensing fees to something called the DVD Forum (an international organization composed of hardware, software, media and production companies that use and develop the DVD format, according to Wikipedia). It also helped fight piracy which is good for developers, and even better for Nintendo, as piracy was one of the chief reasons the Dreamcast failed. However, for every step forward they took to help out third party developers, they seemed to take a couple steps back. Already mentioned was the lower disc size, meaning that developers had to either remove content or severely compress things like video and audio files, their licensing fee was far more expensive than Sony’s, as well as newcomer Microsoft, and despite earlier rumors, almost no one had a Dolphin dev kit. Counter this with Microsoft’s aggressive pursuit of third party developers, many of whom didn’t even need a dev kit as the Xbox was basically a high end PC, and Nintendo looked to be in the same boat all over again.
In late August Nintendo held a press conference in Japan and formally announced the name of their new console. It would no longer be referred to as “Dolphin”, it was the Nintendo GameCube. Initially the GameCube was set to launch in November of 2000 but manufacturing delays, as well as the inability to get dev kits out in time to third parties, caused Nintendo to move the launch date to Holiday 2001. Many analysts saw this as being the N64’s launch all over again, where Sony’s PlayStation had a one year head start on Nintendo, costing them to lose massive market share. Nintendo tried to downplay the delay, saying it was actually good for consumers because they would be able to focus their holiday dollars on quality N64 games like Blues Brothers 2000. In the offices at Nintendo, though, they knew the real reason was because the games just weren’t ready. The Dolphin was finished and ready to be shipped, but there were no games for it. Howard Lincoln in an interview with GameSpot acknowledged that they knew they would be late to release but spun it in a way that made it sound like they were doing it so that developers could have more time to polish their games and really make them shine on GameCube. On a personal note, after playing through the GameCube launch lineup and the Xbox launch lineup, a system that was rushed, I can easily say that the GameCube titles are better polished (for the most part).
When E3 2001 rolled around it was time for the GameCube to finally shine. Shigeru Miyamoto came strutting out onto the stage holding the controller in one hand and the console in the other, by its handle? Yes, the GameCube had a handle on the back, part of Nintendo’s idea that the console was both “portable” and also “a toy” to be played with. After a brief talk they would show the first footage of Super Smash Bros. Melee, followed by Luigi’s Mansion and a secret game that Miyamoto had been working on, Pikmin. After some revealing the game discs, going in depth on the controller, and touting the system’s connectivity options with the Game Boy Advance, a sizzle reel played. It would showcase titles like Wave Race: Blue Storm, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II, NBA Courtside 2002, Eternal Darkness, Starfox Adventures, called Dinosaur Planet at the time, as well as Animal Crossing, then called Animal Forest, among others. There were also a few games mentioned that didn’t come out, or were for other systems, including two Rare games, Donkey Kong Racing and Kameo: Elements of Power, however the most high profile game to not release, at least not in the style people thought, was a promised Legend of Zelda title for GameCube that featured a realistic looking Link and Gannon dueling with swords. The hype was real, and with a short delay from Nov. 2nd to Nov. 18th, the GameCube finally hit store shelves.
Unlike Microsoft who spent an ungodly $500 million dollars to market the Xbox, Nintendo only spent a paltry $75 million. This meant that they didn’t have a giant launch in Times Square with Miyamoto giving out the first GameCube to some schmuck at midnight. I mean, they did have a killer party a few weeks before with several celebrities in attendance, including Ryan Reynolds and Paris Hilton, and who can forget that great picture of Mr. Show’s Bob & David playing Melee, pretty sick, right? Still, the hype wasn’t really there for the console, and after one week of release, Xbox had sold out of their inventory in most retailers, while Nintendo had only move about 48% of their inventory, however it should be noted that Microsoft shipped 300k units while Nintendo shipped 700k units. It still wasn’t a good look, and over time it became more and more apparent that the GameCube was not going to Nintendo’s return to dominance.
While the GameCube would struggle over it’s six year lifespan, it would put out a stellar lineup of games, including some really great launch titles. Let’s have a look…
The First Party Nintendo Games
When the Nintendo GameCube was released it was the fourth console to come to North America from the famed Japanese company, and every time we got a system it would always launch with the latest Mario game. The GameCube, however, would buck this trend (and inadvertently start a new one) by not releasing a new Mario title, instead giving top billing to his overshadowed brother, Luigi. Developed by Nintendo EAD, the game was called Luigi’s Mansion, a 3D action game in which Luigi is tasked with searching through a huge mansion, going from room to room catching ghosts until the lady from Poltergeist comes out and says “This house…is clean“, I mean, until he has enough ghosts to face King Boo and save his brother Mario. To catch the ghosts, Luigi is equipped with a device called the Poltergust 3000, a modified vacuum cleaner, that sucks up ghosts and holds them in a tank before Luigi transfers them to a large machine that turns them into paintings. The Poltergust 3000 is the invention of a mad scientist named Professor E. Gadd who lives in a shack next to the mansion. Developed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideki Konno, and Takashi Tezuka, the game initially featured all major Mario characters inside of a dollhouse, however the focus quickly shifted to just Luigi in order to keep the game fresh and new. Commercially, Luigi’s Mansion has a blockbuster smash, selling the most copies out of the entire launch lineup and was the best selling game of November 2001 (take that Halo: Combat Evolved). Critics enjoyed the game, calling it innovative, tons of fun, and gorgeous to look at. However, there was a lot of criticism directed towards the game’s length, with an average player being able to beat it in 6-8 hours. While that may sound like a great thing for people with little time to game, in comparison to the beast that is Super Mario 64, you didn’t get a whole lot of bang for your buck here. Overall, though, Luigi’s Mansion did very well, sales wise, with over 3 million copies sold, making it the fifth best selling GameCube game of all time, beating out classics like Metroid Prime, Animal Crossing, and Resident Evil 4.
Nintendo’s other first party launch title was the racing game Wave Race: Blue Storm. With Nintendo EAD busy at work on Luigi’s Mansion, development of Blue Storm went to Nintendo Software Technology (NST), who had previously developed the warmly received Ridge Racer 64. The game was produced by (once again) Shigeru Miyamoto, Shigeki Yamashiro, and Minoru Arakawa, with Blue Storm being the last game Arakawa would work on for Nintendo after a long and fruitful career. The game is largely the same as its N64 predecessor, Wave Race 64, in that players take control of a jet ski (or personal water craft) and compete in races around a multitude of tracks, always staying within the artificial boundaries made by buoys. The game’s biggest technological achievement is its ability to create random wave patterns, making each track different each time you play. This was in contrast to the PS2 game Splashdown, which released only two weeks earlier, as it featured preset wave patterns. Critical reception was good, for the most part, but critics were not fully on board. For starters, the game was incredibly difficult, requiring near perfect steering and precision use of the L and R buttons. By comparison, Wave Race 64, which had worse controls, actually played better because it was slower and more clunky, making it less taxing on players and, therefore, easier. Speaking of Wave Race 64, Blue Storm was criticized for its re-use of multiple tracks from the N64 game, and its graphics were subpar, particularly in the riders and their vehicles. The water effects, though, were highly praised and won GameSpot’s annual “Best In-Game Water” award. Wave Race: Blue Storm wasn’t a huge seller, failing to reach 1 million units, but it was the third best selling launch title behind Luigi’s Mansion and another game we’ll talk about later. Today, Luigi’s Mansion is most easily obtained on the 3DS where the game was remade. Wave Race: Blue Storm is, sadly, gone, with no way to play this game without either owning the original disc or through emulation.
Sega Games On Nintendo?!
If you asked most kids in the 90’s if they would ever expect to see a Sega game on Nintendo you would be laughed out of the playground. Yet, due to a multitude of bad business decisions, Sega had to bow out of the console market in 2001, settling on being just a software company (and an arcade developer, I guess). This meant that for the first time (sort of) Sega would release games on the console of their formal rival, Nintendo. First up we have the GameCube port of Crazy Taxi, the 1999 arcade smash that had already been released on the Dreamcast and PS2. The GameCube port was developed by Acclaim (who also ported the PS2 version) and it was perfectly serviceable. The game still featured the same frantic gameplay as the arcade and Dreamcast versions, but there was just something missing from the port that kept it from feeling totally polished. The second launch title from Sega is the far superior Super Monkey Ball, an action/puzzle game that featured monkeys in balls collecting bananas. Developed by Amusement Vision who would eventually rename to Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (yes, the Yakuza developer), the game was the brainchild of director Toshiro Nagoshi (yes, again, the Yakuza developer). Nagoshi wanted to create a game where a ball would have to travel through a maze in a short amount of time. The concept was simple enough that the casual player could instantly pick it up and know what to do, but challenging enough that hardcore players could spend hours trying to master it. This would result in the game Monkey Ball, released in Japanese arcades in the middle of 2001, before it was remastered and tinkered with for release as an exclusive title for the GameCube. As described earlier, players would control a monkey in a ball and guide through a series of obstacle courses, collecting bananas before reaching the goal. The game was very well received by critics who called it challenging but fair, praising the way the game can make you feel like an idiot, then like you’re the smartest person in the room, before knocking you all the way back down again to the level of a dunce. The game also took full advantage of the GameCube’s four controller ports, adding in addictive party games that I’m sure were played in more than a few dorm room’s once kids got back from Winter break. Super Monkey Ball would sell phenomenally well in the United States, staying on the sales charts well through 2002 due to strong word of mouth. In Japan, though, the game was pretty much a bust, selling only about 100k copies in total during its lifespan, something that shocked Nagoshi as he expected it to be a hit in his home country. Recently an HD remaster called Super Monkey Ball Mania was released on all modern platforms, including the Nintendo Switch, and is well worth your time if you’re a casual player or a hardcore gamer.
The Third Party Licensed Games
Third party developer support was very important to Nintendo with the GameCube, and with Sega already putting out two games, it would be Ubisoft’s turn to jump in with two licensed titles, Disney’s Tarzan: Untamed and Batman: Vengeance. Both developed by Ubisoft Montreal, each game was a 3D action/adventure, with Tarzan leaning more towards platforming and Batman leaning more towards brawling. Each game also released on the PS2, making neither exclusive, but their graphics were slightly better on Nintendo’s machine. Critically, both games received “so-so” reviews, being seen as average, but competent, 3D action/adventure games. As for our other licensed third party licensed game, we got a GameCube exclusive from developer Factor 5 & LucasArts, a sequel to their N64 classic, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Set during the original Star Wars trilogy (episodes IV, V, & VI), the game is a flight simulator and follows the adventures of pilots Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles. The game is GORGEOUS, taking full advantage of the GameCube’s GPU and progressive scanning visuals (if your 2001 TV supported the feature). For a short period of time the game was almost cancelled after developers at LucasArts, who were unaware of the game, thought it would overshadow the release of Star Wars: Starfighter on the PS2. It was eventually sorted out, but they were right to be concerned, because Starfighter is a piece of shit while Rouge Leader is a masterclass in console flight sims. In another interesting bit of trivia, Rouge Leader almost featured motion controls, as Nintendo was prototyping a controller that could separate into two pieces, a wand for pointing and a handle for movement, but would eventually scrap the idea for not being sustainable on the GameCube (and if you’re wondering, yes, this would lead to the creation of the Wii). Rogue Leader received overwhelming praise of critics and players, receiving perfect scores from GamePro and Nintendo Power. The game was a commercial success, being the second highest selling launch title for the Game Cube (I told you we’d get there). Of course, like so many older games, there is absolutely no way to play this masterpiece on any modern console, forcing you to either try and find an original copy or emulate it (even Starfighter is easier to get). This is probably the one game out the entire lineup I’m sad to not have a modern re-release of, thank goodness I’ve still got that disc.
The Third Party Sports Games
Of course you can’t have a game console launch without sports games, and the third party support on that front was pretty good. This is also where we have our first Xbox launch lineup crossover with Madden NFL 2002 and NHL Hitz 20-02. There’s not much to say there, so let’s just move on, shall we? If you were a baseball fan then you might have been happy to see All-Star Baseball 2002, then again it’s complete dog shit, so maybe you weren’t THAT excited. Extreme sports fans were given a couple of choices as well, the first was Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2, a bicycle game that very closely resembled the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, but gave me way more motion sickness. The game released a month earlier on the PS2 and would come out a week later on Xbox; it’s not very good but it does feature the Slim Jim mascot, if you remember that guy. The second, and best, extreme sports game to come out was the highly anticipated Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. Critics went fucking ape shit for this game when it came out, calling it the best Tony Hawk game to date, and on Metacritic it holds the top spot for the entire PS2 library (tied with GTA III). I know, I know, this is a GameCube write-up, so while the scores were slightly lower on the GC than they were for the PS2, the game was still phenomenally well received, with the game being nominated multiple times for “Best GameCube Game” in 2001. Once again, despite being a universally beloved game, THPS 3 is not available ANYWHERE, with your only choice being to find an original disc or to emulate it.
Personally, I love the GameCube. It had a really solid launch lineup, far surpassing the Xbox (and PS2 in my opinion), but as the years would go by it became more and more apparent that third party developers just weren’t interested in making games for GameCube. Yes, it was easier to develop for and made their games look a lot nicer, but with a very low install base it just wasn’t financially smart to release a game on GameCube (let alone make it exclusive). Over the (hopefully) next six years we’ll be able to talk about some of the greatest games ever released, and I hope you’re just as excited as I am to revisit them.
Fatal Fury: King of Fighters (Arcade) – Released Nov. 25th, 1991: Wiki Link
While many of us probably only associate SNK with their fighting games, back in 1991 their output was far more varied. Before the release of this week’s notable title, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, the only kinda/sorta fighting games SNK put out were King of the Monsters (which was more of a wrestling game) and a Japanese only boxing game called Legend of Success Joe. The game was developed in-house by SNK and was directed by Takashi Nishiyama, the director of the original Street Fighter. Nishiyama considered Fatal Fury to be a spiritual successor to Street Fighter and wanted to make a game that was more technical in nature that rewarded precision timing over Street Fighter II’s more frantic combo system. While modern players might be used to the gigantic rosters that populate SNK’s popular King of Fighters series, Fatal Fury’s roster is just three; brothers Terry & Andy Bogard, and Muai Thai champion Joe Higashi. The game also features a very robust and laid out story, something that Street Fighter II lacked, with multiple cutscenes. In Fatal Fury, the story goes that in 1981, brothers Terry & Andy were were orphans living on the street. They were eventually taken in by a kind man named Jeff Bogard and moved to a home in Southtown. Soon, however, Jeff is confronted by a man named Geese Howard, who kills Jeff in front of the boys. Vowing to get revenge, the brothers train for the next ten years and enter Geese’s “King of Figthers” tournament. Befriending Joe Higashi along the way, the in-game canon is that Andy and Joe both lose in the tournament, however Terry wins it all, but in a twist he must then face Geese Howard. Feeling the revenge take him over, Terry defeats Geese by kicking him through a window at the top of a tower, causing him to plummet to his death.
With only three fighters to choose from, the game seems to take inspiration not just from Street Fighter, but also another Capcom game, Final Fight. The map that shows where each fight takes place also bears a striking resemblance to the map in Final Fight. When it released, the game was a critical and commercial success, being one of the highest grossing arcade games of the year in Japan, falling behind two different versions of Street Fighter II and Captain Commando. In the U.S. it was also very popular, typically coming second to Street Fighter II on the sales charts. The game would eventually be pushed aside in favor of it’s later releases due to its lack of characters, slow pacing, and difficult to pull off special moves. SNK stopped making Fatal Fury games in 1999 with the release of Garou: Mark of the Wolves, choosing to instead focus on their crossover series King of Fighters which of course gets its name from this game. Terry Bogard is, probably, the second most popular fighting game character after Ryu from Street Fighter, especially for people who grew up in the 1990’s. He has been included in multiple SNK fighting games over the years and is also part of the Smash Bros. series, debuting in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in 2019. Unlike 99% of the GameCube launch lineup we discussed above, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters is easily available on multiple consoles due to SNK’s seeming desire to release literally every game they’ve ever made on every video game possible. I’ve been playing it on Switch, recently, and the game is incredibly difficult, making it a tough sell when you have so many other, better, SNK fighting games to pick from. Still, there’d be no vast library of SNK fighting games without the success of Fatal Fury, so be sure to give it a look whether you consider yourself a serious fighting game or just a lover of video game history, you’ll have a good time.