Nintendo's poor showing on the Nintendo 64 proved to the company
that they could no longer succeed with a cartridge-based system. As a result, in 2001 they released the
GameCube. The GameCube has many of the redeeming features of the N64, such as four controller ports,
rumbling controllers (standard now, no Rumble Pak necessary), analog controls, and a rich library of
first-party games, especially key party games like Mario Party and Super Smash Bros.
New to the GameCube, however, is a mini DVD format (which is not a standard DVD-ROM) which has about 1.5GB
of storage per 8cm disc. The system is only large enough to take a mini DVD and thus does not play regular
CDs or DVDs. (See Neat Tricks for information on a GameCube that does.)
The GameCube's graphics capability is potentially better than the PlayStation 2 or
the Xbox, and it features a chip by ATI. The main drawback is that the system has no HDTV support.
Although the GameCube was somewhat ahead of its time by including a "digital out" port at launch,
the cable was not sold in any stores (except Lik-Sang and Nintendo's
own store, which is backordered—Lik-Sang isn't). Because the ridiculously expensive cable (at least
$30 + S/H) was not sold in stores, and for reasons unknown to me no third-party component cables ever surfaced,
few games took advantage of the GameCube's progressive scan feature. Progressive scan (480p), furthermore,
was the highest resolution the GameCube could output through component video, not HDTV (1080i) resolution.
Given all of these problems with the GameCube's component video support, it was removed from the
second-generation (DOL-101) GameCube.
Nintendo claims that they removed component video support because
less than one percent of GameCube owners used it. Nintendo obviously did not understand the causal relationship
between making the cable expensive and hard to find, limiting the resolution to 480p, and few games supporting
it, and the resulting low adoption rate; so they instead assumed that gamers just do not like to play in
High Definition. Meanwhile component cables for PS2/Xbox can be found in any store for less than $20, support
480p, 720p, and 1080i resolutions, and are better supported. Sony and Microsoft are making HDTV a standard
feature of their next-generation systems. The Nintendo Revolution, meanwhile, will be low definition and only
low definition. Current reports say it will not even have a component video cable, which offers picture
benefits even to 480i low-definition signals. Nintendo's previous crutch was the cartridge format, and
their new crutch is apparently going to be that ugly old red, white and yellow composite video cable
that they have used for the past ten years.
Adapters for PC
There are quite a few choices for GameCube to PC adapters, and all have their own quirks.
The Skillz adapter is included for the sake of completeness, but it is not recommended because of
two major issues: First, the only driver ever released for it has faulty force feedback code, so no
rumble effects will ever work with it, and second, some Skillz adapters have an issue with certain
versions of controllers. The problem has proven very hard to test and reproduce, so between these two
issues and also an axis problem, it is not recommended. If you do have a Skillz, download the
Skillz axis patch.
Skillz and Super Joybox 13.
The Super Joybox 13 has working force feedback, and no reported issues with
compatibility (except the Wavebird, which is still not working on any adapter). It also
has an axis problem, download the SJ13 axis patch to correct
the mappings. However the behavior is still wrong and the axes are inverted (that cannot
be fixed unless your game software lets you change it).
The Trio Linkers (regular and Plus) are both the same for GameCube use;
they support controllers and the DK Bongos controller. I do not have that controller so
I do not know how it is implemented or whether the SJ13 supports it. The Trio Linker does
not support the pressure-sensitive L and R triggers.
Drivers for all these adapters are available on the links page.
The GameCube's most significant Neat Trick is the Game Boy Player accessory Nintendo
released in 2003. It plugs into the bottom of the system (see above) and has a cartridge slot.
To play, you must insert the Game Boy Player startup disc (which, regrettably, comes in an ugly white
case, not a regular DVD case that fits with GameCube games). The Game Boy Player is compatible with
Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color and standard Game Boy games, but it unfortunately does not support
any Super Game Boy features at all. The Game Boy Player has a few
borders built in, like the Super Game Boy, but they cannot be customized by the game.
An interesting accessory released by Hori, called the Hori Digital Controller,
was released specifically for use with the Game Boy Player. It is designed very similar to the
SNES controller, but still has the GameCube style face buttons. The Select button maps to Y
so you can feel like you have a real Select button. It is possible to use this controller in games
that do not require use of any analog sticks, and some fighting game players swear by it.
The Panasonic Q
is a special version of the GameCube, released only in Japan, that is basically the GameCube integrated
into a DVD player. It's become a collector's item, and Lik-Sang's stock is totally out. This may only
be available on eBay.
There is a project to enable Linux (and a few emulators that run in Linux) to work
on the GameCube. It requires a significant amount of work to set up, and either Phantasy Star Online,
an Action Replay, or a special development kit sold by Datel. Check out GC-Linux.org and gcdev.com for details.