As of late, it would seem that it’s become somewhat fashionable to bash Nintendo’s purple, handled console. In fact, I have done my fair share of rippin’ on the old ‘Cube, and truth be told, the system has earned those complaints. Here it is five months after launch, and there still is not a single title that I consider a “must buy.” I haven’t touched my ‘Cube in well over three months. Meanwhile, the PS2 has been churning out mega-hits left and right, and even the newcomer Xbox had some absolutely stunning games at launch. However, I do believe that 2002 may be the year of the GameCube.

Aside from the launch titles, the Xbox has seen only one or two great games in the last few months. The PS2 had an amazing holiday season, but the future outlook right now shows very little to get excited about. Now take a look at the GameCube’s 2002 forecast. You’ll notice plenty of high-profile games coming down the pipeline. When Resident Evil is released in just a few short weeks, it will be only the beginning of a GameCube avalanche. After RE is released, we’ll have Eternal Darkness in June, and we can’t forget that Capcom has promised a whopping five Resident Evil titles due out before the end of the year; that includes the RE prequel Resident Evil 0 and ports of every game in the series (except Survivor, whew).

Looking further into 2002, we see what is without a doubt, the reason we spent two hundred dollars on Nintendo’s geometrical perfection, Super Mario Sunshine. God bless that little plumber, just looking at those screenshots is enough to bring tears to my eyes. Sure the graphics may not be all that, or even a bag of chips, but they don’t need to be. The Super Mario games of the past represent some of my fondest gaming memories, and as long as Super Mario Sunshine plays like a Mario game, I will be more than satisfied. Who doesn’t remember the first time they played Super Mario 64? I know I do; it completely changed my view of what a video game could and should be. If Nintendo can keep to the August release date, we should all be playing one of gaming’s finest before the end of the summer.

Oh, but that’s not all. ‘Cube owners will also be playing the newest title in the Legend of Zelda series by year’s end. Yes, I know Link has a new look, and no, I don’t approve, but maybe this is just what the series needs. The Legend of Zelda on the NES was fantastic, The Adventures of Link was less so, but A Link to the Past on the SNES is widely considered to be the best in the series. I may be alone in this view, but Link’s N64 adventures just didn’t seem all that great to me. Ocarina was good, but Majora’s Mask is, in my opinion, the worst Zelda game ever released. People have said that this new look is taking the series “back to its roots,” and if it does indeed do so, then I will be forever thankful. I may not approve of the new look, but I’m still excited about the game, and you should be too.

As if that weren’t enough, we should also be seeing Fox McCloud in his new, Rare-developed adventure title. Fox will travel mostly on foot in this adventure, but fans of Starfox will also be pleased to see that some Arwing piloting will be incorporated as well. The game was originally called Dinosaur Planet, and was scheduled to appear on the N64. Later, the main character was dumped, and the Starfox crew came into the picture (with the exception of Falco). The game plays similarly to the N64 Zelda games with a focus on combat and puzzles. Adventure fans should definitely keep an eye out for this title. The game has been plagued by delays, so it will be interesting to see if the Fall 2002 release remains intact.

You want more? More you say?! OK then, you’ve got more! Also scheduled for a 2002 release is Metroid Prime; a game that many NES and SNES fans have been clamoring for since Samus last took to the stage in Super Metroid. While gamers were initially disappointed by the first-person view, the game has since reclaimed hope with several dazzling screenshots, and a few gameplay nods to the previous Metroid titles. For now, we have no choice but to wait and see how the title turns out.

In more good GameCube news, Squaresoft and Nintendo have recently rekindled their relationship, so it’s possible that we’ll even see a Final Fantasy on the GameCube at some point in the future. Also, third parties seem to be taking more interest in Nintendo’s machine, so hopefully the GameCube will get some great third party offerings in addition to the world-class titles developed by Nintendo and their in-house studios. It should also be mentioned that Nintendo has announced a new Mario game, besides Sunshine; and also a new Zelda game, seperate from Cel-da. The recent rumor of Rare possibly leaving Nintendo may be a bit unsettling, but at this point, it’s just a rumor. There’s no need to get bent out of shape over that, assuming delays are kept to a minimum, this will be a great year for GameCube owners!

By Ryan Schaefer – 04/24/02

Screenshots for Console Watch 2002: GameCube