Special: *Bouncer talks to Mario: I don't care who you are, if you're not on the list, scram plumber boy!
Primarily based on the east coast of the United States, Gaming Target doesn't always have the opportunity to attend each event showcasing the latest line-up of the gaming industry. We are usually unable to join the gaming media in anything more than E3, ETCS, and even the Nintendo Show each year, as we're limited on travel from our location with the majority of the additional shows always based in California and other areas of the west. However, there are a few expectations where the games actually come to us.
Upon releasing a new system, each company usually promotes their upcoming launch with some sort of tour. Traditionally, a single populated region would be hit each week, about two months before the impending launch. Most times, a truck would make the stop, unload, and showcase what it had to offer in hoping to educate and spread awareness about the product to the public. A perfect example of this would be the Mobile Assault Tour presented by Sega debuting Dreamcast in 1999 or, Nintendo's recent showcasing of Game Boy Advance, which we were able to attend in both Philadelphia
during the summer.
Once again, another launch period is upon us, and things are sure heating up between Microsoft marketing the Xbox and Nintendo revealing GameCube to the world. Instead of following that usual route of setting up outside the truck, Nintendo has taken a giant leap that will prove fatal to other shows by creating a more involved atmosphere and surrounding. When entering, it's clear the mood resembles that of a techno club from its velvet rope and bouncers outside, to the DJ setting the tone on the ?dance' floor inside. While the dance floor wasn't very popular with most of the attendants there, it just adds to the effect with lights accompanying the techno beats.
Upon our arrival at both the Philadelphia and New York City shows, members of the Cube Club and Panasonic team greeted us at the front desk; ready with any questions videogame enthusiasts might have about the forthcoming system. From here, we directed to Sam Hosier, a member of the Product Testing department within Nintendo of America who was handling the core setup of both tours that we caught on the east coast. Sam was able to show us around and also help us take some excellent camera shots of the club area, while he remained busy in taking care of the happenings on the event floor.
Looking up, we were now facing dozens of GameCube systems lining the walls throughout the room, all being displayed on HDTV screens provided by Panasonic. With this impressive combo of hardware, gamers would be able to walk away with a good impression of what the console had to offer in a visual sense.
While we waited, one thing I noticed was that none of the stations present enforced a time limit on gamers to control the size of the lines that formed. This may come as an advantage to some by not limiting their playtime during periods where the game is of high interest; however, the disadvantage became obvious when others were forced to wait behind a player that just didn't know when to quit. Although I must say, many of the local gamers at the event were courteous enough to offer the controllers up after they had their share.
When the time came, we got a chance to step up to the station where Nintendo set out to prove to all that graphics weren't all this system has to offer. As we took the controller and adjusted our hands to the grips, it wasn't long before it all began to feel like butter! Here, we began to test out several of the upcoming GameCube titles that included Luigi's Mansion, Wave Race: Blue Storm, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Pikmin, NBA Courtside 2002, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Eternal Darkness, Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet, Super Monkey Ball, and Madden 2002.
While Mario won't be appearing at GameCube's launch, Nintendo will have the next best thing, his brother Luigi. Many gamers have been calling for Luigi to once again take part in the next-generation Super Mario titles, claiming him to be a better candidate than Mario for the companies star character. Whatever the case may be, Luigi's Mansion mimics Mario's previous adventures in several ways, but the title remains its own unique ghost bustin' game. Although I found the game less than convincing due to the fact that it's impossible to jump into a game of this nature in the mere time I had to play, I could tell that once I sit down and progress through the levels from the start, Luigi would be able to light up the screen even in the darkest of haunted houses. Wave Race: Blue Storm:
Owning the original N64 version of the game, I must say I'm a bit of a pro in comparison to most. In completely whipping out another opponent in a head-to-head race, I was able to take a trip to old Dolphin Park practice waters as he walked away in defeat. The first noticeable aspect of the gameplay happens to be that there's little changed from the Nintendo 64 predecessor. I was able to pull off moves and stunts with the same basic button configuration and already knew the rules and requirements of the game to remain champ to all challengers at the club. The one vast improvement is also obvious: it's visual presentation. Wave Race was the finest titles to feature visual effects at the show. With water splashing up at the screen after spinning out, I sometimes flinched in fear of getting wet. Well, not really, but you get the picture.
Wave Race Blue Storm wasn't the most addictive game present; I must admit that. However, it was as just as fun as the original and much, much more beautiful. Star Wars Rogue Squadron: Rogue Leader:
The game said to have the complete package was in full force at the show, featuring a mini room of it's own with surround sound and dark atmosphere to give off total illumination from the screen without distraction. However, nothing could be of distraction from a game looking quite close to the film. While I wasn't given much time to play through many of the missions in the game, I did retain a feel of what the shooter's gameplay had to offer, which projects to not just Star Wars fans, but anyone planning to purchase a GameCube system. Pikmin:
Not to say that there wasn't a gamer filed behind every station, but it was clear that Pikmin was the least populated with awaiting players and interested onlookers. Nevertheless, in picking the controller up, I soon found out that it happened to be just as fun as any other title present; just took some time to get used to, and get the point of. Despite little action and attention toward the game, the modest crowds that gave it a chance were soon to realize its unique look and gameplay were something that shouldn't be missed. NBA Courtside 2002:
Kobe is once again heading up Nintendo's Courtside game, and just like the Lakers are on top each season, The Big N is looking to do the same with competitors like EA Sports and now Sega. However, judging from what I was able to play in one full game, it'll be a hell of a battle to compare to what Nintendo has to offer. Take it from me, the non-sports watching gamer, if you like basketball and sports videogames even a little bit, you can't go wrong with Kobe. Super Smash Bros. Melee:
The days when videogames raised the need for multiplayer parties in the office and home is about to return. When Super Smash Bros. released, the game remained one of the top N64 titles for some time, and now GameCube is about to experience the same sweet deal. SSBM features identical addictive gameplay with a closer perspective that increases the attention of the fighting action, and I can now trace a hint of style that reminds me of Power Stone 2 for Dreamcast. There isn't a soul who didn't enjoy playing, and that was easily proven with the amount of willing attendants who waited around in the lines for a chance to lay hands on the controller belonging to this station. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem:
The amount of gore present in Eternal Darkness was surprising to many at the show, but welcomed by the adult audience. During the New York City show this past Sunday, the event was during the day, aimed towards all age groups and therefore didn't feature Eternal Darkness, which had simply been replaced. Just another sign that Nintendo shows concern to the violence viewed by its younger enthusiasts.
Moving on from the preliminary aspects of Eternal Darkness, the little bit I was able to play told me this was one game many older players will no doubt enjoy. Now, I understand the reasons that the game is often compared to Resident Evil as many of the core elements run parallel to the series. The movement of the character's sword and piercing the undead's body makes you shiver and it actually feels rough when pulling the blade out. Now that's what I call realistic horror. Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet:
So far, Star Fox seems like a solid title as it progresses in development at Rare. From what I was able to play, the Arwing level featured intense shooting action in something I remarked at the show as, old school with an update. Other than the flying scenario stages, you could also run as Fox McCloud and roam around the land filled with dinosaurs and attacking foes. Truly being my favorite N64 title of all time, I can't wait to have a chance to play more Star Fox Adventures towards its release next year. Super Monkey Ball:
Probably my favorite game of the show, Super Monkey Ball provides Sega with a hit before the system even goes on the shelves. The game combines many genres with diverse modes and includes multiplayer battles to heighten the experience. At the show, there were four controllers available for this game and at all times each was occupied. Super Monkey Ball's racing reminds me a great deal of F-Zero X for N64 with a slight touch of Mario Kart involved. The Monkey Fight provided something similar to Bomberman where players attempt to punch each other out with a boxing glove. No matter how strange the game sounds, when all the modes are put together and three other players are at hand, Sega's launch title seems unstoppable. Madden NFL 2002:
No launch is complete without Madden (Sorry Dreamcast), and EA Sports provided the Cube Club with just that. Displaying slightly advanced graphics over the PS2 version, and much tougher AI at hand, improvements look promising for the only football title to reach us in time for launch. With Sega not supporting GameCube in sports games, EA shouldn't have too much competition this season.
After playing each available game, we were able to witness the Cube Club gaming contest as players were hovering over Pikmin and Super Monkey Ball. Those winners were able to pick up prizes, which included Pikmin winter caps and Super Monkey Ball T-Shirts. Victory over other players isn't enough for kids these days.
Other than the taking part in the competitions, the Cube Club offered two other contests. One, entitled Cubistically Correct Sweepstakes, had participants submit information at the front desk's laptop for a chance to win a Panasonic Entertainment system and GameCube. The other was a where you could pick up information to enlist in the What Would You Do For a GameCube contest. Though this contest is over, it was surprising to see what creative and crazy stunts people would actually perform for a chance to win.
Following the contest Sam brought out a GameCube for us to handle, and when people call the system small, they really mean tiny. This Cube is much more compact that I could have ever imagined from looking at photographs, and taking hold of it for the first time proved that it was more that just a future Nintendo system, it was just about here. Subsequently, we were able to ask Sam some questions regarding the launch of GameCube and its potential. Matt:
How many GameCube units will Nintendo be shipping to retailers in preparation for the systems launch day and also entire launch month? Sam:
There will be 700,000 on the first November 18th, and total of 1.1 million by the end of the end of the year. Matt:
What is Nintendo's slogan for GameCube be for the release? Sam:
The slogan currently featured on many of the ads as Born to Play will remain. Matt:
What are some of the vast differences between this promotion and Advance Team Tour last June? Sam:
As you can see, Nintendo went with a more inviting look rather than rolling off the truck for a single day and packing up to do the same thing at another spot the next. Which promotion do you like better? Matt:
Umm?this one of course. They were both great events, however this seems to draw a lot more people due to location and its inviting environment. How many first party titles will be releasing along with GameCube and how many by the end of the year in total? Sam:
Two initial titles will be released from Nintendo on the first day. These are Luigi's Mansion and Wave Race: Blue Storm. The next day, Nintendo ships out Pikmin, which will be the company's third title for on the system. And, there should be seventeen by the time Christmas rolls around. Matt:
Has Nintendo's demographic changed at all with the GameCube? If so, which age group? Sam:
Nintendo will focus on the same age bracket as it has previously done, the General Public. Though, with games like Eternal Darkness, GameCube should please young and old. Matt:
Even though GameCube is set at an already low price, will we be seeing a drop in the system or titles price in the future anytime? Sam:
While Sony and Microsoft are losing money on their systems and unable to generate profit for some time, Nintendo will probably become the first to be able to drop the price on its system making the Playstation 2 and Xbox basically bleed from the competition. This is mainly due to the Nintendo's wise decision of creating a gaming only console. Matt:
Any other promotions besides this event that Nintendo has planned? Sam:
When we hit New York, we'll be counting down the launch of the system and we're planning to team up with MTV in doing this, so be sure to look out for that. Other than that there are a range of marketing promos like a Dr. Pepper soda sweepstakes similar to one previously seen for Zelda Majora's Mask on N64 last November, this time offering a GameCube with Luigi's Mansion instantly.
After taking a break on the sofa and writing a bit on the caf? table and chairs, we collected various freebies from the sponsors of the Cube Club event. Things like Stuff magazine and DC Comic's Justice League were given away with pages filled with GameCube ads in promotion for the launch. We were also able to pick up a Cubistically Correct jigsaw puzzle cube and copy of the mini-CD that's the size of a GameCube disc, for a PC featuring information and media on GameCube. And, if you're wondering, it did
take me all night to put that jigsaw cube together.
The trip to both Philadelphia and New York City was well worth the experience through the people we met, and seeing the impact on local gamers' faces to such a powerful system. I'd like to thank Sam from Nintendo of America for taking the time out to answer questions and show us around the club area, John from Philadelphia Weekly and all the other members of the Nintendo Cube Club and Panasonic team, as well as Nintendo itself for putting on such a terrific show. Make every effort to join in the fun if you can catch the remaining days of the tour in Seattle, Dallas, or New York this weekend and everyone else should prepare for the incredible launch that is sure to follow this Sunday, November 18th, when GameCube reaches store shelves.