Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.
GameCube is 20. Which is crazy.
That means when GameCube first launched I was 15. I was barely starting high school.
Our aunt Linda was the one who bought the console. Nintendo 64 had been a big deal because of the transition to 3D gameplay, but GameCube legitimately felt like a glimpse into the future. Those tiny discs. The hyper-realistic graphics. As usual, Nintendo Power was running the Nintendo hype machine at full throttle, with incredibly impactful screenshots of the system’s capabilities on full display.
“Surely,” I wondered to myself at the time, “the games can’t look this good, can they?” They did. And then some! Although Luigi’s Mansion marked the first time a Nintendo console launched without a Mario game, it was nonetheless truly the perfect compliment to GameCube’s release. Visually, Luigi’s Mansion was a powerhouse. Dust not only swirled around Luigi’s feet as he scampered around the mansion, but he could even interact with it using his Poltergust vacuum. The lighting was also used to great effect—one moment the halls could be shrouded in darkness, feeling eerie and foreboding. The next, those same halls could be flooded with light, transforming the place into the plush residence that Mario had thought he’d won in the first place.
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) September 14, 2021
Everything about the experience of freeing the mansion from its spectral inhabitants felt like it was on the cutting edge of technology. N64 might have made the jump to the third dimension, but GameCube felt like it was an entire evolutionary leap beyond it. I remember flipping through EGM as PlayStation 2 was gearing up for its launch and marveling at individual blades of glass (gasp!) in the screenshots. GameCube was on the same level, but Nintendo’s games somehow looked even better than Sony’s efforts. Each release seemed to get more and more realistic, each game more and more technologically advanced.
Now, every game is HD, every console is connected the Internet, and I don’t find myself as wowed as once I was. It’s not that today’s consoles aren’t impressive (they are), but maybe I’ve just become so inundated with terabytes of data and fiery sunsets that all the spectacle has become a bit rote. It tends to be more surprising when a game looks like crap or a system is lacking features. The expectation has become brilliance, in some ways, and as a result the impact is lessened.
Maybe. I could just be overthinking things.
But it’s been a long, long time since a console knocked my socks off the way that GameCube did.