Okay, I missed the last Podcast and couldn’t believe that I missed an epic episode on my favorite console of all time – the Nintendo GameCube. In fact I love the Cube so much that I bought two. Yes, one for the PAL region and one for the NTSC region. I am still trying to get my hands on a nice Panasonic Q that comes with a DVD player – just for collection purposes.
No matter what people said about the Cube – especially the whole kiddy image of the Cube – it is honestly a great console. I still play my Cube a lot even now, even more than the Wii itself. I even bought every single accessory available, including the GameBoy Player, four sets of link cables and two Wave Bird controllers. Not to mention nearly every colour of controller available. That’s how obsessed I was with my GameCube.
There are lots of great games on the Cube that I have played, and still replay nowadays. So I am going to share some of them with you all:
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Eternal Darkness was one of the early launch titles. It is the first survival horror by Silicon Knights for the Nintendo Console and it is brilliantly done. The game revolves around the family-line of the protagonist, Alice, whom discovered the dark secrets of the world after her grandfather passed away. What haunted her ancestors now comes back to haunt her.
Eternal Darkness has a great system that uses the controller flawlessly. You can use different weapons for different characters throughout the game, and every character has his / her strengths and weaknesses. So you never feel tired of the game, because with each new character unlocked through the story, you will need to readjust to their abilities. Also the introduction of the ‘Sanity Bar’, that augments your reality in the game and even in the real world, proves that Silicon Knights and Nintendo really thought about your gaming experience before they released the game. One such example occurred when the game told me my controller was disconnected, only to find out that it was one of the effects caused by the depletion of the ‘Sanity Bar’.
The story telling in Eternal Darkness is nothing short of brilliant. You put puzzle pieces, throughout the story, together to figure out what the heck is going on. Each time a new character shows up you will wonder how they are connected to the main story until the “Oh, wow!” moment arrives.
Eternal Darkness had high replay value in that you will have to go through the game three times to get the final ending. Each time you go through the game you have to choose a different order, which directly affects your gameplay in terms of enemy strategies.
I would recommend this game to anyone who is interested in survival horror.
Tales of Symphonia
Tales of Symphonia is considered as one of the best RPGs around and it was first released on the Nintendo GameCube. A PS2 version was released some years later but it wasn’t released in Western regions.
Tales of Symphonia is about a teenager called Lloyd embarking on a journey with his friend Collette, whom is the Chosen of the world to rejuvenate their dying planet. As the plot moves along you meet new friends and allies and then the story unfolds with twists and turns here and there.
Tales of Symphonia adopts a real time linear battle system. It allows you to switch amongst different characters in the battle, but you can only control one character at a time. AI setting will control all other characters not controlled manually by you. Of course you can choose to control all characters but it will be a silly thing to do in the heat of a real time action battle. If your friends are interested, they can join in the battle, but multiplayer is only available inside battles.
The great thing about Tales of Symphonia is that it keeps you interested in different aspects of the game. Towns change after events, different combination of battle parties on the field will yield different sets of conversation, a different leader in the party will yield different results with NPCs in towns or on the fields, and not to mention the numerous side quests and mini games that you can do to occupy your time. I can still remember how many times I tried that restaurant game just to get the title of ‘Turbo Waitress’ for Collette.
Putting the cutesy cel-shaded aesthetics aside, the story of Tales of Symphonia is in fact pretty dark. Issues like sacrifices, discrimination, deceits, class system (etc) permeates the whole game and players are never short of shocking and sad moments. What made Tales of Symphonia a great game is the unique balance of all aspects of gameplay and story telling, which Bandai Namco failed to execute in its sequel on Wii.
It’s been long said that Nintendo’s consoles are lacking in RPGs. The good thing about the Cube is that when there is an RPG, it is usually of great production value.
Baten Kaitos at that time pushed the graphic capabilities of the Cube to the limits by offering detailed rendering of floating islands and extremely realistic cut scenes. Even the main game provides lots of details in terms of character modeling and battlefield crafting.
In Baten Kaitos you don’t play as any of the characters, but the guardian spirit of one of the characters. During the process you guide your character through the adventure and provide counsel to him. It is a pretty neat and new concept, especially when you have to make moral decisions for him from time to time.
The game employs one of the best card battle systems I ever played to date. I personally hate card battle systems, especially their randomness and lack of strategies. However Baten Kaitos crafted a card battle system that encourages you to fight yet another battle, to get the great card that you want, and you can deck them for battle with less uncertainty and more strategies. Also the gameplay stays interactive by forcing you to make on-the-fly decisions on whether to use, chuck or chain a series of cards based on what you set up before you enter into battle. The accomplishment you feel when you’ve managed to dish out a devastating attack by chaining your cards in certain patterns, while making quick on-the-fly decisions, is just amazing.
Story wise, Baten Kaitos deals with heavy stuff too and in my opinion has one of the biggest twist in an RPG story that leads you yell out “What the????”. Also, the final boss in Baten Kaitos is still one of the most talked about battles amongst my friends.
Resident Evil Zero, Remake and 4
Capcom did great work with the console. The Remake of the first Resident Evil game is still high on my list in terms of favorite games of all time. I played it through four times just to gain all the unlockables that I wantedm and started the fifth game just to see Jill Valentine wearing that outstanding tube top from Nemesis in high polygon count. The fact that they introduced Crimson Head and the Kamikaze Zombie in the remake freaked me out the first time I encountered them, and made me experience feel all new again.
With Resident Evil Zero, it was great to see Rebecca Chambers in polygons that defined her character. The experience was great, although sometimes the shifting in and out with Billy Coen still annoys me. Also I can never forget the kitchen on the train – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at a refrigerator the same way again.
Resident Evil 4 redefined the franchise on the NGC, and man that chainsaw controller was so heavy that I just couldn’t bear to hold it for long enough to battle against the plagas. Leon Kennedy is now an agent for the US Government and long gone is that rookie cop who had the hots for Ada Wong. Krauser was introduced to “go get the girl” and make himself one of the coolest villains in Resident Evil history. The PS2 version was so washed down that no new additions can make up for the lost of polygon counts from the Cube.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Fire Emblem is an unforgiving franchise. It is brutally realistic, because once your comrades fall in battle, they are gone forever. I can’t remember how many times I had to press the reset button on my console during my first play-through before I got the hang of the system. The amount of cursing I exhibited in my first play-through could have put me into the hall of shame, at that time. However, once you know the keys to winning battles, you will have a great time with the game.
You play as a group of mercenaries that accidentally got caught into a much bigger scheme. You have to team up with you allies and do all you can to save a kingdom and restore order to the lands. It’s a typical RPG story. However, it is the battle system that engages you to come back again and again, just to edge out your enemies and help your allies survive the battles.
The game employs a Rock, Paper, Scissors tactics with relations among Swords, Spears and Axes. However adding to the play is the deployment of different magic and weapons to deal with other units of different natures. All these elements spin a web that makes you work out the best tactics for your army. Higher-level characters may not have an advantage over lower level enemies if they are weak to their attacks. Leveling up is kind of limited in Fire Emblem as you are capped but then you can make ridiculously strong weapons to help out, as long as you have the money to do so. Making new weapons and naming them was just so much fun that it became a hobby just to visit the blacksmith for another cool item. Characters also change classes after certain levels, bestowing them with new attributes and abilities, allowing a fresher look to old characters.
Fire Emblem is a tactics game; so all actions are carried out on grids. But the environments were well constructed to give you a good looking battlefield as compared to Disgaea and Final Fantasy Tactics (which I do like too). Fire Emblem is a gem of its own.
Skies of Acadia Legends
As a Dreamcast port Skies of Acadia, Legends allows us to experience another great RPG.
You are Vyse, a young sky pirate trying to make your name. Of course during the process are lots of troubles waiting for him. Skies of Acadia has a whole array of colourful characters, and some of which reappeared in the recent Valkyria Chronicles game.
The game is your standard RPG, but there are so many things to do that you can just easily get lost in all the side quests. A lot of the game is about discovery. So you have to race with other pirates in the game, on discovering new landmasses or landmarks in the world, to earn yourself a name. If you are into some more adventurous actions, optional bosses in the form of wanted pirates can give you a good challenge in between your main quest. Also feeding and nurturing one of your weapons, to develop its abilities, is more interesting than just getting another piece of metal from the shop.
There are two battle systems in Skies of Arcadia – land battles and ship battles. Both battles are carried out in turn based format, but offer different strategies to achieve victory. In ship battles you have to time and calculate your enemies next move to avoid damage, while causing most more damage to them. It is a lot more strategic as compared to land battles where you have your standard familiar commands. Also the crew members you recruit along the way affect your ship stats and abilities, so deploying the right crew member in your ship becomes very important.
The GameCube version added a lot of new materials as compared to the Dreamcast original and it is just a blast to play through. If you like RPGs, I will recommend you give it a go.
I can go on and on about the Nintendo GameCube and its games, but these are just a selection of my favourites that I thought I would share. If you have any favorite Cube games, let us know what it is and share it with us.