So, how many gaves really did innovate on the Gamecube?Ã‚Â Not many…
Here’s an interesting challenge: See if you can come up with a GameCube title that either started or radically redefined a genre of gaming; one that completely and totally stood out; a style of gameplay that had never been achieved before.
Can’t think of one? It’s hard. Most GameCube games were examples of refined, not groundbreaking, gameplay. While it could be argued that some GC titles did, in fact, establish new ideas, the simple fact is that an overwhelming majority of games for the little purple box did not; but that’s understandable– they had a lot to live up to.
Mario makes a great example. Super Mario 64 established the ground rules for a three-dimensional game. Not only platformers, but almost every 3D game to follow Mario 64 has borrowed something from its distinct style. When the guys at NCL created this game, they had to make stuff up. There wasn’t a template to follow.
Contrasting that with Super Mario Sunshine, Mario’s GameCube follow-up, and it seems obvious that Sunshine is a updated, perfected version of its predecessor, with only one or two major changes. In fact, the most important change from Mario 64 to Sunshine was not the water jet-packing introduced by FLUDD, but the fact that Mario’s new adventure took place entirely in one completely-defined locale, rather than several separate and distinct worlds. Obviously, this was mostly a conceptual change and was not reflected in the gameplay itself.
The Zelda series saw an analogous transition from the N64 titles to The Wind Waker. The combat system was given a few minor tweaks, some new weapons were added, and that was about it as far as playing the game went. Again, the radical change here was in style, not substance. Far from being a minor conceptual shift, though, the drastic change in visual style actually alienated some gamers, who were put off by the game’s cartoon-like atmosphere.
Even Super Smash Bros. Melee, the GameCube’s most successful game to date, is itself an updated version of another title. Super Smash Bros. on the N64 established a new method of 2D fighting never really tried before. It turned the ring-out into the goal. Damaging one’s opponent was only a means to an end, that end being to knock him out of the stage entirely. Melee uses the same formula, only ups the fanservice levels to stratospheric proportions. The production value was incredibly high, with amazing graphics, music, sounds and control, but even though the gameplay had deepened from the original, few innovative strides were made.
Resident Evil 4 probably serves as the best example of a game which redefined its genre on the GameCube. Capcom took a static series and reinvigorated it, managing to include some incredibly good eye candy in the process. Where every Resident Evil (and nearly every other game of the genre) before it featured a stationary camera with 2D painted environments, Resident Evil 4 sported fully 3D backdrops, a movable camera and some significant changes to the combat system.
Pikmin, created by Shigeru Miyamoto for the GameCube, was also a breath of fresh air. A robust visual and aural environment was complemented by an unusual style of play. While the game is, at its heart, a simplification of real-time strategy mechanics, enough new ideas were in there — including puzzle-solving, exploration and Pikmin management — to make the game unique.
The GameCube didn’t boast a bevy of innovative, groundbreaking titles, but it’s fair to say that this entire hardware generation has suffered from a similar lack. Now that companies are becoming more willing to experiment with new methods of control like the DS’s touchscreen and Wii remote, it’s likely that new, never-before-seen genres of games will appear in the future.