The Nintendo GameCube Anthology is the latest in Geeks Line Publishing’s range of lovingly compiled retro gaming books.
Geeks Line Publishing’s last book, PlayStation Anthology, was a story of success. The story of a ground-breaking console that reshaped video games as an entertainment medium, expanded its audience, and revolutionised its marketing.
The GameCube Anthology tells a rather different tale. Ostensibly, it’s one of noble failure. The console came bang last in the war with the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. Nintendo’s purple lunchbox just couldn’t compete – in the West at least – with Sony’s sleek, DVD-enabled device, and the brute force of Microsoft’s connected debutante.
Nevertheless, the GameCube was quietly profitable for Nintendo, and the console and its games now occupy a place in the hearts of many gamers. If it wasn’t for the Wii U, it would be Nintendo’s equivalent of the Sega DreamCast.
What jumps out as you flick through the 360 pages of this exhaustive account is that the GameCube truly was home to a relatively small, but quite marvellous library of first and second-party games. The console didn’t get the third-party support it needed but it still punched above its weight, and many titles the GameCube was ridiculed for at the time are now admired.
Take, for example, the decidedly cool reception that greeted launch title, Luigi’s Mansion. Reading GameCube Anthology as news of a Switch sequel dropped – and triggered a worldwide social media orgasm – had a certain irony. It’s also sobering to recall how the visuals of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker provoked an early example of collective online fan protest. I expect those same fans would now welcome a similar-looking Breath of the Wild sequel with open arms.
More than anything else, this book shows that Nintendo – despite its struggle to shift hardware – was in a period of intense creativity. (So much so, it quite happily let Rare fall into the hands of Microsoft.)
The opening chapters of GameCube Anthology examine the development of the console, from its Project Dolphin origins in 1999 to its unveiling – alongside the Game Boy Advance – at Space World 2000.
The book charts similar territory to Emily Rodger’s marvellous Dromble retrospective, but it’s elevated by a wealth of photography, illustrations, and archival material. There are pack shots, advertising examples, demo screens, and snaps from various trade shows. The chapter covering the console’s technical build even includes detailed pictures of the Gekko microprocessor and Flipper GPU.
Elsewhere, you’ll find pages covering everything from the era’s Club Nintendo rewards to the TriForce arcade hardware. There’s also a complete transcript of Howard Lincoln’s 1999 E3 address. It’s nothing if not thorough.
As with the publisher’s previous books – the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 anthologies – the bulk of the content is dedicated to a game-by-game listing of each and every GameCube release. Each entry includes box art, release details, and a brief critical review. There’s also an in-depth look at many unreleased, and Japan-only titles.
Significant games get double-page spreads packed with analysis and trivia, but thankfully commentary is kept to a minimum when it comes to console’s slew of sports games. Can you believe there were 10 NBA-related GameCube titles released in three years?
As with its predecessors, the English localisation – translated from the original release’s French – throws up the odd turn of phrase, and there are also some curious editorial choices. Do we really need a picture of the World Trade Center in flames to remind us that the GameCube was released in the same week as 9/11? And unlike the Nintendo 64 Anthology, the book doesn’t feature any developer interviews. It’s a disappointing omission in an otherwise comprehensive retrospective.
These are minor nitpicks in an otherwise excellent release that comfortably works as a nostalgic trip for retro enthusiasts, and as a useful reference for video game archivists.