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VIDEO GAME PREVIEW

Nintendo CubeClub

The GameCube’s Spectacular Showcase

By Terrell R. Bennett and Jumaane Jeffries

Nintendo GameCube Showcase

275 Third St., Cambridge (corner 3rd/Binney)

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, on

6-12 pm Each Night

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and the video game world is bracing for a showdown of geometric proportions as the Nintendo Gamecube and the Microsoft X-Box square off on the global and local stage. In mid-November, the two companies will almost simultaneously commence their challenge of Sony’s PlayStation 2.

And if you’ve been paying attention to certain shamelessly narcissistic, irregularly appearing comic strips, you’re already familiar with the preliminary showdown between Nintendo and Microsoft this Saturday. While the Theta PSX event boasts the coveted X-Box as its trophy, Nintendo itself has landed in Cambridge, showcasing its GameCube in grand party style and offering one to a lucky raffle winner. We got a chance to visit the “CubeClub” and get the inside scoop.

It was indeed an extravagant event, an impressive presentation of Nintendo’s future lineup. In addition, the event featured contests, prizes, pitchmen, and -- shall we say -- “provocative” spokesmodels from both Nintendo and CubeClub sponsors Maxim magazine. Energetic techno music set the tone for this new brand of hip, swank video game promotionals, whose loud, brilliant atmosphere contrasted considerably to the unassuming exterior of the Boiler & Tank Company building where it all took place. Crowds of fanatics gathered at the start of Saturday’s event to enter. They all enjoyed the games themselves, and at times clustered together to witness some exciting moments from such games as Super Smash Bros. Melee and WaveRace: Blue Storm.

So what exactly is all the fuss about? The GameCube is Nintendo’s entry into the next-gen wars. It’s a 128-bit system that’s about 5 3/4 inches wide and plays 1.5 gigabytes DVD-based games. It has an ample 487 MHz processor, sufficient to limit slowdown (I saw only one or two instances). Like the Nintendo 64, it has 4 controller slots and features an impressively ergonomic controller. The standard peripheral has a funky button layout, but fits well, and contains an analog stick that’s reliable, even for a game as crazy as Super Monkey Ball.

Sam Hosier, a product tester in attendance at CubeClub, said that the CubeClub promotion has been very successful and is indicative of the GameCube’s future prosperity. 700,000 units have already arrived for launch, and he says that over 1.1 million are projected to be installed by the Christmas holiday. With a price tag of $200 dollars, solid third-party support, and 14 titles planned for launch, such as Luigi’s Mansion, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rouge Leader, and NHL Hitz, Hosier said that GameCube “appears to stack up very well with the competing systems” already in the marketplace. Other notable planned hardware features include the WaveBird portable joystick and compatibility with Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Exhibiting the same style of gameplay as its N64 predecessor, Melee features some new initially playable characters, including the damsel (Peach), the beast (Bowser), and a host of secret ones. Still a wild party game, Nintendo has also sought to improve its one-player experience with “Adventure Mode,” in which you travel through lush 3D backgrounds ... in old-school Mario style -- Goombas included.

Super Monkey Ball

Courtesy of Sega, this cute and wild excursion is among the simplest games ever, and yet, potentially one of the hardest. You are one of four monkeys inside a giant ball, and all you have to do is travel simple mazes to make it to the goal. However, maneuvering a giant ball from the inside isn’t quite so easy. Several play modes await you, including race mode, battle mode, and target practice. Its on-edge, fast-paced gameplay will definitely make a monkey out of you.

Pikmin

Nintendo’s Pikmin is a very low-key adventure/strategy game that manages to be very satisfying. You control a spaceman on a distant planet who has to gather ant-like creatures called Pikmin and have them perform various tasks, gathering yet more Pikmin. The more of them gathered before sundown, the higher your bonus, adding elements of skill and strategy to this surprising pleasant excursion.

Eternal Darkness

While this does sport some considerably good graphics and lighting effects, this game turns out to be merely a much darker version of Luigi’s Mansion. At first glance, it also plays quite similarly to Resident Evil, and appears to follow the same gruesome horror formula of haunted hallways and slowly moving zombies. In any case, Nintendo shows that it can get dark, vicious, and downright nasty.

NBA Courtside 2002

Left Field Productions, a Nintendo second party, is putting together what has a chance to be the best basketball game on the market. Even though it was nowhere near complete, the player animations were very clean, and most of the players were recognizable by just looking at them. With a 3D crowd and good in-game sound, NBA Courtside 2002 could challenge the Sega 2K series for the best basketball game on the market.

Madden NFL 2002

This game is pretty much what has come to be expected from John Madden Football, a great football simulation. Compared to it’s PS2 counterpart, the graphics are a little cleaner, but the game as a whole isn’t very different from the PS2 or the soon to be released XBOX version.

WaveRace: Blue Storm

Anyone who played this game on the N64 will be very familiar with it. Besides amazing looking water and other graphical upgrades, turbo boosts and many different weather patterns have been added. The physics of the jetskis and waves are probably the most realistic in the history of gaming.