January 25, 2005

Console Buying

by psu

Earlier I babbled at length about the three major consoles. Well, the result predicted in that piece has come to pass. I have come out of the other side of the Christmas season with a new GameCube and a new slim line PS2.


You will recall that I came into this thinking that the Nintendo box would be the stronger of the two. This was mostly based on my experience with the GameBoy Advance, which is an excellent little box with a lot of excellent little games. In my mind, the latent GameCube was like a big GBA but with prettier graphics allowing the creation of even bigger, more immersive versions of all the great GBA games. But, this isn't really how it turned out.

There are two problems with the actual GameCube that make me like it less than I thought I would.

The Controller Sucks

While it fits the hands well, the GameCube controller, to me, feels sloppy and imprecise. It's hard to make the sticks go where you want, and the camera stick feels different than the main control stick, which is disturbing. It's not clear to me that the oddball placement of the face buttons achieves any real purpose. Finally, the two stage triggers are morally disordered. They have neither the easy accessibility of the PS2 shoulder buttons nor the long smooth travel of the Xbox triggers. Overall, the Xbox controller S and the PS2 controller are both much nicer to use.

Expensive Games

It seems to take forever for the Nintendo titles to get cheap. It is just recently the case that titles that have been around forever, like Zelda and Mario Sunshine are starting to hit the bargain bins. This cuts down on the number of titles I've tried.

So far I've played mainly Zelda and Mario Golf on this machine. I also tried out Tales of Symphonia (because it was free). Let us not speak of that game again.

Mario Golf is wacky and fun. Zelda is not the transcendent experience that I was expecting. The game design, plot, graphics, music and gameplay are all for the most part excellent. However, I found some of the controls, and especially the camera, a bit sloppy. The game has a hybrid camera system that both sticks to the main character and allows you to spin the camera around using the second stick on the controller. Unfortunately, the free camera is so loose that it's useless and the non-free camera is sort of stupid, often ending up behind your head or in some wall somewhere so you can't see anything. This, combined with the controller problems make me slightly less enthusiastic about this game than I think I should be. Luckily, I just found the Explosive Fruit, and I think all is forgiven.

Playstation 2

I like this box more than I thought I would. In particular, I love the controller. While the shoulder buttons are weak compared to the great triggers on the Xbox, the overall layout of the controller is just perfect for my hands. It's easy to reach all the buttons and the sticks all at the same time without stretching my hands much on the controller. The controller is neither too large nor too small. Finally, I seem to be able to play the longest on this controller before needing to rest my hands.

The games on the PS2 all come in at or above expectations. Disgaea is a fun strategy and battle game with twisted penguins that say "Dude!" a lot. Katarmari Damacy is so good my wife plays it. Ico is beautiful to look at, but I've been too distracted by other things to really get started.

The surprise is Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. I picked it up cheap with low expectations because I had given up on all the other third person shooter/action games I ever tried. R&C is different. The controls are tight and well tuned. It's easy to jump, flip, shoot, and hit stuff. Perhaps most importantly, the camera and targeting system mostly help you shoot and destroy enemies rather than getting in your way. This makes the combat fun, even when it gets a bit hard. I wish Zelda controlled this well. The game has a fast pace, levels that are not too long, its always easy to keep track of what you are supposed to be doing. The only major flaw is the psychotic save point system, but the pacing of the game mostly makes up for that.

So, overall, except for a bit of role reversal, I think the material consoles lived up to their latent expectations. I still play too much Halo 2.

Posted by psu at January 25, 2005 08:48 PM | Bookmark This

Congratulations on being rolled up into the Katamari. I bought a PS2 just for that game, and now I wish I could find another game half as entertaining.

Posted by krevis at January 25, 2005 09:40 PM

I'm surprised you don't like the gamecube controller; are you using the "tethered" version or the wavebird. I don't know what it is, but using the wavebird excites me. I wish the XBox had a wireless controller that was near the quality, but I understand the xbox live headset might pose some problems.
Have you played resident evil 4 for gamecube ?

Posted by dolapo at January 26, 2005 08:56 AM

Actually, the only thing I really like about the Gamecube controller is that you can buy the Wavebird. The wireless nature is great, but it doesn't address the problems I listed.

I agree that I'd pay a lot of money for wireless first part Xbox and PS2 controllers.

Posted by psu at January 26, 2005 12:15 PM

Hmm. I really like the Cube's controller layout, and different analog sticks, it's always been a favorite of mine(even if it feels a little plasticky compared to the other consoles' controllers). The wireless wavebird is a truly excellent piece of hardware, in my opinion.

Saw your comment about zombies in the earlier post. I'd be very, very surprised if you didn't find Resident Evil 4 well worth the $50. Other gamecube exclusives to good to pass up: Metroid Prime and Pikmin.

(blogging games at http://rendergaming.blogspot.com)

Posted by A. Jacobson at January 26, 2005 04:55 PM

Metroid Prime's super-retarded savepoint nature would make psu's head explode after about 15 minutes of gameplay.

Pikmin is fun and clever, and probably a bargain at this point. It didn't grab me, personally, but it's a good recommendation.

Posted by peterb at January 26, 2005 05:40 PM

Ratchet and Clank is a great series and quite possibly the best thing on the ps2. I thought the latest one was a little weak (the single-player mode felt sacrificed for the multiplayer stuff I ignored), but you may want to pick the first game up too. It's cheap and almost as good as #2. They're probably the only recent games I've played through to completion more than once.

The Sly Cooper series is also a lot of fun and beautiful, although the save points can really suck. The art direction, style, and gameplay make up for it.

Posted by Adam Rixey at January 26, 2005 07:29 PM

I got pretty much all the way through Metroid Prime. This is astonishing because I hated everything that could be hated about the controls. The scanning stuff was interesting, and I enjoyed how they translated old school Metroid into the 3D realm, but overall it was kind of a mediocre shooter that I just really wanted to like.

The GameCube exists for two reasons: Wind Waker and Eternal Darkness. Even if I'd played nothing else, dropping the money on the cube just so I could play Eternal Darkness made it all worth it.

It's really too bad it has the worst. shoulder buttons. ever.

Posted by Eric Tilton at January 26, 2005 10:46 PM

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