Britney Spears could shimmy into the Northwest Side den where seven teenage boys are hanging and they probably wouldn’t notice. Not with the shiny new Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft Xbox within playing vicinity.
Before they’ve even set up the consoles–which takes them about two minutes each–they banter about the merits of both systems.
Suddenly, PlayStation 2–last year’s highly hyped game console–is passe. Microsoft’s Xbox, which hits stores today, and Nintendo’s GameCube, which will be in stores Sunday, are the new objects of desire. And these boys are excited to have access to them days before the rest of their peers.
“GameCube is for people who are into consoles, and the Xbox is for people who are more into computer games,” theorizes Christian Neill, a 17-year-old Nintendo fan.
“The Xbox is run by Microsoft, and Microsoft runs the world,” counters Carter Sims, 17. “You’d like [the GameCube] maybe if you were 2.”
Tim Broberg, 17, adds, “Nintendo games are always more cartoony. The Xbox is better.” OK, boys. Simmer down. And play.
First up, GameCube’s “Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.”
“Whoa!” the kids exclaim in unison. They talk excitedly over each other about how realistic the graphics look. One player wonders if Jar-Jar Binks is going to pop up somewhere, and they all laugh. They appear relieved when the annoying Gungan doesn’t show up.
Next up is “Luigi’s Mansion,” also from GameCube. The boys nod in recognition as Mario’s little cousin vacuums up ghosts he finds in his haunted home. Tim repeats his cartoon criticism, and a couple of the younger boys shush him.
Christian tries his hand with the Xbox. The first of seven games he tests is the wickedly fun martial arts fighting game “Dead or Alive 3.”
“It has amazing graphics,” he says. “It’s really cool.”
After testing both units, Christian says, “On average, the Xbox has higher graphics than the GameCube. Xbox is a powerful machine. It produces crisp, clear graphics that are much better than PS2. But graphics aren’t the only good thing in a game. There’s also the mechanics of the games to consider, and the ones we played generally were lacking.
” ‘Shrek’s’ funny and has impressive visuals. The one drawback is the sound. He doesn’t make any noise when he walks. It’s weird playing with a 1-ton ogre who lumbers around without the slightest whisper or even a hint of a pitter-patter. Even games with tiny characters have walking sounds.”
He is disappointed with the loading times for Xbox games. The few seconds it takes translates into eternity in a teenager’s world. “GameCube loading time is almost nonexistent,” Christian observes.
Christian’s brother, Seth, 13, and Tim Tsurutani, 15, also are impressed with the GameCube.
“The picture is really clear,” Tim says.
Adds Seth, “Nintendo has awesome games, and the controller is really easy to work. Everything is small, which makes it convenient. The memory chip fits into a shirt pocket and is easy to store.”
Christian says that’s not case with the Xbox, which by comparison is a behemoth.
“The controller is horrible,” Christian says. “It’s massive. When you’re playing a game, you want to forget about it and not feel like you’re holding a school textbook. The buttons are oddly shaped and uncomfortable to use. They also get confusing. I kept having to look down to see which button to press. This never happens with the PS2 or GameCube controllers.”
Ryan Maniaci, 15, had intended on purchasing a PS2. But after playing with the GameCube, he has changed his mind.
“I want to get this instead now,” Ryan says. “It’s cheaper than the Playstation 2 or the XBox, too.”
Michael LaGiglio, 16, likes the GameCube, too. “I’d like to get this,” he says. “It looks really good.”
Even though it’s purple and looks like a toy?
“It’s not what it looks like,” Michael points out. “It’s about the games.”
And besides, it’s not like the Xbox is a beauty either, Christian says.
“It’s the most hideous thing to look at,” he says. “It’s giant, bulky, ugly and reminds me of ’70s architecture.”
GameCube vs. Xbox: It varies from game to game, but the Xbox is generally clearer. It’s almost seamless.
Sound quality: You can hook up Xbox to your surround sound TV.
Ease of controllers: The Xbox fit my hands better.
Game selection: Gamecube’s “Rogue Loader” took advantage of graphics capability, but for playability, I liked “Luigi’s Mansion” best. For Xbox, it’s a tough call. “Shrek” is for kids, and young boys will find it amusing because you can set Shrek’s flatulence on fire. I really liked “Cel Damage” (for Xbox) because you feel like you’ve stepped into a cartoon.
Console appearance: Agreed. It looks like an 8-track player.
Portability: The Xbox is not made to be moved, though Microsoft is selling a console carrier case. No cases required for the Gabecube.
Load time: It varies from game to game.
GameCube vs. Xbox: I couldn’t tell the difference. Both are clear.
Sound quality: I don’t have surround sound. Both are stereo. I couldn’t tell the difference.
Ease of controllers: The Gamecube controller is smaller and easier to use.
Game selection: “Shrek” the movie was more interesting than the game. For Xbox, my favorite was “Dead or Alive 3,” because it’s easy to play and you get to do martial arts moves without actually knowing what you’re doing. For Gamecube, “Rogue Loader” wins hands down. The graphics are amazing and the game is fun, even though I crashed into everything.
Console appearance: I don’t think either is as sleek as PS2, but I like the Xbox’s appearance better than Gamecube. The Gamecube looks like a children’s toy. It should be called Gamecute.
Portability: Gamecube. The Xbox is too heavy to cart around.
Load time: Gamecube rules.
Nintendo’s new game console is a little bit quirky. Unlike the rival Xbox and PlayStation 2, which are black, rectangular and sleek, Nintendo’s Gamecube–in stores Sunday–is purple, square and squat.
The little sucker packs quite a punch, though. Measuring 4.3 inches by 5.9 inches by 6.3 inches, the console’s game discs have 1.5-gigabyte capacity, and its memory cards store 4 megabytes of flash memory.
Nintendo’s first new console in five years retails for $199.95–$100 less than the XBox of PlayStation 2. Of course, the Gamecube so far lacks Xbox’s Internet capabilities, and it doesn’t play DVDs like the others, either.
“Our business is selling games, not movies,” says George Harrison, Nintendo’s senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. “We also feel gaming is a social event. You play it with your friends and you move it to different rooms to someone else’s dorm room. Gamecube makes that easy to do. That’s not true of the other consoles.”
True. But the other two look like they’re designed for adults. The Gamecube? Not so much.
“You get a little hurt when people say your product isn’t attractive,” Harrison says. “But the shape and size of the console give it a bit of an interesting personality. Its look stands out.”
Nintendo has 700,000 consoles ready for sale in the United States. The company expects to have 1.1 million by the end of December. Another 1.4 million units will have been shipped worldwide by then.
Though the gaming industry estimates that about 43 percent of all players are female, Harrison says the majority of games created for Nintendo are male-oriented.
“Our research shows it’s mostly young boys from age 9 to 18 who bring games into the home,” Harrison says. “Girls may play the games, but it’s the boys who have a passion for them and find the money to buy them. Most of the characters in our games cross gender and age, so we’re not too worried about not appealing to girls as well.”