Over the years, I’ve owned and played a wide variety of games consoles, but the GameCube is the one I keep returning to, and I think it’s because it’s the last point in console gaming history where a console was nothing more than a gaming device. It could play games, and it could do nothing else.
The GameCube’s peers were the Dreamcast, the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. Dreamcast could play CDs, browse the web and supported mice and keyboards. PlayStation 2 is now famous for its secondary, and in some cases primary, use as a DVD player, and the Xbox allowed you to rip CDs to the hard drive and watch films. The GameCube had none of this, and I admire its purity.
Every few years I get a craving for revisiting the GameCube library again — some Wind Waker, some Super Mario Sunshine, a bit of flirting with Viewtiful Joe — and every few years that means I have to buy a new GameCube, because I have a tendency to sell them once I’m done and I never, ever learn. My first silver GameCube was sold in Oxford to save me the effort of moving it to London. The second, pearl white GameCube went on eBay after I decided to just use my Wii for GameCube games in a fit of minimalist sanity. I could have kept doing that but it’s so inelegant: the sensor bar having to forever sit above the TV, the perpetual need to have the Wii Remote with batteries in just so I could reach the GameCube emulator, the console itself having GameCube controllers and memory cards sticking out of its flaps…and worst of all, having a Wii sat next to a Wii-compatible Wii U? What kind of idiot would non-existent visitors to my flat take me for?
So I’m now on my third GameCube, and this may be my stupidest gaming purchase since the Bandai Wonderswan SwanCrystal: a Japanese Spice Orange model that I basically can’t use.
The Japanese Spice Orange GameCube is essentially a list of reasons why it’s a stupid purchase. It’s an expensive, imported machine lacking digital output for a higher-quality picture. It came — obviously — with a Japanese power supply, so I had to buy a UK replacement. It came — less obviously — with no AV cable, so I had to get one of those as well. Finally, I needed a region-lock breaking disc to allow me to play European games. This turned out to not work, which means I have to either crack the machine open and do some soldering, or only play Japanese games and hope that I never need to read any text or understand any dialogue.
All this, because the console is orange.
Look, I like my games consoles to look like toys. For years now the default for every console is black or white, and maybe you can have some fancy colours years later when the need and desire for the console has long-since passed. The Wii eventually came out in red and a weird, toxic blue, but by then the Wii was dead in the water. Sony at least put a bit of effort in the latest revision of the PS3, in red and blue shades, but only with limited release numbers. The Xbox 360…just gets uglier. The Xbox One and PS4 are almost indistinguishable from each other, both black boxes, and the Wii U’s controller is more toy-like than the console itself. I like the direction Nintendo took for the Wii Mini, which, with no online, GameCube and component cable support, is clearly a machine for the youngest and least discerning of children, but God, look at it! It’s so deeply, unfashionably toy-like, and not even a contemporary toy, but a chunky red and black plastic toy from the ’80s; slap a He-Man sticker on the side and it could double as a lunchbox.
In an era where consoles are media hubs that must fit discreetly away or be banished into the man-cave, a bright orange GameCube next to your TV is practically a mission statement. Just…not a very playable one.