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Despite all the talk about next-generation hardware, the longest line at E3 wasn’t for the PlayStation 3 demo reel or anything Xbox 360—it was for a GameCube game. Thousands of gamers waited an average of three hours (in a queue that snaked though Nintendo’s entire booth and out onto the show floor) to get their hands on the first playable demo of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and they didn’t leave disappointed (see our take on pg. 84). Link’s realistic-looking new adventure was the talk of the show, winning awards from various websites and even earning a few overall Game of the Show nods. “The Zelda franchise again demonstrates the awesome power and versatility of Nintendo GameCube,” says Nintendo V.P. George Harrison. “But there’s much more to our software appeal.”—which is where we would have to respectfully disagree.

Any way you cut it, the Cube lineup for the next year is a disappointment. Outside of Zelda and a smattering of other offerings (Battalion Wars and the OK-looking Fire Emblem), the all-too-few new first-party games (Pokémon XD, Kirby,

Chibi-Robo) are aimed squarely at the younger set. Nintendo proudly boasted about four new Mario titles—Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, Mario Party 7, Mario Baseball, and Mario Strikers—but all four are targeted at casual audiences, with no “real” Mario game in sight.

What Nintendo didn’t say but was obvious to everyone was that the bulk of its development teams and major franchises have moved on to the DS handheld or upcoming Revolution system (see sidebar). Without even a single major third-party exclusive and only EA and Ubisoft showing any real port-support, it looks like another year of literally dusting off the Cube every other month or so. “What I think your audience needs to understand,” Nintendo VP of Sales and Marketing Reggie Fils-Aime told us, “is that we need to manage the business side of things as well as the creative side. And right now for the business, the GameCube lineup is quite appropriate.” Maybe so, but with so few Cube titles headed their way and no Revolution release date to look forward to, it’s small consolation for the Nintendo faithful.

Premature Evacuation

Where are all your favorite Nintendo franchises headed?

Bound for: Revolution

“One or two Wi-Fi-enabled games will be ready for [Revolution] launch,” says Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. “And I am pushing our teams to make sure Smash Bros. is one of them.” Any chance for a handheld DS Smash Bros. as well? “We’re thinking about it,” Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto told us.

Bound for: GameCube, DS, and Revolution

Besides Twilight Princess, we know that a Zelda is in the works for the DS (not a Four Swords game, as previously reported) and another is already underway for the Revolution.

Bound for: DS and Revolution

Prime 3 is confirmed for Revolution, while Pinball and Hunters will both come to the DS later this year. Another Metroid title, Metroid Prime: Dread, appeared on some internal Nintendo DS documents before E3, but was a no-show.

Donkey Kong

Bound for: ?

Is Nintendo monkeying around with another sequel for the big ape? “We’ve created something really fun and unique and interesting with DK: Jungle Beat,” says Miyamoto. “We also have something else in the works.”

Mario 128

Bound for: Revolution

Miyamoto says the Mario Sunshine team is hard at work, and Nintendo is hoping to have the game out around the launch of the system.

Notable Games

A quick look at the major titles heading to GameCube in the months to come. (Why no asterisks to signify online functionality? This is GameCube, silly.)

August

Geist

Madden NFL 06

Mario Baseball

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

September

Battalion Wars

WWE Day of Reckoning 2

October

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

James Bond 007: From Russia With Love

Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects

Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness

November

Mario Party 7

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Prince of Persia 3

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The Sims 2

X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse

Fall 2005

Chibi-Robo

Kirby (working title)

Odama

Shadow the Hedgehog

Super Mario Strikers

True Crime 2

Ultimate Spider-Man

Late 2005/Early 2006

Viewtiful Joe VFX Battle (working title)

2006

StarCraft: Ghost

Report Card: C-

Strengths:

+ One word: Zelda. Probably the most anticipated game of this fall, on any system

+ Four new (and solid) Mario games

Weaknesses:

- The few new first-party games are aimed at kids and casual gamers

- No big third-party exclusives and weak overall support

Overall:

A few big games from Nintendo, and that’s about it. So what else is new?

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.





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