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Nintendo's announcement

Japanese and American launch dates, gameplay movies and the console's controller

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Nintendo's E3 press conference was very upbeat, with a lot of interesting information, gameplay footage and a proper look at the console's controller. Oh, and the new GameCube logo (right). First up were the console's Japanese and American launch dates [Grrr - European Ed]. Microsoft were noticeably red-faced when the announcement came that the console would hit American shores on November 5th, a few days before the Xbox, but the console will actually launch for the first time on September 14th in Japan. The hardware generally glossed over to make way for the games, but the controller was given its own special ceremony, and it looked impressive. It looks rather like an overdone Dual Shock 2 controller, with its D-Pad where the left analog stick would sit and the left analog stick where the Dual Shock's D-Pad rests. For the first time that I can recall too, the controller's right hand buttons are not simply raised circles. The A button is central, with a smaller B button just below on the left. Y and X look like jelly beans and circle the A button above and right. Like the N64 controller, the GameCube controller abandons the Select function, preferring to use a single function button in the very centre of the pad. Also includes are bubbly shoulder buttons. Although not obvious from Nintendo-released images of the controller, the Z trigger returns in a teardrop shape beneath the trigger finger of the right hand - a much better approach than on the N64 where the left hand had to be used to fire, soemthing a lot of gamers could never get their head's round. The other part of the controller not so obvious from photographs is the sensitivity of the shoulder buttons. The Dreamcast often took advantage of them for racing controls, and many have likened the GameCube's shoulder buttons to the clutch and gas pedals of a car. Remember the old movies of kids getting Mario to tiptoe on the N64? By nudging the analog stick gently? Imagine that degree of sensitivity then multiply by ten and apply it to each shoulder pad. The obvious application of which is proper driving games that encourage you to drive as you would in real life, building up gas and gently releasing the clutch to speed off. Damn, all the simulation fans just fainted! So what else? Well, Shigeru Miyamoto was on hand to show off his impressive debut title for GameCube, Pikmin, which looks like it will be up to his usual standards of innovation and excellence. Joining Pikmin were Kameo, Star Fox Adventures, Donkey Kong Racing and Raven Blade as well as games we had already seen like Luigi's Mansion. One notable was that the load time of everything on display was truly negligible. We'll talk more about the games themselves another time, but one thing was went away from the conference wondering about was developer support. On the whole the issue of third party developers was ignored. Major developers are on board? What does that mean when Microsoft have just announced 27 by name working on online games alone! Somewhat crucially Sega (who are working on ten titles) are the only Japanese developer listed, while Konami, Capcom and Namco, who all have GameCube projects on the go were keeping schtum. The other thing we noticed was that Nintendo didn't explain how the GameBoy Advance would function as a GameCube controller, something we had rather expected to hear about. Something that caught us off-guard on the positive front though was the presence of Phantasy Star Online 2 on Nintendo's roadmaps. A GameCube incarnation of one of the Dreamcast's most stellar titles [fired - Ed] would not only attract a lot of fans, but would imply that Nintendo does have an online strategy, something which we have heard nothing about yet, but had suspected would take a back seat to the gaming.

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