Robin’s Rants – ‘Sixth Gen Showdown!’

Maybe it’s the recent lack of hair and the intense heat getting to me, but this week, I thought I might break up the monotony of boring analysis and do things a little differently. Instead of hearing me witter on about new ratings systems and the definition of ‘casual’, you get to see the sporting event of a generation!

…the Sixth Generation, in fact. You see, I’d like to welcome you to a tag-team boxing match between the four consoles that battled for dominance from 1998 to 2007. No spitting, no holding, no punches below the belt, gentlemen.

In the Blue Corner: The Old Guard!

This pair hail from the early days of console gaming, when men were men, consoles were ugly and cartridges reigned supreme. They helped define the industry as it stands today, and from ’89 to ’94 waged the world’s first, and some might say bloodiest, console war. I’m talking of course about those excellent pioneers, Sega and Nintendo! Now enough preamble from me, let’s head to the weigh in!

Coming in at three inches tall and 4.4 pounds, Sega’s offering, the Dreamcast, is packing 480p graphics, in-controller memory cards and out-of-the-box online support. It’s coming into this bout the underdog, after its predecessor Saturn took a merciless two-on-one beatdown from Nintendo and Sony.

“It’s thinking!” – Excellent psyche-out from Dreamcast there, but is thinking enough to fight off the ruthless Playstation 2? Only time will tell…

Fun Dreamcast Fact: Although the Dreamcast is regularly claimed to have been the first online-capable console, this most definitely isn’t true. Both the Sega Saturn (through a Dial-up system named Sega NetLink) and the Nintendo 64 (through the Japan only RANDnet service) were capable of networked gameplay (the Saturn connected directly, so is still available today!).

Digging further, the SNES was capable of a limited online mode via the Bandai Satellaview base add-on (it was used for two broadcast-only Zelda games in Japan!).

No, I’m not even done! The bloody Famicom and NES had online! Apparently the bits of hardware were called the Famicom Modem and the Teleplay Modem respectively. Oh, and the Atari 2600. I have to say, I’m pretty damn impressed.

Oh, you’re still there. Ahem.

Nintendo’s Gamecube can walk into this fight with slightly more confidence, having put up some stiff resistance to PlayStation at their last meeting. However, its swagger still looks unrealistic – perhaps it’s compensating for an undersized disc?

What it’s lacking in storage, it pulls back with an attractive exterior, a brilliantly comfortable controller and the ability to play Game Boy Advance games on your TV. As well as playing your Gamecube games WITH a Game Boy Advance. And circuitry to display in 3D. I love this thing.

Gushing aside, Nintendo is looking at a serious challenge here, but hopefully with a few well-placed games it can regain its gaming throne.

Fun Gamecube Fact: The Gamecube has been panned for only having four online games (only two of which were available in Europe!) but using a super-clever application called Warp Pipe you can fool Mario Kart: Double Dash and Kirby Air Ride into thinking you’re playing over LAN. Really, you’re playing over the internet and it’s fooling your ‘Cube.

In the Red Corner: New Kids on the Block!

This pair are representing the New-School. Only having existed since 1994, they’re here to prove that what they’ve got can match up to the best.

Following up from the runaway success of it’s father, the PlayStation, Sony are throwing into the ring their new darling, the simply-named PlayStation 2. Roaring and spitting, they’ve pulled out all the stops for the new millenium – Dreamcast had better watch out!

Yeah, it looks like a VCR but plays a blinder with a huge library of games, the innovative pre-Kinect EyeToy peripheral and its killer app of DVD support. Seriously, turns out the Japanese market just pounces on new disc formats!

He looks to be a tough fighter out in the ring, and previous performances have been good, but are Sony just blowing a lot of hot air? Time will only tell, my little friends.

Fun PlayStation 2 Fact: The PS2 was the first mainstream console to offer backwards compatibility without the need for any additional add-ons. The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis was capable of playing Master System games, but only with a special Power Base Adapter accesory.

Microsoft enters the fray as the untested newbie. The only western manufacture in the race, it’s bringing it’s huge brick, the Xbox, blinking into the sunlight in an effort to push the gaming envelope forward.

It’s essentially a bulky computer in an ugly black and green case, and certainly looks beefy enough to tackle anything the others can throw at it. Watch out Sony, it’s throwing you dirty looks too!

Xbox too is packing DVD format, but the really interesting part is its fleshed-out and commercial online system, called [Oh come on, you know this by now] Xbox Live. It offers quick, intuitive internet play over broadband connections and seems to be worshipped by the console gamers. It also features a hard drive, which reduces load times and allows for downloadable content. Fancy!

Can the Xbrick – sorry, Xbox – dislodge competition from three sides and a deep-seated distrust from the Japanese? I sure hope so, since otherwise this might be a short fight for the world’s largest software company – there aren’t many games coming out for it. Oh, there’s some biblical themed game from the guys who made Marathon? What were they called, Bungee Cord?

Fun Xbox Fact: This was the first console to be able to output High Definition video by using the Xbox High Definition AV Pack. This was essentially a little box that you plugged Component Cables into for wonderful 720p or 1080i graphics. Okay, so it wasn’t as wonderful as it sounds. Barely any games supported the bloody thing, they’re rare as a hen’s tooth in the stomach of a flying pig, and screw you if you live in Europe or Australia because to use it you’ve got to modify your console. But hey, if you’re looking for some sweet HD action and are five years behind on technology, go for it!

We’ve done the introductions and the stats – now it’s time to throw down.

DING!!

1998 – The False Start.

Dreamcast leaps into the ring early, beating its chest and roaring. Japanese audiences are unimpressed and keep playing their PlayStations. Moving on.

1999 – The Ball Gets Rolling.

Dreamcast launches in the US, Europe and Australia late in this year. It pretty much has the stage to itself and gets a much warmer reception by launching with some of the finest games of the decade. Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure and Power Stone? More please.

2000 – Mortal Kombat.

Despite a pretty decent run up, Dreamcast charges at the freshly-released PS2 this Christmas and breaks its face on the PlayStation’s rippling abs. There’s silicon all over the mat and carnage ensues as a riot breaks out.

Two months later it was discontinued, before Gamecube and Xbox had even finished putting on their gloves and taking the necessary amount of steroids. Gamers mourn the loss of their proud little white box.

2001 – Too Much Geometry!

Minecraft’s creator Notch would be proud – ‘Cube and ‘Box launching within two days of one another? Conspiracy!

Unfortunately, the Gamecube is the last one onto the stage in the Americas, but gets off to a good start with Star Wars: Rogue Leader, Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Bros. Unfortunately, it seems to be a one-horse race as PlayStation 2 stomps all over the puny mortals that stand against it. Oh, that Bible game on the Xbox got some kind of okay press. It was called Halo or something.

2002 – Bring On The Wall! – I Mean, War!

Nintendo finally remembers that the PAL regions exist and releases the Gamecube there this May. They follow it up with some impressive shots of a new Mario game where the rotund plumber carries around a water pistol, as well as a Cel-shaded Zelda based around sailing. Fans either rejoice or commit Seppukku, with no middle ground.

A fantastic year for software, we see the release of Eternal Darkness, Ratchet and Clank, Animal Crossing, Splinter Cell, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Kingdom Hearts and a little first-person beauty called Metroid Prime. Yum!

PS2 continues to dominate in all areas. No change there. Xbox slugs Gamecube in the face and shatters its memory card port – Nintendo will want revenge.

2003 – I’m On A Boat.

Nintendo’s last year of consistent greatness brings us RTS but gardening style with cutesy Miyamoto creation Pikmin. Don’t they just warm your heart? Also, Link comes back all cartoon-style with epic adventure The Wind Waker. It’s phenomenal, as expected, and goes on to be one of my favourite games.

Here Nintendo drops the ball. Into an incinerator. Their disastrous E3 showing damages the purple Cube’s credibility further when they present Pac-Man as their killer app.

Weirdly, this year sales were better for Nintendo than for Microsoft. Both consoles might not have done great, but the venerable Gamecube pulls ahead in points towards the end with the help of Zelda – not being Nintendo doesn’t count for much when your own console doesn’t have anything coming out.

Software-wise, we get some special treats with the manic Viewtiful Joe and ever-popular RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic coming out. There’s also a nice multi-platform stocking filler with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time being released . Oh, and some pretender to the Medal of Honour crown called Call of Duty. It’ll never catch on.

2004 – Can I Stop Yet?

2004 was a pretty interesting year. We had the apparently approaching doom of Nintendo on our minds so much that we all missed one of its best swings ever, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, they continued their habit of making some monumental cock-ups by coinciding with the releases of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Halo 2, consequently ending up with a bloody nose. Good work guys, good work.

Still, it was a great time to be a gamer if you weren’t partisan, with the high-profile releases of Metroid Prime 2, Metal Gear Solid 3 and a little thing called Half Life 2. You know, I’m tempted to say this might just have been the best year of my life for the art form.

PS2’s dominance is all but assured, selling 80 million by year’s end, while Xbox only just breaks into the twenties. Poor Gamecube is still languishing in the late teens.

2005 – Wiinding Down.

This year was all about the future. Nintendo is still clinging onto the ropes through handheld dominance, leading some to speculate that they might be dropping consoles in favour of their more profitable market. ‘Some’ are wrong, and at E3 Nintendo unveils their sleek, black Revolution.

Sony announce what everyone has been suspecting for a while – the new console/barbecue innovatively dubbed the PlayStation 3, which they promise will knock out the competition in a single punch. Nobody doubts them as the PlayStation 2 breaks 100 million sales.

Microsoft, who leapt out of the ring the previous year by announcing their newest system, gives it a release date and price at E3. The Xbox is somewhat neglected as its newer, more powerful brother is shunted into the spotlight in November, featuring a bigger built-in hard drive and HDMI support.

The software continues to be strong, with Resident Evil 4 and the beautiful Shadow of the Colossus being thrown out, but gamers everywhere know that we’re standing on the edge, ready to jump into the unknown.

2006 – The End of An Era.

Chibi-Robo. Dreamfall. Okami. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The swansongs of a generation, the last gasps of these aging fighters as they finish up their round, waiting for their successors, which roar (or in the PS3’s case, sputter) into life this winter.

Excellent games all, but marred by low sales (You at the back – I know Twilight Princess sold well, but not on the Gamecube!), they deserve to be played just so we don’t forget what this generation of consoles showed us, and how it truly formed gaming into the way it is today.

Repetitive, commercial, and full of whining 12-year-olds.

Let’s have a look at the final scores!

PlayStation 2 finishes up with a score of 150 (continuing to beat the lifeless corpses of its competition).

Xbox grabs second with a respectable 24, getting in some decent throws for its lifespan.

Gamecube emerges from the fight battered, but not beaten, with 21 and some excellent games to show for it.

The little console that couldn’t, the Dreamcast gets a a minute’s silence and a state funeral with its premature score of 11. Bless it.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our reporting on the Sixth Generation from CubedSports! I’ve been your host for this evening, so keep bickering (it gives me a job) and goodnight!

-Robin!

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Robin Wilde

Co-Editor of Cubed Gamers, meaning I send out, take in, edit and upload content. I'm also in charge of doing much of the graphics and design stuff for the site.