Monday, July 19, 2010
The Gamecube Broadband Adapter
Last generation was the time when online console gaming saw a tremendous growth, and is when most people say where it started to mature. The Sega Dreamcast came shipped with a modem adapter, and could be upgraded to a Broadband adapter. It also came with a web browser, which built on and expanded the one released with the Saturn's Netlink modem. Sega knew that online gaming was the future for consoles, but sadly lost the console wars early on. The Playstation 2 eventually got its own network adapter, and the Xbox of course had built-in ethernet. Everyone was prepared for the relatively new concept on online console gaming. Except Nintendo. Having very briefly experimented with online technology with the Nintendo 64DD's Randnet service, people were expecting the Gamecube to fully embrace the concept to compete against Microsoft, Sega, and Sony. Unfortunately, this did not happen quite so smoothly. When asked about the possibility of online services for the Gamecube, Nintendo said quite bluntly that "Our users don't want online games."; a statement that would come back to haunt them.
But that is not to say that the Gamecube remained an offline console. After Sega expressed interest in porting their online smash hit Phantasy Star Online to the Gamecube as an initial exclusive, Nintendo was very interested, despite knowing that the Gamecube was not made for online functions. Thus, two network adapters were released for the system: A Dial-Up Modem, and a Broadband Adapter. Both of which allowed for the release of Sega's Dreamcast classic. Other than that, Nintendo did little to utilize the network adapters, besides incorporating LAN functions into a few games [Which I will get to later]. Eventually, the Gamecube faded away with a mountain of untapped potential.
Even though Nintendo didn't have much faith in the Gamecube BBA, it is still alive and kicking in the eyes of homebrew developers. Yes, there is still some very good reasons to own a BBA, and there are still some things that the Gamecube can do that the Wii cannot. Let's discuss them, shall we?
1. Online Play
Nintendo shut down all the Gamecube online servers quite a while back, but that doesn't mean your 'Cube is forever confined to local multiplayer. Programmers have figured out how to keep last-gen systems online through some creative methods. There have been a couple programs made to do this over the years such as Warp Pipe, but the most popular one is currently Xlink Kai, which has hundreds of players a day across multiple consoles. Although Gamecube online activity is hard to find now, you can still arrange online matches and play online. Here's how it works. For any Gamecube/Xbox/360/PS3/PS2/PSP game that supports LAN play, Xlink fakes the console's connection to the local network, and redirects it to Xlink servers, thus making it playable online. Now, the catch is that this will not work with online games unless they support LAN play. However, this catch also works conversely, in that games that were not previously online, but did support LAN play are now playable online. The following games are supported by Xlink:
Mario Kart: Double Dash
Kirby: Air Ride
Super Smash Bros Melee*
Sonic Adventure 2 Battle*
Super Monkey Ball 2*
Now, I know what you are thinking: "Hey, those games with an asterisk at the end didn't have LAN play!" Well, hold on, because I have more good news. A certain brilliant homebrew developer created a program called "GCARS-CS" which theoretically allows you to play any multiplayer Gamecube game online. Although only those games are currently supported, the program could work for any game. It is a great idea, and the people who use it say that it works well. So, if you're willing to go through a bit of setup and planning, you could be playing your Gamecube games online, right now. Pretty cool, huh?
I have one more thing to mention. You might have been disappointed when I said that online games that did not support LAN could not be played with Xlink. Well, they can still be played online, just not through Xlink. Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II [and just recently, Episode III] are playable via fan-made private servers. All you need to do is change some settings in the game, and you can play PSO on your Gamecube again! It is obviously not quite as active, but there are still people playing, so you are sure to find somebody. There is also one other MMO available for the Gamecube besides Phantasy Star Online. The game Homeland, only released in Japan, is still being played online today via the same method of private servers. So, you have many options for playing your Gamecube online. The online community for the 'Cube is clearly not going down without a fight, and it shows through the support still being shown for it.
2. LAN Play
This is obvious because I mentioned it before, but you can play your Gamecube via a LAN connection; a method that will never die, no matter what the circumstances. You can hook 2-4 Gamecubes up to the same network, and have some good ol' multiplayer fun. You must have more than one Gamecube, and a BBA, separate television, controller, and Ethernet cable for each one, but there's nothing that can match the sheer fun of LAN console gaming. If you can afford it, it is a total blast.
Homebrew developers have come up with some crafty ways to use the Gamecube's BBA. If you have a method to load homebrew on your Gamecube, you can do some pretty nifty things. For example, you can load Gamecube ISO backups over the network, without having to burn any discs, or install any modchips! It is somewhat slow on many games, and some games are incompatible, but still, the fact that this is even possible is amazing. You can also load homebrew over the network, without having to copy it to an SD card or a Gamecube memory card. Both these things are good solutions if you want to keep the files on your computer.
The Gamecube is still alive in its own right, with devoted developers taking advantage of even the most neglected add-ons for the system, and making programs that help people experience the Gamecube's online functions for long after they were supposed to be canceled. If you were ever curious about what the Gamecube's online play was like, you haven't missed your chance. You can still experience all of it, and more. Long live the Gamecube on the World Wide Web!
Here are some links to the services and programs I mentioned in this article:
Xlink Kai: http://www.teamxlink.co.uk/
Phantasy Star Online Private Servers: http://schtserv.com/
Gamecube Homebrew: http://gcemu.dcemu.co.uk/
This is lisalover1, looking for someone to play Gamecube Xlink with!