Nintendo has always had a habit of combining its home and handheld consoles to create cross-platform gaming experiences. For example, back in 1994, Nintendo released the popular Super Game Boy adaptor which slotted neatly into the SNES and allowed players to experience their Game Boy games on a big screen. Likewise, the Transfer Pak for N64 (an essential must-have component for any Pokémon Stadium fan) also followed in this tradition, giving players the chance to make good on their endless hours of Pokémon training and use their beloved teams in glorious 3D to help win them victory in the N64 arena. But we’re not here to talk about the Super Game Boy or the Transfer Pak– we’re here to take a look at one of the other curiosities in Nintendo’s bid to combine two different pieces of hardware: the GameCube to Game Boy Advance cable.
Just under 60 GameCube games have utilised the GCN-GBA cable over the little purple lunchbox’s tenure, and its use has ranged from an essential gameplay mechanic (as seen in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) to a simple add-on for extra features (such as in Metroid Prime and Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut). It even became GameCube’s successor to the Transfer Pak for transferring Pokémon between Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green to Pokémon Colosseum and its sequel. But given the fact that its dual screen-data transferring premise bears some quite startling similarities to the upcoming Wii U setup, let’s see whether this strange little cable can shed some light on Wii U’s future success.
Let’s start by looking at one of the GCN-GBA cable’s bigger success stories. In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, players had the choice of either going solo or joining together with up to four of their friends to take on Vaati and master the Four Sword, a sword which magically split Link into four different versions of himself. When you chose the multiplayer option, every player had to have their own GBA. This might have seemed unnecessarily cumbersome at the time, but this was precisely where the genius and forward-thinking of Four Swords Adventures really showed off the GCN-GBA cable’s potential, forecasting Wii U’s “let’s dive into the controller screen” idea to an uncanny degree.
The TV screen remains fixed on the castle outside but all the action happening inside drops down to your GBA.
Attempting a multiplayer Zelda title was always going to be difficult, but Four Swords Adventures pulled it off to great success. For example, when one player entered a house or fell down a hole underground, the action shifted to their GBA, leaving the shenanigans going on outside or up above completely undisturbed. You were free to do your own thing and plunder hidden treasure chests on the sly, and when a crucial part of the game involved collecting as many power shards as possible, there was always a frantic race to see who could bag the 100 shard chest first and who’d be left with the measly 5 shard chest. As a result, the cable afforded players a very fluid gameplay experience and considerably upped the sense of competition. It’s definitely a lot less fun playing on your own, I can tell you that.
But Zelda also got another swing at the GCN-GBA cable bat in The Wind Waker in the form of the “Tingle Tuner.” This time players could conjure up a Tingle spectre (which is possibly even more unnerving than his living form) and use their GBA to help Link find hidden items and information about an area. If you completed a series of side-quests you also got the chance to meet Tingle’s brother, Knuckle. As you can immediately tell, this is very much on the “additional extras” side of the cable-usage fence, and it didn’t particularly enhance or add anything to the gameplay. The Wind Waker functioned perfectly well on its own without the GCN-GBA cable, and its use in this Zelda title could probably be equated with the “token waggle controls” we’ve seen shoehorned onto many Wii shovelware titles.
Metroid Prime endured a similar experience with the GCN-GBA cable, with it only unlocking hidden extras rather than being incorporated into the game’s wider mechanics. If you connected Metroid Fusion up to a completed Prime file you could let Samus don the Fusion suit, and likewise a completed Fusion file would score you the original NES Metroid.
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