GameCube’s Crystal Cable Ball

Can GameCube’s little purple cable predict the future success of Wii U?

By Katharine Byrne. Posted 09/20/2011 10:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

But as with The Wind Waker, there’s no doubt that it would have been extremely difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to use a GBA as the primary controller for Prime in the same way that it is was used in Four Swords Adventures. You just can’t fit the number of control inputs required by the c-stick or the x-y-z-buttons– and arguably the analog stick as well– onto a GBA (although Other M perhaps proves that you can still have a successful set of controls that amount to little more than a NES controller). So in this sense it’s understandable why the GCN-GBA cable was so often relegated to the “additional feature” status– a GBA just couldn’t match the sheer number of controls required by most top-tier (or indeed any-tier) titles at the time.

That said, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was another game which showed that this slightly watered down number of controls was still a viable option for developers. Much like Four Swords Adventures, players had the option of playing alone or with friends, but here each additional GBA performed a different function.

Despite one player having to lug the crystal round all day, multiplayer also offered more tactical variety in battle.

For example, player one’s GBA would show a map whereas player two’s would reveal monster locations when they enter a dungeon, once again encouraging teamwork and collaborative play. Each GBA also acted to clear away information from the main TV screen so players weren’t overwhelmed by four lots of menu navigation. Putting aside the logistical problems of playing through an RPG with 2-4 players who have to be in the same room and all have separate GBAs and GCN-GBA cables (the same problem suffered by Four Swords Adventures), Crystal Chronicles demonstrated that a limited number of controls didn’t necessarily equate to a less intricate and immersive gaming experience.

Yet I think it’s telling that Crystal Chronicles and Four Swords Adventures, both designed with multiplayer in mind, were just about the only two games out of that initial figure of just under 60 that successfully tapped into the GCN-GBA cable’s potential. Other notable games that have used the cable have all relegated it to supplying extra content, more often than not between GameCube games and their GBA counterparts. For example, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time pulled a Metroid Prime and gave players the original 1989 Prince of Persia as well as little extras like refilling health and access to hidden rooms if you connected the GameCube and GBA versions of the game together; Sonic Advance and its sequel allowed players to transfer their chao into the chao gardens of the two Sonic Adventure games; and Fire Emblem‘s contribution was restricted to bonus maps and art galleries for Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.

So what does this spell for Wii U? Will its controller suffer the same fate as the GCN-GBA cable and only be useful for a handful of multiplayer games? It certainly won’t suffer from any limitation on the number of controls, that’s for sure. With two analog pads, two pairs of shoulder buttons and the long-overdue return of the x and y buttons to name but a few, Wii U’s controller is definitely poised to bring the GCN-GBA cable’s premise to full fruition.

It’s also probably fairly safe to say that it won’t only be successful in the multiplayer arena– while Four Swords Adventures and Crystal Chronicles have no doubt laid down the groundwork for many Wii U multiplayer games to come, it’s likely that the screen will perform a very similar function in a single player context by giving your TV screen a bit of a spring-clean and doing away with the need for a separate menu interface system. We can only hope that developers get a better handle on Wii U’s capabilities than those who toyed with the idea of the GCN-GBA cable.

But at the same time, there’s no denying that there’s a heavy and foreboding shadow looming over Wii U– as great as Four Swords Adventures and Crystal Chronicles were, two games by themselves don’t make a console. Nintendo and Square Enix might have figured out how to utilise two screens on a console, but the relatively modest success of the GCN-GBA cable suggests that the rest of the industry is still somewhat baffled by the idea. Of course, the success of DS has shown that developers are now more acquainted with thinking with two screens, but can that hard work be translated to a home console where players aren’t looking at both screens simultaneously anymore? Only time will tell…

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3 Responses to “GameCube’s Crystal Cable Ball”

  • 1332 points
    Andrew Hsieh says...

    I actually miss the GameCube/GBA link cable. I never owned a Game Boy Advance (shock!) but I did have friends from whom I borrowed time and time again just to add to my video game experiences. While I can’t say it did much for Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, among other games, getting new Chaos from Phantasy Star Online or getting coconuts in Animal Crossing made me wish I bought a GBA instead of just languishing in my ineptitude. Ah well.

  • 162 points
    LocoBaka says...

    Don’t forget about the wii/ds connectivity. I’m not sure if it was used ever but I think it’s a safe bet that wiiu/3ds connectivity will be possible. Think about it: the main player is using the wiiu controller and there could be an ar card image in the corner of the tv screen so the 3ds player could act as a second gunner and shoot things on the tv screen. Not only that, but things could pop out of the tv screen and invade the room that you are in. There’s so many things that could be done this gen.

    • 7 points
      Katharine Byrne says...

      I think the Wii/DS connectivity was used for Pokemon Battle Revolution, where the battle commands would come up on the DS so your opponent wouldn’t see which moves you were making, but I can’t recall any other games which used it.

      That’s a really cool idea though, especially if rumours are true and Wii U won’t be able to support more than one Wii U controller. I’d be more inclined to think they’d use the ordinary Wii Remote rather than 3DS for a second controller, but you never know! Definitely a possibility! :)

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