An article by Kamaran Sheikh. 'Good things come to those who wait'. Unfortunately, it seems no matter how patient you are, the UK market will never see the Panasonic Gamecube sold on general release in the UK. The 'Q' for short, is a Hybrid DVD player and Nintendo Gamecube. Released exclusively to the Japanese market shortly after the Nintendo Gamecube, the Q is branded one of the most elite and exclusive console machines available today.
The primary advantage of a Q over the standard Gamecube is its ability to play DVD in addition to GC games. As a result the Q is a smooth front ejecting unit with a small inner groove which neatly holds the mini Gamecube discs. However, the appeal of the unit does not centre on its functionality but rather its striking appearance. The mirrored faceplate protected by polished glass, the sweeping blue LCD display and the electric blue glowing controller ports make the Q quite unique and stunning.
Due to its intended target market, the Q will only play Japanese GC games and Region 2 NTSC DVD 'out of the box'. The popularity of the unit within the import market has catered for modified units which most recently play USA / JPN Gamecube games plus region 1 -6 DVD (PAL and NTSC). With an import price tag in the £300 - £400 region the Q is more expensive than its obvious competitors, (Xbox & PS2) which also both have the capability to play DVD.
As you open the colourful packaging and remove the Q from its tissue covering, it's clear you are in possession of something designed and constructed with Japanese panache and attention to detail. The unit as standard comes with a Japanese remote control, batteries, instruction manual and composite connectors. Once you have everything out of the box, you are presented with the dilemma of connecting the unit to its display. The Q will only support composite or s-video for total playback, although there is a component connection available this is unfortunately restricted to Game mode.
Once the unit is connected and powered up you are able to change the DVD menu from the native Japanese to English in a matter of seconds using the remote control. At this point you gain an appreciation for the number of settings available to you through facilitated by the number of rear connectors the unit has. Users are presented with two surround modes to widen normal stereo signals, a Separate subwoofer jack to utilize the 'Bass Plus' feature which deepens low frequency response for subwoofer owners. There is Optical out supporting Dolby Digital and DTS encoded signal for movies, whilst Two RCA stereo jacks allow multiple room music playback
On powering up the unit your attention is drawn to the Q's stunning backlit display as it greets you with a 'HELLO' message. During DVD use the display becomes a counter, switching to GC mode the display prominently tells you it is in 'GAMECUBE' mode. Powering off the Q sees you bid farewell by a courteous 'GOODBYE'.
When using the unit switching between DVD and GC mode is done through either the remote control or the front panel. Depending on the mod applied, switching between GC JPN and USA mode is usually carried out by simple press and hold of the Power or Game Reset button. Some earlier modified versions have a neatly concealed switch under one of the front feet.
As a DVD player the Q excels over both the Xbox and PS2, both in terms of quality and configuration. Despite the lack of RGB support, colours remain sharp whilst images are crisp throughout playback. The Q surpasses its rivals even when they are connected with full RGB playback, clearly designed with DVD playback in mind and not as a bolted on extra. In comparison to a stand-alone player the Q may justify its £300 price tag, though would ultimately be limited by its lack of RGB connection. On a positive side the modified Q's have macrovision disabled in addition to being able to play MP3 and VCD files. The modified version automatically detects DVD regional encoding. This suggests it is region-free and not multi region. The concern here is previous Region free DVD players were unable to play R1 RCE discs, so future DVD encoding technology may cause problems to the DVD function.
As a Gamecube the Q is pretty much what you would expect, the major plus being the built-in region switch. It will be interesting to see how the internal switch is applied if the NTSC GC can eventually be modified to play PAL games. In addition to its ability to play multi-region games, there is rumour suggesting the Q will play host to pirated GC software. This is due its ability to play both conventional and GC miniature DVD, allowing copied games to make the economic conversion to standard DVD. Although this is currently only speculation, there are strong possibilities here but these shouldn't be used as the basis of a decision to buy.
If you already own a GC and a DVD player, there is probably little justifiable reason to buy a Panasonic Gamecube. It may be worth considering selling both your existing units to buy one, as long as you are sure it's what you want. Alternatively, if you have no need for justification then the appearance of the machine is reason enough. Console collectors will see the Q as a mandatory addition to their collection.
No matter how many more versions of the Q we see, and whether or not Matsui****a (Panasonic) ever make the unit widely available outside Japan. One thing you can guarantee is the Q will still entice the word 'wow' even next to its eventual GC replacement and the Playstation 3.