Worst Controller, The Follow Up

Some of you think I unfairly called the Nintendo 64 the worst controller, and I do confess that there are worse game console controllers out there. It was really more of the biggest controller let down because, let’s face it, the Super Nintendo controller was so on the money, but Nintendo took a sad step back.

Here’s the earlier post in case you missed it.

If you glance down into the annals of console and computer gaming history, you will find far worse controllers. You will find controllers that make the word control a joke. You will see controllers that take the word control completely out so all you’re left with is ler.

And what’s a ler?

So here is the confession and then some of my opinions on some of the other worst controllers… There are a lot out there, especially for the early systems that no one has ever heard of. I’m going to try to cover a few you might have heard of.

 


Power Glove

Nintendo

Wow! So I’m going to be able to punch in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out? No? Well… I’ll be able to make Mario jump with my fingers! No? Well, then wtf is the point of this? We still don’t know. What we do know is that it seemed cooler in The Wizard, which was basically a long Nintendo commercial for it. Even today, you can find the power glove make appearances in episodes at purepwnage.com. It gets points for nostalgia badness.


Wiimote Batarang

Wii

I just said that the Wiimote and Nunchuck made the best controller ever. Now I’m going to say there are some things that the Wiimote just should not be combined with. The two obvious questions are: 1) Why? and 2) What? I honestly don’t have the best answers for either. Apparently it makes the Wiimote more Batmanesque. You put the Wiimote in the piece of plastic and… voi la! It becomes a Wiimote in a Batman-like piece of plastic. I know it sounds like it would give the Wiimote boomerange qualities, but please, don’t throw it (at least not with the Wiimote inside- otherwise, throw it in the trash).


Atari 2600 Joy Stick

Atari 2600

Oh, no you didn’t go there. Oh, yes I did. This was my first gaming system, so I hesitate to bad mouth it, and yet I must. I still have my Atari 2600, but not with original joysticks (bought some from Strange Maine in Portland, ME). That’s my main point. They broke. The sticks would often come off leaving no stick and no joy behind either. Sometimes just the casing on the stick came off leaving this narrow white plastic thing that would be near impossible to use before it snapped off later.


Xbox Original Controller

Xbox

As I admitted in my last controller post, I have small hands. Still, there is no excuse for a controller specifically made for large apes with ninja dexterity only. What about the small apes with ninja dexterity, and more importantly, what about me? Make everything really rounded and spaced far apart so it looks like I’m trying to hold a fish when I’m trying to game. Why are the analog controllers located in different places on each side? I know that symmetry is bad composition, but this is a controller, not a painting class. And why are there a couple of tiny buttons with the big regular buttons? Did they take notes from the N64 controller? While we’re on that thread, expansion packs are bad and pointless. If it needs to exist for the console, put it in the console, or make it in the controller.


Sega Saturn 3d Controller

Sega Saturn

Not that anyone had a Sega Saturn anyways, but OMG. I complained about the big, awkwardness of both “>N64 controllers and Xbox‘s, but really, this is so far beyond either of those. Thank whatever deities that this isn’t what came with the system, especially since it didn’t work with all Saturn games. Yes, I’m serious. You had to have the privilege in have this controller supported for your game.


Gamecube Controller

Gamecube

On one hand, it’s not as bad as the N64. On the other hand, you’d think Nintendo would learn from its mistakes. Be thankful they got rid of the phallic symbol in the middle but, they added some weird, odd shaped buttons of different sizes and colors. How hard can we make it for you to use a button? Try using a controller with elongated, rounded rectangles and you’ll find out.

I’m not saying there aren’t other bad controllers out there. As long as video games exist, there will be poor designs implemented to control them. I also should say that I think that even my favorite controllers could be better. I won’t be completely satisfied until virtual reality anyways! And even then… let’s face it. There’s always room for improvement.

Worst Controller, Best Controller

I can still remember when the Nintendo64 came out after so many Nintendo Power magazines of anticipation. What was once code named the “Ultra 64”, which I though was a cooler title at the time, was finally released. Sure, it was supposed to be a CD system, and turns out it was cartridges instead. Being a steadfast Nintendo loyalist I didn’t question this.

I didn’t question this until I played the system.

Worst controller ever.

I felt so completely let down. All of my willpower tried to enjoy the Nintendo 64 the way I did my Nintendos before it. Alas, I found myself wanting to go home to play some Super Nintendo or a PC game.

I have small hands, so I rationalized several minutes of trying to figure out the best way to get my hands around the damned thing to control Mario by blaming myself at first. How many buttons are on this thing? Do most of these even do anything?

Controllers should be comfortable. I did end up playing 007 and Super Smash Brothers with people who had the system and my fingers and palms ached more than the blisters from playing Street Fighter II with the Sega Genesis controllers (Why did they put a ridge around the buttons? No, I don’t know either.). The controller was too wide, had too many buttons, for no reason had some like phallic symbol in the middle. Don’t get me started on the d-pad and analogue. Making characters move has been effortless since the invention of the joystick. It’s pretty hard to screw that one up and, yeah, they managed it.

Controllers should be intuitive. There are buttons on that thing that I never bothered to reach and I’m not sure what were for. I don’t think the game designers knew either.

I know I’m not the only one who was left feeling unsatisfied with this system. Many people put them on the shelf or tried to sell in to get a Playstation.

Me? I got a Playstation. Their controllers were essentially a next generation version of the Super Nintendo controllers. Also it sported the disc media that Nintendo had promised and then backed out on. Nintendo so completely dropped the ball, I never thought to look back to see if they were throwing it again.

Best Controller Ever

Years later, there is a Nintendo product sitting next to my old, old SNES. This next generation of consoles has a lot to offer. Not one of the systems sucks… well, the PS3 is too expensive for anyone’s tastes, but people would probably say it was a good system if that weren’t the case (likely doomed to be clumped with the Atari Jagar, 3D0, and Dream Cast before it- all good systems, but overpriced- but since it’s a blue ray player too, maybe not). The Xbox360 is probably the first true online gaming console to even take a chip off of what PCs have been doing for years, and its hardware is nothing short of sweet (with the exception of a very noisy fan and lower end version).

And the Wii is just something else.

The original Nintendo was revolutionary not because of its hardware. Few people realize this, but it was actually a step back for its time. Look at any game that was a port to the system (and most of them were) and you’d see what I mean. It was graphically inferior to an Atari or Commodore of the times. And yet, it stole the heart of the average household.

The Wii is in that category, but it’s more than that. The Wii came out at a time when it seemed like the only place for console technology left to go was to become more similar to a mini, cheap, gaming PC.

Nintendo proved us wrong.

The Wii reminds me of another console that Nintendo tried and bombed. Did anyone else have a Virtual Boy? I think my parents threw ours away (after buying it for us for $30 with several games). It was awkward, clunky, very red (no color), and kind of dangerous to the eyes and body. Video games do not make me dizzy the slightest, but this thing made me light headed and wobbly after playing. The warning in the manual said not to play for more than fifteen minutes at a time. I think that’s why it mysteriously disappeared into the closet and then from the closet to video game heaven. By then, we had kind of stopped using it anyways. It was like a novelty item, extremely cool for a limited time only.

The reason why the Wii reminds me of this is because that’s the attitude I cautiously approached the system with. I played it over people’s houses many times before I was convinced it was more than a novelty item. I’m still a bit worried that game developers will fail to step up and make games for it that take advantage of the power of rethinking video games it’s put in my hand and head.

I admit, I gawked at the price of the Wiimote and Nunchuck as much as I gawked at their names. Since then, I keep finding out what else this controller can do.

It’s just a controller… or maybe it’s a ball of potential masked as a controller.

Look at me, I’m a Nintendo controller. I’m a laser pointer. I’m a sword. Woah, it just talked, is there a speaker in there? Pull my trigger. Punch me out like I’m brass knuckles. Put me up to your ear, twist me to control this, bump into you, and perform the most fluid fighting moves ever.

This controller is the most intuitive yet complex thing of it’s class I’ve ever seen, a true marvel of design. The intuitiveness carries over to the point where one game and another have very different controls and uses for it, yet I can pick them up in a few minutes. And the ways I’m controlling and number of controls are learning I’m realizing are more than for any other console I have in the past. Without thinking I’m switching the thing around, and using all of the buttons. There are 9 buttons (including the home button) and 2 d-pads. It doesn’t feel like it when I use them all. I was surprised when I counted.

This is what they were maybe thinking about when they made the Nintendo 64 controller, arguably the worst controller of all time.

And here it is my beam katana, my master sword, my light saber, my platforming controller, my boxing gloves, my steering wheel, my phone, and whatever else the game designers will think up.

The phone was the latest ‘woah didn’t see that coming’. But, with the built in speaker, makes sense. Way to add that much more game flavor.

You taste that? That’s a win.

You Can’t Pwn At Pong

Mario Bros Atari
I’m only twenty-something, but I still am not sure I feel right saying ‘pwned’.

It feels a bit unreal to have gaming be the younger cool. It seems like just yesterday, I was my little brother’s age and getting flack for the same reason he’s considered awesome. I feel like the same people who will wear Mario Bros. shirts now might be the same ones who poked at me in school for video gaming. Part of me wants to reveal the poser they are. I would ask them:

In the first level, do you go down the pipe for the coins? You do? Now why would you do that? There’s a barely hidden one-up that you miss if you go down the pipe. 100 coins equal a one-up. Do the math.

They look at me blankly, thinking, “Up-whats?”.

Am I still allowed to use the word poser?

Across the room, nestled between cd video games and Super Nintendo cartridges are little rectangle bricks that belong to no Nintendo. One of them even says “Mario Bros.” on it.

People think Mario, they think Nintendo. It’s hilarious how many games people remember as being exclusive classics for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System originated for the Atari, early PC, and even old Macs.

You just can’t pwn at old video games. There was no typing to other players in a multiplayer environment. Even when doors and muds came about in BBS land, I don’t know about you guys, but I remember there usually being 1 node for one person to play at one time. In Legend of the Red Dragon, when you killed someone in the field and were interviewed for what you said after kicking ass, no one ever uttered “Pwned!”. They would have looked at the screen, backspaced a few times, and totally “Owned!” you.

Legend of the Red Dragon

I also feel I don’t really pwn, because I don’t play Halo. To me, Halo is just MIDI Maze, Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, Heretic, Hexen, or GoldenEye 007(etc.) all over again… in space… with more jumping. Wait, System Shock was in space (with zombies even). So yeah, just with more jumping. I know people will raise their fists at me, but to me Halo has been repeated so many times that I shrug.

I watch my little bro in his headset screaming ‘Dude! Let’s super jump.’ and just ask, “Why is there so much jumping?” and feel kind of old.

I don’t mind feeling out of touch with pwnage. What is kind of sad is that I’ve stopped being as excited by new video games. I’ll say, “That’s kind of cool.” or “That’s pretty neat.”, but for the most part, I just feel like I’ll never be as excited as I was when video games were still new with leaps and bounds in their advancement. I didn’t even have the money for them, but I had plenty of time and an obsessed uncle.

Don’t get me wrong, I roll up my Katamaris and I play my voice acted RPGs, RTSs, and TBSs. So, maybe I’m just not a shoot ’em up kinda gamer.

This is not the case, because I’m not all about the MMORPGs. Instead they horrify me. The amount of time (or cheating) you have to invest to have a good time just boggles my mind. In addition, it’s kind of like I say when I see someone play Halo and I say, “Why is there so much jumping?”, with these it’s, “Wow, why is there so much running around?” Sure, there’s always been world map trekking, but this is insane. It used to be a few steps to the next town or a few random fights, now the random fights *ARE* the game. The intimacy of you, the characters, and the plot has been sacrificed to hack and slash with a subscription fee.

If you are reading this and like Halo or your MMORPG of choice, good for you. I mean, I’m obviously old and not so cool, so don’t listen to granny here.

I will keep saying “In my day…”, but that’s okay too. The best part about it is that now I have the resources to find all the old games I missed and try them out with the PC and emulator. Then I’ll snap shot the screen shots that amuse me and put them away for future posts. I know old games are not without flaws, but their flaws were lack of budget and technology to back them. I am floored by the mediocrity of today’s games. We have the tech and budget now, but where is all the fun game play and awesome writing? Creativity used to outpace the ability to convey it, now that the money and tech are there… where has it gone?

I am glad that there are exceptions. I just wish they were more the rule than the exception. At some point I’m hoping I’ll see it come back around and people will learn that eye-candy and hack and slash just isn’t enough.

Pure pwnage needs something more to back it up.

Today VS Tomorrow

Final Fantasy 6 Son of a Submariner
Here is a tip to all the young, aspiring bad guys out there. To be a truly crazy, evil, and scary villain, try addressing the protagonist (as he gets away in a castle submerging into the desert) like so. Only then will you show your evil wit. Take it from Kefka of Final Fantasy 3/6 (SNES/Playstation).

It gets old trying to predict the future. I enjoy working on things for the future, it’s the expecting and trying to make things turn out a certain way that can be a bit grating. I try to live keeping in mind that people die in silly, unbelievable ways ‘before their time’ all the time. Even if you’re taking care of the ‘macrocosm’ of your life, the big picture, if you forget about the ‘microcosm’, all the moments that make up your day (and essentially you) then you’re missing out on life. As helpful as a crystal ball could be, it’s not the point.

Trying for tomorrow is great, but no matter what we work for or how hard we try, it can be a bit of a problem to expect things to work out as a result. I encountered that in a rather big way when my big long term plans for Virgina did not work out and I ended up in back in Mass. I saved a lot of money the summer before for the move (and all the things that went with it). I was looking forward to it even before that, when I was in Newcastle, “It’s gonna be so great!”.

My eggs were mostly in that basket. I’m glad I managed to make time for fun this past summer, maybe my last summer in Portland ever. I had living situation issues, but then I just made sure I was gone from my living space and with friends as often as possible. I miss the guys and gals I hung with (my P-land pals), even the people I worked with and the job itself. I miss it in a nostalgic way, however, not a ‘now sucks’ manner. I also don’t regret working so hard because I did make time for fun. I’m trying to make it so I can look back fondly on this time too some day.

Just keep going. It’s all we can do. Work for tomorrow, but live for today knowing tomorrow could still up and decide it has other plans for you.

Just Being – Stillness & Motion

Lufia 2: Swell of humanity
This post’s screen shot is from Lufia 2 (SNES). I’m sure there was an elegantly put metaphor in Japanese, but there is no such luck here.

Do you ever get a sense that nothing you ever do is the result of purely what you want to do for yourself? Even if you think you’re doing something for yourself, it is always weighed down by its relationship to other people. The things we do are controlled by a set of standards that are not exclusively our own. Ideas of ‘normalcy’ and ‘supposed to’ are so second nature, we don’t even consider them as we fall into line.

Part of the normalcy we need to feel is useful. The idea of being useful is pretty ambiguous, but it seems like most of our existence is based on it. It’s a constant pressure and motivator. I once wrote that I should ‘be content with being the being who strives’, but what about being content with just plain being oneself and nothing else?

I don’t think I’ll ever be content to be still. Stillness becomes guilt at not being busy, which is not stillness at all. Being busy doesn’t even mean actually doing anything truly important, it means being in a constant state of doing or even active procrastination. Relevance is secondary to making sure you’re active. Being in motion, even if you’re not getting any important done, becomes more important and valuable that being still. But, it isn’t.

For one’s own health and well being- and to have the ability to accomplish really important things- one must have periods of stillness, self, and relaxation. The mind needs a break to reflect and remember what is important and real in the largest scope possible. I’m not talking about some “in 5 years where do you see yourself’ question, but reflecting upon the question of why existing itself is important and necessary. I’ve never had a complete answer to that and probably never will, but each time I think I further understand a piece of that why, life becomes better, easier, and stronger in its vibrancy.

Being. Actually being, with a real identity and purpose, is far more important than being busy.

It can be very hard to force oneself to be still.