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.