So, big news from Nintendo recently was their new controller for the new Revolution. I will give them credit for making something very new and unique. It looks like this:
Now, how I understand it, it works like a magic wand. First of all, that left analog stick is a removable addon to the standard “wand” controller. There are going to be other such add ons, I’ve read. (Think throttle, mouse, “light gun”, etc.). So, take the main “wand” thing (I’m going to just keep calling it a wand, even though it looks like a TV remote from 1987)… now imagine you have a cube floating in front of you, hovering in space. Hold that wand inside of that cube.. now, move the wand to the left, to the right, forward, back, up, down, tilt to the left, right, jerk back, flick forward..etc.. All of these actions are then matched on screen. Remember when virtual reality was the big rage, and they had those games where people stood inside those small rings, and wore giant helmets and waved their arms around like idiots? I can kind of see this as a practical way to take that and make it usable at home… anyway, you’ve seen the thing now, so now I spout.
The New Nintendo Controller is the Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Seen
I’m not gonna lie.. I was sitting in the bar at the conference the first night, and Joel told me that they’ve revealed the new Revolution controller, and showed me the picture… and I thought “Wow.. that sucks.” These guys are trying so hard to make me give up on Nintendo. Seriously, that looks “teh lame”. (Teh Lame — A state of being [for an object] such that at least two of the following qualities are possessed:
- Looks Retarded.
- Makes the user also look retarded when holding/using.
- Makes the user continue to look retarded after they’ve stopped using the thing, simply because they were using the thing.
).The biggest problem I can think of when looking at the thing is this: Okay, that was neat for that one gimmicky game, now I’d like to play a normal game… oh, wait, you can’t do that with this magic wand thing. Every game must be a gimmicky game in order to be played, it seems. How many games can be played with 1 or 2 buttons these days? Now, what worthwhile game can be played with 1 or 2 buttons these days? For the record, I do not consider raising a virtual puppy a “game”. The thing I thought was kewl about the Nintendo DS was that it allowed you to use these new features, but didn’t force you to use only the new features. Every game wasn’t “poke the screen to make things happy”. Mario Kart DS doesn’t use the touch screen stuff at all, as far as I can tell. So if after the first and second generation of games come out, people decide that touchscreen is interesting, but not really great as the primary control structure for gaming… the DS isn’t screwed.. it can still play games normally, and eventually arrive at a good balance.. Because the system doesn’t force every game to use it, it allows game makers and gamers to find how best to incorporate that bit of technology into the whole gaming world. With this magic wand it seems like it’s “use it, or watch a movie.” Unless every game turns into a “A button performs all your actions”, you’re kinds screwed. What happens if gamers decide that the whole magic wand idea isn’t that much fun? Will there be games for the Revolution that don’t use that functionality? From the first pictures I saw, it would be hard to imagine… The attached analog stick could control movement I suppose.. but then you’ve only got a few buttons to do things with. It just seems like too much of a risk, and too much reliance on novelty to fuel this thing. I considered the N64 controller pretty radical, but in a good way. It took a little getting used to, but it was still buttons and a control stick, and once used to it, it was fantastic. The Gamecube controller was the next step forward.. with an even more comfortable design, and the only real downside was the odd Z button that seemed out of place and kind of a waste.. But these controllers were still essentially based on the same mold. This new one is something completely different.. and that could blow up in their face.
The New Nintendo Controller could be really fun
I was thinking about going with the title “The New Nintendo Controller is the spiffiest thing I’ve ever seen”, but frankly, that’d be a lie. It’s not even the kewlest thing I’ve seen that week (Ipod Nanos look pretty kewl).. but I will stick with the belief (after a full night of thinking about it and talking to others interested in such things) that this controller could be really fun. I have a few reasons to believe this is the case. First, is faith. I have faith in Nintendo, and I have very rarely been let down. I believe Nintendo knows what it is doing, and is capable of making some really fun things. Nintendo made Zelda. Zelda is the greatest game franchise ever created. Nintendo seems to make sure that the things they make are fun. As a result, you don’t get the volume of games you might get from other companies (Look through the list of Playstation games vs. Nintendo Gamecube games), but if you grabbed a Nintendo Game made by Nintendo, you can be pretty certain that it’s going to be fun, and well done.
Reason 2 is potential. There is the potential for a lot of real fun with this kind of setup. At first, I did not think so.. but I thought about it a bit, and talked to people (I recall a conversation with Andy in particular) and the types of things that were first brought up in a mocking tone sounded more and more plausible, and fun, the more we got into it. Can you imagine using this controller as though it were a sword in The Legend of Zelda? At first, that sounds stupid and hokey.. then it starts to sound really kewl. I guess it’s all a matter of if it’s done well. Here’s an example: I remember a few years back when all of a sudden these sports video game system things were all the rage.. There’d be some baseball game that came with a bat, and something that went with the TV, and you could swing and it’d match that motion on screen. Interesting idea, almost certainly very, very lame in reality. But have you ever seen or played the virtual golf games they have at sports bars and arcades, etc? Those things look really fun.. I have friends who have played them, and assure me it is indeed fun. Same idea, one done well, one done poorly. If Zelda on the Revolution takes the “my controller is my sword” idea, and implements it so poorly that your flicking the thing back and forth is no different than if you had just pressed a button, then yeah, that’s stupid. Also, if throwing the boomerang requires you to actually throw the thing, then I think there’ll be problems (unless it magically comes back to you, in which case that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard of, ever) But if it’s done really well, and how you attack is actually how your attack appears on screen, and the enemies react properly, suddenly this game has taken on a whole new level of realism that no improvement in graphics or sound could ever give you. So long as there is a good variety of games, all taking advantage of this setup in clever but put together ways, this could usher in a whole new era of gaming. One other example to sell it: One of my favorite parts of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the fishing lake. It blew me away how fun, and how “real” it felt to go fishing with this analog controller with a rumble pack built in.. back in the day when rumble packs were new an
d different. Now think of that game with this controller. The trick is to make that somehow work for every other environment and game situation. That’s pretty exciting.
The third reason I have to be excited about this new controller is more just an alleviation of fear. I read recently that Nintendo is working on a cradle for the controller that’ll still allow all the new functionality to work while giving gamers a few more buttons and controls to work with. IGN whipped up a mockup that had me all excited [until I realized it was a mockup.. but still] that gives (hopefully) a good idea of what that could be:
So… concerns about limiting the thing die away fairly quickly. Suddenly, traditional games seem more possible. So there it is… I remain cautiously optimistic. My original rule continues to apply: “If they make a Zelda for it, I’ll have to own it.” Odds are I’ll join my fellow fan boys and Nintendo bitches to buy one opening day… I kinda wonder how Mario Kart for this thing will work…