A just-announced redesign of the iconic Nintendo 64 controller has just been successfully Kickstarted, which raises the question: Why? Is the Nintendo 64 controller GOOD or BAD? Two Motherboarders duke it out.
The Nintendo 64 controller is BAD
I’m all for nostalgia in video games. Nothing takes me back quite like playing the mini-games in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on my friend’s limited-edition Pikachu Nintendo 64. But I also believe some things should be locked away and forgotten forever.
I know that it’s got a strong fan following, but there’s no other piece of hardware I’d like to personally put out of commission than the N64 controller. It’s a three-pronged monstrosity with colourful buttons and a joystick that Nintendo released in 1996, to the confusion of two-handed children around the world.
Most of my issues lie with its trident-like design. Having to move my hands around depending on whether I need the d-pad or the joystick feels wrong, like biting into a hotdog from the middle. Playing Mario Party 2 or the mini-games in Pokémon Stadium (I stand by mini-games as the greatest loss in modern gaming) in the early 2000s felt like I was trying to operate a greasy Bop It!.
But, 20 years later, we now have a solution. Retro Fighters, a company that previously created a modern take on the NES controller, has more than doubled their goals on a Kickstarter since launching August 9 to make a more ergonomic version of the N64 controller for the growing number of gamers returning to old titles. They hope to begin shipping in November for $20 apiece.
I have to acknowledge that Nintendo’s controller designs have always been fresh and original, and the N64 controller did go on to inspire the GameCube’s responsive, bubbly design—still my favourite, I keep a couple of these for Smash Bros. and Mario Kart marathons. But it’s time to stick the N64 controller in a museum and move on.
The Nintendo 64 controller is GOOD
For an eight-year-old kid who spent years blowing in NES cartridges at friends houses and playing a hand-me-down Super Nintendo (great system!), the release of the Nintendo 64 was a revelation.
No other video game console launch—no other tech launch—has ever made such an impression on me. At the time, I remember thinking Sega Saturn and its blocky approximation of 3D was for weird older brothers; I didn’t even know the PlayStation existed. The Nintendo 64—and Super Mario 64‘s more-or-less open world—redefined what a video game could be.
Core to this revolution was the Nintendo 64’s controller—its alien-like, three-pronged handles, myriad colors, and joystick signaling that this was indeed a console from the future. Simply put: Fucking with the design of the original N64 controller is disrespectful and I won’t stand for it.
I will admit that the analog joystick took a little while to get used to and its accuracy and ease-of-use pales compared to modern controllers. But the Nintendo 64’s joystick allowed for true 3D controls and the kind-of-wild C-buttons provided rudimentary methods of looking up and down in first person shooters.
It is, without a doubt, the most iconic controller ever made: Its joystick’s ridges have left permanent scars in the palms of enthusiastic Mario Party players; its ergonomic design improved the flexibility and strength of my hand’s tendons as my thumb stretched from the left handle to the joystick that triumphantly rises from the center of the gamepad. (This is, for the record, the way any sane person holds the controller.) The controller is unforgettable; it is perfect.
Every gamepad that has been released since owes something to the Nintendo 64’s controller design. Scroll down if you would like to see something NSFW:
Image: Wikimedia Commons
This is Sony’s first attempt at a joystick controller, released before the Nintendo 64. It is gross. Without the N64, we’re probably stuck with that stupid joystick pad you see above for a few more years—it wasn’t until a year after the Nintendo 64’s launch that Sony finally released the Dual Analog controller. Not only is the N64 controller GOOD, it is one of the few things in this cruel world that I can securely say is so.
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