9.18.2005

Talkin' Bout A Revolution

By Karl Castaneda

At E3 in 2004, it was the year of the handhelds. Sony was unveiling the final version of its PSP, which was to be their golden entrance into the realm of portable gaming. Nintendo had their answer, though; the Nintendo Dual Screen was out and about for everyone to see (and touch, as well). While everyone admired Nintendo for bringing something new to the table, nobody was sure if a touch screen and microphone would change the industry as we know it. It was definitely a rocky start for the fledgling console, but we’re now seeing the fruits of labor ripen, and I think we can all agree that there’s a bright future for Nintendo in that respect.

But there was something else at the Electronic Entertainment Expo that stuck with gamers – Satoru Iwata, Nintendo Co. Ltd. President, spoke (albeit briefly) about the company’s next foray into home consoles, dubbing the project hardware that would spark a revolution, of sorts. Since then, the not-yet-named platform has retained that namesake, and pretty much every Nintendo fan from the students of Super Mario Bros. to the admirers of Pikmin have been waiting for this so-called Nintendo Revolution.

At E3 2005, everyone was waiting for it; this was going to be the day that we saw the Revolution, controller and all. Instead, while Sony and Microsoft debuted most, if not all, of their hardware, Nintendo decided to keep quiet, only showing a prototype model of the base console and the announcement that a backlog of Nintendo games would be able to be downloaded, christening the feature Virtual Console. They could have said more, sure, but Shigeru Miyamoto was too busy violating G4’s Tina Wood with his Nintendog.

So we waited, and waited, after which engaging in some more (you guessed it) waiting…

Fast-forward to this past Thursday. I’m hanging out on AIM, chatting with some friends on what was going to be happening that night. You see, the Tokyo Game Show was getting started, and once again, Satoru Iwata was scheduled to make an appearance. One pal of mine in particular was quite inquisitive about what I thought and what I knew. We discussed different theories and ideas for the length of the afternoon – it was fun, most definitely – I always enjoy speculating.

Later that night, it was game time. The PGC crew and I were waiting for Nintendo to lift their embargo, after which all Hell would break loose and we’d report on what Iwata was revealing that night… the controller – which, you could say, was the Revolution itself. After all, there’s nothing particularly interesting about the mini-VCR they’re passing off as the base. But I’m rambling – onto what actually happened…

He finally does it. Satoru “You’ll See It When It’s Done” Iwata finally reveals that damn controller of his.

Wow, it’s some kind of remote.

What is that? Is it the DVD remote? Whew, for a second I thought it was the controller, haha!

Oh crap! It is the controller. What the frack, Nintendo?!

Nunchaku? Okay, that’s pretty awesome, but I’m still as confused as Raiden’s sexuality.


That’s pretty much the reaction I had when I first heard about the controller Thursday evening. But slowly I, like many of you out there, came around to all of the different twists and pops of the Revolution’s controller. Let’s examine the different features, yes?

I’m A Swinger, Baby!

The remote controller is not only wireless, but detects motion, so that any swings, jerks, etc are detected and recognized by the console. For games where this isn’t necessary, this feature doesn’t come into play at all. But for games like Metroid Prime 3 and presumably Mario 128, swinging and jerking (no jokes, please) are going to a big part of the Revolution.

Say I’m playing a racing game. Normally, I’d be steering with an analog controller, tilting it to either side to worm my way around the course. But with the remote controller, I can simply tilt the interface itself, greatly simplifying the action. I of course can still use the other buttons and features for thrusting, burning out, and gassing up (okay, you can make jokes here).

Now say I’m playing Mario 128. Usually, to jump, I’d press a button. Now I can simply quickly jerk the remote upwards, and based on the velocity and variation of the action, the jump will vary. (Note: This decision has not been confirmed by Nintendo or any of its subsidiaries – just a theory of mine.)

The genre where the controller seems to excel the most, just based on looking at it, seems to be First Person Shooters. The motion detectors, B-trigger, and overall nature of the design make it seem like a floating mouse (the mouse being the preferred interface for shooters) – very promising indeed.

I could go on and on about the dozens of possibilities, but I’ll leave that to you and your imagination.

Button Layout

Obviously, the button layout is very much different than anything we’ve seen before in modern gaming. As a nod to lazy individuals like me, Nintendo has included a power button. No longer will you have to get up to turn off your console. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s those subtle nuances that make Nintendo my favorite company in the industry.

For my money, the standard digital D-Pad is a welcome addition, since I was pretty opposed to the GameCube’s tiny-tike D-Pad for midgets and 3-year olds. Directly under that, we see that the gigantic A has returned, but I’m fine with that – there aren’t any surrounding buttons, so there’s not much of a chance of hitting A by accident, something I definitely couldn’t say about the GCN when I first played one.

On the underside of the controller is a B button, which very much resembles the placement of the Z on the N64 gamepad, something that was very useful for shooters like Perfect Dark. It’s good to see that the trigger has returned. I imagine that with the wireless movement detectors, this feature will be very helpful to establishing a great FPS interface.

Back on the topside, you’ll find three smaller option buttons under the A. The bookends, Select and Start, have obvious uses. Most places aren’t too sure of the middle option, Home, though. My guess, although not official, is that it takes you to the main terminal for Nintendo’s online service for downloads and worldwide play.

The last two buttons, a and b (or X and Y, depending on what model you’re viewing), are there purely for the same reasons as any other buttons on any other controller – not much to speculate on them. I assume that they’ll be easy to reach; one hand goes at the top of the interface to interact with the D-Pad, A, and B trigger. The button half obviously covers the aforementioned bottom-half buttons. At first I was a little wary of this layout, but after playing around with a TV remote, I think I’ll do just fine with some minor adjustments.

Expansion A’Go-Go!

Remember when I mentioned Nunchaku? Well, on the bottom of the remote, there’s a small expansion port, where you’ll be able to plug in all types of peripherals. So far, only two different types have been revealed, but they seem very promising.

The expansion that you see above is the Nunchaku, the analog expansion that you’ll probably be using for most of the games you play. Other than a digital analog stick, it includes two Z buttons in pursuit of more versatility as far as combo options. Much like the B button on the main controller, the Z buttons have a very trigger-like feel, and I imagine that the two in conjunction could make for some very cool dual-wielding options.

The second (announced but not shown) advancement is the Shell Controller. Before you ask what that is, I’ll as you to put yourself into the mindset of a third party. What if you don’t want to make an exclusive game that takes advantage of the innovative qualities of the remote? What if you just want to make a normal game? Now go back to being you. What if, for backwards compatibility, you don’t want to use your old GameCube pad?

Well, all of these problems are solved with the Shell. Basically, it’s a classic-styled controller with a similar design to Sony and Microsoft’s controllers, only with a hole in the middle. You can fit the remote right in – once it locks into place, you can use the Shell to play regular third party games and all of your favorite classics with ease. This attachment and the Nunckaku are expected to be available at launch, more likely than not included with your purchase of the base console.

I’m sure that, in addition to these two, there’ll be other expansions. Imagine bringing back the Light Gun, placing the remote in the middle of a plastic laser gun to use for shooters -or swinging the remote around like a sword in a Bushido Blade-esque experience.

There are really too many possibilities here – once again I’ll leave the rest up to you.

Conclusion

So now that we basically know the ins and outs of the controller, what’s next? Well, Nintendo has still yet to show any concrete gameplay videos, and although numerous third parties have announced support and interest (THQ, Konami, Square Enix, EA, Ubisoft, Nippon Ichi, Sega, etc), we haven’t gotten any third party game announcements outside of a new Crystal Chronicles from SE. For that matter, the only first party games we know about are Super Smash Bros. Revolution, Metroid Prime 3, Mario 128, and the beginning stages of a new Zelda, so we’re not exactly swimming too much in either side of the pool.

There’s still quite a bit of time left until E3 2006, and more than a few conventions. The Consumer Electronics Show and Game Developers Conference are a couple big ones, and those both take place before the second quarter of 2006, when most people expect to at least know the release date for Nintendo’s fifth console. Whatever we know from here on out, up until the day when we’re talking about Nintendo’s sixth symphony, we’ll have to know one thing…

They’re fucking games, so try not to bicker so much – there won’t be enough time left to actually play the stuff.

Cheers, folks.

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