*Header image comes from maddog1095 via DeviantArt because no one else came close to photographing the N64 controller as nice anywhere on the Internet, and we should all be ashamed.
Welcome to the Internet where everyone has a voice and that voice happens to all retort with the same tired jokes. We’re gamers, right? So we’ve suffered through the “The cake is a lie” memes of late and the “Your princess is in another castle” lines of old. Right now, for some reason lost to me completely, one of my old friends has become a go-to whipping boy in terms of poor design, and his name is the Nintendo 64 controller.
Yes, we’re dredging up some fond memories and turning a blind eye to the nay-sayers as they don’t seem to have a clue what they’re talking about. Do you even have a clue what I’m talking about right now? Well it couldn’t be simpler. If you’re of the tl;dr persuasion, the core of today’s article is to point and laugh at the hipsters that supposedly think the N64 controller was bad for any reason. Ready for the first bit of mind-blowing truth serum? You can’t even name a game that controlled poorly as a result of that controller.
Blam, assume your mind’s been truthed and let’s move on to the be-fanged wonder that people think is so darned funny to point and laugh at, as if doing so makes it somehow true. When was the last time a bear became less effective from an old fashioned point-and-laugh? Never, and just like a bear, the N64 controller will maul your damned face off if you aggravate it.
Most, if not all, of the criticisms we retroactively flood message boards and comment threads with make it sound as if the three-pronged controller was built for someone with three hands or something, usually feigned in a high-pitched, Monty Python-esque voice as they explain, “Who was this thing built for, aaaaaaaliens?” False, aliens use Alienware products and keep exclusively to the PC market. The brand should have been obvious.
The thing that most players get stuck on is the strange positioning of the analog stick smack-dab in the center of the controller. No controller prior or since has looked anything like this, though there’s a perfectly logical reason for that weird joystick placement: There had never been an analog joystick on a controller prior. Can you really blame them for putting it in the middle, assuming we as intelligent creatures will understand that the controller can be held in two different ways depending on the control demands of a game (analog stick or D-pad-heavy titles). For Goldeneye, you gotta hold it in the middle. Mischief Makers moves your hands to the “classic” position. These days the equivalent is turning the Wiimote on its side to play 2D platfomers.
Again, the hate seems to be coming as a retroactive comment from people who have zero clue how to be clever or thoughtful. It’s an easy-to-digest nugget akin to the “What’s the deal with airline food” joke that we assume hack comedians make. “Who was the N64 controller built for?” I’ll tell you who: Hardcore gamers.
The NES laid the framework for how every controller ever would look. Have you ever picked up a controller that had the primary movement controls on the right side and the buttons on the left? No you haven’t, because the NES decided that’d be silly. The SNES and Genesis kept the same basic formula besides adding a few more buttons, most notably the L and R shoulder buttons on the SNES controller. Then the Playstation came out and looked…essentially like an SNES controller with two extra shoulder buttons. At this point, the decision henceforth had always been to just keep copying what’s working.
So when the N64 controller appeared and threw away the rules, plunking the primary movement controls- in this case an analog stick- right in the middle, plus a new collection of buttons (the C buttons), and a Z button on the bottom of the controller, things got real, son. The N64 controller could be held like a gun, with a legit trigger button. Goldeneye could be played with one hand for the most part, so why would you complain?
Once more, I hardly feel the need to justify the controller, but you certainly have the need to describe a game that didn’t work explicitly because the controller failed you, as you can claim in some Wii, Move, or Kinect ventures of late. Did you ever have a problem with any of the following titles: Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64, Wave Race 64, Harvest Moon 64, Cruis’n USA, Mario Kart 64, F-Zero X, Majora’s Mask, Paper Mario, Banjo-Kazooie, Diddy Kong Racing, Jet Force Gemini, Mischief Makers, Kirby 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Super Smash Bros., Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Party, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong 64, Pokemon Snap, Pokemon Stadium, Pilotwings 64, etc.?
I ask you knowing the answer: No, you didn’t. The N64 gave us the analog joystick, something the PS1 wouldn’t adopt for a few years. The N64 gave us the rumble pak, a features that is now standard in all further controllers. The N64 gave us a legitimate excuse to show off battle scars, which you can hear all about if you ask someone about their experience with the original Mario Party. Why must you scoff at a design as glorious as that? Kids today.