In the latest Nintendo Direct, the Japanese company announced that in October – the exact date is still unknown – the different SEGA Mega Drive and Nintendo 64 games will arrive on the Switch. We have already talked about the launch titles of the latter, today instead we we will focus on its controller. Because, together with their catalogs, current versions – compatible with Switch – will be produced, the two gamepads of the consoles.
Waiting for more precise news, the Nintendo 64 controller should cost around 50 euros (49.99 dollars in the US), and should not be available in shops or malls: the only way to get it, after signing up for a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online (a normal subscription, is not mandatory the extra amount required for catalogs), will be purchased directly from the company’s online store.
The pad should be almost identical to the original. To make it more current, some minor changes have been made. The wire is (of course) gone: one has been inserted in its place USB-C dam to reload the pad. The small round button has also appeared to synchronize the controller with the console, accompanied by the bright squares that indicate whether it is pad number one, two, three or four. Always on the top of the peripheral the canonical square keys have been added: Home and Capture. The last difference concerns ZR, placed next to the USB-C dam: it’s very small and – we imagine – uncomfortable, but in Nintendo 64 titles it shouldn’t help.
Everything else should be the same as the original, including shape and size. Although we are not certain, we imagine that the opening on the back – and on the top – of the pad will be modified: at the time it was used to introduce the Controller Pak (to save progress in certain titles) and other accessories such as the historical Rumble Pak or the Transfer Pak. Now it would have no use, so the cavity will be reproduced only for fidelity to the original model.
A strange pad, a tricorn
For anyone who experienced the Nintendo 64 pad at the time, it will be incredible to learn that, from later – and current – generations it is often considered an incomprehensible monstrosity. For the latter, in fact, it will be surprising to read that it was considered an exceptional pad (in its strangeness).
We can say with relative certainty that it was one of the most influential controllers and important ones in the history of video games and, at the same time, one of the worst aged ones. Many of the ideas and innovations of this pad are still present in the current ones, but they have naturally evolved and, above all, have been arranged differently.
Yes, because the really absurd thing about the Nintendo 64 pad is, and partly was, his shape. In addition to the very large dimensions, which made the frets difficult to reach for anyone with small hands, the three appendages were something never seen before. And, if now they may seem grotesque or senseless, even at the time they made the product less inviting to those who did not play video games often (now we would call them casual gamers).
The “tricorn“it was such because Nintendo could not predict the evolution of the market: how and how quickly three-dimensional and polygonal gaming would take over the two-dimensional one. So, in essence, it built two comfortable pads inside one You can see it clearly: the controller for two-dimensional games is held with the left hand on the external protuberance, the lateral one, while the pad for three-dimensional ones, on the other hand, involves placing the left hand on the central appendage.
They were, in essence, two different controllers within one instrument. And this could be one of the reasons why the Control Stick was only one, and not two (the main innovation of the Sony DualShock, which was not the PlayStation base pad, initially lacking analogs). A second Control Stick on the right wouldn’t allow two-dimensional games to have enough buttons, so a middle ground was chosen: four small, round, yellow buttons. THE “C” keys, like “room”.
A historic pad
Here, having specified these defects, now is the time to tell why, despite the strangeness, and according to some ugliness, the Nintendo 64 controller was one of the most important in history of video games.
The first reason is the most obvious, but also the most relevant. Nintendo 64 was not the first analog stick in history, Nintendo did not invent the instrument in and of itself: however, it was the first company to put it at the center of the project, considering it at least as important as the D-Pad. It was the first to consider it essential to perfect and popularize three-dimensional gaming, which could not have relied on a directional cross. Super Mario 64 and the Nintendo 64 pad are twins: they were developed together, one extolling the virtues of the other. It was immediately evident that we would not go back from that pairing, and in fact every rival company – sooner or later – has adapted to the situation. Today a pad without an analog stick would be unthinkable. Curiously, the Control Stick did not rotate within a circle, but an octagon: a solution with pros and cons, which Nintendo would have kept up to Nintendo Wii (inclusive).
Speaking of Wii, its Nunchuk is practically the central appendage of the Nintendo 64 pad excised and isolated. It has the same shape, and similar dimensions. The position of the backbones can also be associated: they are two, but they are arranged exactly where the Z button was, one of the first triggers ever on console pads. A very different position from the backbones we were used to, from L and R of SNES: it was extremely comfortable, a real trigger (in fact it suited shooters well). Yep, the convenience: it may seem strange if you haven’t tried it, but the Nintendo 64 pad was really comfortable. He had a focus onergonomics that previous pads dreamed of, and that it would become an industry standard. Its handles were not mere protuberances, but had a sweet and rounded shape, which put the user’s hand at ease.
The third and final reason why this pad is considered one of the most innovative – and important – ever made, lies in the Rumble Pak. The peripheral, to be applied to the back of the controller, was bulky and heavy; it was released alongside Lylat Wars (Star Fox 64), and at the time many journalists were surprised by its quality, although the idea of a wobbly pad was somewhat ridiculous. Well, we know how it went: again, the vibration was inserted into any subsequent pad.
In conclusion, the Nintendo 64 controller has brought many new features, many innovations that in subsequent generations would become standard for any console manufacturer. He had simply inserted them into a strange structure, with a bizarre and unintuitive shape, which prevented him from aging well, and from being universally appreciated as he deserves.