Nintendo Power writer Steve Thomason is at the Tokyo Game Show. Here are his impressions of the newly revealed Revolution Controller!
After months of teasing us with hints and riddles, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata finally revealed the most mysterious controller in video game history during his keynote address at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. And as promised, the Revolution’s controller will offer a completely new gameplay experience.
The basic unit is meant to be held in one hand, reminiscent of a TV remote, and features what Iwata called a “direct-pointing device”, a sensor at the top of the controller that tracks its position and orientation. In other words, you can manipulate the action on screen by physically moving the controller. You could aim your gun in a shooter by simply pointing at your target, steer your car in a racing game by tilting your wrist, or perform a sword slash in The Legend of Zelda by swinging the controller from side to side.
On the controller’s face, you’ll find a “Power” button up top (to turn the Revolution console on and off), a Directional Pad and a large “A” Button in the prime spots beneath your thumb, three buttons labeled “Start”, “Home” and “Select” in the middle, then “a” and “b” buttons near the bottom. There are also four lights at the very bottom to indicate which player the controller belongs to. On the underside of the unit is a “B” trigger for your index finger.
An expansion port on the bottom of the controller gives it extra flexibility. At the show, Iwata demonstrated a second controller piece that you hold in your other hand, boasting an Analog stick and two additional trigger buttons. This configuration was referred to as the “nunchuku-style” controller. The port could also be used to transform the unit into a more traditional controller for classic-style games (including multiplatform titles). The controller is also wireless, of course, and features built-in rumble functionality.
Iwata stressed that this controller will enable all users to intuitively play from the same “starting line”. It will be less intimidating to those who have never played a game, while also offering a fresh experience for veteran gamers. From a development standpoint, Iwata offered that smaller studios can use the new interface to create innovative software and new experiences with a limited staff and budget. And he welcomed all ideas. As he pointed out, the Revolution will need a wide variety of software to establish a new standard for game control. Akitoshi Kawazu (Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles), Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid) and Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest) expressed their excitement over the controller in a brief video shown during the presentation.
The night before the keynote address, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto walked select members of the gaming press (including your intrepid reporter) through a number of rudimentary gameplay demos intended to showcase the controller‘s functionality. We used it as a rod to catch fish, manipulated a rotating stick through a series of tunnels (a la Kuru Kuru Kuririn, a Japanese game for the GBA) and flew a biplane through Isle Delfino from Super Mario Sunshine. While not intended to be representative of what Revolution games will actually look like (the graphics were pretty primitive), all of these demos did a marvelous job of showing off just how intuitive the controller is and how it will offer new and unique gameplay experiences. Finally, we got to play a brief section of Metroid Prime 2 Echoes using the nunchuku-style controller. This is what sold me (and many of the other journalists) on the new interface. The analog stick controls movement as on the GCN pad, but to look around and aim your weapon, you simply point the other piece of the controller in the desired direction. It works sort of like a PC-style keyboard-and-mouse configuration, and shows the enormous potential for first-person shooters on the Revolution. Evading your foes and blasting them at the same time has never been easier.
After the demonstration, Miyamoto stated that a number of third party developers (besides those mentioned above) had been shown the controller, and that the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. When Sega’s Yuji Naka first saw the controller, according to Miyamoto, he got very excited and picked up one in each hand, expressing a desire to make a game that utilizes two of the units (Samba de Amigo, perhaps?). And that’s what makes this new controller so intriguing. Everyone I talked to walked away with new ideas swimming in their heads. Sounds like the basis for a revolution, doesn‘t it?