GSJ10: Control freaks

This Jake Alley piece from GameSpite Journal 10 take a circuitous route to get there, but it’s basically a lengthy paean to the fact that the Super NES controller is amazing. Yes, I said fact.

I still remember the impression the Super NES controller left on me. The plastic felt so much more sophisticated than the hard, brittle casing used for the Genesis, and the thing was far more comfortable than the NES’s little rectangle. It wasn’t soft plastic, exactly, but it was slightly textured to feel steadier in your hand, and the gentle contours were inviting in the way they conformed to your hand. The one flat note was that the shoulder buttons seemed tacked-on in the early days, though I suppose that was lack of vision on my part — and on the part of most developers, too. No one seemed to know what to do with them at first, though now I can’t imagine a controller without triggers for your index fingers. Designing a device with functions whose value only becomes clear years later? Now that’s future-proofing.

10 thoughts on “GSJ10: Control freaks

  1. Add some analog sticks and this is -still- the template used today. I would argue it was the SNES’ most significant contribution to the industry as a whole, regardless of the fact that there was nothing else particularly revolutionary about the system.

    • Also in a strange coincidence, I was just today wondering, as I alternated between 3DS and PSP, why Sony changed the A/circle = Yes scheme when they brought it stateside. In any case, it’s pretty inconvenient when switching between, as I said, PSP and 3DS. After FFVII, which used the Japanese style, I’ve changed my controls to reflect that whenever possible.

  2. The SNES controller sure was great, but this time Parish’s front page write-up was much easier to follow and understand than the lengthy mess it linked to. “Spare A button”? “Making A convex while keeping B concave”? I found those descriptions hard to follow and difficult to imagine. I’m sorry, but I was hoping for something a little better from GS.

      • On the SNES controller, both the A and B buttons are convex. I guess the author meant that the separate functionality of the A and B buttons introduced with the NES (Which the author called revolutionary, but also said it took its design from the Game and Watch?) and split them further, shifting one to the top row and the other to the bottom. Why the author didn’t just say “B became X and Y while A became A and B,” the world will never know. Too few words, possibly.

  3. I disagree with the idea that only 2 controllers were thoughtfully designed, and they both happened to be Nintendo. It dismisses the entire section of history where Sony pioneered two analog sticks and rumble. I am sure the general appeal of the Dualshock 2 was what led the PS2 to become the best selling console ever, despite Jake’s opinion that it makes the elbows unnaturally wide. (On top of that, every button on the D2 is analog, meaning that if you pressed harder you’d drive faster and so on. That type of detail is just the icing on the cake.)

    I guess I dislike reading an opinion piece that talks as if it is undisputed fact.

    • I imagine the author would say that it’s just the SNES pad -4 face buttons, shoulder buttons, d-pad, etc. – with added sticks and R2/L2.

    • I don’t edit contributors’ opinions, even when I don’t agree with them. But, ah, Sony didn’t introduce rumble… that was Nintendo.

    • I’m not saying the NES and SNES are the only controllers out there ever to have good or original ideas. I’m saying they’re the two designs that really worked out how to lay everything out in such a way as to immediately become a new universal standard.

      You could argue the Dreamcast might belong on the list too, since it was the first controller to throw in analog shoulder triggers, complete with nice tension and deep wells, and that’s something everyone else has really gotten behind too.

      Sony’s controllers though? OK, they took the SNES controller, added 2 more shoulder buttons (again, kinda awkward). The N64 got a little traction with the analog stick and rumble, so they just kinda hung sticks off the bottom and added rumble. The Dreamcast did the whole analog trigger thing, they added analog to every single button, but without the deep wells and tension needed for anyone to actually make use of that in any way (seriously, I can name maybe 2 games that do anything at all with analog face buttons, and even then it didn’t really work for them). Then when the Wii came out they tried to cram motion controls in there too. The whole thing still looks like an SNES controller with extra bits hanging off it though, because, again, that’s a good solid controller design.

      • I unfocused my point by talking about lots of things, I should have stuck to the dual-analog part, because that’s what Sony introduced that became an industry standard. What modern shooter fan would like to go back to a single stick? It’s even becoming the standard for handhelds, with the 3DS getting an additional stick available, and the Vita giving it as standard.

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