Nintendo Revolution : A New Way

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posted 9/28/2005 by Sean Colleli
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Ok, so we know that this puzzling new interface can do both old and new tricks, and we’re pretty sure how it’ll pull off the old stuff, but the so-called revolutionary aspect is still somewhat vague.  Only crude tech demos were presented at the Tokyo Game Show, and only select members of the press got to use the controller on these demos.  How can we predict how our treasured franchises like Metroid will handle, or even third party titles?  Well, that’s where imagination comes in.  Let’s take a look at how this controller might work with some of our favorite genres, and how it might create some new ones altogether.

First off, let’s use Mario as the general third-person platformer.  Mario 64 literally created the 3D platform game, and Miyamoto stated that the new Mario for the Revolution heavily influenced the controller’s design, just as the N64 controller was built around Mario 64.  Our first clue comes from the demo video shown at TGS.  A young woman is shown pointing the new controller at the screen and flicking it upwards quickly.  These motions are accompanied by the trademark “boing” sound Mario makes when he jumps.

From this sparse info, we’ll postulate a new control layout.  Let’s say that the motion control will be used to move Mario around in a 3D environment.  Since the controller detects depth, pushing it forward or pulling it back could make Mario run and do a 180 turn, respectively.  Doing the aforementioned wrist-flick makes the mustachioed plumber leap into the air, while turning the controller left and right will make our hero swerve to change his direction.  The A-button will most likely control punching and other attacks, while the underbelly B-trigger will make Mario crouch or ground-pound.  The Nunchuk stick will probably control the camera, and the two Z-triggers will be used to lock in the perspective or switch camera angles.

With this setup, the simplicity becomes clear: we’ve only used four buttons, all within easy, natural reach of our fingers.  Mario 64 required precise use of eight buttons, in addition to the analog stick for primary movement.  In all fairness our new setup is only a theory, but it could work.

Moving on, we’ll consider the Metroid franchise, because we’ve already speculated on how Zelda would function.  Metroid Prime’s first-person perspective might have been hotly debated before the game’s release, but it worked like a charm in the final product and proved that the old franchise could be successfully updated.  So, how will Nintendo graft this scheme onto their bizarre remote-controller?  Prime’s controls are practically perfect, so messing with a winning formula could be a bad idea.  On the other side of the coin, it could change first person gaming forever.

The most developed demo at TGS was a reworked area from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.  The press got a taste of FPS future, and they liked it.  Really, really liked it, and not because Echoes was a great game.  I’ll do a little setup first, so the Revolution FPS concept might be a little clearer.

When Id Software was making Quake, they realized that a fully 3D environment required fully 3D aiming.  They needed a way for players to move their character and strafe, and be able to independently target enemies at the same time.  Thus, the mouse-look was born.  This new shooter interface was much more intuitive than the directional arrows and pageup/pagedown keys ever were, but again it was a necessity. 

Yes, it was more natural, but only in the way of flying an airplane.  Pushing the mouse forward and back let the player look up and down, but it was as if they were using a flight stick to point the nose of a plane.  Inverting the y-axis was only a preference, not a genuine improvement.  Mouse-look aiming caught on, but only because it had to.  There was no better way to simulate pointing a gun in any direction. 

Now we get back to the Revolution, and the Echoes demo.  Here’s how it panned out: you’d use the nunchuk stick to move and strafe galactic heroine Samus Aran, much like a traditional analog stick or keyboard directional keys.  The Z-triggers on the back of the analog attachment activated the different visors.  All well and good, very conventional, but here’s the kicker: the remote-controller part was held like a gun, in essence it was Samus’s blaster, an extension of the player’s arm in and out of the game.  The B-trigger fired shots and the well-placed A-button jumped, while the smaller “b” button was relegated to the morphball.

This is the evolution of the FPS genre.  The only thing that could top this is full VR, and that’s still a ways off.  Targeting enemies by simply pointing at them makes the beloved mouse-look appear sluggish and cumbersome.  What’s more, the B-trigger makes the remote feel like a gun, much as the N64 controller did during heated sessions of GoldenEye. 

I may be bold for saying this, but Halo is getting a run for its money.  If developers truly see the FPS potential in this controller, how real it could feel compared to the older ways, they’ll flock to the Revolution and make it the new shooter console.  The Xbox 360 is getting a lot of shooters for its launch, but that’s only because developers hadn’t seen the Revolution controller yet.  For years, they’ve tried to recreate the keyboard-mouse experience with dual-analog sticks, but the end result always felt artificial. 

Now they have something better to work with than what they were originally trying to copy.  Let me put it this way: there’s a reason Counter-Strike tanked on the Xbox.  In a twist of irony, Metroid Prime was criticized for not having dual-analog control.  Now it has the monopoly on the most precise FPS control to date.

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