Level 3 Trident of Clumsiness

Welcome once again all you retro ladies and old school gents, today’s subject in the constant testing of the LHC (Loud Hateron Cannon) is the N64, specifically its mutant, three-pronged abomination called a “controller.”

I use the term “controller” loosely here as its shape looks more like the broken tip of Aquaman’s trident. Seriously, tape the thing to a broomstick, drape yourself in a bedsheets and you’ve got the perfect Atlantian costume. I’m not sure what kind of three-handed alien ergonomics Nintendo was going for here, but it definitely wasn’t human.

This is what we call "bad design"

This is what we call “bad design”

But lest you think Nintendo was being completely moronic (like they are often accused of being) there was some method to the sea-fork madness. You see the idea was, if you were playing more traditional, two-dimensional games you would hold the controller on either side and have access to the classic D-Pad, the shoulder buttons and the face buttons. However if you wanted to play one of those new-fangled, three-dimensional games, you would hold the middle “prong” with your left hand. Then you had access to the analog stick and the oddly placed “Z-Button” underneath in addition to the face buttons. Brilliant right? It’s like two controllers in one.

If this is you, you probably loved this controller

If this is you, you probably loved this controller

Yeeeeaaaaahhhh… Actually, in practice most games wound up using the analog stick instead of the D-Pad and the way the controller was designed meant you could only use two-thirds of it at any given moment. Plus the size and shape just made it cumbersome to hold unless you had giant hands. Or three hands.

Nintendo often likes to try new and crazy ideas in the name of “innovation.” Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think in the case of the N64 controller, it didn’t. This was a unique and innovative idea that could’ve used much more refining (like what Sony later did with the Dualshock controller). It’s no wonder that so many third-party manufacturers started making more traditionally shaped variants of the N64 controller. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the N64 and played the frell out of it, but I HATED the controller. It’s right up there with the NES controller in terms of complete lack of ergonomic and convenient design. Nintendo was on the cusp of perfecting controller design with the SNES when they decided to just stick a fork in it and call it done.

Now we're talking

Now we’re talking