Nintendo 64 was the next generation of Japanese consoles that was launched on the market after the success of Super Nintendo and, in addition to the novelties it brought to the brand’s ecosystem, part of its commitment was determined by an element that became fundamental: its control knob, an extraordinarily revolutionary gamepad for the time and that decisively influenced other platforms such as PlayStation, Saturn, Dreamcast, etc.
Analog, what is that?
Surely it is his greatest contribution to the world of video games. Who doubts right now that our PS5 or Xbox Series X | S gamepads have, at least, an analog stick? Well, when the Nintendo 64 began to arrive in stores in 1995 (in Japan), no other company had noticed the advantages of having an analog control like that, which allows real handling of the action that takes place in a 3D game.
For the 2D of the Super Nintendo or Mega Drive platforms, it served with the famous crosshead (now D-pad) but if we wanted a more precise point, add that third dimension, a stick was mandatory with which to handle each small degree of rotation of our character. And that response could only be achieved with one of these controls (from mushroom they came to call it). Now, why did Nintendo have such a clear mind to carry out such a decisive innovation? Sure enough, Super Mario 64 was to blame .
Nintendo needed a resource in the control capable of controlling Mario’s action in any direction, precisely and, above all, with the possibility of allowing progressive degrees of pulsation. An analog control does just that, that we can measure the speed by carrying out a slight movement of the stick in one direction, or pressing it fully to make, in this case, the protagonist of Super Mario 64 run as fast as he can.
One trigger, one port and three hands
In addition to the stick, the Nintendo 64 gamepad included two new elements for a controller of the time: the trigger (Z button), which was located under the stick , on one of the legs that form the “M” of the controller, and a port to connect external cartridges that could be memories to record games, rumble pak to add vibration or a transfer pak capable of moving information from the games of the new console with some Game Boy and Game Boy Color models.
And so far we can read, because the rest of the Nintendo 64 controller is, removing the central part, an aspect very similar to that of a gamepad of the time, especially Super Nintendo, with a crosshead, six (and not four ) buttons, Start and the triggers on both sides at the top. However, despite the advanced ideas that this control layout had, it had a big flaw in that it was difficult to operate and, as Phil Spencer, the person in charge of Xbox, once said, “it took three hands” to use it.
This is because when using one to hold it and control the central stick plus the trigger, the other hand has to go to the buttons, rendering the crosshead useless but, and here is the problem, some developers used that part of the gamepad , so sometimes they had to be used, for example, to move the camera, etc. In those cases, it is true, the console control became a little hell and it was very complicated to control the action, hence some users remember it as a nightmare. But take a good look, without him, surely things would not be as they are now.