How many times in your history as a gamer have you felt that your console's controller couldn't be any better? Every time I've gotten my hands on a new game controller, there's been something I wished could be different. The NES controller could have been rounder. The SNES controller could have used some more face buttons for Street Fighter. The N64 controller needed speedier room service.
The Wii controller is built with expansion, flexibility, and upgrades in mind, and with the addition of a third party accessory, I've been able to mate the Wiimote with the Classic Controller to form a Voltronic gestalt of a controller that should be capable of great things. But is it perfect?
I realize that the Wii Remote was intentionally designed with a relative few number of buttons to make it less intimidating to non-gamers. I understand that acceleration and infrared-sensing was meant to replace the analog joysticks that Nintendo got us hooked on at the start of the 3D gaming age. So maybe I'm greedy for sometimes wanting to have my traditional controls and Wiimote, too.
The PS3's SIXAXIS controller incorporates motion sensing in a traditional shape that doesn't skimp on the buttons, but as I've saidbefore, it's not capable of the precision and aiming afforded by the Wiimote's IR sensor. For some undisclosed reason, Nintendo doesn't provide any hardware to facilitate the pairing of the Classic Controller's various attributes with the Wiimote's motion sensing and rumble feedback. The vestigial button between the ZL and ZR buttons serves as evidence of some intent to snap something on the back of the Classic Controller. Pushing that button slides two recessed spring-loaded catches down, to release the Wiimote or whatever Wiidget was in the works. When I read about Nyko's Classic Controller Grip, I thought this might be exactly what Nintendo had in mind to bridge the gap between controllers.
Aside from altering the shape of the Classic Controller into an easier-to-hold DUALSHOCK clone, the Nyko grip has a holster for the Wiimote, and place to wrap the excess cord around. With the Wiimote between your hands, you can feel any rumbling of its built in motor, but sounds from the speaker may be somewhat muffled.
Now, this was a first for me. I got my Nyko grip (for the low, low price of $2.99 at a game shop), put the whole shebang together, and then couldn't think of what I wanted to do with the thing. With no similar Nintendo-made product for facilitating this unholy union, there aren't any Wii games on the market that benefit from having motion or IR controls in addition to the Classic's buttons and sticks. Turning to my PC game collection, I couldn't think of many games that were in desperate need of this pairing. My brain has been wired to make do with either / or, but not both controllers at once. Then I thought back to a script I did last year that left me wanting more. The script I wrote for the Descent Trilogy wasn't bad, but it was shy an axis. A shooter that was known in its time for having unprecedented freedom of movement, and I didn't script in any controls for moving up and down.
Instead of going back to Descent, I dusted off one of its clones which poured on the eye candy and raised the bar quite high for the then unreleased Descent 3. Forsaken was one of several Acclaim games that gave us something to love and show off on our Nintendo 64s, and it was equally impressive in its PC incarnation. Hundreds of projectiles filled the screen at a time, bathing the tunnels and corridors in a rainbow of colored lights, and at a fast enough clip to keep up with any Doom game. Using Carl Kenner's IR FPS script as a base again, I set aiming to the Wiimote's pointer, while movement was assigned to the Classic Controller's sticks.
The PS3 library isn't overflowing with motion-controlled games. Whether it's because the controller's shape doesn't lend itself to free movements, or the types of games being made aren't likely to be improved by it is a subject worthy of exploration ... elsewhere. A controller as feature-rich as the Wiimote and Classic combo might actually be less versatile than the "form baton" alone, but it should strike a happy medium for those who want old fashioned familiarity, but with new-gen improvements for accuracy and immersiveness.
This prototypical model is a little heavy and unbalanced, and in its amalgamated form, stands in opposition to the Wii's simplistic styling. This is not the perfect controller of my dreams. Sure, it can do more things than a SIXAXIS / DUALSHOCK 3, but the one-handed or split two-handed ergonomics that we've come to enjoy in our Wii controllers is sacrificed. Is it possible to have a no-compromise game controller that does it all without intimidating your parents? I believe so. Come back in two weeks for part 2, and I'll paint you a picture of the Wii controller perfected.
Every other week, Mike Sylvester brings you REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities. The Playstation platform also has some new possibilities open to it, thanks to the PS3's controllers with motion-sensing abilities similar to our Wiimote's. However, there are several design choices that prevent it from knocking the crown off the king of waggle. Check out Controller Showdown, Round 1 and Round 2 to see how Mike put the controllers toe to toe in a gloves-off slugfest.