One of Nintendo’s cuter little announcements during the latest Direct was that, with N64 games coming soon to the system, the company will also start selling recreations of the console’s controller for you to play them on.
It’s funny, how when it comes to Nintendo how so many people are so willing to let things slide. What might seem ill-advised coming from another company is fine when it’s Nintendo, because then it’s nostalgic. If Sony tried re-releasing the original pre-DualShock PlayStation controller we would tell them to go to hell because it was painful and sucked (and most folks did by ignoring the PlayStation Classic), but when Nintendo does this stuff it’s wonderful because people just feel better about it in their hearts.
I am here to remind you today to never listen to your heart. Your heart is wrong. Your heart looks at an N64 controller and remembers sitting around a CRT TV with pals playing Smash or Mario Kart, or hunched over in the dark grinding your way through Ocarina of Time. It’s a package deal, all those fond memories and good times, and the N64 controller is doing very well sneaking its way in there alongside timeless game design, memorable startup sounds and old friendships.
Because when you separate the controller from the memories, or God forbid try and use one now, you remember: it’s bad! Everything about it is bad! It’s a dumb shape, it’s deeply uncomfortable to hold when having to use the analogue controller, the bumpers were terrible and the analogue controller felt like shit to move.
It was also notoriously prone to failure, something you’d think would be addressed in this remake, but given Nintendo’s years-long struggles with Joy-Con drift, maybe not!
Indeed the N64 controller could be so physically painful to use in some circumstances that in 2002 the company was forced to “offer gloves to prevent joystick injuries” after the New York Attorney General’s office complained on behalf of parents, whose kids had “suffered cuts, punctures, blisters and friction burns on their hands” while playing Mario Party.
The Nintendo 64 controller was not a good controller. The Nintendo 64 was a successful console in spite of its controller. There’s a reason no other console before or since has used a layout anything like this: because it’s a bad layout. And it’s not like the layout was even necessary for any of its best games to shine.
There’s not a single game from the N64's library that doesn’t play better with a more modern controller; even the GameCube’s pad, which carried over some of the N64's quirks (like the octagonal guide for the stick housing and an off-kilter button layout), was a vastly superior way to play everything from Smash to Zelda.
I’m not saying you have to throw out your fond memories of the N64 era, or even of using this controller at the time. The console was what it was, warts and all, and if you had fun with it in 1998, then great! That’s exactly why Nintendo keeps bringing these 90s games back, because even 20+ years on, even 3-4 ports later, people still can’t get enough of them.
But if you think I’m going to spend money on a new N64 controller in 2021, and invite all that suffering back into my life, you are out of your mind, Nintendo.