Friday, November 16, 2012

The Official Video Game Controller Power Rankings

Pretty self-explanatory. Let's get into it.

Note: I'm not getting into systems that I never played, so this abomination

will thankfully not be discussed. Woof. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just lookin' at it.

So, from worst to first, here are the definitive video game controller power rankings.

5. Original Xbox

Goo. Microsoft's first contribution to the video game wars gave us something roughly the size of a piano, with two extra buttons up on the top right there that served no discernible purpose. It was heavy as anything, and the fact that it's all pregnant down at the bottom meant that you couldn't... quite... get your hands exactly where they needed to be in order to be comfortable. Very unsatisfactory holding experience.

Did I mention it was HUGE?

 4. Anything PlayStation has ever created

 PlayStation is now on their third iteration. Though I've been a Nintendo guy all along (until someone at the company took 'shrooms and decided to not make a direct successor to the GameCube), I've obviously had to deal with friends who have sworn by the PlayStation. This saddens me deeply.

I'm here to tell you that PlayStation has never made a good controller.

PS1 - Better than below, minus the whole "no joystick" thing.

First, the PS1 controller. Although tiny and cramped, it was actually a fairly decent controller. Obviously it was light, and the buttons were pretty easy to reach. Now, the problems. First and most glaringly: WHERE IS THE JOYSTICK?? Appalling. How were you supposed to weave through the Jets defense with Big Play Willie Clay if you could only go left or right? Secondly, I'm not sure if PlayStation has a patent on those weird angular downward-facing handgrips, but those things SUCK. At least for the original PlayStation, you could get a few fingers around them before you ran up against the body of the controller. Still, the angle they're at make them virtually unholdable after about 20 minutes.

PS1/2: Still used, still sucky

So after that epic fail of an idea, PlayStation had the revolutionary idea to add joysticks to their controller, so that their games were actually playable. So they added joysticks in 1997. One problem. They didn't lengthen the handgrips. Um, what?? As a kid who barely played PlayStation, even I knew that something was desperately wrong with this picture. Essentially, holding this controller amounts to squeezing it between the base of your thumb and the bottom and inside part of your first finger. There is no one on earth whose hands could comfortably hold this controller.

Not even Cee Lo Dwarfknuckles

Two final points about the horribleness of the PlayStation controllers.

1. Due (in my mind) to some air of haughty disdain for the plebeians and their backwards "button-lettering" system, PlayStation decided to put shapes on their buttons. I'm assuming the discussion went something like this: "Yeah, so, four buttons, four shapes.  A triangle, a square, a circle, and... um... ah... X?" Not sure I want to be buying my video games from people who can't think of four shapes. 


Whoo, ok. I'm calm. But seriously. You're one of the three biggest video game companies in the WORLD. 1997? Legit 15 years ago? That's the last time you felt it necessary to create a better controller? Step it up. It's not like a New Coke situation, where people will boycott the new controllers. It's still the same product on the TV, but maybe if you made some controllers that don't give me carpal tunnel, people will buy more games. Just a thought.

3. Nintendo 64
Just looking at it makes me tear up with nostalgia
 "All my mem'ries, gather 'round her" - John Denver, regarding West Virginia

This statement could accurately be used to describe my relationship with N64. Still, for my money, the best video game system ever created. The only distinct memories of Christmas morning that I have are the Christmas that I got my first bicycle and the Christmas when I got N64. Games like Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, Tony Hawk 1 & 2, and Fifa World Cup 2002 could be played endlessly (and were, right up through senior year at BC).

But I digress. Clearly, I'm biased. Still, this was a damn good controller. First off, Nintendo has always been very sensitive as to the holding experience of the player. Look how long the handgrips are, and how they're curved, rather than angled down at the floor. Second, the A and B buttons are well-positioned, and the C buttons, once you got used to them, are a pretty ingenious idea.

For me, this whole controller existed from the middle to the right. I don't think I ever touched the left handgrip, D-pad, or (God forbid) L button, except for when expressly told to do so by some game. I did come across some very odd ways that people held this controller. It just seemed obvious to me that your right hand was around the right grip, thumb worked the buttons, and left hand around middle grip, thumb worked the joystick. Some people holding this thing look like Dana Cullen holding a pencil (SHS joke). The joystick had a tendency to go a bit loose after roughly ten straight years of gaming, but other than that, this was a very solid effort.

2. Xbox 360
Even the picture of the controller is hi-def
And the Most Improved Player Award goes to... Microsoft! While not great, this controller gets the job done. Everything is where it's supposed to be for easy access, and it's not awful to hold (though N64 is much better in this category). Where this controller separates itself, however, is the triggers. For the first time, the trigger buttons are pressure-sensitive and can be depressed less than fully. Essentially, the further and faster you pull the triggers, the harder something will happen on the game (unless you're shooting someone - that only happens at one speed). Overall, well done.

And the winner is....

1. Nintendo GameCube
I could honestly talk about this marvel of ergonomics for hours. It's the perfect controller. Nintendo kept the wonderfully curved handgrips, shifted the D-pad down to an easy-to-reach position, and eliminated the whole left side of the old N64 controller.

  1. The fact that the A button is so much more gigantic than all the other buttons. This shows that Nintendo is fully aware of who they are as a company. They probably just went: "Welp, half our games require nothing but furiously tapping A, might as well make that shit enormous." 
  2. The C-stick. Everyone knows you don't use the right joystick as much. Keeping it yellow and naming it "C" kept the N64 purists happy. Making it smaller and putting it where you could easily slap it with the right thumb made everyone happy. 
  3. The triggers!! I defy you to pull a trigger on a GameCube controller and not smile. That satisfying feeling/ sound of the "crunch" of the springs is one-of-a-kind. 
  4. The Z button. It's always hiding up there, like a little surprise present behind the Christmas tree. 
A landslide victory for GameCube. It's an absolute travesty that they sold out to the fitness craze and made a video game system for middle-age moms to work out to. Shame on you, Nintendo. You gave up the fight. Shame.

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