The Revolution

For the successor to the GameCube, Nintendo promised something entirely new. They wouldn't say what it was, just that it would revolutionize the industry; accordingly, they code-named the product the Revolution.

It was revealed that the Revolution would be in the controller for the new system. Time bred rumor: it would be one-handed; it would be tilt-sensitive; it would be nothing at all, you just waved your hands around; and so forth.

Reactions were mixed. On the one hand, people remembered Nintendo for introducing both the D-pad and the analog thumb-stick. On the other hand, people still remembered the Virtual Boy. Nintendo has developed something of a reputation for (depending on who you talk to) either taking risks or innovating. While the Virtual Boy was a colossal failure, the more recent and no less risky DS seems to be finding its niche.

At the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo revealed the Revolution. It is a one-handed controller that, at first glance, resembles a TV remote. It has a D-pad and six face buttons. Three of these are labeled "Select," "Start," and "Home," and sit horizontally in the middle of the controller. The other three are a, b, and A; the upper-case-A button is large and sits right under the D-pad, which is in turn at the top of the controller. The lower-case a and b buttons are smaller and are arranged vertically at the bottom. There is a seventh button, B, on the underside of the controller, conveniently placed to serve as a trigger. There is also, curiously enough, a wee power button above the D-pad.

(Curiously, if you hold the controller sideways, it appears to magically turn into the original NES controller.)

Following the lead of the Wavebird, Nintendo's wonderful wireless controller for the 'Cube, the Revolution is wireless. Though it doesn't sound like it yet (as I have yet to enumerate all of the contoller's features), the controller is reverse-compatible with the 'Cube's controller, and you can actually plug in a 'Cube controller into the base system. (Meaning that if you really liked the Wavebird, you can still use it.)

On the bottom of the controller is a port to plug in expansion devices. The one that is being shown in the promo pictures is a vaugely pistol-handle-shaped device with an analog thumb stick identical to that on the 'Cube controller and what appears to be more buttons in a trigger position, which connects to the base controller with a short wire. Presumably, Nintendo has other devices in mind, too. One of these is a more "traditional," 'Cube-like controller that the base control slots in to, to allow cross-platform gaming more easily.

The controller features tilt and movement sensing features. It also has light-gun abilities. Nintendo has shown a number of uses for these. The tilt and movement features lead to totally endless possibilities. For instance, you can look around in a first-person game by pointing the controller around. You can swing your sword in a, uh, sword-swinging game by literally swinging the controller, and the direction you swing it will be the direction the sword is swung. You can play air-hockey by literally moving your paddle around (come a long way since Pong). You can cast a fishing pole in a fishing game by, well, casting a fishing pole. And don't forget the light-gun: up for some Duck Hunt? And this is all with the system's standard, first-party controller.

I like the controller already, and, suprisingly, much of the Internet seems to, too. Let's see if the ineffable will of the market agrees.

For photos and more details check out:

Update: 4/27/06

The Nintendo Revolution has been renamed. It is now called — and sadly, this is not a joke — the Nintendo Wii.