The Most Innovative Controls Ever: Skyward Sword and Other Games
One of the most consistent ways Nintendo has helped the industry grow, from the NES and to infinity, has been through their innovative mastery of video game control input. From the original NES gamepad, to the N64 analog stick, to the Wii-mote, and soon- the Wii U Gamepad. In tribute to this we’d like to take a look back at the games from across the indutry that have utilized some of the most innovative, and funky, control schemes. [Obviously, games that use peripherals (e.g. Guitar Hero) or a unique genre (e.g. Trauma Team) are going to make use of unique controls. But, I’m looking for games that are part of a typical genre and don’t use an oddball-controller/peripheral, and still manage to implement an innovative or radical control scheme.]
There are many games throughout the years that have featured excellent controls. Nintendo single-handedly put 3D game controls on the map with Super Mario 64. They raised the bar again with Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And gaming has never looked back. With the arrival of Nintendo’s Wii console, motion controls finally broke out but not in the way core gamers were hoping. Wii Sports created an army of clones (*Star Wars reference) who all used the similar control style- dubbed the “Waggle.” Wii Motion+ was a few years in coming but finally allowed for the nuance and subtlety of 1:1 motion controls. Unfortunately, the potential that 1:1 motion controls have for honest-to-goodness core games has not yet been realized. Nintendo decided to show an example of Motion+ controls Wii Sports Resort, which was essentially a plea for casual gamers to once again plunk down more cash. But, the real appeal of Motion+ should have been aimed towards the core gamers.
And that’s where Skyward Sword comes in. Had Skyward Sword been released alongside Wii Sports during motion controls’ first foray into the gaming world’s collective consciousness, it may have proved a convincing argument of motion control’s potential for the core gamer. Unfortunately, it came as a swan song on a dying Wii console. Miyamoto’s big words : “I can’t imagine controlling a sword with buttons anymore. We feel like we’ve created a new genre in interactive entertainment.”
Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks (DS)
These two games demonstrated on the DS how to pull off a complete action-adventure game with touch-screen controls only. Tap in the direction you want Link to run or swipe along the screen to pull off a sword strike. Of course, adding personalized notes to the map screen made dungeon traversing that much easier. I personally like Spirit Tracks a lot more due to the more refined touch controls and fun ride-a-train mode that somehow found its way into my Zelda game. However, many enjoyed Phantom Hourglass more.
P.N. 03 (Gamecube)
Gamecube gamers will remember Product Number Three as a Capcom game made exclusively for the GCN. P.N.03 is a third-person shooter featuring a dexterous, cybernetically-enhanced woman named Vanessa Z. Schneider who fights an army of robots in a fluid, dance-based combat style. This is basically how it came off: You ran from room to room and as soon as you came across an enemy you went into attack stance. What was unique about this was that you couldn’t run anymore while you were attacking an enemy. Instead, you became a laser-toting ballerina, somersaulting over incoming missiles, and pulling off outrageous dance moves to perform combos and destroy attack drones. Basically it was a third-person action game substituting normal controls for dance moves.
Metroid Other M (Wii)
Innovative control scheme is the expression of the year when it comes to this game. Using a retro control-scheme that hearkens back to Metroids of old while infusing Metroid-Prime like FPS aiming when pointing the Wiimote at the screen, such controls had never before been tried. Leave it to Sakamoto to come up with such a wacky idea that reminded him of his baby, Super Metroid, but still felt next-gen.
DK: King of Swing/Jungle Climber (GBA, DS)
One of my favorite games on the DS, Jungle Climber allowed you to grab with DK’s right or left hand with the R and L buttons. Those two buttons are all there is to it in this deep, addictive game. Using alternating hand grabs, you swing your way around levels, rotating clockwise and counterclockwise. I realize this doesn’t give over the enjoyable nature of the game adequately, but trust me that it’s a lot of fun. Excellent physics, and fun controls that are easy to learn but hard to master make this game a blast to play. (It spent many hours on the toilet with me. Sorry, TMI.)
Kirby Canvas Curse (DS)
Use the stylus exclusively to draw rainbow lines that Kirby will roll on, or tap Kirby to have him dash. Tap enemies to destroy them , rub blocks to erase them, or create pen-strokes to protect Kirby from oncoming fire. If Nintendo ever needed to prove that it can make a touch-screen game better than anything available on iPad, they could offer this game as proof. It single-handedly convinced me of the worth of the touch screen on the DS.
Heavy Rain (PS3)
Heavy Rain doesn’t need much introduction. It divided audiences for how literally it took interactivity. The best way to sum up the controls would be “context sensitive interactivity.” The game is a very cinematic psychological thriller which puts you in the shoes of a few characters and lets you make choices for them, interact with their world, and sometimes even perform mundane actions such as getting out of bed and showering, or the extremely mundane- chopping off your own finger. All with the press of a context specific button. The player’s decisions and actions during the game affected the narrative; the main characters can be killed, and certain actions lead to different scenes and endings. But, in the end, no one will deny that hunting down the Origami Killer was a very unique experience.
This alternate history/science fiction/steampunk game developed by Smilebit and published by Sega had a very steep learning curve due to an unusual control scheme .Superb graphics and a decent story went well with the dedicated gamer, ready to master the controls. Try and wrap your head around this: Players control Kelly or Saburouta with both analog sticks, the left controlling forward/backward movement and turning, while the right aims their weapons, and when clicked, allows quick-turns. Clicking in the left stick while pointing in a direction causes the character to boost. The left trigger is a boost/jump, and when combined with the left analog boost, can be strung together into combos to keep the player off the ground entirely, which is a necessity for some levels. Face buttons are used to select weapons, and the right trigger fires the selected weapon.
Yeah, it’s complicated. But, a lot of fun if you’re willing to master it.
Robot Alchemic Drive (PS2)
This was an underrated PS2 game by Enix. Yes, it’s another giant mech/robot game, but this one is different. Very different. I’d call it revolutionary. Instead of pressing one button to control the whole robot at once, you must control each limb individually. To move, you’re going to have to position each leg where it must go. To destroy buildings you’ll take control of an arm and swing it around with the analog stick. No movement will be done automatically. You have to do each movement yourself. If you were controlling a small itty-bitty character that might get annoying. But, being that you’re controlling a massive, towering robot who can destroy a city with but a few movements, it’s incredibly fun. You’re not even watching from the perspective of the robot but from someone controlling him by remote-control on the ground. Oh, and it has a mech storyline straight out of a “b”-anime.
NiGHTS into Dreams… (Saturn)
Don’t laugh at that controller! Sega released it with gaming’s first analog stick alongside NiGHTS. NiGHTS into Dreams… is a classic Sega game with a cult fanbase. It was the Saturn’s defining game, although it was too late at that. Whereas Super Mario 64 made use of real 3D gameplay, NiGHTS was really a 2D game that fooled the gamer into thinking he had full 3D freedom. However, despite the simple gameplay mechanics, Sega managed to spin the game into something almost magical. All you had to do was make little circles with your analog stick and NiGHTS would acrobatically flip, loop, and twirl around the screen giving you the sensation you were flying through the mystical and colorful dream worlds.
Ape Escape (PS1)
The Ape Escape series is notable for its radical departure from the tried-and-true control method in most other games. It was the first PlayStation game to require the use of a DualShock controller; the left stick moves the character while the right operates whatever gadget the player has in his/her possession. Again, unlike many games which use “X” to jump, both the R1 and R2 buttons are used, while the ‘shape’ buttons are used to cycle through the available items in the inventory.
Katamari Damacy (PS2)
OK, from here on in the games will be less standard fare. Katamari definitely has unique controls but one can argue that not many game play like it at all. Katamari is pure retardation. Use dual analog sticks to control the direction your ball rolls, picking up everything you roll over- from elephants to cars- until you recreate the constellations. Or something like that. Whatever the case, it’s unique and it’s fun.
QWOP and GIRP (PC Games)
Anyone who hasn’t yet tried Bennet Foddy’s two games is missing out on two delightful time-wasters. In both games you could almost consider yourself the puppeteer of a marionette, one in an “Olympic racing” scenario and one in a mountain climbing scenario. In QWOP you are tasked with controlling the two thighs and two calves of your sprinter, and timing up the rhythm of his movements is the only way you’ll advance. Of course, half the time you’ll be falling down in a hilarious, break-dance-like collapse. In GIRP you must swing yourself from hand to hand, propelling yourself upward with momentum while pressing the key that will lead you to your next grip. Try them both out if you haven’t yet done so.
Silver (PC Game)
I remember playing a ton of this Infogrames game when I was younger. Unfortunately, my cousins borrowed it and -due to an over-obsession with the game- never gave it back. The game was a real-time RPG that played out similarly to Neverwinter Nights but controlled in a very unique manner. Imagine Phantom Hourglass’ controls but using a mouse on mousepad instead of a stylus on touchscreen. Every type of sword swipe and magic spell was mapped to a movement dragged out with the mouse. This added an extra dimension of reflexes and precise movement that was deeper than most games on the market. Many different locales and environments added to the variety in the game, although the AI was a bit of a downer.
So, you want more games with innovative controls? Or you want to know about all the really wacky, nontraditional-genre games? Or how about games that use peripherals? Here’s a list of some more games that you might have been looking for:
Donkey Konga: Jungle Beat
Guitar Hero series
Rock Band series
Dance Dance Revolution
Wario Ware series
Any light gun game
Tony Hawk The Ride
Games That You Remember With Unusual Controls
OK, there are a ton more and I’m sure you know a lot of them better than I do. So, let me hear your thoughts: What game do you remember that had really innovative or unusual controls? What games stand out in your mind? Please let me know down below in the comments.