Do you remember this?
The phenomenon that was the Nintendo Wii began nearly a decade ago now, and the original codename – “Revolution” – was fitting. Nintendo succeeded in transforming video games through motion controls, drawing in traditional non-gamer groups with innovative titles like Wii Sports, bundled with the console itself, and Wii Fit. The Wii Remote was the difference, offering new ways to intuitively control games.
Look again at Wii Sports – the golf, tennis, and bowling mini-games are unsurpassed in their ability to appeal to all audiences. The design of the Wii Remote was key. A sweep of the arm, a flick of the wrist, a forward thrust, and no convoluted button combinations to memorize – the new controller made gaming truly accessible to all.
And Nintendo used motion controls to deepen the design of flagship franchises. Mario Kart Wii’s steering wheel controls were instinctive. Super Mario Galaxy’s levels made use of the controller’s tilt function. In 2011, Nintendo released an upgraded Wii MotionPlus that offered a greater degree of accuracy in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, with Link’s sword almost perfectly replicating the player’s slashing and stabbing actions.
Shooters were a natural fit for the Wii Remote, and titles such as science fiction explore-’em-up Metroid Prime Trilogy enabled the player to precisely aim and fire weapons.
The Last of Us on PlayStation 3 has made me realize how much I miss motion controls.
A great game of tense action and emotional drama, but the gunplay in The Last of Us is simply not tight enough. Aiming and firing on a console using two sticks has always been frustratingly unwieldy, and does not compare with the Metroid Prime series or one of the Wii’s best titles, Resident Evil 4.
Here I am in 2014, wrestling with The Last of Us, desperately wrangling dual analog sticks towards a seemingly mythical sweet spot in a woeful effort to line up a headshot, splaying precious bullets around the screen (hitting – variously – the wall, the zombie’s torso, and arm).
As The Last of Us’ zombies tear at my neck yet again, memories of Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition’s precise controls taunt me – take aim by pointing your Wii Remote! Fire! Follow-up with a gratuitous roundhouse kick! Resident Evil 4 made complete use of the Wii Remote’s capabilities – how did games end up regressing from these excellent controls?
Nintendo’s success with the Wii jolted Sony and Microsoft. In response, they released competing visions – PlayStation Move and Microsoft Kinect – but these add-ons failed to capture gamers’ and non-gamers’ imaginations in the way that the Wii did.
This generation things have gone back to basics. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 soldier on with conventional joypads. Move still exists, as does Kinect. But the fate of Kinect on Xbox One is especially revealing – see the consumer backlash regarding privacy issues, while 2014’s key title Kinect Sports Rivals was a commercial failure, leading to layoffs at once-great British developer Rare.
Nintendo has tried something different again with the Wii U GamePad, but the tablet-influenced controller is not as groundbreaking as the Wii Remote (still an option for many Wii U titles).
So there it was, the generation of innovative motion controls, 2006 until circa 2014. And here we are today, first-person shooters and third-person action games saddled still with clunky dual-stick control schemes, rather than the effortless accuracy of the Wii Remote era. The era of motion controls how I miss you!