Shouting, Punching and Breaking Legs: Weird NES Controllers

Hello Island Guests, if I would be a Pokemon I would be a fossil Pokemon. So I guess I’d be a Fairy Rock type. Why? Because I constantly keep being stuck in the past. My first console was an NES, a very simple game console that got released on the Dutch markets  in the fall season of 1987. A year after I was born.

Five years later or so I had one! A very simple system with a D-pad  and four buttons (Start and select count). I love this controller, so many memories! Yet even back then Nintendo always was trying to discover new ways to play.. so worked better than others.

The Konami Laser Scope

By now it should be no secret that I hate children, they are loud, obnoxious they tend to hurt me, they think they know it all , they are helpless and unpredictable. I would describe kindergarten as like a trashcan for dead baby jokes that have gone to waste. Now of course this is a exaggeration of how I actually feel I am very anxious around children. Mostly their loudness can freak me out.. or if they play their games at full volume on their phones.  Back in my days children would have to play games in the living room though, so the noise would be very difficult if you were reading a magazine or on the phone.. which back then had cords on them that were connected to the wall. So a kid gaming was even more of a plague.

Luckily Konami came up with their Solution. The Konami Laser Scope! A huge headset children could put on.. shielding you from the bloops and bleeps of space fighting games and classics like Top Gun. It was advertised this way so it seemed great. Little did parents know! This game does a good job at muting out the game soundtrack and those sound effects. It is a fairly sound proof headphone. The problem.. this controller has no A and B button, you play this controller by yelling “Fire”…. Or anything else for  that matter. So instead of the Duckhunt theme and sound effects you hear your child yell Fire Fire Fire all the time!  Unadopt!

Design wise it seems like a sort of combination of an eye exam device, a saiyan scouter with some rad but cheap danger looking stickers added to it so kids would feel cool when wearing it. The truth? Yes with things you look completely cool!  If cool was spelled D-O-R-K that is. Yet the Laser Scope wasn’t just a controller. You can remove the head visor thing and fold back the microphone thingy and wear it as a actual headphone for your walkman! Now that .. in comparison makes the full controller look really cool!

The Power Pad

In 1988 the whole marketing department of Nintendo collectively forgot all worlds in human existence except for one word. Power! .. They could add words before it like Horse and Nintendo and sometimes even words behind Power.. like this one time they tried something with a piece of clothing for your hands?! What was that all about?! One of the Power Guys suddenly said “Body Power” and everyone clapped. So it was time to develop a controller around Body Power…how do we do that?! Well simple!  We make a sheet  with 12 balls depicted on it.. because twister is kinda popular as well.. and then make kids run and jump as a controller.  A very early DDR pad if you will… just weird.

Nintendo always wanted us to stay fit.. like nearly every generation of their consoles had some fitness equipment. There is the Balance Board for Wii and Wii U, that Ring for Nintendo Switch, A fitness Bike for SNES, the Gamecube had a handle.. so you could take it out to run outside and the NES had this thing. Twelve numbered orbs on a grey mat.  Player one usually takes  the blue numbers, player two plays on red. Which baffles me because , well  number 1 and 2 are blue, 3 and 4 are red. Then 5 and 6 are blue again and 7 and 8 are red.  I mean it makes sense on the mats design, you count the numbers and all.. but  since this thing is meant for multiplayer mostly… WHY would you do it like this?!

The game works best on button mashing games like those Olympic or running games. Player 1 runs on 5 and 6 while Player 2 runs with 7 and 8. By jumping you somehow actually jump. Fun.. but you just did a 100 meter hurdle jump thing. On an 8 bit console, it isn’t exactly thrilling. It supported a few other games but it came with the game World Class Track Meet. Why would I want to run?! I mean nowadays I get it with the whole fitness idea, but back then we played video games because we did NOT want to play outside and run. But this is coming from me, I lived in a small town where there was plenty of space and safety to do it better than a power pad could. Maybe it’s different for city folk.

Other games that came for the pad are kind kind of weird. There is for example Eggsplode and Short Order, a twin packed game that allows you to break bombs and prevent chicken murder or play simon says with hamburger parts to fatten up animals. They are solid mini games but not really something to justify getting a mat like this out, relocating your NES and sliding away the coffee table.   Technically this mat is about as big as six children standing in double file so that is a rather hefty chunk of living room. Just setting this thing up takes you longer as how long these games are actually fun so all in all.. it gets you moving.. but it is a bit odd. 

The U-Force

Now things begin to really get odd. The U-Force I would describe as weird predecessor of  the kinects. Yet.. it looks more like a monolith in a plastic case. Like those screens look like how evil computers looked like back in the 80’s. It isn’t immediately obvious how you use this. I’d say it is part Kinect, Part theremin part ??? with mostly the latter being true. The U -force has several settings depending on what game you play.  New games would tell you what U-Force setting they need in the manual older games should be able to find in the setting which can be very different between each game.

Some games require it to be a fully flat surface and you play games like a theremin, another game could require a mirror like set up, while a third game requires that same mirror like set up but requires a flight stick peripheral. The weirdest thing.. this peripheral is just a piece of plastic with buttons that is not connected  to the system in any way yet it fairly flawlessly mimics your actions and button presses. In Punch Out I think you can actually punch towards the screen and for some driving games you like swipe left and right to steer left and right and tilt your hand  to accelerate or decelerate. It is an odd contraption which works differently each time.. but what’s weirder..  It really really works. 

Playing Mario on U-Force is kinda fun it doesn’t work as clean as an actual controller but I do feel like I could beat a stage or two, unlike with my next two entries. Punch out allows me to beat Glass Joe at least, and Top Gun.. well I never really liked that game but I should really give it a try sometime. It is a gimmick and it doesn’t make things easier or better, it just is another way to play.  In that way it is like the theremin again. I would not call it like an actual controller, it’s a neat thingamajig that can be fun but quite puzzling why it was made in the first place.

The Roll’n Rocker

Now this is a controller which was distributed by LJN.This company has gained notoriety because of the AVGN, claiming there is no pot of gold but a pot of shit and the end of this rainbow.  When it comes to this controller though, that might be underselling it. This thing is broken and non functional at all. What is it? It’s basically a D-Pad you can stand on and by shifting your weight you use the directional controls. It works about just  as well as using an actual D-Pad after your hand got hit by a rainstorm of bricks. Even then depending on how much of your hand is crushed, you still have a better chance with your mangled hand as with this controller. 

The design is super retro. It’s how Back to the Future would imagine us using controllers in the future. It is a grey piece of plastic filled with stubs to make it less slippery with bright blue center with three  side bits  with Roll’n Rocker written in a tubular or gnarly font. Because of the three blue prongs you already lose your direction a bit making this finicky controller even harder to use. Since this totally Rad desgined thing does not have any buttons it has a socket where you can plug in an NES you can still use the A and B button. So much like R.O.B.  This controller still requires the original controller but unlike ROB which was a gadget to use your controller,  this IS a controller still.. so already it is so dysfunctional that you still need the thing you try to replace it with.

Now this could be fun for games like Skate or Die ,  Back to the Future or  Menace Beach. Games that are  have you skateboarding for a bit part of their gameplay. Now what these games all have in common is that they are bad games that all at least have featured in a AVGN episode.. as a testament that other people think this as well. So when you add a non functional controller  things get even worse.  Back to the Future should work for several reasons.. It doesn’t need buttons, it utilizes  controls in all directions an it is part of the LJN line-up. If you distribute a controller you best make sure it works with the games you put out as well. Why would you stand up on wobbly thing to play these games in the first place anyway it made me nauseous when I tried it out at first and anxious.. definitely a miss and a head-scratcher.

This one did not have any advert or commercial so I had to make due

The Power Glove

Another Power Item.. where The Power Pad required Body Power the Power Glove feeds on your sanity. Very few controllers are as dysfunctional as this item. Yet the marketing of this controller was SO freaking cool. It was used in a movie called the Wizard, which was basically a big NES commercial and showed us the first footage of Super Mario 3 we ever saw. Back then bad was a word we used for good! The main character’s rival used the power glove and said it was so bad! We thought he meant it was cool… but no this time bad actually meant bad. Yet just looking at the commercials we all wanted the Power.

The controller needed to be programmed for each game, except for the two games which were made for the Power Glove.  Super Glove Ball and Bad Street Brawler. While both games can be played with regular controllers they have extra moves and options when playing on the power glove. One of these games.. actually works with the power glove. Bad Street Brawler… not so much.  The latter is a great game to play though. It has your beat up self launching midgets and  Gorillas as the punk rocking guy Duke Davis. Super Glove Ball is like tennis with a hand.. and it actually works with a power glove. You wave your hand and the hand actually moves to where you want it. It’s kinda fun.

When it comes to how easy it is to actual game.. this catchphrase is right!

Mario however doesn’t work, Castlevania.. works okay..but when you need to move up or down a stairs.. it doesn’t work anymore.. so  at least the first three enemies are fun. Rad Racer more or less works but it teaches you super unsafe driving methods and at irregular intervals does teach you what will happen if you drive like that..Bam!  The Power Gloves does offer a unique gaming experience though, it will make you question your sanity?! I am such a bad gamer that I can not do this or is this thing really this broken?!  Do you want to feel hopeless like a baby chicken tossed in the tub?! Then the Power Glove is something you should definitely try out. The Power Glove arrived at the end of 1989 and it would take Nintendo 17 more years to make this concept functional.. that is how broken this is?! Why 17 years you say? That is when the Wii came out!