Nintendo 64 controller
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Nintendo 64 controller
|Retail availability||June 23, 1996|
|Connectivity||N64 controller port|
|Successor||Nintendo GameCube controller|
The Nintendo 64 controller (NUS-005) is the standard game controller included with the Nintendo 64. Released by Nintendo in late 1996 in Japan and North America, and 1997 in Europe, it features ten buttons, one digital "Control Stick"[cn 1] and a directional pad, all laid out in a "M" shape.
The controller for the Nintendo 64 was designed around Super Mario 64. It was also designed to be held in several different positions. It could be held by the two outer grips, allowing use of the digital D-pad, right-hand face buttons and the "L" and "R" shoulder buttons (but not the "Z" trigger or analog stick). It could be also held by the center and right-hand grip, allowing the use of the single control stick, the right hand-buttons, the "R" shoulder button, and the "Z" trigger on the rear (but not the "L" shoulder button or D-pad). A combination of the D-pad, L-shoulder, analog stick and Z button was implemented in GoldenEye 007. Finally, one controller could be held in each hand with a thumb on each analog stick and index fingers on the "Z" trigger. This setup allowed dual-analog control on some first-person shooters such as Perfect Dark. More often than not the analog stick and right-hand face and shoulder buttons were used in games. while in some, both the control stick and directional pad could be interchangeable (ex: Mortal Kombat Trilogy). Very few games used the directional pad exclusively; two examples are the 3D puzzle game Tetrisphere and the side-scrolling platformer Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.
This design was controversial, as by its nature it prevented the use of all of its features with the player's hands in any one position; the D-pad, L-shoulder, analog stick and Z-trigger could not all be used at the same time as it required the player to switch hand positions, taking their hands off of the key directional controls. When Sony released its Dual Analog and DualShock controllers for the competing PlayStation, it retained the original controllers' two-handled ergonomics, placing the analog sticks below and inside the primary D-pad and face buttons, allowing the player to quickly switch from the D-pad and face buttons to the analog sticks without letting go of the controller. This layout would become dominant in gamepad design, and several third-party manufacturers would produce aftermarket N64 controllers with more conventional layouts, such as the MakoPad and Hori Mini. Nintendo itself would largely follow suit with the stock controller for its GameCube console, but swapped the positions of the analog stick and D-pad, as by that time the left analog stick had become universally accepted as the primary movement control on 3D games across all consoles.
The controller also included four "C buttons", which were originally intended to control the camera in the N64's three-dimensional environments. However, since the pad only contained three other face buttons, the C-buttons often became assigned to ulterior functions. An example of this is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where three of the C-buttons can be assigned to secondary items and the upper C-button is used to orient the camera.
One game, Robotron 64, allowed one player to use two controllers to control an avatar. This way the game played like its predecessor, Robotron 2084. Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark also used this set up for slightly different gameplay experiences (in terms of control, at least) compared to the standard single controller option.
The controller initially came in six colors (grey, black, red, green, yellow and blue) but other colors were released later, many of them coinciding with the release of a similarly colored or designed system. Some of these others include smoke black, watermelon red, jungle green, fire orange, ice blue, grape purple, and special edition colors like gold, atomic purple, extreme green, "Donkey Kong 64" banana bunch yellow, "Pokémon" blue/yellow and "Millennium 2000" platinum.
When the Nintendo 64 is switched on, the joystick on each controller is automatically calibrated by recording the current position as the center position. That works assuming your hands are off the joystick when you turn on the Nintendo 64. The joystick can also be recalibrated while the Nintendo 64 is on, by pressing L+R+START to indicate that the current position of the joystick is the center position.
For many years, console designers and manufacturers ignored analog stick technology, instead preferring the digital d-pad. It was not until the emergence of 3D gameplay that the analog thumb stick was put into widespread use. Using a d-pad in a 3D game greatly limits the player's ability to accurately utilize 360° of motion. However, analog sticks do not suffer this limitation and their prevalence allowed game designers to fully utilize them as the main method of control.
Prior to the Nintendo 64, Atari systems, and both Sega's analog Mission Stick for Sega Saturn (which launched on September 29, 1995) and Sony's Analog Joystick used analogue joysticks. However, the Nintendo 64 controller introduced the thumb-controlled control stick. Its release was followed during the fifth generation by Sony's Dual Analog and DualShock controllers for the PlayStation system (the DualShock also implementing a built-in version of the force feedback vibration first implemented by the N64's Rumble Pak add-on) as well as Sega's 3D control pad for their Saturn system.
The N64 analog stick uses a pair of optical encoding disks to determine its position. This is very similar to how ball mice work. Since optical encoding disks only give the system relative changes in the position of the analog stick, the system assumes that the stick is centered during power-on and tracks relative movements from there. If things get out of sync, or if the control stick was not centered during power-on, the center position can be reset by pressing the left and right shoulder buttons (L and R) at the same time as the Start button. The system then assumes the joystick is centered and continues to track relative movements from there. While the optical encoding disks are mostly digital and provide very accurate relative movements, third party controllers and joysticks often use cheaper potentiometers instead. These allow the controller to track the absolute position of the joystick, but since the signal is analog, it's very noisy and can fluctuate even if the joystick isn't moved. For this reason, the optical encoding disks used in the original controllers usually provide superior accuracy. 
The analog stick was prone to some long-term reliability issues. Parts of the analog stick assembly rubbed against each other with use, which over time produced a powder-like substance from the worn plastic. This powder could make it harder to move the joystick, and it could even interfere with optical encoding disks used to detect movement. If enough of the plastic mechanism wore away, the stick would became "loose." This meant that the stick could be moved slightly off-center (the exact amount determined by the severity of the erosion) without causing the system to detect the movement. It also limited the effective range of the stick so that in severe cases, the positions farthest from the center could not be reached. This loosening can be caused by rotating it intensively - a common practice in games like Mario Party. Excessive rotating of the analog stick even resulted in blisters and burns to the hands, and Nintendo offered protective gloves to prevent injuries. There are also Gamecube-style control stick replacement parts available on Ebay to replace the original one and rectify the aforementioned issues. However, these revised sticks have proven too sensitive for games like GoldenEye 007 or F-Zero X, when players are required maximum analog precision to succeed.
The original Rumble Pak, designed for the Nintendo 64 controller, was released in April 1997 to coincide with the release of Star Fox 64 and required two AAA batteries. Its specific use was to provide haptic feedback during gameplay; an effort to make the gaming experience more engaging. It was designed to be inserted into the controller's memory cartridge slot, which prevented the use of the Controller Pak. This usually had little impact, as Nintendo 64 games were ROM cartridge-based and had the ability to store saved data in the cartridge itself. Additionally, the insertion of a Controller Pak was prompted at every point of save in case one was not already in place.
The Controller Pak was Nintendo's external memory card, similar to those used on the PlayStation and other CD-ROM consoles. While the N64's cartridge-based games could store battery-backed memory much like their predecessors in the NES and SNES, the Controller Pak allowed savegame data, for games that supported it, to be stored separately from the cartridge, for instance allowing savegames to be used with a different copy of the game, or to store data that would not fit on a cartridge's battery-backed memory (such as Mario Kart 64's "ghost" files). Whereas other console developers opted to plug the memory card directly into the console, Nintendo chose to allow the card to be plugged into the controller and thus to be transported as one unit, envisioning scenarios in which players would want to bring their own controller and memory card to play with other N64 owners.
In 1997, LodgeNet and Nintendo released a controller and game playing service for various hotels in the United States. It is a slightly modified Nintendo 64 controller featuring an improved Nintendo GameCube style analog control stick, and LodgeNet TV control buttons. It attaches to the hotel television, and is not compatible with a Nintendo 64 console. It functions as a secondary remote control for the television, with up and down on the D-pad able to change channels, and as a controller for available Nintendo 64 games on the LodgeNet service. Customers can choose from a large library of Nintendo 64 games (including most first-party Nintendo 64 titles) and play at a rate of $6.95 for every 60 minutes. The controller and video game rental service is still available and in use at some locations.
- ^cn 1 Although similar to an analog stick in functionality, the control stick on the Nintendo 64 controller is digital in nature. Technologically, the stick is similar to a ball mouse or track ball, using a pair of wheels whose position is tracked using a combination of LEDs and photodiodes (by way of small holes around the edge of the wheels). In practice the level of precision (determined by the number of holes) provided by the stick make it functionally equivalent to a true analog stick.
- "[セガハード大百科] アナログミッションスティック" [The Sega hard large encyclopedia - analog mission stick] (in Japanese). Sega.
- http://www.picaxeforum.co.uk/archive/index.php/t-24584.html. Retrieved 24 January 2014. Missing or empty
- http://www.ifixit.com/Answers/View/28325/How+do+I+recondition+a+N64+controller. Missing or empty
- "Nintendo to hand out gaming gloves". BBC News. 2000-03-09. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
- "Nintendo offers glove to prevent joystick injuries". Retrieved 2009-11-25.
- "LodgeNet Begins Installing Hotels With Nintendo 64 Game Systems; Initiative Includes New Installations, System Upgrades for Thousands of Hotel Rooms". Hospitalitynet.org. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
- "Controller's History Dynamite from 1UP.com". Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- "Nintendo's N64 Pad - What's Inside?". NFG World. October 21, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
- "How N64 Works". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nintendo 64.|
- N64 Joystick Repair Guide Small guide to cleaning and attempted repair of the N64 controller.