We’re at a point in time in the history of technology that even Gene Roddenberry would be freaking out, were he not floating in orbit in the form of dead space ashes.
Telecommunication devices? Captain Kirk had one long before the first cell phone appeared. Phasers, which always seem to be set on “stun”? We call them tasers, so that’s close enough. And now, Geordi La Forge’s VISOR is finding reality in Google Glass, allowing vast amounts of data to be seen in, almost literally, the blink of an eye. (Yet we still haven’t figured out time manipulation or teleportation. It’s 2013, people.)
Hardware is evolving in the gaming world too, where PCs and consoles have somewhat similar footholds, and mobile is quickly becoming a challenger to handheld consoles. Gaming companies are constantly looking for innovation as well, sometimes resulting in fun and unique hardware such as Wii, Kinect for Xbox 360, and PlayStation Move, all utilizing a form of motion control.
Sometimes the developments are intriguing and enjoyable. And sometimes, they’re huge piles of crap. And if you’re a gamer, you probably got hit by one of those piles of crap at some point in time.
Here are eight pieces of gaming hardware that owe us some money for sucking so hard.
GameCube Broadband Adapter And Modem Adapter
When Xbox and PlayStation 2 started to make forays into online console gaming, Nintendo felt the pressure to do so as well. Their answer to Sony and Microsoft was the GameCube Broadband Adapter and Modem Adapter produced by Conexant. It seemed like a good idea, but it quickly fell flat. Not only was it easily hackable, but the device supported a whopping total of seven games.
Seven. That is, Mario Kart – Double Dash!! and... six others that very few people know about.
In order to make a foray into online gaming, Nintendo, you have to produce games to foray online with. For what it’s worth, Nintendo's next attempt at online gaming tanked too, until the company finally got it somewhat right with the Nintendo Network two generations later. But this certainly helped Nintendo get things off on the wrong foot.
“I love the Power Glove… it’s so bad…”
Why, Lucas Barton from The Wizard, that's our thoughts exactly! It is so bad. The worst thing about it is that it creates the challenge for retro reviewers like me. Was it the fact that it was supposed to eventually have functionality for great games like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! but never did? Maybe it was the fact that only two games were ever created for it, with one not being released in Japan? Or could it have been the fact that it was a big, uncomfortable glove with a clunky controller strapped on your arm?
…Oh. What's that, Lucas? Oh, you meant the late ‘80s/early ‘90s kind of “bad” as in “good.” Oh, well, in that case, you’re totally wrong. Your punishment: doomed to life as a child sex offender!
Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.)
The Robotic Operating Buddy was one of two peripherals released in 1985 for the American release of the Nintendo Entertainment System; the other one being the Zapper. One did quite well for itself, and the other was R.O.B.
R.O.B. was functional in only two games: Gyromite and Stack-Up. Both games featured two professors, Hector and Vector, interacting with their newest invention, R.O.B., to do various tasks. The player acted as a go-between, issuing commands on their controller on behalf of the professors for R.O.B. to perform.
R.O.B. would have landed further up on the Heaping Pile-O’-Crap, if it were not for two reasons. First, if you look at things objectively, as goofy as it may have been, R.O.B. wasn’t all that bad. The problem was that the games sucked. Gyromite’s goal was to get the professors either to collect all the dynamite or to get from Point A to Point B, while R.O.B. opened red and blue gates for the professors, who also had to avoid creatures called Smicks. The Smicks, which looked like a cross between a gross thing and another gross thing, loved turnips and hated academics (apparently), but were about a smart as a nematode. Avoiding them presented very little of a challenge, though running into one and dying did produce a satisfyingly immature fart-like sound.
Stack-Up featured the professors trying to do something with colored blocks that wasn’t Tetris, so it doesn’t matter. The truth is, no one knows, because people lost the Stack-Up blocks included in the game within three weeks, and as such very few people actually remember what the point of the game was.
The second reason R.O.B. isn’t all that bad is because as of late, R.O.B. has been something of a renaissance man… er… bot. R.O.B. has had cameos in games like Pikmin 2, StarTropics, and Viewtiful Joe, and had a supporting role as an antagonist in the “Subspace Emissary” mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
So hate on, haters… R.O.B. is gonna dust you off of his shoulders… just as soon as the right commands are input and he can actually reach them.
The SNES Mouse was mildly popular, primarily because it was bundled with the fairly enjoyable Mario Paint, but it finds itself on this list because so much more could have been done with it.
The mouse found support in a few other games, but these were primarily ports of PC sim or strategy titles, which hadn’t found the following it entertains these days. Oh, and also Revolution X, a rail shooter featuring Aerosmith. It might be justifiable to blame the death of the SNES mouse on that game alone.
Unlike other hunks of junk, the SNES Mouse was a decent peripheral with nothing to do.
How do you improve upon a hit peripheral? If your first instinct is to nearly double the size of it and force it to be shoulder-mounted, your first instinct is largely incorrect, and you should not be designing video game peripherals.
And yet our friends from Nintendo—while we must applaud them for never giving up on innovation—did just that with the Super Scope, the SNES follow-up to the Zapper. The Super Scope had roughly the same amount of game support the Zapper did, including Super Scope 6 bundled in with the gun, but at almost two feet, the bazooka-like light blaster didn’t have the same fun, almost quick-draw feel that the Zapper did.
Instead of practicing your quick shot in Hogan’s Alley or Barker Bill’s Trick Shooting, players were busy manipulating a large, janky beast of plastic on their shoulder, and for many, the thrill was gone. Not even a Mario title, the ill-fated Yoshi’s Safari, could save the device from extinction.
Finally, something not from Nintendo… a peripheral so bad that even during its E3 2012 demonstration, the device went wonky. That’s never a good sign.
The Wonderbook was meant to be a “living storybook” aimed at younger children, with fanciful spin-offs from Harry Potter’s universe to start. But the peripheral required the use of two other peripherals: PlayStation Move, which while not a failure wasn’t exactly popular, and the PlayStation Eye, an even less popular peripheral.
So combine the buggy peripheral unit and base it on two other not-so-hot gadgets, and, well, Sony has all but closed the book on the Wonderbook.
3D gaming! Wowzers! It was all the rage from essentially the ‘90s onward. Everything tried to do it or make it look like it was doing it. So what would be the best device for 3D? Why the GAME BOY of course!
Now, this did become a reality with the unveiling of the 3DS, but in the meantime, Nintendo’s idea for the 3D handheld unit was to put the three-dimensional effect into a virtual-reality field creating not just the effect, but also several headaches along the way.
Along with the fact that the unit was not traditionally “portable” anymore but required a tripod to hold the visor up, and the fact that the games for it were piss-poor, the Virtual Boy virtually stayed on the shelves less than a nano-second… virtually enough time to be relegated to no more than a spot on a list.
The CD-i. What a pile of poop. It started so promising. Just like the Sega CD, it had full motion video… it was supported by the same people who teamed with Sony to bring people the compact disc! How bad could it truly be?
How about truly horrible? The controllers are beasts of notoriety: There are three versions and all of them are onerous. Trying to run early version FMV was like trying to play multiple games of Night Trap over and over and over again. And the game selection was horrid.
Exhibits A, B, and C: The three Zelda CD-I games. These are games every Zelda fan not only dislikes but spurns with mouth-foaming rage. Not that this is the CD-i's fault.
Or is it? Originally, the CD-i was meant to be a CD add-on to the Super Nintendo. When Nintendo backed out of the project, Philips demanded to fulfill their part of the project using Nintendo characters Mario and Zelda. Nintendo granted the license and had very little input otherwise. Hence, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Hotel Mario, amongst other games.
Horrible software, horrible controllers, horrible processing… plus it looked like an ugly BetaMax. The CD-i was an abomination to everything holy in gaming, and Philips wisely never got back into the gaming market ever again.