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Alpha64 Review

Dr_Moo By:
Dr_Moo
07/01/98
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Alpha 64 Controller Review



N64 Hardware Review
Category N64 Controller
Review Date 7/98
Company nYko Technologies


by Dr. Moo



Stiff Competition

When it comes to poor design, few controllers can top the monumental ergonomic fumble that passes for the standard N64 game pad. Seriously - any controller that requires three hands to use properly is not made for human beings (generally the species most likely to play video games). The placement of the analog control in relation to the D-pad and Trigger buttons makes it nearly impossible to use all buttons at once, making games that use both analog and digital control very difficult to play. The "trident of pain" takes forever to get comfortable with, which is remarkable considering the average age/attention span of the typical N64 gamer.

So we at Game Revolution have made it a mini-quest to search out a more comfy and effective alternative to the clunky, carpal-tunnel inducing mess that comes with the machine. So far, the best controller we've seen is the Mako Pad from Interact. Always searching for a new solution, we've checked out another controller from nYko - the Alpha 64.

The first thing you'll notice about the Alpha 64 is the abundance of analog sticks. Yep, there's two of 'em. It's not exactly clear why they did this, but I guess it's not a bad idea. You can toggle between either analog stick at the touch of a button. Until they release a game that uses dual analog control for the N64, I suppose it doesn't matter that you can't use both sticks at the same time (Assault, anyone?).

As you can see, the Alpha 64 forgoes the three pronged approach in favor of a more 'biped friendly' design. While the change is appreciated, there is a problem. Using either analog control stick means you have to stretch your thumb way out. After about a half-hour of gameplay, your thumb will kindly ask you to stop. It would have been much nicer had the analog sticks been closer to the D-pad (like the Mako Pad).

And a quick word about the analog sticks themselves - tense. There's just too much tension built into the stick. Coupled with the thumb stretch, this makes for a difficult analog maneuver. Perhaps some WD-40 or industrial lube would help.

But not all is bad with the Alpha 64. In fact, other companies could learn a thing or two from some of nYko's ideas. For one, the C-Buttons are normal-sized. Unlike the miniature yellow droplets o' plastic that are standard fare, these buttons are the same size as the A and B buttons, giving the controller the 6 button feel it should have had to begin with. Furthermore, there is a Z-Button located on each handle. This makes it easier to use and makes it feel less like a special trigger and more like a useful button. The digital directional pad itself is very satisfying and comfy as well.

Of course, no controller these days comes a la carte. The Alpha 64 allows you to customize any button for Turbo (rapid fire), and the simple press of the slow motion button will help you out of those wily hot spots.

Mortal Kombat 4 played very nicely with this controller; the six button feel was much more familiar. However, an attempt at an analog intensive game like Banjo-Kazooie quickly proves that thumb tendons can be pulled quite easily. Fans of the various N64 fighting games might want to look into the Alpha 64. Analog issues aside, it's a much more comfortable pad than the standard Nintendo game 'fork.'. If you're looking for an all-around analog/digital masterpiece, however, you should look elsewhere.

Side Note: Now that the Saturn is kaput, someone should really look into replicating the Saturn Nights analog/digital controller for the N64. It's the best console gamepad we've seen in terms of ergonomics and comfort. Hardware companies - please look into this one...


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