This is perhaps the most obvious piece of “DNA” Nintendo has placed in their new Switch console. Still, it’s hard to say that Nintendo exactly invented mobile gaming. Many single-game devices existed before the Game Boy, although the Game Boy was undoubtedly the first true handheld gaming console. Nintendo followed that success with an entire family of Game Boy devices and their newer DS (or Dual Screen) handhelds.
X and Y, L and R
Every console gamer, regardless of which console they use, owes Nintendo a debt of gratitude for its controller innovations. The four-button right-hand design with the right and left bumpers was a Nintendo invention, first introduced with the Super Nintendo. That design has since become standard across all video game systems, save for the Nintendo Wii, which pared back that design in place of its simpler motion controller.
The Switch incorporates a controller design that is more similar to the SNES than to a more modern controller like those found on the PS4 or Xbox One. This may actually be to the system’s detriment, as both the Sony and Microsoft consoles utilize dual bumpers on both sides, a feature that is increasingly integral for high-level FPS games.
Nintendo’s inclusion of the core design is on both Joy-Cons, in such a way that it is still comfortable for both players, is going to be integral to its success, but the overall lack of complexity in button design may limit how many major 3rd party games the system receives. True, Nintendo is selling a Pro controller with the Switch, but given this is an additionally purchased accessory, many companies like BioWare and Activision may hold off on developing games for the Switch.
Nintendo 64 DNA: analog stick and controller rumble
To be frank, Nintendo did not invent the analog stick, despite Kimishima’s rather surprising claim to the contrary. In fact, the Neo-Geo championed this design back in 1994, 2 years before the launch of the Nintendo 64. The structure of the Nintendo 64 controller was also questionable, with the third leg or arm effectively dying with the device. Still, Nintendo has since included a joystick with all of its consoles, with the exception of the Wii.
The Rumble Pak, however, is one of Nintendo’s greatest, and most mimicked, achievements. Adding rumble sensitivity to the controller added a layer of realism to video gaming not experienced since video games were first invented. This piece of Nintendo DNA now lives in every major console’s controllers, and indeed is a standard in all of Nintendo’s console hardware designs.
Nintendo has upped the ante on this one for the Switch with its HD Rumble feature. The HD Rumble includes multiple vibration motors that are capable of working independently of each other. Furthermore, each Joy-Con has multiple sensors that allow players to feel fine vibrations in intricate detail. During the Tokyo presentation, consumers were shown what this means: the ability to jingle the Joy-Con with the feeling of ice cubes jingling in a glass, or the feeling of water pouring in a glass.
To date, no other system has a controller that can express this much physical detail from game to hand. Here’s waiting to see how this piece of Nintendo DNA translates into actual gaming experiences, although this is one piece of tech that makes a VR addition to the Switch seem far more likely.
The GameCube’s portability
While Nintendo did not exactly put a handle on the Switch like they did with the GameCube, the DNA, in this case, is in the concept. Kimishima mourned the fact that the idea of a portable home console was a bit ahead of its time. In reality, porting around the physical Game Cube was just a bit too ungainly. One had to cart the discs, however, small they were, as well as all of the cords and controllers. It was portable, sure, but not any more so than any other console. Nintendo has taken the idea of a portable home console and placed those dreams into the Switch. The ability to attach the controllers to the device and carry it away as if it is handheld, but still maintain most of the power and functionality of the device is revolutionary.