Some have called Nintendo Labo strange, but what some call weird, Nintendo calls “innovative.” Innovation and taking risks has allowed the company to achieve some of its greatest successes. Many remember the popularity of the original Wii upon its release, and we still live in the glory days of the Switch. These consoles serve as examples of Nintendo’s successes in ingenuity. However, creativity often causes a few failures. Let’s look back at some of the more unique products Nintendo and its licensee companies have released.
NES Power Glove
Though a great meme and an impressive innovation, the Power Glove still baffles players to this day. The concept sounds quite modern: certain movements of the glove produce different effects depending on the game, making this a precursor to the more successful Wii. Not the last example of Nintendo being ahead of its time, this experimentation makes for one of the strangest parts of the accessory.
The glove remains confusing to this day because of its control scheme. At a base level, everything makes some sense. The transfer inputs via finger motions or movements of the hand would seem like the best way to make this work. Except that it just … doesn’t work. By today’s standards, the inputs move at a snail’s pace, making gameplay difficult.
Beyond the games designed to work with the glove, the glove couldn’t function well as a controller on its own either. That left players with a controller theoretically designed to play any Nintendo game but that could really only play one or two.
To its credit, the Power Glove still lives on in the minds of collectors. But really, that just adds one more item to the list of things to collect.
NES Roll ‘n Rocker
The Roll ‘n Rocker (made by the licensee company LJN Toys) has a truly unique control scheme. The player stands on the blue circle in the center and shifts their weight around to work the controller like a giant D-pad. That alone makes the Roll ‘n Rocker strange, even among other NES controllers. Additionally, it works for almost all NES games, which is great if you want to watch players fumble around while trying to figure out how to properly play any number of classics.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the already-baffling controller has one major problem — it lacks A and B buttons. So, even if you wanted to play a game using this particular accessory, you would probably still need to pick up a normal NES controller for those two buttons alone. For many, the best option was to cut out the middleman and stick with the classic controller.
DK Bongos GameCube Controller
Among music games, Donkey Konga continues to stand out because of its controller. The DK Bongos serve both as a rhythm controller and a standard controller. Developed before the release of Guitar Hero, the bongos exist as a strange hybrid of controllers.
Unlike the Power Glove and Zapper, the design of the DK Bongos even sounds like a bad idea. One might expect that the bongos each serve as one input, but they have two inputs apiece as well as a microphone that functions as the fifth input.
The question remains: how do you play with these things? If you try to play them like a rhythm controller, you end up hitting different inputs and entirely ruining the song. If you try to play them like a standard controller, then you’ll develop a bad case of claw-grip trying to reach the buttons.
Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.)
The Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.) stands out as an experiment in Nintendo’s history. Developed at a time when video games weren’t selling, the company created R.O.B. to make the NES look like a toy. In addition to looking cute, R.O.B.’s ability to stand in as a sort of computer player for some games comprised his main functionality. By watching the game and responding to it, R.O.B. could play along with NES players.
While he may not be a bad main in Super Smash Bros, R.O.B. flopped commercially. Nobody really saw the point of R.O.B. and Nintendo’s plot to convince consumers that their game console was a toy didn’t fool anyone. Despite this, R.O.B. persisted and today possesses a strange kind of fame as the mascot of the NES. This status as a symbol makes him stranger than his odd function and games ever have.
For a good example of a Nintendo idea so crazy it might just work, look no further than the Amiibo. Nintendo learned their lesson from R.O.B. and instead of trying to use the toys to make the Wii U look less like a game system, they made the toys as a celebration of the gaming system. Each Amiibo serves as a unique computer player for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Nintendo had the brains to make them learn, avoiding the monotony of R.O.B.’s games.
However, gimmicky as it sounds, Amiibo was a massive success. Oddly, the combination of well-designed statues of Nintendo’s characters and the unique usage of them created a popular innovation. The demand that Amiibo created shows the success of the accessory and accomplished what R.O.B. had been designed to do: sell as a toy and a gaming accessory. Through Amiibo, we can see yet another example of Nintendo recycling innovation to create success.