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Nintendo unveils Revolution controllers

Nintendo unveils unique form factor and functionality of Revolution controllers.

Though the Nintendo Revolution was partially unveiled at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, its controller is the final piece of the venerable hardware manufacturer's next-generation puzzle.

Last week, in his keynote address at this year's Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata touched on those themes again, giving further clues about Nintendo's vision for the future, and how the Revolution's controller plays into that future.

Thankfully, CNET.com.au sister site GameSpot.com had the chance to gain a better understanding of what Nintendo is going for with the benefit of a visual and tactile aid -- a working prototype of the Revolution controller (click here for an in-depth test run of the new controller).

The guided tour of the Revolution controller was led by none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, the industry legend whose talent has been one of the driving forces behind Nintendo's success.

Miyamoto noted that the impetus for the controller design came from Nintendo's desire to do something "different" after hearing user feedback on consoles. The company felt the current generation of machines was coming close to overwhelming players by taking up too much space in their living rooms and creating briar patches of cables that must be navigated. As a result, Nintendo wanted to offer a solution that starts simple but supports expansion and that offers accessible experiences for casual players and more intricate experiences for hardcore gamers.

The form factor on display wasn't the absolute final design for the Revolution controller, and Nintendo reps noted that it is still a work in progress. The unit basically looks like a slim, ergonomic television remote that's about as long as your hand.

As can be seen in the images released last week, the controller features core elements along with some you wouldn't expect. A power button at the top left of the unit appears to let you power the Revolution console on or off. An old-school digital D pad rests just below the power button. A large GameCube-controller-style A button is prominently placed below the D pad. Its counterpart B button is located on the opposite side of the remote, like the Z button on the Nintendo 64 controller. Directly below the A button is a series of three buttons: select, home, and start. While it's easy to guess what they do, Nintendo reps offered no details on their exact function.

Below the select, home, and start buttons is another set of vertically aligned buttons labeled X and Y. On some of the prototype controllers we looked at, the X button had a small "B" next to it and the Y button had a small "A" next to it, indicating that the controller can be held sideways to approximate a classic NES controller. Directly beneath those buttons is a horizontal row of coloured lights that indicate which controller slot the owner is using -- 1 to 4 are planned at the moment. The plan is for the controllers to include built-in rumble packs and to run off of batteries, a'la the Wavebird for the GameCube.

Finally, the base of the controller features a unique plug that lets you make use of a wide variety of peripherals. One such peripheral is an analog stick attachment with two shoulder buttons labeled Z1 and Z2. Though it gives the combined items an odd, nunchaku-like appearance (which is actually Nintendo's tongue-in-cheek nickname for it), the add-on demonstrates the controller's versatility. The analog stick peripheral will come included with the Revolution hardware, with other attachments to follow in the future. While Miyamoto didn't say much else about what other attachments were in the works, he did note that it's theoretically possible to have entirely different configurations plug into the port -- which got us thinking about SNES and N64 controller attachments.

One of the most interesting features of the peripheral is tied to its functionality as a "pointing device." A glossy section of the top of the controller houses a transmitter -- much like any remote would have -- that was used extensively in the demos we saw. The signal from the unit is picked up by sensors you'll place near your television, which will then reflect your actions on the screen. Based on the responsiveness of the demos that we tried, this feature has the potential to turn the entire base controller unit into a new kind of pointing device. It also has great potential applications for sports games, such as laser-pointer-style play calling.

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