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Hands-on with the Nintendo Revolution controller

We take the new Nintendo Revolution controller for a hands-on demo.

Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo of Japan representatives walked CNET.com.au sister site GameSpot.com through a collection of demos designed to show some of the theoretical applications for the unique Nintendo Revolution controller. Before starting the demos, Miyamoto was quick to emphasise that what we were about to see did not reflect the look of a game running on the Revolution hardware.

The demonstration stations consisted of several different TVs that had red X's taped to the ground that were a set distance from the units -- to show you where to stand. Once we were situated, we got our hands on the controller, which feels like an ergonomic remote control or even a laser pointer. The new Nintendo interface could easily be mistaken for a TV remote -- with its long, rectangular shape -- as it's designed to be held in one hand. It was very important to stand in the correct place for the demos, because the console actually tracks where you're pointing the controller at the screen, thanks to a small transmitter hidden inside the top of each controller. That's right, you can move around onscreen just by pointing the controller in a different direction.

The top half of the unit is devoted to the directional pad and an oversized A button. If you hold the controller like a remote, your thumb will have immediate access to the D pad and the A button. The underside of the controller has a B button that functions like a trigger button. The controller features select, home, and start buttons lined up horizontally halfway down the controller, and the bottom half of the controller has the X and Y buttons stacked vertically. If you turn the controller sideways, the X and Y buttons become B and A buttons for classic Nintendo gaming.

Demo 1: Shootin' cubes
The first demo let us get a feel for the way the controller could be used to spice up the traditional game experience. Wire-frame and solid polygonal boxes appeared on a black background. Blue- and red-coloured crosshairs tracked our movement onscreen, as well as that of controller two. Hitting the B button let us shoot at all the cubes as they appeared, which yielded different point values. The demo also showed off the controller's built-in rumble functionality. The early rumble-enabled prototype controllers had power cables, but the final wireless units will be self-powered.



The Nintendo Revolution controller ir designed to be held in one hand.

Demo 2: Fishing games rule!
The second demo showed us how the controllers would handle in a 3D space. A simple, line-drawn-style pond full of multicoloured fish was displayed onscreen and challenged us to do some fishing. A small human hand functioned as the onscreen cursor to show us where our controller was pointing. You could take hold of a fishing rod that rested in the centre of the screen by moving the hand over the rod and waiting until your virtual appendage took hold of it. Rod in hand, we were able to move the controller around to move our virtual rod up and down, right and left, and back and forth on the screen, which affected the position of the rod's lure. Obviously, the key is to hook fish. We tried our hand at introducing our hook to a few of the finny locals. The controller would rumble with each fish nibble, providing us with our cue to reel it in. Rather than hand-crank the line, we simply had to pull back and flick our wrist back at the right moment to snag our catch.

Demo 3: Irritating stick
The third demo showed how the controller could improve your standard puzzle-type game. The demo dusted off the Kuru Kuru Kururin, or irritating stick, baton from the Game Boy Advance puzzle game. The demo segment charged us with guiding the rotating stick through a winding pattern in a cave setting that was fraught with peril. The demo began with us lining up our coloured crosshair with the large jewel-like decoration at the centre of the stick. Once that was done we had to guide the spinning stick through a windy path to collect coins, all while avoiding touching the side of the path or hitting moving blocks.

Demo 4: Air Hockey
The fourth demo had us move to a new television so we could try out the proper wireless controller prototype form. The game featured an overhead view of an air hockey table that let us control a paddle. Though the basic mechanics were about as old-school classic as it gets -- which means we had to block incoming shots from our opponent before flinging them back, all in the hopes of scoring -- our paddle mechanics were not. Rather than simply letting you move your paddle up and down, we were able to move it anywhere on our half of the screen. You could also twist your wrist to give the puck some spin, just to keep things competitive.

Demo 5: Shootin' baskets
The fifth demo showed some of the unique ways you'll be able to interact with the environment in a much more tactile way. Our cursor was placed on a simple basketball court. The obvious goal was to score baskets. However, the catch was in how we had to score baskets. We were able to create a small indentation on the ground using the controller, which let us guide the ball over to the court. We could then shoot toward the basket by pressing A when we lined up our shot. When playing against an opponent you'll be able to use these commands to shake the ball loose from his or her grip.



The analog stick attachment for the Revolution controller.

Demo 6: Return to Delfino Isle
The sixth demo borrowed a brightly coloured area from Super Mario Sunshine, specifically Delfino Isle, to show off a simple and smart way of controlling a vehicle. In this case we were tasked with piloting a red plane around the isle and through free-floating rings. Rather than require you to use the D pad to move the plane, we simply had to move our controller left, right, up, and down. We held the controller like it was a paper airplane in throwing position. The plane was responsive, and it let us perform all manner of loop-the-loops, sharp turns, and dives with ease.

Demo 7: Big Pokemon hunter
The seventh demo was a simple Where's Waldo?-style segment, wherein you hunted down specific Pokemon in a picture. The mechanic for doing so was interesting, as you were able to move around a large photo of all manner of Pokemon as they were chillin' (just as they do in their free time) in a park. Movement was in full 3D, so you were able to zoom in closely on the different Pokemon by moving the controller toward the screen, and you could zoom out by pulling it away. Moving left and right obviously let you look over the whole image.

Demo 8: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Finally, the last demo of the day showed off the analog-stick attachment for the controller -- which Nintendo reps likened to a nunchaku -- and it was revealed how you could use it in conjunction with the main unit to play a game. In this case, the GameCube's Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was redone to include support for the Revolution controller and the analog attachment. The demo let you play through one of the early areas in the game, which felt considerably different from the original GameCube game. The attachment basically gave the game a much more PC-first-person-shooter feel thanks to the ability to free-look and aim with the main controller by moving it anywhere you wanted. The analog stick controlled your movement. The A button let you jump, while the B button fired your weapon. The shoulder buttons on the analog attachment let you switch visors, scan, and lock on to targets, although the lock-on feature was less necessary thanks to the precision firing available via just looking around with the controller. You could shift to the morph ball by pressing the select button on the main controller's face, which felt surprisingly comfortable to do in the middle of action.

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