Hey y'all. John Lucas here. I know you haven't seen much of me in these forums lately & mostly seen me in those Popzara cross-posts. But I've been meaning to bring this up as a topic for awhile.
When Wii came out with the new control phenomenon known as the Wiimote, it created a divide in the gaming community on the usefulness of the new style. Over 25 years ago, Nintendo introduced what we now call the traditional way of playing: control plank resting in palms comfortably supported by fingers played primarily with the thumbs. All controllers since have been built upon this paradigm model (I hate the word 'paradigm') & its evolutions (shoulder triggers, analog stick) before Wii came out in late 2006.
Nintendo upended their NES standard introducing the Wii standard which adds loads of versatility not just in motion-sense control but also in the many ways it can overlap the old standard. Many games play in what I call 'Broken Plank' style where essentially it controls like an old dogbone controller but one hand holds the Wiimote over to the side by the lap while the other hand holds the Nunchuk with arm resting on the sofa arm. The Wiimote's 'B' trigger mostly operates as the old 'R' trigger with 'A' button operating as primary action button & the Nunchuk's 'Z' shoulder trigger mostly operates as the old 'L' trigger with 'C' button operating as the co-lead action button or secondary action button.
The versatility of this style is that left-handed people are no longer confined to the tyranny of the righties being just as able to hold Wiimote in left hand & Nunchuk in right to their choosing. It also allows for a more relaxed laidback style of play since both arms don't necessarily have to be 'at attention' as they grip the controller. You can have one hand down, one hand up, both hands at ease on sides, one pointing forward, other hanging back. This, of course, can allow for more gameplay possibilities with the motion-sensing & pointer capabilities inherent in the controls.
And of course there's always what you could call the 'Roots' style when you turn solo Wiimote sideways in the 'NES formation' where the '1' & '2' button become action buttons & control pad returns to primary movement master. Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily free the lefties like the other style does since unless they want to turn their brains upside down they have to move with left thumb & action on right thumb. With less buttons & also less accessible buttons (like 'B' trigger), this style is more suited for simpler controls of an earlier era.
The addition of the SNES/N64/PS-reminiscent Wii Classic Controller add-on & compatibility with Gamecube controllers (including wireless rumble-less Wavebird) gave the Wii a rich potential for control style. And perhaps no other game puts this potential to the test like Mario Kart Wii.
While Super Smash Bros. went far in the diversity of controller options, Mario Kart Wii went even further to allow the players to settle the long-standing argument in gameplay. Which was better? Which was even competent? The ways to play in Mario Kart Wii are:
1. Solo Wiimote 'Roots' style in NES formation steered by motion like in Excite Truck
2. Solo Wiimote 'Roots' style in NES formation set in Wii Wheel which guides steering by motion giving better access to 'B' trigger (promoted & company recommended style)
3. Wiimote & Nunchuk 'Broken Plank' style in combo steered by Nunchuk's analog stick
4. Wii Classic Controller style steered by analog sticks
5. Wireless Wavebird (Gamecube) Controller style steered by primary analog stick
6. Wired Gamecube Controller style steered by primary analog stick
Basically 2 distinct methods of play (Solo Wiimote motion steer vs. Wiimote/Nunchuk combo analog steer, Classic Controller/Gamecube & Wavebird analog steer) with associated distinctions making a total of 5 control styles with 1 added in since wired play makes the player less able to relax for fear of pulling system down.
But which was better? Often the bi-weekly Nintendo tournaments encourage Wii Wheel use but what about when you play competitors at home in the living room or online through the Wi-Fi Connection? What control style best enables you to beat or even dominate your opponents? Which style leaves you a victim forevermore of turtle shells shellackings, starman smashes, road rage bump-offs, grass groundings, and unintended cliff drops?
I got in a hot discussion about this with a friend of mine who insisted that the Wiimote motion play was inferior to the analog controls of the traditional controllers especially for tournament-level play. I disagreed & said that years of reinforcement have allowed those players to reuse the skill they refined in earlier versions of the game (and other racing games) in this new edition. I said that motion control is newer & not as understood to the level that analog control now is. That in fact, the motion control is in effect a "Super Analog" with greater degrees of subtlety that are just waiting to be explored & mastered. That while a 20-something who was raised on analog control may find it easier to stick with the traditional methods to win reliably, a kid who learns the game primarly from the solo Wiimote & Wii Wheel can get just as good as that old-time player using the new method.
He disagreed again saying that while maybe the motion controls of the Wiimote/Wii Wheel make it more accessible & even fun for both established & newer players just being introduced to the series, you could never become as skilled as those who play through traditional control. I then broke it down saying that the original of the series 1992's Super Mario Kart for SNES was in digital pad control to begin with. The next sequel 1996's Mario Kart 64 for the N64 introduced the so-called traditional analog style control also seen in 2003's Mario Kart: Double Dash for the Gamecube. That style of control was a bit of a learning curve too in the beginning though less of a jump since it was still controlled by a thumb. I also bring up the fact that the digital pad play of 2001's Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the GBA had a much different feel than the digital pad play of 2005's Mario Kart DS. GBA's Super Circuit felt much like the original Super Mario Kart while MK DS felt a lot like MK64. Both had digital pad as the steer control but they operated much differently in play.
The fact of the matter is that the controls of the Mario Kart series were diverse to begin with (never mind the game engines behind them) so what really was "traditional" other than the holding of the controller established by the NES standard of 1983? Since the "Broken Plank" style of the Wiimote/Nunchuk combo is basically just a more at ease version of the "Connected Plank" style of the old controllers, wouldn't it be about the same in skill as the older control styles? And regardless of all that, aren't analog & digital controls well-worn & well-known? Control inputs established for decades & absorbed as second nature into the brains of the players trained on them over the years? Why CAN'T motion control have the opportunity to be just as absorbed into a player's second nature?
There WAS slight merit to his argument since control by a thumb took less breadth of movement than control by two arms. However, at the same time, real cars have always been controlled by steering wheels so in a way it's more familiar & easier to asborb into the brain than the abstraction of those digital & analog plank controls. People have always played games by moving body with controls when they start learning how to play. The motion style is more intuitive. Also, the lack of tethering to a steering column allows Wii Wheel's front to be seamlessly played with wheel facing person and/or facing ceiling giving a sense of freedom lacking in other driving game peripherals.
I couldn't understand why he wouldn't allow for the outcome that the motion control can be just as competitive as the others if somebody takes the time to learn them. Even if for some it may not come as natural as the old way, any control CAN be learned with time & practice. The beauty of Mario Kart Wii was that it allowed the debate to happen in real time on the game screen. Wheel is highlighted by player's name on score screen when someone uses the peripheral to the embarrassment of those promoting the old control way should they be beaten by it.
What do you say, VGChartz regulars? What do you think of the different controls that play the game Mario Kart Wii? Are all control styles created equal or are some control styles more equal than others?
Words from the Official VGChartz Idiot
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