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Part 2 of our look at console innovations dives into the brave new world of 3D graphics, disc media, and analog sticks. More companies were getting involved, tech was advancing rapidly, and games were being played much differently than before.
Playstation – Dual Analog
Sony’s Playstation spearheaded 3D gaming and high capacity discs, but it was their first major controller evolution that made waves still felt today.
The second analog stick on the right side is a design used in every standard controller today. First-person aiming and third person camera control have both been standardized to use the right stick. It’s not as precise as a mouse, but it’s been good enough for close to 20 years.
N64 – Four controller ports
Many gamers that grew up with the N64 have fond memories of party games: Goldeneye, Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and the incredible AKI wrestling games. The inclusion of four controller ports removed a barrier of entry. Sure you could buy multi-port adapters for previous consoles, but with the N64, every console was ready for multiplayer mayhem.
Nintendo seemed to fully embrace this feature and placed it in as many games as possible. Even with its small library, the N64 is arguably the greatest console for local multiplayer.
The Dreamcast, Xbox, and Gamecube all incorporated four controller ports, while the PS2 was the lone successful console to stick with just two.
N64 – Analog stick / Z trigger
Sure it looks disgusting, with its grotesque third leg poking out, but damn was it bold and innovative. Nintendo’s loyalty to cartridges may have seemed antiquated to some, but their take on 3D gaming was revolutionary. They knew an analog stick was the best way to control in a 3D environment and produced a masterful example with their very first game: Mario 64. To this day, Mario 64 feels fantastic.
The Z trigger replaced the L button when gripping the middle stick and was the next step towards the modern era’s reliance on finger-trigger control. Ocarina’s Z-targeting was a clever solution to issues with 3D cameras.
Dreamcast – The VMU
The Saturn, Playstation, and N64 all had their own form of memory card, but the VMU was an interesting evolution that – for some reason – failed to catch on. Perhaps looking away from the screen was too jarring, or maybe the quality/cost ratio never made sense until the Wii U took a stab at it.
Choosing plays in NFL 2K, displaying health and other menu items, and even mini-games were great features of Sega’s little device.
Sony tried their hand with the Pocketstation, but it too was left behind.
PS2 – DVD Player
The Dreamcast was a promising system with fantastic visuals, online gaming, and four controller ports, but it didn’t have a DVD player.
The PS2 hit the market at the good ‘ol console price of $299, which also happened to be roughly the price of a standalone DVD player at the time. This made it extremely appetizing to consumers as a legitimate multimedia device.
Add a vast library that included revolutionary games that are still iterated on today, and the PS2 went on to become the best selling console of all time.
Our next part of the series will take a look at modern innovations like online play and wireless controllers