You Truly are The King of Controllers!
The history of home console gaming has seen its share of abominable controllers. From Intellevision’s disk and number pad combo attached with a phone-style cord, to Nintendo 64’s three-pronged torture device, to the controller so bad it was scrapped before it saw the light of day, the PS3’s bat-a-rang. But no controller, in my opinion, has such a love/hate/laughter relationship than the the original Xbox controller.
This particular model of the Xbox controller was first made available in North American and European territories and was the controller that shipped with the console, but not in Japan. You see, the Japanese were greeted with the ‘Akebono’ controller as it was deemed that their hands were smaller than the mighty American hand (I am sure the Japanese appreciated this sensitivity, no wonder the Xbox did so well in the land of the rising sun).
This monstrosity of a controller also spawned several nicknames. It was called the ‘Fatty’, the ‘Alarm Clock’, but was most commonly referred to as the ‘Duke’, and that is how I refer to it today. To use this controller with any comfort for long periods of time you had to be sporting some good-sized meat hooks, so I was ok in that department. My main issue with the controller was the button’s shape and layout. As you can see in the picture above, the face buttons are oval-shaped, and they were also laid out on an angle. The icing on the cake for poor button placements were the ‘black’ and ‘white’ buttons. They were not only oval and angled, but they were also significantly smaller and offset than the main four, completely awkward to use.
The rest of the Duke was a mixed bag. The D-Pad was very unusual. It has this curvy up-and-down design to it with no hard lines to it. It really was not that far removed from the analog stick. That is probably why it was so poor to use with fighting games. Also, you just have to love that gaudy jewel in the center of the controller. A cowboy could remove it and use it as a belt buckle! The Duke was not without a couple of redeeming qualities. The Analog sticks and the trigger buttons were top-notch. Launch games such as Halo and Project Gotham Racing benefitted from these aspects of the Duke. In fact, the Duke remained a favourite amongst Halo players long after it was replaced.
And replaced it was. Gamers voices were heard and their dissatisfaction was great. Fortunately it would not take long, a design was already in play as the Japanese market already enjoyed a more compact and better designed controller. So the Duke was phased out and was replaced with the ‘S’ controller (unsure of the meaning of the name, but ‘S’ it was). The ‘S’ was a vastly superior controller. Better ergonomics, better, button placement, better looking, the controller went over very well with the Xbox faithful.
The Xbox survived its early controller misstep and went out to iterate its controller once more with the Xbox 360, and with that Microsoft has created one of the best controllers on the planet. Though Microsoft has come a long way with its controllers, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Duke. It is just so damn big it is ridiculous! What controllers have a soft spot in your heart? I would like to hear which ones you cherished, or which one was the vest to snap over your knee.