The NES wasn’t my first game console or my first experience with video games. I would have to say, like many people, that I remember it most fondly. That’s partially due to the many amazing peripherals Nintendo released for this console. I received my NES as a present during Christmas of 1988 when the console had just turned three years old. By then they were packaging them in a Super Mario/Duck Hunt bundle with an NES Zapper light gun. Right out of the box Nintendo was already putting peripherals in gamers’ hands. There were so many extras you could buy for the NES like the R.O.B., the Power Pad, the NES Advantage and the NES Satellite. I had a short but passionate love affair with the Power Glove but my favorite accessory by far was the NES Max.
Many of my friends gravitated toward the Advantage because of the arcade style stick and its fancy adjustable turbo knobs. I felt different though. I started calling it the disAdvantage because you had to either set that heavy ass controller in your lap or on the floor while awkwardly hovering over it as you played. Unfortunately the lure of turbo buttons was great. No longer having to mash the A and B buttons with your thumb (sometimes trading your index finger for increased speed) as fast as you could was a godsend.
Luckily I discovered the Max. I have to admit that its smaller price tag is what caught my eye first because, being a jobless minor, it was going to be a lot easier convincing my parents to shell out the money. When I finally got my Max in my hot little hands I showed it to my friends. They were supportive but I knew they were just being nice. Something about those all too fake smiles while caressing their Advantage controllers gave it away. They didn’t think my controller was as good as theirs. For awhile I was worried that they were right.
I wasn’t sure about my new purchase. I knew I was happy to have turbo buttons finally. Contra became a whole new ball game for me now that I could shoot eight gazillion bullets a second. In fact it seemed like I was shooting a little faster than my friends that were using the disAdvantage. Hmm, maybe they were only shooting seven gazillion bullets a second. Cha-ching! Chalk one up for the Max! My friends took notice. Now they wanted to try it out.
But what’s with this funny D-pad? What’s a cycloid? I didn’t have any idea but I thought it looked cool. I gotta get points for that, right? As a matter of fact I started finding it easier to use the outside ring during Contra because you mostly just run left to right. I was about to subtract points from my Max in my private competition against my friends controllers when I discovered how useful a cycloid can be. When I wasn’t playing Contra or Legend of Zelda I liked to play Ice Hockey and the Max’s cycloid was perfect for the constant direction changing. I could have all “Lankys” on my team and skate circles around the competition with my speed. Literally skating in perfect circles!
Arguably the most innovative feature on the NES Max was its wing shape. I absolutely hated trying to use the cumbersome Advantage. It was too bulky, too heavy. The original controller for the NES wasn’t bad. It was small and light but not overly ergonomic. The Max design was easier to grip and is still something you see today in controller design. They even added ridges to the inside and outside to help you keep your grip when your palms got sweaty during those marathon sessions of Metroid.
I loved that Max controller. It served me well during my NES days. Those good ol’ NES days. They don’t make peripherals like that anymore. Nobody. Not even Nintendo themselves. Wii Fit Board? Puhhleeaaze.