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njsykora avatar 11:32 AM on 04.29.2008  (server time)
Control Freaks: #2 - The neGcon

Namco are legendary for their WTF controllers. Be it in the arcade or at home they have done more than any other company to bring arcade experiences home as faithfully as possible. However today's subject was high on the WTF scale even by Namco's standards. Welcome to Control Freaks.

Episode 2 - The neGcon

The neGcon

The neGcon was a real freak as far as controllers go. It existed as a sort of hybrid of the standard Playstation controller and a steering wheel. The controller lost some of the PS controller's buttons though. It has no select button and also cuts off the R2 and L2 buttons, it makes up for this though by bringing analog control to the Playstation 2 years before the release of the Dual Shock. The controller existed around a central axis which the 2 halves could be rotated around to deliver analog control. Couple that innovation with a pair of analogue face buttons where the cross and square once were. This abundance of analog features on the neGcon immediately found it an audience, hardcore racing fans.

The Games
For an extremely weird controller, the neGcon was compatible with a lot of games. Pretty much every major racing game on the PS1 and even some on the PS2 supported the neGcon. Every Wipeout game up to Wipeout Fusion (including Wipeout 64 with a converter) supported it and its in that series that the controller's point is suddenly realised. Playing Wipeout against a neGcon user is a futile effort if you hope to win, the analog control just gives that extra edge to making the small corrections to racing line that is so important to a good Wipeout player. That is why the neGcon is a good controller dispite its shortcomings, in the early years of the PS1 and even into the PS2 era it provided a level of precision that not even the advent of analogue sticks could hope to match.

Wipeout 2097, never agree to a 2-player game with just 1 neGcon

Even today the neGcon stands up as one of the most unique controllers ever created and for a lot of racing game fans is still the controller of choice. However it was a commercial failure, rejected by the new breed of gamer brought in by the Playstation and consigned to the bargain bins. If it had been adopted into the mainstream then we might have a neGcon 2 for the PS3. As it stands though its a fond memory in the minds of all those who used it, and a treasured posession for those who still own one. Its design made it stand out, and its functionality gave its users a crucial edge in games where digital controls just weren't good enough. It really is a truly glorious example of gaming innovation, and a great example of a true Control Freak.


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