Unlike other big companies dominating the gaming market, Nintendo came from humble beginnings. Starting out as a card factory and toy maker, the company has always tried new, interesting and unique things when it comes to gaming innovation.
Without Nintendo’s out-of-the-box ideas, the company may have never come into such massive successes such as the Wii or the DS. The House of Mario has always played by its own rules, even if those rules were to make sure your wrist strap was secured and tightly fastened.
But, with all its successes has also come many a failure, and a plethora of just downright weird ideas. So we’ve rounded up five of Nintendo’s weirdest gaming peripherals for your perusal – and amusement.
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It’s taken a long time for Nintendo to find its feet when it comes to online gaming, but it was actually one of the first companies to dabble with it.
If you were a rich kid in Japan in 1995, then you’re probably more than familiar with the Satellaview. The Satellaview seen Nintendo partnering up with broadcasting company St. Giga and, through the use of satellite broadcasting, the peripheral allowed kids to access games, magazines and other forms of media on their SNES’.
The Satellaview itself was an attachment for the SNES (Super Famicom in Japan) and allowed the console to connect to a BS tuner (BS being the unfortunate branding they decided to go with). The BS tuner was a satellite subscription service provided by St. Giga and was also needed to play the Satellaview. But with the Satellaview costing roughly $150, and a subscription for the BS tuner being $54 a month, most people’s dreams of owning a Satellaview was light years away. Talk about BS.
However, the Satellaview was a pretty cool idea. Along with the many games that were available to play on the peripheral, there were also timed broadcasts which allowed access to special editions of certain games. For example, BS Zelda saw the option to replace Link with an avatar character, had voice acting and an orchestral score. All of this content was a lot of data at the time for the SNES and broadcasting allowed these big files to be shared – something which was very ahead of its time.
As a lot of the content was broadcasted, a lot of Satellaview content is now lost to time. But Nintendo fans have managed to find some remnants of this content and have uploaded it online, but a lot of it hasn’t stood the test of time and is probably rotting away at Nintendo’s headquarters somewhere.
Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure
What better way to get kids to learn an important life skill such as typing but by infusing it with what they already love: Pokemon! And Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure did exactly that.
The DS game came packaged with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard which connected to the game cartridge and required kids to correctly type a Pokémon’s name in order to capture it. There were 403 different Pokémon available to capture, with the game taking roughly two hours to complete.
At first glance the idea of combining education and Pokémon seems like a logical fit to teach young people a necessary skill, until you realize ‘Rayquaza’ and ‘Spoink’ probably aren’t words kids will likely run into in life.
The game only saw release in Japan and PAL regions; while the keyboard typically came in white, with a black version being a Japan-only exclusive. The keys on the keyboard were changed to adapt to each country’s own configuration respectively and had capabilities to connect to other Bluetooth devices, with the home button working with the Nintendo Wii. Even though Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure was obscure, it still managed to sell well.
Wii Vitality Sensor & N64 Bio Sensor
Nintendo’s Wii Vitality sensor was announced in 2009: the era of Wii Fit. It was a time when the success of motion controls was arguably at an all-time high and Nintendo was gradually changing its marketing to focus on families.
The Wii Vitality Sensor was a unique add-on which measured your heart rate. However, this device died before much was even known about it. President of Nintendo at the time, Satoru Iwata, announced that the product would be discontinued in 2013, claiming that the reason for this was due to the product not working as well as the company had hoped.
But this wasn’t Nintendo’s first crack at a heart rate sensor. In 1998, Japan had Tetris 64, which came with a heart rate monitor that dangled off of your earlobe and into the controller – adding a whole new meaning to the word game ‘accessory’. This peripheral was called the N64 Bio Sensor and measured your heart rate, making the game trickier with abnormal shaped blocks appearing the more stressed a player was.
As heart rate monitors go, none of these peripherals were popular enough to have Nintendo fans’ hearts racing, so Nintendo soon pulled the plug on this accessory. Tetris 64 was the only game to use the N64 Bio Sensor.
Like the Satellaview, the e-Reader was another peripheral designed to let players access extra content from Nintendo games – as well as new content entirely. But his time it was done, not through satellite broadcasting, but through swiping cards.
The e-Reader was an attachment for the Game Boy Advance and, when swiped with certain cards, worked with games such as Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, Super Mario Advance 4 and even Animal Crossing (when used on a GameCube).
Cards were bought separately in packs and used specialized codes imprinted on them to store data. There was even a set of Pokemon trading cards which were compatible with the e-Reader and, when swiped, unlocked mini-games, music, a Pokédex-like page for your cards and sometimes even extra attacks for your Pokémon cards.
More great features of the e-Reader included a real-life Mario Party board game with mini-games being playable on the Gameboy Advance, as well as the ability to unlock rare items, town tunes and send letters to certain villagers on the GameCube’s Animal Crossing. There was even compatibility with Pokemon Colosseum and F-Zero: Legend of Falcon.
The e-Reader did well in Japan, lasting from 2001 to 2008. Outside of Japan, people seemed less keen on the idea and it was seen as a failure. The e-reader ran from 2002 to 2004 in Northern America, seen a short one year availability period in Australia and was due to come to Europe at some point – but that never happened. Nintendo has always had unorthodox methods in giving fans more content but, for now, it may be safe to say that DLC is the way forward.
Robot Operating Buddy (R.O.B.)
Most Nintendo fans will be familiar with R.O.B: the Wall-e esque character from Super Smash Bros. But R.O.B. wasn’t born from the Super Smash Bros. series, instead it’s inspired by a gaming peripheral from the beginning of the NES’ life.
R.O.B. was a battery-operated Robot which, with NES controller in hand, would operate as a ‘player 2’ to aid in everyone’s popular NES games, Gyromite and Stack Up. These were two-player games in which R.O.B could interact with – meaning you didn’t need a real-life actual player to play with you.
R.O.B.’s timely invention came about due to the infamous ‘Video Game Crash’ of 1983. Due to games not doing so well during that period, Nintendo prompted to market the NES as the Nintendo Entertainment System – rather than a video games console. This helped to avoid any references to games and, alongside R.O.B which came with the system, helped distinguish the hardware from gaming. The NES and R.O.B. bundle was released to critical success.
After the crash, R.O.B was long forgotten about, but the robot buddy has been hailed as a savior, scapegoat and a Trojan horse. His legacy lives on in the many cameo appearances he’s made in Star Tropics, F-Zero GX, Kirby’s Dreamland 3, the Wario Ware series, Pikmin 2, Super Mario Maker and as playable characters in the well known Mario Kart DS and the Super Smash Bros series. Gone but never forgotten.
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