Back in the heyday of the NES, you could hardly move without tripping over some gimmicky controller or another (The NES Advantage, The NES Max, The Konami Laser Scope, ROB the Robot, The Power Pad, the Turbo Touch 360, the U-Force, the Roll ‘n Rocker, the Four Score, the NES Satellite, among others). Were most of these controllers wastes of space? Absolutely. Some of them, though, were quite innovative, and it saddens me to see that the kind of weird innovation that we saw during the reign of the NES is waning.

The weird controller/peripheral phenomenon dropped off sharply with the release of the SNES (notable gimmicks included: the Super Game Boy and the XBand Modem), and became even worse during the N64 years (notable gimmicks included: four controller ports, The Rumble Pak {now standard in nearly every controller} the Transfer Pak, connectivity between NFL Blitz 64 and Arcade, and the 64DD {which, sadly, never materialized in the US}).

What sort of gimmicky innovations are we seeing in the Game Cube generation? So far we have the Game Boy Link Cable, the e-Reader, games like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords that use the Game Boy as a controller for the Game Cube, the Game Boy Player, and the (promised) connectivity between F-Zero AX and F-Zero GX.

I know that I’ve put a marked Nintendo spin on this article, but they immediately come to mind when I think of peculiar gimmicks (like the Virtual Boy). This isn’t to say that other companies never tried anything new. Sega tried that completely bizarre Seaman game, and Konami (as well as Sony) is having enormous success with the Dance Dance Revolution franchise.

Is gimmicky innovation dead? Hardly, although it isn’t as prevalent as it once was. Every time some new, weird game or controller comes out, I’ll be there giving it a look over and, quite possibly, buying it.