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Mystery Of The Nintendo Star Controller Solved

Wii prototypesBack in 2006 Nintendo revealed a few prototypes of the controller for its Wii console.  Mixed in with concepts that would become the Wii remote was a bizarre orange circular object with a large Starman button on top.  There was no clue offered as to just what this controller did or how it worked.  We've been baffled for three and a half years, but now the answer has finally come forth thanks to Osamu Inoue's new book Nintendo Magic: Winning The Video Game Wars in which the story of the development of the Wii and Nintendo DS's unusual designs led Nintendo to shoot back to the top of the video game industry is told.  Here's the explanation for the mysterious star controller:

Development on the new [Wii] controller was in full swing by the middle of 2004.  With Iwata focusing on the DS, Miyamoto acted in his place on the project.  Takeda's engineering team searched for sensors that would enable intuitive game control, which Miyamoto's people used to implement the actual controller.

At first, they started just as Iwata had suggested - by aiming for a simple, TV remote-like controller.  But as they did the work of testing the controller prototypes that included new sensors, the form factors began to take an unexpected direction.

"No one liked that one," recalls Miyamoto with a rueful grin, of a large, disc-shaped example.  It had a large star-shaped button in the center, surrounded by three smaller buttons, and used internal accelerometers that let the player control by tilting it forward, backwards, left, or tight.  The prototype was orange, and its bizarre appearance earned it the nickname "cheddar cheese" from the development team.

It was admittedly simple and easy to understand, but was also far too garish.  Miyamoto's team met with around 40 game developers within Nintendo bimonthly to hear their opinions.  This iteration of the controller was met with opposition — they complained it was totally unsuited to traditional games like Mario and Zelda.

Mystery solved!  Thank goodness common sense reigned within Nintendo on this one.  While I'm sure the company could have come up with some interesting ways to play with that star controller, I can't believe we'd have seen Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3: Corruption if that device were the standard over the Wii remote.