The video game industry throughout the eras has survived by continuous innovation and constant improvement over existing ideas and technologies. Many great ideas and releases have paved the way for the technology and the features that we enjoy today, and we are expecting better things to come. However, the modern road of gaming was not only paved with innovation, but also contained failures as well. Among those failures were video game accessories and peripherals that failed to catch on because of their impracticality and general pointlessness.

This Top Ten is dedicated to the video game peripherals and accessories that were impractical, weird, and also infamous failures.

Rez is a rail shooter music game for the PS2 and the Dreamcast. You control an avatar that progresses through a colorful and vibrant set path, shooting enemies with beams of light as you approach them. What makes Rez interesting is that the game is set to lively electronic music and different musical effects for your actions. The background and the in game effects also coordinate with the soundtrack’s beats to create an ever changing environment. Now, a music fan might enjoy this game on its own, but the developers included a certain device with the special edition of the game for “enhancing” the game experience named the “Trance Vibrator”.

The Trance Vibrator is an USB device that pulses in time with the music in the game. The product was intended to be put into a pocket, held, or be sat on while playing to send waves of vibrations through that part of the body as the game plays. The vibrator is even stronger than the Dualshock, and I think that the vibrations might actually have the potential to register on the Richter scale.

The backstory is on this item is funny. The producer of Rez, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, actually admitted that the item was his idea of a joke. He even went on to say that it was a “very serious joke” and that it had no “sexual meaning”. Joke or not, this is one of the most bizarre items on the list that I have ever seen.

Learning how to type properly on the keyboard is like riding a bike: you need patience, coordination, and you’ll probably remember how to do it for the rest of your life once you mastered it. Now, let’s complicate the bike that you have learned how to ride with and throw its design all over the place into a new design that only a rocket scientist could learn how to use. That is what it is like to use the AlphaGrip AG-5 handheld keyboard.

The AG-5 has as many as 42 buttons with 30 on the front and 12 on the back as well as a trackball. The controller is designed to conform to the user’s palms for the user to free up his/her fingers for typing. Typing can be done by pressing down on the buttons on either side, and using one of six shift keys to access some characters. There are two sets of shifts: red and yellow. Each shift key pressed will allow access to that set of characters. The front of the controller also has a flat groove for some of the other keys like caps lock and delete.

The controller is bulky and big to begin with. When you do get comfortable with holding it, learning the layout is another story. Learning the keyboard layout for the controller is like relearning how to type again, but this time made harder by the overloaded layout. Gaming on it seems to be far advanced for anyone but the most patient, and remapping the keys seems to be a necessity.

Overall, the complicated design and the steep learning curve might turn anyone but the most dedicated enthusiasts away.

"The Speedboard, the fastest way to play your Nintendo Entertainment System! Puts the speed at your fingertips! Increase your game scores! Better reaction time and speed! Holds your controller so you don't have to!"

The advertisement made it sound so cool. What kind of serious gamer doesn’t want that sort of power? prepare to be disappointed because the Speedboard in reality is just a piece of plastic. Yes, a piece of plastic designed to hold the NES controller in place.

The Speedboard allows the player to hold the NES controller in place so that the player can play without holding the controller. That means the player can player behind a table or on his/her stomach. That’s all there’s to it because I can’t describe a little piece of plastic for more than a few sentences.

If you want what was advertised, you might as well use a turbo controller or just continue hold the NES controller in your hands. If you really want to replicate the Speedboard’s effects (I mean, really), be creative and find some things in the house that holds your controller in place. Needless to say, this thing wasn’t very good.

There came a time when people were tired of using the same old NES Zapper or any generic zappers for their games. Along came Konami who introduced a zapper with a unique spin to it: the “Konami Laser Scope”.

The Laser Scope is essentially a headset with an attachable targeting scope that faces the screen. The Laser Scope was made for playing zapping games, but Konami made a game named “Laser Invasion” that was made exclusively for the device. What separates the Laser Scope from the NES Zapper is that shooting is done entirely by voice. The player uses the targeting scope on the screen and shouts “fire!” into the headset’s microphone to shoot at the enemies on the screen. The headset also allows the player to switch the sound from the TV’s speakers to the headset’s speakers.

The Laser Scope did work, but maybe it worked a little too well. Not only did your own voice work on it, but any background noise could pull the trigger as well, leading to continuous firing even if you don’t want it. What’s funny is that it was advertised to have noise cancelling technology that allows others in the same room to not hear what the player is hearing. I’m not sure if that was intentional misleading advertising or not, but they should know that others can hear shouts of “fire!” or anything really when they’re in the same room as the player.

Overall, with the negative reception that the device got, Konami can’t talk their way out of this tough situation.

Before we have the Rumble Pack and the Dualshock controller, there was one experimental predecessor to the experimentation with vibrating technology: The Aura Interactor. The Interactor was advertised to be a step into the world of virtual reality that was meant to enhance a gamer’s gaming experience.

The Aura Interactor is essentially a subwoofer vest that the player can wear on his/her back. The Interactor works for both the SNES and the Genesis by plugging the power supply into the back of either system through an adapter. The Interactor works by picking up the audio from the games when it is in use, and the “power” and “filter” of the audio can be adjusted. The power setting adjusts the intensity of the audio, and the filter setting adjusts the filtering of background noises. The Interactor can also be adjusted to pick up either game or music audio. Once playing the game the Interactor plays the audio through the subwoofer on the player’s back and the vibrator will vibrate accordingly to the settings.

If you think that this bulky thing looks weird at first, wait until you try it on. Before you begin, the power and the filter adjustments must not be too higher or too low. Having the power on max will be a vibration suicide, and turning the filter too high takes away the game’s music. Trial and error is pretty much needed for adjusting the settings. The subwoofer isn’t that good in the first place and you’ll just hear a distorted mess coming from the speakers. The Interactor also heats up rather quickly and you’ll soon find yourself in a muddle of your own back sweat. The thing was also priced at $160 so you might as well save up and buy a massage chair.

Well, the thing probably wasn’t good for games, but it works for anything that has an audio connection. Maybe it would be better off for music than games.

LJN was a toy and game publishing company that had published NES titles during the 8 bit era. The company was known for publishing NES titles that were largely panned by critics. What they were best known for, however, was for being the creator of the “Roll N Rocker” peripheral for the NES.

The Roll N Rocker is a peripheral that allows the player to use his/her weight as the D-Pad on a regular controller. The device allows the player to stand on it and rotate the board by shifting his/her weight, and in turn translates the movements into directional inputs. The player will still need to attach the regular NES controller, however, for all other inputs.

The device is actually surprisingly compatible with most games. The catch is that using it to play games with is a challenge onto itself because of how easy you can lose control and even fall off of the board. Hell, using it at all looks awkward. The best part is that it can only support up to 100 pounds. That makes this device suitable for a pet or a toddler, but you’re out of the question.

The Roll N Rocker never caught on, but you could consider it a primitive ancestor to the Wii Balance Board.

The U-Force commercial showed the person steering a race car using his hands as the steering wheel, firing missiles out of a jet by shaking his fists, and punching the air to box a virtual opponent, all in front of a simple two paneled device. With the U-Force power field, nothing comes between you and the game. Well, so did the commercial said anyway.

The U-Force is a compactible peripheral that translates the user’s hand movements into controller inputs by the means of two attached infrared panels. The default position is the upright position (which looks like a game of Battleships), and there’s the second option of putting the U-Force in a flat position as well. The U-Force also comes with an attachable T-Bar by default that allows a different mode of control. To play a game the user must first adjust the switches to the correct configuration for the compatible games. The user then moves his/her hands over the panels with different movements to simulate different controller inputs for the games. Some games use the flat position to play while others use the upright position.
Nothing comes between you and the game…except trying to get the U-Force working properly.

Trying to get even the basic controls right takes some time for trial and error experimenting without the manual. Figuring out which panel controls what, what each hand movement can do, and how to play it properly is a challenge onto itself. Generally speaking, the U-Force is hard to use and responsive most of the time, but some games works better than others. But overall, you’re better off with a regular controller.

To be quite honest, I thought that the U-Force was one of the more decent items on the list. It was rather infamous for being difficult to learn, but I feel like nowadays it became an interesting novelty item.

Nintendo capitalized on the idea of providing kids with the robotic companions that they have always dreamed of by introducing the “Robotic Operating Buddy” or “R.O.B” as an added accessory for the NES. The company hoped that it would be seen as something innovative to promote consumer interest after the video game crash of 1983. The R.O.B, however, wasn’t as successful as they thought that it would be.

The R.O.B was an accessory designed to work on only the “Robot series” games, “GyroMite” and “Stack Up”. For Gyromite, the R.O.B helps the in game character named “the professor” finish each level by moving the included Gyro accessories from one location to another to translate into moving trap doors in the game. For Stack Up, the game comes included with separate colorful blocks. The player inputs the correct sequence of colors in the game, and then the R.O.B can arrange the appropriate blocks in order in any of the five pedestals around the accessory. So, what was so wrong about this interesting accessory?

The R.O.B may be interesting at first before you encounter its glaring problems. First off, I already stated that it only works for TWO games, so it is a costly accessory that has very limited use. Second, the R.O.B doesn’t even work well for the games that it the accessory is used for. In Gyromite, it takes a very long time for the R.O.B to move one gyro from one location to another to translate into moving a trap door in game. You are better off moving those gyros yourself for faster results. In Stack up, the R.O.B sometimes could knock over the blocks that you intend to stack. The game itself isn’t very interesting, either.

The R.O.B only saw a limited lifespan, but that didn’t stop Nintendo from having the R.O.B act as a cameo character for future games. Personally, I thought that the R.O.B was one of the more interesting video game relics from the 90’s. Today it would be neat to have it at least as a novelty item.

The “Sega Activator” is a set of seven panels and a master panel that connect together to form an octagonal ring around the player. The octagon simulates a controller with each panel representing a controller button. The panels give off an invisible infrared beam, and the player can simulate pressing buttons on a controller by using his/her limbs to interrupt the beams. It was basically a motion sensing game peripheral using your whole body as a controller, an idea that sounded neat on paper but was a failure in practice.

First off, buying the Activator is going to set you back $80. Once you have it, you’ll have to set up each of the panels in an exact order as well as checking to make sure that nothing in the room can interfere with the infrared light. Got it set up? Now wait 20 seconds to calibrate the Activator every single time you turn on the Genesis or switch the game. When you finally get to play the games, you are really limited to a select few games that actually work with it. The Activator seemed to cater mostly to fighting game players with the allure of being able to use actual punches and kicks to fight instead of pressing buttons. But pulling off fighting game combos with the Activator is more complicated makes you look more like an out of control helicopter rather than a competent player. Plus, the controls doesn’t always work, so all that silly movement you have made would’ve been for naught.

The combination of the high pricing, complicated and restrictive usage of the Activator contributed to Sega’s decision of quietly discontinue it after only a lifespan of a several months. It went down in history as one of the most well-known weird ancestors to today’s motion control peripherals.

The 1989 movie “The Wizard” was famous for having numerous references to Nintendo games and accessories, but notably its inclusion of the “Power Glove”. In the film, the Power Glove was put in the spotlight as an awe-inspiring gaming peripheral that allowed its user to wield considerable gaming prowess in his/her hands. Its awesomeness was even sealed with the famous phrase from the character Lucas Barton: “I love the Power Glove, it’s so bad”. But unlike how the movie portrayed the Power Glove, the real thing was an infamous video game peripheral.

The Power Glove is a motion sensor controller that you use your whole hand to control with. You must do two things before you can start playing: set up the sensors for your Power Glove on your T.V, and then program the Power Glove to suit the game being played by inputting its code on the number pad. The Power Glove uses different movements of your hand to translate into command inputs into the game by detecting the yaw and roll of your hand. The peripheral also has the traditional NES controller scheme on the forearm as well.

When you first open the manual you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll need to know to get it to work. Each game comes with its own set of movements and codes that you’ll be hard pressed trying to remember them all. Even then the Power Glove typically doesn’t work well enough for most games to justify using it compared to the regular controller. There were only two games that it was specifically designed for, but those can be played with the regular controller. Plus, having to reprogram the glove every time that you want to play another game and also having to re-adjust those sensors because they go out of sync gets on your nerves. For controller purposes, you are much better off sticking with the original controller. You’ll also save yourself from arm strain from extended use of the Power Glove.

The Power Glove is complicated, can’t be used to play games properly, and it can’t even give you incredible feats of strength like the Power Glove from the Zelda series. Despite its negative reception and poor sales, the Power Glove was loved because of how bad it was.

Thank you for reading my Top Ten.

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Honorable Mentions:

The Wii Car Adapter for the Wii
The Nintendo Power Pad for the NES
Nyko Hip Clip for the Game Boy Color
The Champion Video Game Gloves
The Controller Gloves for the Nintendo 64
Wii Sports specific sport attachments for the Wii

Never released by still considered:

ASG's Video Jukebox for the Sega Mega Drive
The Atari Mindlink for the Atari 2600

List by highwind07 (02/11/2014)

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