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Switch Online’s N64 expansion won’t be complete without translucent controllers

When Nintendo announced that it was bringing classic Nintendo 64 games to Switch Online, I was ecstatic. Then it announced that the original controllers would return, too — and my joy soared even higher. Sure, I’ve tried to recreate boyhood Super Smash Bros. bouts in the modern Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and begged my MacBook not to catch fire while attempting to emulate The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but neither experience was the same without that wonky, one-of-a-kind N64 controller.

I don’t have the words, then, to describe how disappointed I was when I raced to the Nintendo website, only to find the plain, boring, hand-it-to-your-younger-sibling original gray controller. Excuse me? Nintendo, which first brought translucent hardware to the table with the Game Boy over 20 years ago, is bringing our favorite bad console back into the spotlight with a controller that’s … just gray? In my opinion, that’s a waste.

Nintendo’s translucent N64 controllers were cool. I thought so when I was 7-years-old and I still think so today. Nintendo referred to these controllers as its Funtastic line, while I called mine “see-through” or, simply “the purple one.” This controller was king in our household — you had better call dibs if you wanted a chance to use it. Even years into service, it was our most-used controller — waning joystick, jammed buttons and all. This was a “player one” controller, never to be held by whoever was in last place in Mario Party or took too long deciding what move to make in Pokémon Stadium.

In my eyes, if you weren’t playing with the atomic purple controller, what was the point?

A purple, translucent Nintendo 64 controller
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Wired staff writer Cecilia D’Anastasio beautifully described the lure of translucent hardware in a story earlier this year, which led with this description of the Game Boy Color, the first console to get the treatment in 1998:

“Behind its translucent, lilac-tinted, plastic shell, the console’s guts were all laid out to see — button actuators, conductive membranes, a metal-dotted green daughterboard, a haze of multicolored wires. Holding that Game Boy Color was like holding an X-ray: An assemblage of straight and curved lines, phalanges, and vertebrae — not everything, but enough to make you consider the space between knowable and unknowable, touchable and forbidden. When the screen lit up with little surfing Pikachu, you could observe all the unfathomables powering him. The shell felt permeable, almost porous; it seemed like an invitation to interactivity.”

I like to imagine that’s what I was trying to say as a child when I raced to snag this controller.

I only had purple, but we all know that this Nintendo line was pretty expansive, and included the colors jungle green, ice blue, grape purple, fire orange and a dark smoky black. It was undeniably awesome athat there was a color option for everyone.

Translucency may no longer be in style (apparently), but there are plenty of gamers chasing that look. Modders and amateurs diving into modding for the first time have been installing translucent cases on their Nintendo Switches for years. We still want to look inside our gaming gear!

Not including color options for the throwback N64 controllers is a miss for Nintendo, especially if they drop before the holidays. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Funtastic line will make a comeback down the road, whether it’s an announcement trailer followed by a nine-month wait or they just drop on a random Tuesday.

I’m still pumped for the release of N64 games on the Switch — running through Yoshi’s Story on a plane is going to be so fun — but I need that atomic purple to make this latest hit of Nintendo nostalgia absolutely perfect.

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Sam Hill
Sam Hill is a journalist and the gaming guides editor at Digital Trends. He's also written tech guides for Input and has…
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