Nintendo 64 Analog Stick
The analog stick for the Nintendo 64 was designed because an analog stick would allow for better control for 3D gaming than a D-Pad. Unlike other accessories this wiki covers, the analog stick is part of every controller and was necessary for nearly every game in the Nintendo 64 library.
Before we talk about why the analog stick sucks, we need to discuss the layout of the analog box.
Inside the box are the stick itself, a circuit board with optical sensors that connects the box to the rest of the controller, two plastic bow pieces with a gear bit (one bow is slightly larger than the other and is meant to reach the bowl), a spring, a plastic ring, a bowl, and two slotted disks with gears on them.
The bow pieces engage with a knob on the base of the thumbstick while the spring and ring give the stick elevation and stability. As a gamer moves the analog stick, the bow pieces move inside the bowl, moving the slotted disks. The optical sensors point though the disks, and data about when the sensor is obstructed or not obstructed is interpreted as motion (this system, called an "incremental rotary encoder," was used to read the motion of the ball in old opto-mechanical computer mice). This setup means the stick is not technically analog, since the number of possible settings is limited by the number of slots in the disk, but since there are about 160 steps on each axis the difference between this digital system and "true" analog control is minimal.
The issues that follow are unique to the N64 stick because almost all other analog sticks use potentiometers to read the stick position instead of optical sensors.
Why It Sucks
- Over time, friction from the bow pieces causes the bowl to erode away, leaving behind plastic powder. The bow pieces themselves also erode away creating more powder. This causes two effects:
- The depression in the bowl will cause the analog stick to slip further into the box, increasing the size of the "dead zone" where the stick can be moved without any response from the system, and make the stick uncomfortable to use and less responsive.
- The powder from the bowl will get into the holes and clog up the lens, causing the stick to fail to register movement at all.
- The stick itself was very uncomfortable with its firm and small surface. Due to the first Mario Party game, many gamers got injured using the analog stick with their palms.
- The analog stick isn't pointless since you do need it in order to function.
- You won't get an injury from the analog stick as long as you don't place your palms on the stick.
Because friction causes the bow and plastic bows to erode, a good method of preventing erosion is to take some oil, preferably white lithium, and coat the bowl and larger bow piece with oil and put it back together. This very greatly reduces friction and should keep a good analog stick from going bad.
Alternatively, you can completely replace the analog stick piece with a spare GameCube controller analog. The GameCube analog fits into the controller and works normally. Aftermarket replacement sticks are also available, including some very durable models with metal internal parts.