Tools of the Imagination — NES Power Glove

Power Glove

 The Holiest Of The Holy

Mattel, Nintendo Accessories Line, 1989

 

 

Okay, I know what you’re saying: ‘But Robert, the Power Glove isn’t exactly a toy.  It was a peripheral for the Nintendo Entertainment System’.  And I’ll respond by making three points.  One, I was looking for a non-Hasbro toy in my collection to review and this was about all I could come up with.  Two, I think it’s worth taking a look at this (extremely) early attempt to bridge the gap between electronic entertainment and tangible entertainment.  And third, the hell it ain’t a toy.

 

Background

When Thomas Goldsmith made the first video game was made back in 1947, he opened a door to an industry that would eventually come to the forefront of the entertainment and even artistic world.  But games have always been a unique fusion of technology, art, and entertainment.  And while they have been more often than not geared towards children and seen as children’s playthings, they have seen some ambitious attempts at some truly staggering technological milestones.

Our case in point today is the Nintendo Power Glove.  This was Nintendo’s first attempt at motion controls (roughly seventeen years before the Nintendo Wii would be released in 2006) as well as one of technology’s first attempt at recreating human movement within a video game realm.  While the Power Glove was a dubious work (more on that below), as a first attempt, you can’t deny its ambitiousness.

The Power Glove worked (in theory) in place of a regular controller.  You would plug the cord into the Nintendo and slip the glove on over your right hand (rumors persist to this day of left-handed Power Gloves but no substantial proof of their existence has been found… not that a great deal of effort’s gone into the search).  The glove could then be used to input controls using buttons on the forearm portion or using some of the most bizarre hand posturing this side of a using sign language while being struck with lightning.

 

Appearance – 5 out of 5

I’m going to come right and say this: the Power Glove looks badass.  That’s it.  There’s no two ways about it.  You can dress it up however you want, but at the end of the day, the thing looks frickin’ awesome.  End of story.

 

Construction – 4 out of 5

The 80s were not a great time to be a toy and video game peripherals were no different.  Many a game controller proved unable to endure the rigors and abuse of quality, hardcore gaming.  The Power Glove is not one of them.  This is a sturdy and well-made tool that has time and again endured decades of wear and tear.  The plastic is flexible and reliable and the whole product is actually quite comfortable to wear.

 

Movement – 1 out of 5

Enough praise.  Sure, the toy looks cool and feels comfortable.  But it doesn’t actually do all that much and what it does, it does poorly.  In this case, I’m using movement to meaning how well it performs its functions mechanically.  Not even whether or not doing ‘ABC’ translates appropriately onto the screen; just doing ‘ABC’.  And the truth is, no.  Attempting to perform the hand movements necessary to input commands into your Nintendo was an exercise in futility and that is at least in part due to the Power Glove’s terrible play design.

Breaking it down a bit, the problem comes mainly with the two sensor lights over the index and pinky fingers.  With the way the glove is designed, as well as just natural human kinetics, interacting with those sensors (which seemed to be the purpose of the controls) is pretty much impossible.

 

Extras – 2 out of 5

The Power Glove did come with a game: Super Glove Ball.  Do you remember playing?  No, of course you don’t.  Why?  For the obvious reason: it barely counted as a game.  You had more fun playing ping-pong against a wall.

 

Packaging – 3 out of 5

Nintendo accessories were packaged quite well and were the height of 80s commercialism.  They were stark, sleek gray-and-black-and-neon affairs that appealed to every child of the 80s.

 

 

Overall – 2 out of 5

Reviewing this toy was a bit unorthodox for me because I want to stick to toys and not delve into gaming.  The Power Glove, and its small circle of peers, is the bridge between those two worlds and is as close to reviewing video games as I’ll be getting on this site.

As a gaming peripheral, for all of the Power Gloves phenomenal reverence, it was terrible.  You couldn’t play a game with this thing.  Oh sure, you could CONTROL a game with it, but you weren’t going to be beating Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out with this thing… and certainly not by actually punching as indicated in the advertising.  That would have to wait for the Nintendo Wii.  But as a toy – a prop or costume accessory, really – this thing was so frickin’ cool.  More role-playing toys needed, and need, to be made with this level of quality.

So the ball’s in your court, Nintendo.  Give us the 2014 version of the Power Glove this Christmas.  Just for the love of god, make it awesome.

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Author: Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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