We often wonder how much thought goes into button layouts. Not in terms of comfort, you understand, or suitability to the task at hand – that much is obvious. Rather, it’s about the message they can send.
When Bungie modelled Destiny’s control system not on that of its own Halo but on Call Of Duty’s, it felt instructive. This was a game designed to appeal to fans of the biggest-selling shooter on the market, that had designs on claiming that title as its own. It may not quite have worked, but it had nothing to do with which button you hit to reload. This month’s Play crop has us thinking once again about the hidden messages behind the humble button config.
Take, for instance, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (p104), the first of Link’s adventures to be set in a truly open world. Is it coincidence, then, that its control system shares an unusual mapping for jump – X, the uppermost face button – with another open-air classic, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? Knowing Nintendo, yes, it probably is, since the house of Mario has never given the impression that it cares too much about games made outside of its own hallowed walls. Yet these titles share so much common ground in general that a single button mapping feels almost like a tribute.
Buttons can also have the opposite effect. To put it politely, Team Ninja’s Nioh (p112) draws no little inspiration from
Dark Souls and Bloodborne. Yet it’s equally a game inspired by its studio’s own past, especially the thrilling action of Tomonobu Itagaki’s Ninja Gaiden games. It’s that series on which Nioh’s control system has been modelled. Light and heavy attacks are on the face buttons, not the shoulders, the game subtly telling you from the off this is no mere Souls ripoff. Unless you head into the menus and select Control Type B, that is. In that case, our argument rather falls apart.