Nintendo's Virtual Boy was a system nobody believed would succeed - probably not even Nintendo itself. And it didn't. But, it was intended as a sort of 3D system so it represents Nintendo's first experiment at making a 3D controller.
The Virtual Boy was intended as a follow-up to the Game Boy, rather than a home console, so it's controller also follows the design of the Game Boy, which was based on the NES.
It's actually a bit like two NES controllers mixed together, end-to-end. Added to that are two shoulder buttons and large handles.
The combination of two directional pads plus shoulder buttons would allow the player to move in 3 dimensions, but it may have been designed with a more traditional preconception of virtual reality in mind... One control to move the player, and another to control the player's aim, or sight.
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