Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Underused features of the Nintendo DS

A pseudo-sequel to last year's Underused features of the Wii

The Nintendo DS is chock-full of features, but some of them go relatively unnoticed by developers. Here are three such features which I feel deserve far more attention.

The first underused feature I'll be mentioning goes by a few names. Slot 2, GBA slot, and expansion slot are its three most common titles. I prefer to call it "untapped potential". To date, only six official peripherals have been released for this slot: The Rumble Pak, the Face Training Camera, the Guitar Hero: On Tour controller, the Arkanoid paddle, the Slide Adventure Mag Kid controller and the memory expansion needed for the Opera web browser, all but one of which only works with a single piece of software. But so much more could be done here! Imagine some sort of motion controller, or an analog controller add-on. Maybe even an expansion similar to the Nintendo 64's Memory Expansion Pak, enabling more complex DS games to be made.

I can't think of any good reason why anything truly great hasn't been officially released for Slot 2. The potential in that tiny little port is quite amazing, really, and it's a shame to see it go underused.

It's also disappointing to see so little proper use being made of the microphone. And by proper, I don't mean blowing into your DS to put out a candle or anything. No, I mean vocal input. The first DS game to make good use of this potential-packed feature was Nintendogs, and since then very few games have come close to matching the pet simulator's voice-command technology. I would have loved to yell "Pikachu, use Thunderbolt!" in Pokémon Diamond, but no, that just couldn't happen. Of course, I'd probably only do it once, get bored and go back to standard input, but hey, it's the principle of the thing! At least I can still yell "OBJECTION!" in my Ace Attorney games. Thanks for that, Capcom!

Of course, the other huge part of the Nintendo DS' vocal input technology is online voice chat. Sadly, I can only think of two games that use this: Pokémon Diamond/Pearl and Metroid Prime: Hunters. Come on, people! It's built right into the DS, how hard can it be to implement?

The final underused feature I'll be mentioning today is somewhat of a minor one compared to the two listed above: Closing the DS to affect gameplay. As far as I can tell, this first became a form of input in Trace Memory (Another Code outside of North America), used once about halfway through the game. The only other example that comes to mind is closing the lid on a pot in Konami's Lost In Blue, released back in 2005. Since then, I don't think a single game has taken advantage of this unique feature. Why not? This unconventional input can add loads of immersion to a game! A few WarioWare-like uses I can think of are closing the screen to crush bugs, to go to the next page in a newspaper (Open and close), and perhaps even to press a leaf into a book. Sure, these are all sort of gimmicky, but mixed with the right environment, they'd easily be a whole lot of fun.

So, there you have it. Three underused features of the DS just begging to be utilized. Come on, developers, work these into your games! I know it can be done!

Can you think of any other features of the DS that need to be used more? Feel free to speak your mind in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.


Mohammed said...

I had no idea that closing the DS shut resulted in gameplay changes. That's a really neat trick.

Anyways, one thing that should be utilized in more games is a real time clock. There aren't very many games besides Animal Crossing that use this sort of feature and it would be cool to have some sort of day and night changes. Hell, Lunar Knights could have used it.

Jon said...

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 used it at the beginning of the game and so did Phantom Hourglass to copy the map I think at the beginning. It definitely should be used more often for puzzles.

I also agree with the GBA slot. They could at least release the rumble pack for the DS lite in North America. I have a couple of games that have the option to turn it on and I'd love to know how it was integrated.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what else could be used for closing the DS, what's good about it is that it can add another form of control, maybe you've other stuff mapped to all the other buttons, but you still have one more thing you want to add, control?
Close the DS.
The problem though, is that it might not be a very comfortable way of control, and some paranoid players might think that they'll outright break the DS if they do it too much.
I would like to be playing a fighting game and grapple an enemy by closing the DS though.