Tuesday, February 24, 2009

DSi dumps Rumble Pak support: Nobody notices or cares

This is basically a big pile of rambling. You have been warned.


I remember that the big thing people complained about when the DSi was revealed was the lack of a GBA slot (Well, that and the crappy cameras, but that's another story). However, I never heard a peep on the subject of the now obsolete Rumble Pak. As I ate dinner at the local burger joint a few nights ago, I sat and thought "Well, why didn't they just build one into the DSi? Hmm, I should write that up!" So I got home, walked halfway to my bedroom and thought "Wait, why bother putting rumble in the DSi? In fact, what good has rumble ever done for a portable system?" I had a very good question in need of answering.

Made popular on the Nintendo 64 by Star Fox 64, rumble offered a new level of immersion to any game. You can see it on your TV, hear it through the speakers, and now feel it through the rumble. Hell, throw in the ability to smell and taste and you've got all the senses covered! Just... Turn those features off when playing in any sewer levels.

When it gets taken down to the handhelds, though... It's as if some of the magic is taken away. Maybe it's the smaller screen, maybe it's the inferior graphics, maybe it's the decreased punch delivered by the tiny rumble pak, or maybe it's just the fact that the screen and controller are on the same piece of plastic. Whatever it is, something's just different and, well, wrong, in an impossible-to-define way. It just doesn't deliver the same amount of immersion.

In the past I was fascinated by rumble in handhelds, but looking back I can't really see why. Perhaps it's because I never had the opportunity to hold that legendary Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak in my hands. Perhaps it's because, up until 2003 or so, I'd never played a single console game with rumble implemented. I was a little late to the console rumble party, it would seem. Before I got my hands on a DualShock 2, handhelds were the only places where I'd experienced rumble, and even then my only exposure to it was in the form of Pokémon Pinball. I was fascinated by the way my entire Game Boy Color would shake as the ball bounced all over the table. Looking back, though, it was more of a tiny little addition hardly worth the AAA battery needed to power it. The only reason I enjoyed it was the novelty of the idea, the fact that I had the power of rumble in my little Game Boy Color. If I were to dig out my old copy of Pokémon Pinball today and play it, I wouldn't even care about the rumble. Heck, if the AAA battery in there is dead, I wouldn't even bother replacing it, except perhaps for old time's sake.

Oh, the memories...

Thinking back, the only use of rumble in a handheld game that stood out to me even in the slightest was in Star Fox Command. Instead of just rumbling, the Rumble Pak also shook in such a way as to create sound effects syncing up with the action in game. When charging a blast and firing, the rumble would slowly ramp up in intensity and volume, then let out a loud "VRRRUMP!" as the blast is fired. Not even console games have managed to use rumble in such a way, meaning this is the only time in all of gaming history in which handheld rumble has been superior to that of a console. Other than this, though, rumble has really done nothing for the handheld industry besides drain batteries.

What really gets me, though, is the fact that I've never heard a single person share these thoughts. Am I needlessly bitter? Are people just saying so without me hearing? Do people just think so little of rumble in handhelds that they don't even bother talking about it? Or am I just missing the point altogether? Well, it's time to find out with this simple question: What do you guys think? Has rumble in a handheld game ever been that great? Let me know in the comment section or this forum thread, and together we shall find out!

3 comments:

Rawful said...

Hmmm....
I've never used rumble on a handheld system... I should get that rumble pak for my DS Phat! :D

SpinachPuffs said...

I got a DS Rumble Pak with Metroid Prime Pinball, but I've never really liked it. In fact, the only game where it felt particularly "right" was TrackMania DS, where that nasty whirring sound kinda fitted the collisions...

malkien said...

what you are really saying is that there IS a case for Rumble Paks on handhelds... if they're done right.