As long as there have been games, there have been accessories and peripherals. Although some deserve to be forgotten, some didn’t receive the recognition or attention that they deserved.
Falling somewhere in-between these two categories, the DS Rumble Pak was a decent attempt by Nintendo to add forcefeed back to their popular handheld.
Originally bundled with Metroid Prime Pinball, the DS Rumble Pak is shaped just like a Gameboy Advance cartridge and is compatible with the original clamshell DS and the DS Lite. This accessory is designed to be inserted to the DS SLOT -2, aka, the GBA cartridge slot. Because the DSi and the DSiXL do not have a SLOT-2, this Rumble Pak had a natural limited use.
With a straightforward black cartridge and simple white label, the unit itself isn’t anything special to look at. Unfortunately, due to the thinner design of the DS Lite, the Rumble Pak, like all other GBA carts, would protrude from the rest of the unit instead of sitting flush. While the non-flush aspect isn’t that big of a deal, it could have been better designed from a physical stand point. Obviously if this Pak is inserted into the DS system, other SLOT-2 accessories like the Guitar Hero finger guitar or the DS Browser memory expansion, not to mention GBA games, cannot be used at the same time. Japan, however, did have access to a redesigned Rumble Pak via eWin that was a flush install with the DS Lite system and eventually became available in different colors. Unfortunately, this unit was never released outside of Japan.
The Rumble Pak was sold separately for a limited amount of time through a limited distribution for around $20. However, given that the Metroid name was directly associated with this accessory’s first introduction to the world, most users of this forgotten peripheral probably got it from Prime Pinball (which was a halfway decent game) instead of purchasing it separately. European gamers received this accessory with the purchase of Actionloop, also known as Magnetica to US gamers.
Unfortunately, the DS Rumble Pak wasn’t exactly the highest quality rumble feature in gaming. But given that this unit is so small in size and bundled free with a popular game it is hard to knock it too hard. However, instead of focusing on the rumble feature when playing compatible games the user could easily be distracted by the loud and annoying noise that it produces. Like a loud humming buzz, it almost sounds like the Rumble Pak is broken or is damaging the DS hardware; it does not sound very pleasurable. In fact, users might even need to bump up the volume of the game in order to sound out some of the Rumble Pak’s noise pollution. The actual rumble sensation is nowhere near the quality of the Dual Shock and seems to only come in one setting – powerful. Smaller shaking and rumbling doesn’t seem like an option with this DS Rumble Pak. But again, users will be distracted more by the noise than by the actual force feedback. The good news about this unit is that it doesn’t require its own battery source, like the N64’s need for two AAA batteries. I couldn’t tell if using this accessory depleted the DS battery life faster which is also a positive note; power use must be minimal. Also, it is very light and doesn’t add any extra weight when holding the system. The shape is also the same as a GBA cart so it can easily be stored in any DS game case via the GBA cartridge holder found on the inside of all DS game cases.
The other problem with this peripheral is the limited amount of games that supported it. Just like any other feature that developers implement into their games, the addition of Rumble Pak support would need to be coded and tested – which costs money and time. Many developers couldn’t justify the cost for an accessory that only DS Lite users could take advantage of.
Here is a list of some of the notable US released games that supported the DS Rumble Pak:
– Animal Boxing
– Bomberman 2
– Custom Robo Arena
– Diddy Kong Racing DS
– Elite Beat Agents
– Hotel Dusk: Room 215
– Iron Man
– Magnetica (also known as Actionloop in Europe)
– Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
– Metroid Prime Hunters
– Metroid Prime Pinball
– Space Invaders Extreme
– Space Invaders Extreme 2
– Star Fox Command
– Super Princess Peach
– Wario: Master of Disguise
Did the DS Rumble Pak add anything special to the games that supported it? Eh, not really. Force feedback controllers are just something that gamers take for granted as pretty much every game supports it. Games like Zelda: OoT for the N64 used the Rumble Pak in creative ways like it would start to shake when a secret was nearby and WarioWare Twisted, a GBA game with a built-in rumble feature, used shaking as a direct component of gameplay. The DS games that supported the Rumble Pak was simply activated with typical bumps and collision detection – the rumble feature was never a main element to gameplay. But given the unit’s less than stellar performance, non-Rumble Pak users didn’t miss out of much.
The DS Rumble Pak probably works best with the game it was originally bundled with: Metroid Prime Pinball. Why? Well, players can actually feel the shock of the bumpers and the tap of the ball as it bounces around like playing an actual pinball machine. The DS Rumble Pak recreates this arcade-like feeling as opposed to just letting you know when you are taking damage like in Metroid Prime Hunters or feeling the rumble of your engine in Diddy Kong Racing DS.
If you still have the opportunity to try the DS Rumble Pak with a compatible game, it is worth experiencing for yourself simply because it is a unique force feedback sensation. Instead of the precision bumps and vibrations we are used to from our PS3 and 360 controllers, the DS Rumble Pak feedback feels like you are holding an empty aluminum can with a fish flopping around inside; it really is something you need to experience for yourself.