Friday, January 15, 2010

Nintendo DS Lite joystick mod

Maybe I'll go and claim that world's first DS Lite joystick mod, but... I think I just did. Anyways, What we have here is a mod I worked on for the same amount of time I did for my 4 speaker DS mod, and just like that as well this one is perfected. Best of all: the joystick is removable, for hot swappable lid closing portability! More on this mod here.

Q: Ok, million dollar question here. How do you do this mod?
A: If I answer, I get a million? Or are you charging me a million to answer that? I know the economy is tough these days, but gee... Well, I'll try to do this step by step.
What we'll need:
-A DS Lite. I don't have a DSi so I wouldn't suggest that right now.
-A joystick addon from the Pelican GBA SP Starter pack. I'm not sure of anything similar to this...
-A tri-screwdriver. Or is it called Tri-wing screwdriver? You know, the special kind that can unscrew Nintendo stuff. Believe it or not, I modified a flat tip to fit in 2 of the 3 slots of the Nintendo Screw, that when effort is used to turn the screw, it will turn as well as long as the flat tip of your screw driver fits well enough in the 2 of 3 slots of the screw.
-A small screwdriver. Philips or flat or cross shaped is fine, as long as it's a small kind.
-A guide to actually know how to open the DS lite. Searching online "DS lite disassembly guide" brought some nice results, try it out and see which one serves you best.
-Another DS to transfer any WiFi or other setting you may not want to lose. Removing the battery for an extended period of time will *synthesizes Sidious voice* wipe out your data. All of them.
-A soda can, or strong plastic. Or, if you have something comparable that is tough yet easy to cut/carve/slice and dice.
-One really strong, tough super glue. Or something to attach metal onto plastic, like a soldering kit maybe.
-Something similar to the width of the screw that is holding the Pelican Joystick together to it's base. I carved ABS plastic from a Gundam Model Kit parts tree and shoved it up the joystick's hole, eventually that failed so I took a small metal rod from an old bluetooth headset I had in a tech graveyard. Sounds cruel, but it's to ensure that the joystick will not fall out during gameplay and to also be able to remove the joystick when we want to close our DS (put it on standby).
-An exacto knife. Or a clone of one, as long as it's sharp and as long as it has cut you before a few times earlier in your life >_>

Some notes when fondling the innards of your DS Lite:
-Be careful of the L and R buttons. If you just aimlessly pull them out, the metal rod holding them might slip free and the spring might fly off into space.
-I start to split open the DS by starting at the D-pad side of the DS, seperate the bottom from the top starting there and it's all a matter of gazing at the circuit board underneath.

1. As you read earlier, I used the joystick addon for the GBA SP that came in the Pelican GBA SP starter kit. It looks a little something like this below: (note: It's not a GBA game case. At least when you buy it, it holds the 5 or 6 different joystick addons which unfortunately I can't show here as of now due to unforeseen circumstances [read: stowed away somewhere I don't remember where]. I ripped out the styrofoam inside and found out my GBA games can fit in there, 4 in all. Talk about Pelican pulling a fast one on us...)

Nice end to the Battle Network series, that Gregar/Falzer one...

2. When you remove the joystick+A+B button addon from the clear plastic case, turn it over (upside down) and you'll see a screw underneath the joystick. Unscrew that and you'll have two pieces, the stick and the D-pad'ish thing as seen in the first picture of this blog post. A spring will be there as well, but it's big, springless and worthless in my opinion. Remember that we will now be treating this joystick as two parts now, 1) the stick part, and 2) the cross shaped D-pad.

The joystick and the d-pad

3. The part where you'll need to have patient hands and also the part where you'll read my disclaimer: Warning. Opening your DS will void your warranty. Maybe. I didn't see that classic "removing this seal will void your warranty" sticker anywhere... But yeah, I'm not responsible for anything that may happen to you or your DS lite, ie sudden loss of battery life after applying joystick mod, an accidentally cut wire, sleepless nights from extended play, etc. Do this mod at your own discretion and at your own budget and at your own free will and in a sane and reasonable manner. Pelican is also not responsible for the mutilation you will be doing to it's joystick addon. Please mod responsibly. Thank you. Proceed.

3.5 (Please consult online documentation on disassembly of the DS lite. Be sure to heed the warnings.)

4. Once you've got your DS opened, remove the only screw that is visible and hold the circuit board together with the case. with your DS slightly opened (that is, open it like your going to play), push the touchscreen inwards (towards its internals) and the circuit board ought to go along with it. Remove the rubbery substance covering the D-pad and remove the D-pad itself and grope it to your hearts content, because it may be the last time you will get to do so.

5. If you've got that soda can, or something similar with a tough easy to cut metal/plastic, cut out a round circular CD-rom disc like thing out of the soda can/metal substance. Using the DS lite D-pad you just removed, use the quarter-like shapes underneath the DS lite D-pad to compare the size to your mini disc'ish thing. Don't worry if you don't understand, it'll all come to you when you see the underside of that D-pad. Once you've carved it into the likeness of the circle beneath the D-pad (from a top view of the D-pad it looks like there's a circle underneath), grab that Pelican cross shaped D-pad and grab some glue. An example of how the mini disc should look on the cross shaped pad below:

Tubular dude...

6. Reason for us cutting that mini disc thing out of the soda can, is because the Pelican Joystick does not have this underneath the cross shaped part. So what we'll do is glue this tough, circular object onto the base of the cross shaped d-pad, and make sure your glue is a good one, because this joystick is gonna abuse it. Be sure to use the DS lite D-pad as a reference on where to apply the mini disc onto the cross shaped pad of the joystick. Or weld this thing if glue isnt your style. Not sure how welding metal onto plastic will work...

7. Once all the glue is done in let the part dry. This next part will be a bit tricky, but if you have an easier way of doing this, it would either be to not do it or glue the stick onto your d-pad permanently. Not fun for closing your DS.

8. You'll recall we unscrewed a screw from the Pelican Joystick. This screw actually helps in holding the whole joystick together so you won't experience a dead stick some time in the close future. But wait! Do we have to put this screw back in once we shove this joystick into the DS? No! That's why we'll make a makeshift "plug" that we will be inserting into the stick part to compensate for the lack of a screw. The reason for us sticking this "plug" into the stick part and not the cross shaped D-pad is so that when we want to close our DS, we simply pull the stick part and with it the plug, leaving the cross shaped D-pad in the DS lite fitting nice enough to be closed on. So, using your exacto knife or clone of it, find a little plastic pole or similar and carve it so that on side will fit tightly into the stick part, and the other side will go into the hole of the cross shaped D-pad. Rememeber not to make that side too long, as it just won't fit. Also remember that the part that goes into the cross shaped d-pad must have a rounded tip, similar to the DS lite d-pad. Or, if model kit hobbies aren't your thing, just find a metal rod that can fit in the joystick part and have a rubber tubing as shown to hold that in place (and eventually compensate for the lack of a rounded tip)

That's the metal piece in place.

9. Once that plug is in the stick part, try connecting the stick part to the cross shaped D-pad. If the "plug" is sticking out through the hole in the cross shaped D-pad, you are good to go! As long as your super gluey thing applied to the cross shaped D-pad part was the fast drying type. Make sure that it is sticking out from beneath the cross shaped d-pad, and easier way to tell is compare your new joystick with the old DS lite d-pad.

10. Make sure that you only insert the cross shaped D-pad by itself onto the DS lite, not with the stick part as well, since it's easier to re-assemble the DS when the lid is closed.

11. So, re-assemble your DS. Remember to be careful and to consult the online documentation for disassembly (I'm sure they include re-assembly too...)

12. Once the screws are back on, battery in place and battery cover not lost as easily as the old first production model GBA battery cover, stick your stick part onto the cross shaped D-pad and oogle at your new joystick-on-a-DS mod! Except when we turn on the DS we need to re-configure it...

13. Once your DS has been reconfigured, shove a game into the Slot-1 and enjoy some joysticky action! (Shove the game in when the system is off, obviously >_>)

14. This tutorial was done in less that 15 steps!

15. Oh no! we've reached the 15th step. I forgot to add "Show this off to friends and co-workers and brag about how cool it is and how easy it is to play with".

16. Ok, no more steps. We're really done!

Enjoy and hope you didn't mind my very walls of texty explanation on making your own joystick mod for the DS Lite. This mod definitely stands among my other successful usable mods, which was a HP iPAQ hx2415 Gaming D-pad adjustment (it's a business PDA mind you, the default D-Pad sucked for gaming), and a Palm Tungsten E2 Battery transplanted to an even older HP iPAQ rz1715, which granted the iPAQ more juice (long since retired though).

If this post looks odd with a lot less pictures than you thought there'd be, that's because I didn't put much effort into this post due to tiredness. I thought I'd get this out of the way so +1 for nothing else to do when your dead tired.

More on the DS Lite Joystick mod

I may have started the new year blog posts in an odd way with my DS 4 speaker mod, but being healthy yet again makes me invigorated to make proper posts like this one.

What we have here is something that's been on my mind for awhile now, as we all know how thin the Nintendo DS lite is when it is opened, I'll say the base is about as thick as two Compact Flash cards stacked on top of each other. That makes holding the DS Lite a bit tiring playing for longer than 20 minutes.

So the solution to my DS gripless problem was this odd joystick that came in a Pelican GBA SP starter pack I got a few clicks back er few years back. What was odd that when attached to the GBA SP, it's a rather tight fit and a few skipped hearbeats removing it from it's crabby grasp on the GBA SP. And you can't close the GBA SP with this thing on, so the idea of it being hard to remove wasn't a really good one there.

With my GBA SP nothing but a museum piece now, I do all my gaming on the DS and GBA games go on there without a second thought. That's when I said good riddance to the Pelican joystick and shoved that onto my DS, which we have the outcome below:

That looks like a N64 joystick would fit there...

As you can see from the pictures it fits perfectly where the original DS lite D-pad used to be. It's slightly smaller than the original DS lite D-pad, but it's the joystick on top of that that matters most.

Let's do this in an interview style:

Q: So what is the purpose of having this joystick on there?
A: Well, think about a D-Pad. You press on it, right? D-pad's aren't like the analog stick on the PSP where you slide that thing around, d-pad's are digital where you press up, down, left and right. Of course some old d-pads weren't capable of the 8 way style of today, but the mod I did brings a little taste of a joystick in the form of how it works. D-pads are pressable, right? With my mod, you just tilt the stick, or in some cases push it. NO pressing. No sweaty thumb slipping off costing you that extra point online on Nintendo WiFi.

Q: Has your gaming improved?
A: Yes it has. I get effortless kills on Metroid Prime Hunters using Kanden's Volt gun from a distance from one end of Combat Hall to the other end shooting at Elite class CPU bots (multi-card play option) while juking left and right avoiding their shots. Try rapidly tapping the L Button like that while moving left and right rapidly with the d-pad, it was hella tiring, with two fingers burning out faster than with one only.

Q: So now the index finger on your left hand hurts more?
A: Yes. Being able to transfer the D-pad strength to the index finger using the joystick, that means more presses for the L button. And more pain in the joints.

Q: So why is it on your White DS Lite and not your Japanese Ice blue DS Lite?
A: Because my import is more precious than the North American one. You know how much it cost me to import that? I wasn't about to bust open a Japanese import, first production run just like that, not to mention it has a 4 year old, scratchless screen protector(from my DS Fat) that endured early abuse like Wario Ware Touched and the Feel the Rub Rabbit series of games. No, instead I opted to test this joystick on my White DS lite, because not only was it an impulse buy, it was yet another first production run that had the faulty touchscreen calibration. Early adopters might know what I'm talking about, if you have Goldeneye Rogue Agent, that game would have the top screen shaking erratically randomly. I know it's not my cartridge because if it is I'll sue EA, because, well, I hate EA for being a big company and releasing crappy games like Rogue Agent. Note I did check reviews online before buying, it's just that DS releases were slow that time of the year and waiting for Advance Wars Dual Strike wasn't fun, so off I went to the store, the wonderful store of all... By the way, I sort have fixed the touchscreen problem by adding a weird, anti glossy, slightly thick low grade screen protector. The Goldeneye shutterbug happens less, but still happens. Talk about messed up...

Q: Does the joystick come off during gameplay?
A: No, thanks to some modding I did to compensate for the lack of a screw that originally held the joystick together. A rubberized tubing for the joystick part made it more difficult to pull off.

Q: What if you want to standby in a flash?
A: Well, if you've gotta do a piss-break (honestly, who hasn't done that at least once in their online FPS gaming life?), simply put a magnet on top of the ABYX buttons. No seriously, it'll work, it has to be in the center but if you have a large magnet it'll work even when on top of the ABYX buttons. Or you can use a busted headphone speaker, similar to an example in the latter photo below (in this case, I used a speaker from an Palm E2). Face the speaker face down (face the side where sound comes out face down) and if it is the slightly magnetic type it will put the DS on standby. While it is open. Or just pull the joystick and close your DS. Your call.

Note the off screens and the standby light on.

Q: How do you close the DS? Is the joystick removable?
A: Amazingly enough, it is. As you can see in the following pictures, a special plug was made from Gundam Model Kit parts trees and shoved into where the Pelican screw used to be. In this way, if you want to close your DS and pocket it, simply pull the joystick upward and it'll pop right out. When closed, the DS lite has a slight opening as you can see in the latter images. It can still be closed shut, it just stays like that if you don't fit it into something like a jeans pocket or tight slip case.

Note the right side of the DS and compare to the left.

That is a direct frontal view, note how much the joystick part sticks out.

Q: Any pros/cons?
A: While I think you know very well what the Pros would be, the only Con I can think of is that it is a bit loud, but that could be 2 factors, 1) My White DS lite is known for that (my Ice Blue DS lite is quiet due to extended use), or 2) It could be because the joystick cross shaped D-pad is a bit smaller than the original DS lite D-pad. It's the rubber pads that are making the noise, so it could be just my DS lite. Note: ADRESSED THE NOISY JOYSTICK problem. It's as quiet as the old d-pad now. Another bad thing: I broke the power switch, which, unsurprisingly enough, is not uncommon for those with DS Lite's. But as always I fixed it, it's even better than the default none broken one.

Sure doesn't look like it used to...

Hey look, it's on!

Q: Are there other joystick parts besides that round thing with 4 arrows?
A: The Pelican GBA Starter Pack includes about 5 or 6, from what I remember it is: The one in my pictures, a ridiculously larger version of that, 1 that is similar to the analog stick on the PSP, and possibly a larger one of that, and an odd, taller version of the one in my pictures. Of course, anything that fits and is comfortable, like the one in the picture below, works. (It's this funky rubberized microphone cover I ripped out of an old telephone.)

Q: Will this work for the DS Phat (1st gen DS)?
A: No, partially because the DS Phat has the d-pad at such a thin size when viewed from the side, if you were to add anything the DS definitely will not close. That and I can't think of anything similar that is the size of the rather large DS Phat D-pad. That d-pad on there is huge, a lot fatter than you'd think...

Q: Why are you using Top Gun DS as an example, of all games?
A: Because that game has a special part in my video game buying history. Not only is the touch screen useless in the game (seriously, it's not a map), it is the only game that I bought after reading negative reviews. I checked weekly DS releases on Gamespot, saw Top Gun in the release list for that week, saw the review rating and read the review, laughing at how bad the reviewer said it to be (with a Good being the Top Gun theme playing in the menu screen). So I went out to the store, bought Top Gun DS, stuck it into my DS and what do you know, after doing the tutorial and all that, jumping into Free Play for the first time I was laughing at the "He's got a lock on me!" and that laughter instantly died down when I realized how bad the hit detection was, how the gun was pretty much as strong as rapid fire missiles, how easy it was to get shot down, and so on and so forth. Money well spent? Think about it! I own a rare piece of history! A game I knowingly knew was bad but went and bought it anyways just to have the sorry butt cartridge in my hands! XD

 Note the power switch left on the on position. No more accidental power-off's now! As if one could accidentally slide it off...

Q: How many DS's do you have?
A: 3, one grey/black DS Phat first production run, one imported Japanese Ice Blue DS lite first production run, and one North American White DS lite first production run. I must have fell in love with buying them when they were first produced, huh...

Q: So you like anime girls?
A: This is not the place to discuss that.

So, there we have it. Another successful post, another successful mod.