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.


  1. Phantom5:42 AM


    I was just passing by here after reading your faqs on ign...or was it gamefaq? nevermind

    I have to say, you write one of the best game walkthroughs i've seen in...well almost ever.
    they were entertaining in their own right

    and your blog is interesting too
    you seem to like to write a lot.

    also, nice joystick you have there.

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