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Joystiq presents

DS Daily: D-pad vs. stylus controls

Sometimes, a game offers us multiple control schemes. Either we can utilize the DS's unique touch-screen interface, or we can navigate the tried-and-true seas of the d-pad and the handheld's face buttons. While each game is different and we can't really generalize on which is a better control scheme overall, we do have our preferences, just as you must.

So, do you find yourself loving the idea of stylus controls, but often revert to d-pad-based solutions when confronted with the option? Or, do you think the precision of the touch-screen puts a skip in your step? Which do you prefer most of the time?

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Reader Comments (Page 2 of 3)


2-13-2008 @ 11:53AM

driven2sin said...

D-pad for everything.. even elite beat agents....


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Special Q22

2-13-2008 @ 11:58AM

Special Q said...

I assume you're primarily talking about the Advance Wars series, where I've gotta go with d-pad and face buttons, personally.


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David Hinkle23

2-13-2008 @ 11:25AM

David Hinkle said...

Nope, no specific games in mind.

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2-13-2008 @ 11:40AM

Joshua said...


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2-13-2008 @ 12:20PM

ethan42404 said...

I've got to say the stylus - to the point now where I'd consider buying one game over another because it offers stylus controls (take for instance Dungeon Explorer vs Mazes of Fate). And I find when I have to go back to using D-pad control, it annoys me (like Rune Factory).

And when I consider the fact that when the DS first came out I thought the whole touch screen rather gimicky - the irony is not lost on me.


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2-13-2008 @ 12:46PM

ken_sinn said...

given the option, i find myself using d-pad with exception of Picross DS, Planet Puzzle League, and Meteos.
i'm on the fence with geometry wars, both controls have their pros/cons.
but like other commenters have said, commuting-based DS-ing really pushes me to use the d-pad.


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2-13-2008 @ 1:44PM

Rachel said...

I use the stylus for most things, especially when my spouse is trying to fall asleep and would be bothered by the clickety-click of buttons in a game like Castlevania.

However, I do prefer the D-Pad for Tetris- and Arkanoid-style games, or whenever I'm on the subway and it's jostling too much for me to use the stylus accurately.


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2-13-2008 @ 1:56PM

Brello said...

I'll use whatever the game's designed for. If there's a choice, I'll probably go buttons unless the stylus is clearly superior (meteos, word jong.) Games like Super Mario 64 DS, forget about the styus. If they would have made it so the target does NOT move, it would be playable. As it stands, it's a joke, buttons all the way.


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2-13-2008 @ 3:19PM

manaman said...


I totally LOVE the stylus. I prefer it all the way. I love me a game like "Phantom Hourglass" where I can really control Link's movement. It's a joy, really. And more games need to make use of the stylus for movement in that way. I also would love to see a game (maybe it's out there and someone can point me to it) that uses the stylus for movement and then if you hold down the L button the stylus controls the camera. I think that would be an excellent control scheme that would work extremely well for a 3D platformer.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! If you read this, tell me if my DS lite is just a wonky one or if they all have a really difficult directional pad when it comes to diagonals. It's really hard to get angles without suddenly twitching to up, down, left or right.

Thanks all,



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2-13-2008 @ 7:24PM

Guzzie said...

Curious, have you played any of the other older 2D Zelda games? Only reason I ask is that everyone I know who has played the previous games agrees that D-Pad > Stylus. PH was the first Zelda game where I didn't really feel like I had control over link.

Try any of the Gameboy Zelda games and compare the control scheme with Phantom Hourglass.(Oracle games especially)

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2-14-2008 @ 12:30AM

manaman said...

Hey Guzzie,

Oh, boy, have I?! I grew up on the series from the very first game on my good ol' NES and it really is my favorite--tied with the "Seiken Densetsu" series. I've purchased every single release in the series to date except for GameCube/Wii games as I don't yet have a Wii and never did have a GameCube (I feel sad to admit I haven't played more than a few moments of "Wind Waker" and never have experienced "Twilight Princess"). Anyway, I think the controls in the series have always been solid. I still think "A Link to the Past" feels very solid and "Link's Awakening" has a definite responsiveness, but I think in some ways, the movement of Link in "Phantom Hourglass" feels a bit like "A Link to the Past" in terms of looseness and "Ocarina of Time" in terms of range of motion and it's just a wonderful blend, I think. I'm actually rather surprised that your friends would have preferred the directional pad in "Phantom Hourglass."



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2-13-2008 @ 4:32PM

derfman24 said...

i use the d-pad for animal crossing because the stylus is to hard to use


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2-13-2008 @ 5:14PM

Brittany said...

To me it depends on the game for sure - and even in the same game I'll prefer different ways at different times. Like when I'm selling my fruit to the slave driver Tom Nook I use the stylus because it's so much faster, but for the most part I use buttons.

And, now that I have a DS Lite, I must say that the D pad on the phat is much superior than the lite version.


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2-13-2008 @ 7:11PM

BlackDS said...

For me, the winner is definitely stylus controls. :)

I own a lot of games that ONLY use stylus controls, and they are among the best games on the Nintendo DS.

I use stylus controls on games like Zookeeper, Ouendan 2, Starfox Command, Touch Detective/Touch Detective 2 1/2, Phoenix Wright 1 & 2, Meteos: Disney Magic, Trace Memory, True Swing Golf, Clubhouse Games, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends & Metroid Prime Hunters. And I haven't even opened Mario Party, Elite Beat Agents or The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass yet. I also prefer using touch controls during battles on Pokemon Diamond/Pearl.

I definitely love stylus control games, and I NEED to find a seal copy of Kirby Canvas Curse sold by someone OTHER than Ebay or Amazon Marketplace. :(



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2-13-2008 @ 7:13PM

BlackDS said...

I forgot to include Brain Age & Brain Age 2 (Sudoku is a game right?).



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2-13-2008 @ 8:35PM

RootiePatootie said...

For me it depends on the game often. I tend to do a mixture since in some games some things are easier w/the stylus and some with the dpad. In Zelda though I found I immediately had NO problems using the stylus 100% and I LOVE it. I did, for the first time, get a bit annoyed with my big hand obscuring some of the screen this afternoon but that was a first. I hope they continue to at least give the player the option of using one or the other, as long as the stylus implementation is done well.


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2-14-2008 @ 8:11AM

Morose said...

I'm with Guzzie on Phantom Hourglass. as a fan of previous portable Zelda titles, i have plenty of experience navigating landscapes, throwing boomerangs, bopping moblins, and the like using a D-pad and buttons. The stylus gestures were strange, new, awkward, foreign movements for me, and i generally found it harder to play the game with my stylus-holding fingers obscuring a portion of the screen.

Games where I like the stylus include: Animal Crossing (for any sort of inventory-wrangling), Chibi-Robo Park Patrol (except for the cart vehicle - i'd rather steer with the d-pad), and Drawn to Life (for drawing)


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2-14-2008 @ 11:57PM

Deozaan said...

On Animal Crossing: Wild World I used the D-pad and buttons as much as possible. Probably because I was used to the Gamecube controls.

No other game I played really had decent stylus controls until Phantom Hourglass and Magical Starsign (which I actually played after Phantom Hourglass even though it came out in 2006). I love a game that finally makes good use of the stylus!

I think that typically most developers don't design the controls well enough to be forced with one or another, so it's often a good thing to have the option between D-Pad and stylus. However, having had a DS Phat for all these years, it can fatigue my wrist holding the DS with one hand and the stylus in the other.

I think the game really decides the best control method, but I'm getting more attached to stylus control now that I've played a few that do it really well.


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2-16-2008 @ 3:49AM

Ericj said...

Personally the concept of D-Pad vs Stylus doesn't really matter to me. The D-pad, the brilliant brain child of Gunpey Yokai, is perhaps the single greatest change of controls from the traditional joystick. Whereas the innovation of the touch screen is brilliant and revolutionary to Game interactivity. Over all I enjoy both options very much however if I had to choose, I would pick the configuration setup of the thumb-stylus of the original DS, the Ds Phat. The thumbstrap made everything simpler, with the availbility of changing onto the touch screen while still being able to use the D-Pad this allows both hands to still hold onto the DS (I broke my first Lite when i dropped it). Sadly I digress, to get to the issue at hand, I perfer the D-Pad over the Stylus.


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2-17-2008 @ 12:23AM

NickTwispx said...

This is ridiculous. The reason I got a DS was because of the stylus and the eccentric kinds of games developers would be required to make to implement touch-based controls. The stylus provides another dimension of control that you can't get on any other system and the best games always reassure me that the DS is the only system I will need because of that.

With that said, I really want an N64 or GC port of F-Zero and I would only play that with the D-Pad and buttons. So of course, it depends on the game.


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