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MS sees DS as "very viable" - Rare

Using it to find wider audience for Piñata.

Developers working on Rare's Viva Piñata game for DS have commented that Microsoft, which owns the UK studio, respects the handheld from rivals Nintendo.

"They see DS as a very viable platform," engineer Joe Humfrey told Eurogamer during a visit to the studio to play the game.

Since acquiring Rare in 2002, Microsoft has allowed Rare to maintain a handheld development team working on GBA and DS titles, although it has not published any of them itself. Rare has even made one game directly for Nintendo in that time - last year's Diddy Kong Racing DS.

However, in the case of the THQ-published Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise, Humfrey pointed out that it's in the software giant's own interest to have the game appear on the Nintendo machine.

"They put the Viva Piñata franchise on TV to reach a broad audience, they put it on PC to reach a different broad audience, and they're doing the same thing with the DS," he said. "They're trying to widen the audience of the franchise, basically."

Lead designer Gary Richards explained that this wouldn't be at the expense of dumbing down the game, however. "We wanted to tie it in with the TV series more, we thought that would be enough to get the younger audience into it. But we didn't want to lose any of the depth that Pinata had," he said.

The developers explained that their main headaches in bringing the 360 and PC game to the dual-screen portable was simply squeezing the amount of content - animations particularly - onto the cart, but the DS surprised them with its technical capacity.

"We were split into two camps, those who thought we could do it, and those who thought we couldn't do it," Humfrey said.

"But I don't think we ever got to the point where we had to start taking stuff out of the game," added Richards. "And the interface was never going to be an issue," he added, alluding to the ease of use of the DS' touch-screen controls for a game like Viva Piñata.

Asked if the Pocket Paradise team had swapped any ideas with the developers of 360 sequel Trouble In Paradise, Humfrey said that they hand't - but might as well have done.

"We had some of the same ideas to solve the issues with the first game, because we were almost developing independently at the same time," he said. "For example, they've got 'just for fun' mode, which pretty much parallels the playground mode that we have."

For more on Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise, head over to our hands-on preview.