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Rare Thinks Outside The [X]Box Again

Viva Pinata Former Nintendo developer turned Microsoft acquisition Rare has a long history of trying to make gaming hardware behave in ways other than intended.  Remember the mysterious Stop N Swop method that was supposed to link Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie?  How about the Perfect Dark face mapping option that made use of the Nintendo 64's Transfer Pak and Game Boy Camera?  What of the original gameplay engine for Banjo Pilot?  Now the company is at it again, this time breaking all the rules by getting the Microsoft Xbox 360 to work with the Nintendo DS (in an admittedly low-tech way) to unlock new content in the Viva Pinata series.  Unfortunately, we won't be seeing this functionality in the near future.  MTV has the story.

The new Viva Pinata game features more creatures, more terrain and an interesting photo feature. The game supports the Xbox Live Vision Camera, which is used to scan patterned codes off of Viva Pinata character trading cards. The scanned data unlocks in-game pinata characters.

During a demo of the game last week at Microsoft’s San Francisco showcase event, Trouble In Paradise designer Justin Cook mentioned that the camera feature also works with card codes that are displayed on the video screens on objects such as iPods or Zunes. Just hold them up to the camera while they display a proper Pinata image and they should work.

[UPDATE at 3:10PM EST: In case it wasn’t clear, the way this would work would be that the DS would display an image that had the card-code on it. The gamer would hold it up to the Xbox camera, as they can an iPod, and the photo feature would snap away — voila! DS-360 connectivity.]

Rare may not crank out the hits as often as they once did, but I have to give them credit for continuously playing with hardware in order to develop strange new ways to access content.  Hearing about projects like this one makes me wonder what else the company has silently toyed with over the years.  Somewhere down the line when these kinds of projects are no longer classified trade secrets, I wish Rare would throw open the vault and show us some of their experiments.  Would Stop N Swop still have competitive value in the year 2025?  I'm willing to wait it out.