Picture the scene: a new Nintendo handheld is announced, promising brand new features including more advanced communication functions. You'll be able to send messages to your friends through thin air, arrange to meet-up in games and, of course, draw crude pictures using the touch screen. What more could anyone want?

That's right: it's 2004 and Nintendo has just announced Pictochat for Nintendo DS. This local chatroom would join DS gamers together, but seven years on, why are its successor's communication features so lacking?

For those of you still desperately searching your 3DS menu for Pictochat, you can stop now: it simply isn't there. Ditching this fun but admittedly pointless local chat feature would hardly be notable if the machine compensated with online communication functions, but there's not much there.

Nintendo's decision to include a friends list for the first time was welcomed by many: one friend code per system, the ability to see what your friends are playing and share messages are all standard features on other consoles, but Nintendo's notorious frigidity towards online communication has hampered the machine's potential.

So far, the only communication between users is the 16-character status messages in the friends list: there's no Pictochat-like chat function, nor a Wii-style message board to share photos and emails. Those 16 characters are all you've got to share your 3DS experience with another user (apart from our Nintendo 3DS forums, of course!), with an orange dot above a friend signifying a new update. While we've already seen some users create entertaining comments under these restrictions, it's hardly an ideal way to communicate.

Nintendo is well known for its heavy emphasis on user privacy and would likely point to the prevalence of online predators as one reason not to include communication features in the 3DS, but the friend code system takes care of this by making sure only people you add can see you online. If you don't want someone getting in touch, don't add them; simple.

Nintendo is staying typically tight-lipped about its future plans for the friends list, but with many gamers disappointed at the current functionality built-in, we hope it's not too long before the system's communication features get enhanced.