At first glance, the Nintendo 3DS's StreetPass functionality doesn't sound all that unique, clever, or interesting.

In a nutshell, 3DS gamers who have their handhelds set to Sleep mode can simply pass by each other, and the consoles will interact, sending data and scores.

Of course, we've seen this type of technology in past Nintendo DS consoles before - for example, in previous Pokemon titles HeartGold and SoulSilver.

However, delve a little deeper into StreetPass and you'll find that there's far more to it than meets the eye, with plenty of interesting applications that will surely expand over the coming years.

Walk on by

The most notable function of StreetPass is the ability to pass on data without the need for a specific game's cart to be in the console.

The 3DS remembers each game that you play, and stores data about the game in your Software Library. When you pass within a close range of someone else with a 3DS, the two consoles will communicate, passing data for each and every game that you both share.

For example, if you've both played racing game Asphalt 3D at some point, the two consoles will pass ghost data and scoreboard times between each other, whether you have the game in your console or not.

This means that if you go for a walk through a busy area and happen to pass by numerous people who are also carrying their handhelds, you may well reach your destination with tons of new scores to beat and ghosts to race against.

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition also uses StreetPass, imitating fights between you and passers-by to earn trophies for your game.

The RPG of life

However, it isn't just retail games that can implement the StreetPass features. Your 3DS comes with StreetPass Mii Plaza, a collection of Mii-related mini-games that allow progression via other people.

As you pass other people, their Mii characters will be transferred to your 3DS, and gather themselves in your Mii Plaza.

These Miis can then be used in some special StreetPass games. The first is a simple jigsaw-style game called Puzzle Swap, and pieces for your jigsaw can be grabbed via each new Mii that you collect from other players.

If this sounds a little sedate, that's because it is - not very innovative, and not exactly enjoyable either.

The second available game is a little more entertaining. StreetPass Quest is an RPG that requires you hire heroes from other players to tackle baddies.

Rather than being able to kill enemies yourself, you hire Miis to do the damage for you. Each Mii has a level, a class type, an attack and a magic spell.

The more heroes you meet, the further you can venture on, so passing lots of people and collecting lots of different Miis is the key to success.

Dress to thrill

If you're wondering what the point of these mini-games is, or what you're working towards, then let us reveal all: you're in it for the hats.

Yes, each time you complete a puzzle or kill a bad guy a treasure chest will appear, and you'll find a shiny new hat inside for your Mii to wear.

Not the most exciting prospect, of course, but it's bound to become a sign of pride among 3DS gamers, as the hat you are wearing will display how far through the mini-games you've managed to push.

As for the future of StreetPass, we're looking forward to seeing how upcoming releases will implement it. Perhaps future Pokemon games will allow your critters to do battle with other teams and level up without you even needing the game in the console, or the 3DS open.

And what if RPGs could collect the names of people you pass and then use them as characters in the game, as if you're walking around a town populated with people who actually exist?

Exciting prospects indeed. Let's hope developers push the technology to the fullest of its abilities.