SirTheory’s Treatise on Life

(opinions on just about anything)

A Look at the Handhelds

Within the past month I have had the pleasure of acquiring both a Nintendo DS and the Playstation Portable. After having spent nice amounts of time with each, I thought it would be worth writing up the definitive post on which handheld system is better and worth your hard earned cash.

The Nintendo DS (the Lite style pictured right) is distinctive due to its dual screen setup. The bottom screen is a touch screen that can be manipulated with a stylus. The regular DS, which has a lot of extra bulk that the Lite trims down on, is no longer offered by Nintendo. However, through the joys of acquiring things used, it is the regular (fondly refered to as the DS Phat for obvious reasons) that I am the proud owner of.

The upside to the DS could initially be confused as a gimmick: dual screens and a stylus. However, this has lead to some innovative games which makes great use of the touch screen and dual screen setup.

The other big draw to the DS is its game line-up. You have the stead-fast favorite franchise from Mario, including Mario Kart DS, Mario & Luigi Partners in Time, Super Mario Bros DS, among others. Then there are the popular education titles, such as Brain Age series, and the pet simulators ala Nintendogs. And the whole slew of movie tie-ins that Nintendo is so eager to accept. Of course, Mario is classy stuff accepted by everyone: novices and gamers alike. But those other titles (including many I haven’t even listed) are aimed squarely at the non-gamer. They have pushed the DS (and, incidentally, the Wii) into an area that few could predict that gaming could go: anyone and everyone.

Thankfully amid all the mediocrity there are some great games. The afore mentioned Mario Kart DS takes advantage of the DS’s WiFi ability and allows a user on a wireless network to play the game online with people around the world. There is Metroid Prime Hunters, considered one of the best FPS (First Person Shooters) on any handheld device. Then there is the whole slew of RPG (role-playing games). Arguably the best one is Puzzle Quest, which takes the simple idea of combining an RPG with the addicting game play of Bejewelled. It sounds like a weird set, but it works really well. While the game is available on both handhelds and some consoles, the stylus play of the DS is perfect for such a game and is the perfect replacement for using a mouse. (Even if you don’t own a DS, you must own this game in some way, shape, or form. I believe it is even available for the PC).  Then there are fun mini-game collections like Feel The Magic: XY/XX which make clever, extensive use of the touch screen. Or the handheld release of the first Resident Evil game, remixed slightly with some satisfying touch screen features. There are a lot of original releases on the DS which don’t appear on any other system. And the games which <i>do</i> appear elsewhere feel unique as they take advantage of the things the DS offers.

What the DS fails to excel at is with the graphics. While the graphics are rarely <i>bad</i>, and are even quite pretty, they can’t hold a candle to what the PSP can do. The PSP screen, which Sony deemed good enough to be worth making movies in the PSP format (officially called UMD, a Universal Media Disc), displays graphics on par with what you get from good PS2 games. Games like Ridge Racer (pictured on the screen on the left) have breath-taking graphics that are as good as what I’ve seen from Project Gotham Racing 2 on the xbox. The screen is smaller than a TV, but no less worthy. The graphics aren’t the only thing that makes the PSP a cool item.

Like the DS, the PSP has WiFi. Unlike the DS the PSP includes a web browser. A fully functioning web browser that works surprisingly briskly, only bogging down with certain information-intense websites. Despite the lack of a keyboard, text can be entered via a cellphone-esque setup. Slightly obnoxious, yet better than not being able to enter any text at all. While at home it is generally easier and more satisfying to just hop on a computer, the PSP would come in handy on the go if a wireless connection can be located. (Which, these days isn’t really all that tough.) The portability of the device makes it easier to take to, for example, a coffee shop or Barnes and Noble. Or to carry around campus to use in between classes.

The big downside to the PSP is in the game selection. While there are certainly good titles, and they look fantastic, the system as a whole lacks the innovation or creativity that the DS boasts. PSP games tend to feel like ports of their console brethren.  Or rehash series like the Burnout series and the Grand Theft Auto series. Of course, for someone like me who has never owned a PS2 or 3, this repetitiveness isn’t really noticed too much. Yet the PSP library, like its console brethern, seems to have a much lower ratio between the good games and the mediocre games than the DS does. The good games that are there, however, just look freakin’ fantastic.

The two systems are just totally different. Trying to say that one eclipses the other as a whole is kind of a futile exercise. Those who demand graphics that look like they’re on par with the consoles and who find the idea of playing Grand Theft Auto exciting will probably find more of interest in the PSP. Those who are more interested in innovative game play and creative vision (or education type games) and don’t care so much about the graphics will find the DS to be plenty satisfying.

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February 3, 2008 - Posted by | Video Games | , , , ,

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