Battle of the Handhelds

Yet another RT article! And it’s not boring and nerdy! Whee! Enjoy and comment.


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For more than a decade, there was only one true player in the handheld gaming market. No, I am not talking about Tamagotchi, but Nintendo. The Nintendo GameBoy was a great hit when it came out, and popular titles then exclusive to it, such as Pokemon and Super Mario, propelled it to success, taking Nintendo through even after the launches of GameBoy’s successors, the GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance (GBA). In November 2004, the Nintendo Dual-Screen (DS) was released, promising a revolutionary and much more interactive gameplay with TWO screens, as evident from its name. While the top screen would be a usual game screen, allowing players to see where they were in the game, the bottom screen was a touchscreen, where players, armed with their stylus, would draw or write their way to gaming success. Along with the microphone and other new features, the DS looked to enjoy the same success as its predecessors. A spoofed up version of the DS, the DS Lite, emerged in 2006, a fine-looking product.

However, it had not counted on Sony’s entrance to the handheld gaming market. An established name in home consoles, such as the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, Sony decided to venture into handheld gaming. Thus, one fateful day just a month after the release of the DS, the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), was released with much acclaim. Besides being a superb gaming machine, it also doubled up as a music, picture and video player AND an external storage device, among other functions. Despite this, does Nintendo still hold the tag of being the BEST makers of handheld gaming consoles, or has Sony leapt over Nintendo with just their first foray into the market, the PSP? That is what I will be aiming to explore in this article.

Design

The design of a handheld gaming console matters more so than a home console, as it will be brought everywhere, anywhere outside the home. Indeed, not many people would want to play a technically great gaming console if it looks horrible. This makes Design almost a crucial factor in the Battle of the Handhelds.

The PSP is large, and almost all of them available in Singapore, if not all, are black. Combined with its sleek glassy finish, this gives the PSP a sleek, classy look. However, it is slightly let down by its shape. It is oddly shaped, and many small buttons are crammed on it, to allow for easy navigation within the different functions, so that you can instantly switch to the music player after playing a game. Overall, the PSP is a nice handheld, but the cramming of too many buttons at the bottom.

Don’t even get me started on the original DS design! Most commonly seen in grey, it is clam shell. Or at least, it attempted to be. For some weird reason on Nintendo’s part, the top cover is too small to fit the large and thick bottom cover. This results in the fact that when the DS is closed, it… doesn’t look closed, as if the covers were not aligned properly. It also looks very plastic, lacking a glossy finish.

However, as the GameBoy Advance SP proved, Nintendo likes to improve on the design of previously-released consoles and release them again. Thus came the DS Lite in 2006. It takes only a glance of it for you to see that Nintendo has learnt from their mistakes, and some more. The Lite is slightly smaller than the original, and has a glossy finish. It is popular in white, and just as well: a white DS Lite can easily be mistaken for an Apple product. Being small, it can also fit into a palm easily. And of course, it closes perfectly well.

In conclusion, where design is concerned, the PSP trumps the DS, but the Lite trumps the PSP!

Winner: DS

Pricing

I shall be talking not only about the price of the console, but also the price of games, which is of course needed to sustain a gaming console. Not surprisingly, the PSP is much more expensive. Even the DS Lite, at about $220, is almost half the price of a PSP, which can be gotten for around $420 now. The DS is of course the cheapest, at approximately $200.

The games are no different. While DS games are usually priced around $50 to $55, the most expensive games costing around $75, the PSP games are normally priced from $55 to $60, and the most expensive ones can cost up to $95.

This price range may be due to a better quality in the PSP and games, but for now, the winner is the DS.

Winner: DS

Functionality

The PSP, as mentioned above, doubles up as a music and video player, as well as an external storage device. It is thus highly functional, typical of a Sony product. The joystick, not found in the DS, is also a fine addition to a handheld gaming console, allowing for more flexibility in gameplay.

However, the DS Lite is not lacking at all. It has a much better battery life than the PSP, and tests have proven that it has a brighter screen than its seventh generation console counterpart. Of course, it cannot be connected to the computer, or other spiffy things that the PSP has to offer, but as a gaming machine, it may even edge out the PSP. The touchscreen offers more options for players and game makers alike. In fact, some game makers have found different ways to make use of the DS. Games such as Brain Age and Hotel Dusk: Room 215, are played with the player holding the DS SIDEWAYS in his palm, like a book.

In terms of connection, both machines have Wi-Fi capabilities, which allows players to connect to the Internet with the correct software, or connect with other players for a face-off.

There is no clear winner in this battle, as both machines have their strengths, and in terms of gaming capabilities, both are quite equal.

Tie

Game Variety

Again, this is a tough battle, as both machines have their strong points. The DS, although one with few titles, have rather unique titles that are not found in other consoles. It does have the usual games, such as Fifa, but, as mentioned above, the touchscreen inspires new franchises to be formed on the DS. Brain Age debuted on the DS, and has already released many IQ games on it. Hotel Dusk, a thriller novel-cum-game, also debuts on the DS.

However, the average gamer would prefer the PSP. The game discs for PSP can store a few gigabytes of information, and has the capabilities to store far more data than the DS, whose game cards can only store 128 megabytes of information! I, as a Football Manager fan, noted that it only came out on the PSP, and not on the DS, despite the fact that the touchscreen would provide easier navigation and interactivity. Games such as Football Manager tend to be packed with information, and the current DS game cards are just not large enough to store all of it.

Winner: PSP

Game Quality

I do not have the resources to get both a DS and a PSP, and buy games for both. Neither do I have the time to analyze each game minutely, comparing them. So, I shall enlist the help of everyone’s favourite game review website, Gamespot!

Let us take a look at both the DS and PSP versions of Fifa 07, which being a game found on most, if not all, consoles, can provide a fine judgement on just how powerful or beautiful the gaming machines are compared to the others. In this case, PSP scored a 7.3 (out of 10) for their version of Fifa 07. DS is not that far behind at 7.1, so I shall not draw many conclusions on these ratings. However, after a few searches on different games, the PSP had a consistently slightly higher rating in all of the games. Perhaps, it is the PSP’s ability to store more data in their games. Whatever it is, the PSP wins in this aspect.

Winner: PSP

Conclusion

Let us tally the scores… and whoops, it’s a tie. The DS Lite won in Design and Pricing, and the PSP won in the games aspect. Now, many of you may be thinking that I rigged a draw, but truth is, no one gaming console is perfect, at least for now. If the good features of the DS Lite and the PSP was to be combined, that would be a truly great handheld!

The writer is the owner of a white funky DS Lite. TOUCHSCREEN FTW!!!!!!!!1111

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