A Look At The 3DS and PSVita
I am a huge gamer. I always have been and always will be. I like to pride myself on that. My passion for gaming started in my early years. My earliest memories of gaming are from me at three years old. Throughout the years I have played mostly console games, but I also spent a fair amount of time on handhelds as a young child.
Unfortunately, my memory is very vague when it comes to certain moments. I do remember playing Super Mario Land on the Gameboy. I also remember playing games on the Gameboy color and Gameboy advance, but I don’t remember many of them. My vague memory is not important though. I’ve always owned handhelds, but haven’t always given them the attention they deserved. I was mostly into handhelds last generation with the DS and PSP. I played them excessively, often ignoring my consoles despite remaining home for entire days at a time. My handhelds took precedent over my consoles. Some of that luster wore off as this gen gained more games that advanced the medium, but recently with the 3DS and PSVita I have gotten into a huge proclivity of playing handhelds over my consoles.
I now turn my attention to the authoritative point of this article: An examination of both the Nintendo 3DS and Sony PSVita.
The Nintendo 3DS was originally announced back in March of 2010. I was instantaneously intrigued by the prospect of a new handheld system by Nintendo. I instantly placed it onto my radar as a system to keep a look out for. I remember being initially skeptical about the 3D aspect of it. My thought process was something along the lines of: “Glasses free 3D. That’s complete crap! How could it work? Are they lying or does it actually work? Maybe it’s a different kind of 3D than is currently used in the theaters.”
I kept my mouth shut until more concrete information revealed itself to the public. The most titillating thing about a new handheld from Nintendo was we would finally have a handheld suitable for proper 3D gaming. That’s not to imply the DS was lacking quality 3D games, but some attempts by lower budget studios as well as more ambitious projects felt rather crude on the hardware. There was one exclusive DS game in particular that adopted a sandbox structure in the same vein as the Grand Theft Auto series.
It tried very heavily to push the limits of the DS’ 3D capabilities, but even then it was not impressive compared to even the worst looking PSP games. I don’t intend for this to be a way to affront the DS and its hardware, but it needs to be said. There were most certainly 3D games on the DS that worked better on the DS than they would ever work if they were ported to the PSP thanks to the touch screen, which while not superior the PSP’s analog nub for every situation, did have advantages in certain situations.
Games like Metroid Prime Hunters undoubtedly had an advantage on the DS, whereas as games like God of War or any sandbox type game worked better on the PSP than they would on the DS. The DS was an excellent handheld, but the PSP was typically a better fit for 3D games.
Thankfully, with a new entry into the handheld space, Nintendo could finally rectify the DS’ weakness of being unable to provide immersive 3D games. Again, that is for the majority of games. There were some nice attempts that succeeded surprisingly well.
Now that I have moved slightly off track, I need to go forward a bit. My hype for the 3DS accrued as the release drew ever nearer. It was built up about half a year or so prior to launch as an exceedingly powerful handheld. Every time I heard news about the 3DS’ hardware, my excitement grew. The wait only became more excruciating to bear with statements about how good the 3D effect was and statements by developers of the power of the hardware. I was absolutely giddy to hear Capcom say they were able to run Resident Evil 5 on the thing when they had previously stated RE 5 was never coming to the Wii because it couldn’t handle it. I also remember hearing Crytek utter what I thought was impossible. They supposedly were able to run Crysison it.
As the days passed on and the weeks dissipated into the past, I could not contain my excitement. Oddly enough in spite of my hype for the system I actually kept more up to date with the library of games instead of the 3DS’ release date. March 27, 2011 saw the release of the 3DS. I would not end up buying it until just under 3 months after launch. The two games I bought alongside my system were Super Street Fighter 4: 3D Edition and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon:Shadow Wars. I enjoyed them both thoroughly and wondered to myself how the system could have gotten such a negative backlash with these two very good games that surprised after coming off a handheld hiatus for I think it was a year and a half.
I was stunned at the level of graphical prowess in Super Street Fighter 4: 3D Edition. The backgrounds were certainly inactive and even contained several 2D elements, but I never would have expected such detailed character models on a handheld. That combined with the amount of content boggled my mind at the time. Shadow Warswas a better game and it hooked me far more, but it did not take advantage of the hardware. It looked like a Nintendo DS game and lacked online capabilities which seemed like a no-brainer for a strategy game, but I suppose that was not on Ubisoft’s mind. Needless to say, I was completely satisfied with the $250 I had spent on the 3DS with just those two games.
My collection has grown modestly since then, reaching a total of eighteen games as of May 11th. I like the 3DS and believe it had been treated unfairly by the gaming public until Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 released. That does not mean I have zero issues with it, however. I am going to break apart the pros and cons of the system and end with my entire library of games while stating my top five.
3DS Hardware Analysis
The hardware behind the 3DS is impressive. All the Nintendo naysayers and tech junkies may feel galvanized to ignite your torches and brace pitch forks at the ready, but hear me out first. Is this as powerful as a Playstation Vita? It isn’t, but it’s still impressive as a handheld. It is far from weak. Games like Resident Evil Revelations and Super Mario 3D Land wouldn’t seem out of place on the Vita minus the resolution differences with the screens.
The biggest downside apart from the lack of a second analog stick is the atrocious battery. It is unacceptable in today’s market. People are constantly on the move. With a market such as this, long battery lives are a necessity. Unfortunately, the battery life of the 3DS ranges from three-five hours depending on brightness, 3D, wi-fi, and the level of strain a game puts on the hardware. This is an approximation as it can fall even slightly below the three hour mark.
Nintendo’s decision to release the 3DS with such an appalling battery was quite baffling to me. This is a company that is know for putting out intentionally inferior hardware to cut down on cost and ensure large battery lives. They have kept with this business practice since the Game & Watch days. Why would they all of a sudden alter a business practice that worked very well for them? Could they have not waited a while longer to improve the battery while keeping cost down? I suppose not. Perhaps greed finally struck Nintendo and they couldn’t help themselves. Whatever the reasoning, I can not accept the terrible battery.
The circle pad is very comfortable and accurate; even more so than the PSVita’s analog sticks. Too bad that this is offset by the lack of a second stick. No, the Circle Pad Pro add-on does not count. Even if it did count, it is too cumbersome to be feasible as an option for a portable system. The convenience factor is just missing.
I believe on the more underrated aspects of the 3DS to be its clam-shell design. It looks sleek and protects all of the important inputs and the ever important screens. There is no fear of dropping your lovely piece of machinery and risking injury to the screen or buttons. The only exposed parts for obvious reasons are the two shoulder buttons. This clam-shell design is sleek, charmingly minimalistic, and portable friendly.
Irrespective of all the marketing focus on the 3DS’ 3D screen, I find it a useless feature for the most part. It is cool the glasses free 3D effect works as well as it does, but there are so many issues with it that render it practically useless except in some instances. The first problem is focusing on the effect. Not only must you be looking at it from the right angle, but you also are required to view the screen from a certain distance as well. Keeping these two parameters conistent while playing certain games is too much of a hassle. The other problem is the look of the games. Nearly all of the 3DS games I have played have much worse aliasing with the 3D turned on. There are only a select few games currently enabling anti-aliasing techniques to bring the 3D presentation equal to the 2D presentation. For the most part, I keep my 3D turned off. I will turn it off just to see what a game looks like then turn it off immediately. Only two games I’ve played benefit game play wise from the 3D and those are Kid Icarus: Uprising and Super Mario 3D Land.
One of the biggest criticisms any body can levy at Nintendo is its online service. They have always been behind the curb when it comes to online and the 3DS is no different. It takes great strides by removing individual friend codes for games and the system itself in favor of universal friend codes. There’s that, but they’re still friend codes. They are twelve digit numbers that require both people to enter each other’s codes to be friends. Simply inputting a friend code without the other person inputting yours will not result in a friend request being sent to that person. Nothing will happen unless both people enter the other’s friend code. It is a silly mechanism for frustration. Still, knowing Nintendo, it could have been worse.
The messaging system is also flawed because there is none. The only way to get in touch with somebody is a third party application that relegates messages to writing with the stylus. Be prepared for horrible handwriting making messages incomprehensible reads. It also sometimes takes HOURS until you receive a notification. As expected, Nintendo has introduced an iridescent array of 3DS’s.
The 3DS is an extremely underrated system. I may have talked a lot of crap about it, but I’m not blind. It has many issues. The difference is that it excels in the area that matters most: The games.
3DS Game Library/Recommendations
My library consists of:
-Cave Story 3D
-Dead or Alive Dimensions
-Ghost Recon:Shadow Wars
-Kid Icarus Uprising
-The Legend of Zelda:Ocarina of Time
-Mario Kart 7
-Metal Gear Solid:Snake Eater 3D
-Resident Evil:The Mercenaries 3D
-Shin Megami Tensei:Devil Survivor Overclocked
-Star Fox 64 3D
-Super Street Fighter 4:3D Edition
-Super Mario 3D Land
-Tales of The Abyss 3D
-Tekken 3D Prime Edition
My top 5 games for the system with no explanation or reasoning because I want to save that for future articles are:
5-Dead or Alive Dimensions
3-Super Mario 3D Land
2-Shin Megami Tensei:Devil Survivor Overclocked
1-Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon:Shadow Wars
Sony Playstation Vita
I started hearing rumblings about the PSVita, then code named the NGP(Next Generation Portable) around the time the 3DS was gearing up for launch. I was intrigued, but never kept to the news about it much due to the rumor status. I wanted to wait until it was officially announced and officially named before I got my hopes up. Considering I was a former Sony fanboy, I should have been more excited than I was, but for some reason it did not strike a cord with me.
As usual, I grew more excited as the release of it drew nearer. My full blown anticipation didn’t invade my body until a bit before E3 2011. I was excited by the idea of a powerhouse handheld that exceeded even that of the 3DS. Being made by Sony, I was ecstatic obviously because they typically have the largest selection of exclusive games/IP’s(not necessarily the best quality wise). That working in tandem with Sony’s usual marketing strategy/philosophy would surely be a thing of beauty. Or so I thought.
The PSVita is not a perfect handheld. Much like the 3DS, it has its fair share of faults, but I’ll get into those later. One thing I always appreciated about Sony entering the handheld space was their strategy; their vision of handheld gaming. It was refreshing compared to Nintendo’s practices. For the uninitiated Nintendo typically sticks to a mantra of handheld games being shorter experiences.
They believe it necessary for handheld games to shorter, simpler, more compact, and looser on the story to “fit” in the portable space. I can see Nintendo’s ideals. Their reasoning certainly is legitimate, but I feel it shouldn’t apply to every game. It’s a better fit for certain genres such as puzzle games, racing games, and sports games. I feel other genres shouldn’t be constrained by the fact that they are on a portable system. I want big games on a handheld. I want long, engrossing, complex, console style experiences in the bathroom, car, airplane, doctor’s office, or amusement park waiting line. It’s something I crave. I love the very concept of handheld gaming, but feel as though certain companies approach it from the wrong direction.
This is not an obloquy against Nintendo. They are world class developers with major talent. Their handheld games for the most part have ranged from great-fantastic. I also am not against short, “portable” experiences either. Super Mario 3D Land had very short levels in order to make it suitable for portable play. Would I have preferred longer levels? Sure. Does that mean this game isn’t great? No.
With the PSP Sony brought the idea of console quality games on the go to the table. While many are against this, I applauded their direction. I didn’t mind all the ports or console franchises being brought to the PSP because it was what I always envisioned for the portable space. Many of these ports were either identical or contained more content than their console counterparts. This made the inherent advantage of handhelds a no-brainer for purchasing these games over the console versions.
Some of the more original games based on console franchises were very competent. I still firmly believe God of War:Chains of Olympus is better than the original God of War. After E3 2011 I HAD to get a PSVita. Street Fighter x Tekken, Gravity Rush, Uncharted:Golden Abyss, and an original Bioshock game were enough to have my heart skip a beat from excitement.
I was upset with the rumored pricing of the memory cards. Anybody with a brain probably blew a fuse once they found out about the prices. I was furious at Sony, but there was no way to “vote” with my wallet because then I would have no way of saving my games seeing as the internal hard drive was removed to cut down cost. Fast Forward to February and I received my First Edition bundle of the Vita. By preordering this bundle one got the Vita a week earlier than the official release with a free copy of Little Deviants, a 4GB memory card, and a carrying case.
I also have amassed a collection of 18 Playstation Vita games since launch. It is an equal amount to that of my 3DS library, but as you can deduce, they were gained at a much faster rate.
PSVita Hardware Analysis
I was immediately struck with disappointment to find out about the battery life being equally as awful as the 3DS; 3-5 hours. I also suppose you can “cheat” the battery life by doing multimedia stuff. Things like listening to music and browsing the internet will have the battery lasting longer. This is a game system, though, and counting superfluous multimedia activities as indicative of the battery is silly. I play games on game systems, therefore a nine hour long battery whilst listening to music is of no importance to me.
The one big advantage here over the 3DS is the dual analog sticks, but they are also negated by being flimsier and less accurate. They simply lack the precision and grip of the circle pad. Playing shooters have become a bit underwhelming on it thus far. On the upside, the D-pad is far superior to that of the 3DS. It is still broken up, but all the directions are squished together closer, providing a nice middle ground between a normal D-pad and a crushed up D-pad. It is perfect for almost any genre of game.
It is no secret the Vita is a more powerful piece of hardware than the 3DS, but it is not without its faults in even this area. With such a powerful machine you would expect a fast browser, but it is rather lackluster. Some might deem the comparison unfair, but any smart phone has a more competent web browser. That might not mean much, but how about we compare it to the 3DS? Both are equally bad in terms of functionality and speed(The PSVita browser might be a bit faster), but the 3DS excels in one respect that the Vita falters. On the 3DS you can use the web browser while playing the game. This is impossible on the PSVita.
The biggest advantages with the PSVita are the online service/system, unified messaging system, and trophy system. The user interface was awkward at first, but I eventually got used to it and love it now. It is more intuitive than the 3DS’ user interface. I also adore the party chat feature for up to 8 players; something not even possible on the PS3 because of limited RAM. The built-in mic quality is surprisingly clear and shouldn’t be too difficult to discern while playing most games.
The Playstation Vita is another underrated handheld similar in effect to the 3DS. It gets a lot of flak for lack of games, but they seem to not know much about the existing library. If I amassed 18 Vita games in three months, whereas it took me 11 months for the 3DS, what does that tell you?
-Army Corps of Hell
-BlazBlue:Continuum Shift Extend
-Dungeon Hunter Alliance
-Hot Shots Golf:World Invitational
-Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus
-Touch My Katamari
-Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
-Virtua Tennis 4:World Tour Edition
My top 5 Vita games without giving reasoning because that wil be saved for a future article:
5-Dungeon Hunter Alliance
3-Virtua Tennis 4:World Tour Edition
I have largely been a console gamer, but handhelds have struck cords with me in the past. There is something charming of a system that can be taken anywhere. I am starting to grow a larger appreciation of handhelds and the handheld industry as a whole. I find something so appealing that’s frustrating to explain. I hope the general public realizes the 3DS and PSVita have better game libraries than they are given credit for and are given more relevance as gaming machines. Far too many console and PC gamers ignore handhelds. It’s disheartening to say the least.
Fun Fact 1-My most played game on either system is Dead or Alive Dimensions at 77 hours and 42 minutes
Fun Fact 2-I adore the activity log feature of the 3DS that tracks how long you play games and how many times you have played them, along with your average time played per session. I want the Vita to have a feature similar to this