A Tale of Two Handhelds: 3DS vs. PSP2/NGP

So how about those handhelds? The 3DS impressed the hell out of everyone back at E3, but now with the official announcement of the PSP2/NGP Sony has arguably succeeded in turning the tide around on Nintendo. Comment boards and forum posts aren’t exactly scientific indicators of course, but attitudes do seem to be in Sony’s favor. Time of course, will tell but in the mean time we have months ahead of us with which to debate how things will go down. I’ve always been a fan of getting right to it, so here it is: the 3DS vs. The PSP2/NGP.

3DS

I was impressed when Nintendo first showed us the 3DS at last year’s E3. It was an impressive step above the DS, and looked to be the final death knell of the long struggling PSP. A stalwart lover of my PSP, I still held some beliefs that with its already fair library and some real, honest-to-goodness developer support, it could still compete but really, even I knew that was the end of it.

With the PSP2/NGP announced however and looking perrdy as all hell, I’m suddenly doubtful as to the viability of the 3DS. Perhaps that’s a bit strong. We all know the 3DS will move oodles of units, if only because Nintendogs looks even cuter in higher res graphics. Nintendo and the DS have a pretty sturdy foothold when it comes to the casual market. The App Store and other systems have taken some definite steps toward encroaching on that vice grip, but chances are you’ll still find more than a few school children giddily playing shiny new 3DS’s come March.

It has more than just casual appeal, course. Its hardcore lineup already looks strong. The clinchers for me initially were the remakes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, StarFox 64 and Metal Gear Solid 3. Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64 were huge games for me growing up and Snake Eater is inarguably probably the best and most well-balanced game in the Metal Gear franchise. The prospect of playing these on the go, or most realistically, on my couch while using my TV to watch Star Wars for the umpteenth time definitely strikes a positive chord for me. The fact that they’re not just direct ports doesn’t hurt either. I look forward to seeing how Nintendo plans on repairing the abomination that is the Water Temple.

All of this said, there are elements of the 3DS that rub me the wrong way. The most obvious is the focus on 3D. While the boost in visual performance is welcome, the inclusion of 3D is plain and simple a gimmick. At least with the DS the touch screen was able to be put to practical use. With 3D though, how are they going to make games better? Not to mention that many recent previews have been branding the 3D effect as either lackluster, distracting, or in some cases outright painful to use. The very fact that Nintendo included the option to turn 3D off says to me that they knew it wasn’t going to do much for the actual games and just threw it in there to have another bullet point with which to trick trend obsessed consumers.

Worse to me is the inclusion of just one analog stick. Granted, the one on the 3DS is reported to be far superior to the PSP’s lackluster nub, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s only one. Now, don’t get me wrong; it is perfectly possible to make a good game with only one analog stick. The PSP has many fantastic games that rise above this deficiency. The thing is, it’s something to work around rather than work with. Point in case, Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker was one of my top five games of 2010. It’s a great, meaty experience. That said the controls, namely the camera, are frequently awkward because of the lack of a second analog nub. Considering the MGS3 remake for the 3DS, are we to expect similar problems? Or will the game just adopt the original versions vastly inferior top-down view? If that’s the case I may just stick with my copy Metal Gear Solid 3: Substance for PS2. Similarly, if the PSP2/NGP looks to truly trump the 3DS, I still have copies of Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64 laying around.

In short, for me to spend $250 on a 3DS, it needs to prove to me that’s it’s a necessary buy. Thus far, it’s not doing so well at that.

PSP2/NGP
You can color me impressed. While Sony still hasn’t released much in the way of screenshots (there are a few floating around, as well as some audience recorded videos), the proclaimed specs of the PSP2/NGP as well as the overbearingly positive response of game journalists has me quite excited for Christmas 2011 and that’s saying something. I am the original Scrooge; a dedicated despiser of all things holly and jolly.

Let us lay it all out: PS3 equivalent visuals, 3G connectivity, no more UMDs, trophies, two touch screens/pads, a gigantic screen, and the coup de grace two analog sticks.

I wrote a ways back that I thought the PSP may be able to survive the launch of the 3DS if Sony would just go and launch a version of the system adorned with dual analog sticks. Well, they’ve done that and a whole bunch more to boot.

So what might drag the system down for some? There are a few things.

The biggest issue is probably going to be the price. The PS3 can do a lot of cool things. That said, gamers would be lax to forget that those nifty features initially cost a lot. My PS3, what with its 60GB HD and backwards compatibility set me back a whopping six hundred dollars when I first picked it up in 2006. Now Sony has already assured us that the PSP2/NGP will not have a price tag as high as that. That said, they haven’t offered up any details indicating how much less it will be. Michael Pachter, the oft-lambasted crystal ball of gaming prediction thinks it will cost somewhere in the area of $250, the same as the 3DS.

I’d say that’s a pipe dream. The PSP2 (can we just ditch the /NGP thing, please?) will pack a lot more under it’s slick, black hood, and by extension we can expect it’s price to rise accordingly. I’d honestly be happy to see it at $300, but more likely it will be between $350-$400, placing it fairly above the 3DS. Perhaps, I’ll be wrong and Mr. Pachter will be delightfully correct in his assessment. That said, I doubt Sony wants to be selling the PSP2 at a loss as it had to with the PS3, and by extension our wallets may hurt. Then again, if you were planning on buying a 3DS, you could always just take the money you were saving for that and continue saving for a PSP2. On the other hand, a lot of gamers (myself included) like to own one of everything. I can tell you in this case that that probably won’t be possible with this emerging generation of handhelds.

Battery life is also going to be a concern, I think. Again, Sony hasn’t offered too many specifics (it has only been a day), but I don’t think many people will be happy if the PSP2 does a repeat of the original PSP which drains faster than a Game Gear at a urinal. The 3DS is already reported to clock in at about three to five hours, and comparatively the PSP2 must at least match, if not exceed that.

Finally, and perhaps most imperative for the PSP2’s long term survival, is that it must have better third party support. The PSP’s release schedule was often like a trek through a dessert; long stretched of nothing broken by the occasional oasis of awesome. The PSP2 cannot repeat that if it wants to compete with the 3DS which already has a ton of major developers committed to projects. It seems to be to a fair start; Activision has already promised a Call of Duty for the system, and other big players like Ubisoft (Hitman please!) are putting their weight behind it. Sony itself will be bring heavy weights like Uncharted to the system, and Hideo Kojima himself demoed footage of Metal Gear Solid 4 ported to the system. It was only a tech demo, but I’d say it’s a fair indicator that something involving Metal Gear Solid will make its way onto the PSP2.

Other than these, I can come up with little to complain about from the initial announcement data. Some have complained about the track pad on the back, and the inability to remove the battery but these are non-issues to me. If the track pad can be used to play games in a new and interesting way and doesn’t get in the way, then who cares? Moreover, I’ve never had to remove the battery in my PSP and I’d wager that more than a few who are angry about not being able to do so in the PSP2 may be unhappy because it could make piracy harder. If that’s the case, those people can screw off any ways.

All in all, the PSP2/NGP looks to be a powerhouse portable that I’m very excited for.

Winner: PSP2/NGP

It’s silly I know to call a victor so soon into the game, but with the 3DS launching stateside in just a few months I’m markedly uninterested in it. Conversely, the PSP2/NGP has me squealing like Bobby Hill at troll convention. My basic impression of it is that is a truly dedicated hardcore gaming device, whereas the 3DS seems like another iteration of the DS weighed down by another pointless gimmick. Mayhap, I’ll be wrong and Nintendo will trounce its handheld competition in every such bout in the past, but I just have a feeling about this one. After years of unrivaled dominance, the torch may be passing.

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7 Responses to A Tale of Two Handhelds: 3DS vs. PSP2/NGP

  1. Wolf says:

    This comparison is completely biased as to the point where Sony is praised so much even though they have lost so much support. Square-enix and Capcom have pretty much abandoned them, and most developers aren’t even supporting Sony anymore, all you here about are these odd companies. The 3DS also has a Kingdom Hearts(Its the sequel to KH2) a Final Fantasy, Super Street Fighter IV, and Mega Man Legends III. That being said, also your complaining about the 3D is just you talking about things you don’t know about. The 3D effects can be cut off, there is a switch on the side. The 3DS also now supports mp3 players and external memory in the form of SD cards(the system is bundled with a 2gb I believe) and supports up to 32gigs. I can understand basic mistakes but this review is bull. The NGP is hardly portable considering that it has a touchscreen on the back, people who don’t have money will end up messing theirs up by carrying it around, and as far as I know it has no UMD support. The fact that your such a graphic whore makes this completely biased as being a gamer that started with the Nintendo Entertainment System, graphics do not make a game. If you believe it does than obviously you need to stop playing games. The NGP isn’t going to have more 3rd party support because people like you are going to complain about wanting more and game developers not being able to supply it. The fact of life is, new generation gamers are killing the industry with retarded commands and wants.

    • Shawn says:

      I think both portables will be great but 3D on the 3DS is Not a Gimmick if anything is its the touch pad on the back of the PSP2 and yes the PSP2 Does Win In The likes of graphics but The 3DS definitely has the better Games with Many 3rd Party games.i am neither a NIntendo fan boy or a sony fan but right now 3DS Packs more of a punch especially with The NGP/PSP2’s Estimated Price. nice review though of course

    • Lunias says:

      “These odd companies”, such as Ubisoft, which created favorites such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, along with Square Enix (which hasn’t deserted Sony by a long shot), which created the Kingdom Hearts franchise (Birth by Sleep specifically), along with Dissidia and countless FF remakes. You also say that most developers don’t support Sony; last I checked, the PSP2 had a list twice of developers twice as long as the 3DS, even though the 3DS is almost here and the PSP2 won’t be here for another 9 months or so.
      The 3D can be shut off with a switch on the side, and now supports video and mp3. So, basically, Nintendo knows 3D is a long shot and is giving the option to shut the darn feature off, and it also now does everything the PSP did 5 years ago. Lame.
      You say the touchscreen on the back isn’t a big deal? OK, then; think back to 2004, when people said that the touchscreen on the front wasn’t all that great, and was a gimmick. How did that turn out? Very well. Now, can you honestly say that there’s no way the rear touch pad will work, knowing similar things worked in the past? Yes, it’s bulky; so is the 3DS, clocking in at just below the DS and just above the DS Lite. The iPad is also really bulky and impossible to fit in a pocket, but I still see people carrying it around with them. Besides, what’s the point of those game bags in the first place? To carry your system and games in. Why not put them in your pocket? Who knows. BTW, it doesn’t provide UMD support. IF this is changed, then great. If not, they have new media forms anyway.
      Excuse me? Which system flaunts its graphics more; the one titled “Next Generation Portable”, or the one with 3D IN IT’S NAME. If graphics don’t make the game, why’d they name the system after its graphic capabilities? Explain that, please.
      As I already said above, the PSP2 has more developer support than the 3DS right now. Everybody wants more. Which would you rather have; new games on a new system, or remakes of old games, on a system that uses old technology? It’s hypocrites like you that make reading articles like this so repulsive.

  2. Spencer says:

    @Wolf

    Wow, Nintendo fanboy much?

  3. Bobby says:

    I just turned off my DS. My psp is somewhere in my storage room. With that being said I play all sorts of games. The NGP is exciting, but the only thing that really got me was that I may be able to play FPS on the go. After I thought about it, I realized how amazing my flat screen HDTV looks, how amazing my surround sound is, and how comfortable my couch is. The point is that handheld gaming should be light. It should be something you can play between classes or during down time on the go, but also something that is worth playing at home for hours at a time. This is a hard niche to fill, but I think the 3ds is going to replace my ds real quick. Sony has always had the most impressive specs for their systems, but that is about it lately. The fact of the matter is if you want third party companies to invest in your system in ways of making titles for it, you have to move systems. I think it is safe to say the 3ds is going to move way more units than the NGP, making it an obvious choice for third party companies. I am sure there are games that will tempt me to purchase a NGP in the future, and maybe I will, but I fear after said game is beat it will join the psp in the storage room. I will also admit that I have been completely against 3d since it started to become more popular at the movie theaters. I have always felt it was a gimmick, but as more people are able to try the 3ds and more reviews are being published, it is starting to sound very promising. And yes, the lack of mention for megaman legends three is disappointing. You should look into that, because while it is not a guarantee at this point, it could be one of the best handheld games ever made. If I get one or two out of the hundreds of things I hope for in the 3ds I will be happy. I cannot think of a real purpose for the NGP.

    • Lunias says:

      I don’t really agree that 3rd party developers will like the 3DS more. 3D has, and always will be, a gimmick; theaters use 3D to attract customers to movies that may or may not actually be good, such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and Yogi Bear. The PS3 has already experimented with 3D tech, and not many people like it. The 3DS has only a few new controls: an analog stick, gyroscope, accelerometer, and augmented reality coupled with 3D. Compared to the PSP2’s two analog sticks, two touch screens, 3G network, GPS system, gyroscope, accelerometer, and augmented reality, the 3DS doesn’t have much. It really looks like just another DS to me.

  4. Stew Shearer says:

    What excites me about the NGP is probably its ability to provide me with heavier gaming experiences in a self-contained unit.

    I too love my plasma screen and all that jazz, but at the same time it can be really inconvenient to need that if I want a truly big game. I have a wife, someday we’ll have kids and frankly it’s not fair to expect others to sacrifice the television for hours on end so I can play a game. I know many play portable games on the go, but at the same time there are many gamers who will play them at length just like a console game because it’s simply more convenient.

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