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.
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.
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.
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.