Handheld Gaming Part 2 – The Present (Ethos)

Despite my incredibly fond memories of my big ol’ ugly ol’ beautiful ol’ tank Gameboy, my interest in handhelds wavered for a bit. I was into the announcement of the GBA, but I just kinda stopped caring. I had recently found the world of RPGs that weren’t Pokémon, and consoles that weren’t the N64, so the GBA wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. In fact, I don’t think I even got one until it was semi-late in its lifecycle.

Mine ended up breaking, but not this bad.

Flash ahead to the announcement of the DS and I cared even less. The thing was hideous, it had two screens for some reason, and there was no software I remotely cared about. Mario 64 DS without an analog stick? Definitely not interested. But soon there was more and more software that caught my eye until I started my now long-time practice of buying games before buying the console (Mario and Luigi was the culprit this time).

I knew the DSfat design was just too awful for Nintendo to keep. While redesigns were still in-style for Nintendo, I had a feeling that the first would come sooner rather than later, and I was right. My patience paid off and I got a DSlite on launch day.

But the purchase went from being a pleasant way to have RPGs on the go and turned into a full-fledged revitalization of my love for handhelds.

While I can’t exactly pinpoint it, the changed seemed to start around the time I got both New Super Mario Bros. and Tetris DS. The former was fun, but more importantly convinced Pogo to buy a system. The latter would prove to be the best version of the classic game ever made, and would make for many, many exciting wireless multiplayer matches.

But losing to Pogo in Tetris, and winning half the time in Mario multiplayer wasn’t the end result of my increased playtime. Now I had software all over the place. Mario Kart, The World Ends With You, Etrian Odyssey, Phantom Hourglass, Pokémon Diamond, Dragon Quest remakes, and even half-decent Kingdom Hearts games. The list goes on and on too.

I love my little PSP Fail

The software was only just more impressive than the places I took the thing. It was always stuffed in my inside jacket pocket for a quick whatever of whatever on public transit, or something to distract myself while eating on my lunch break from work. What if I was at my girlfriend-at-the-time’s house and didn’t want to sleep just yet? My DS with headphones was there for me. Long car rides, lazy nights inside, a cure for insomnia. Not having my DS on me made me feel more naked than forgetting my phone.

Sure, the DS has its share of Nintendo-itis. Friend codes, unintuitive online functionality and store interfaces, and a completely pointless microphone. But despite its faults, and despite its barely-worth-mentioning Wii counterpart, the DS is neck-in-neck with the PS2 for best console ever released in my opinion.

And so my excitement for the DS spilled over to my love for franchises that couldn’t exist on it. It was finally time to get a PSP. And in probably my most ridiculed public move of all time: a bought a (reduced price) PSP Go.

Let me get the necessary disclaimer out of the way. The PSP Go is an utter failure. It has sold like trash, and it is not well-supported in the least. There is a lot of software that I am unable to have because of this irrefutably sour venture from Sony.

That being said, I do not regret the purchase. I love the design. I used the PSP3000 design for a number of hours while playing Birth By Sleep, and while it is definitely a good design, I prefer the design of the Go. It fits way better into my gaming pockets, and generally just feels less clunky.

While my love for the PSP hasn’t matched that of the DS, it has helped to solidify my return to handheld gaming. Despite the DS’ decent RPG showing, the PSP has also done a better job of fulfilling my RPG cravings that are so rarely satisfied on the console.

Plus, I can’t take my PS3 to the can with me.

So my present state as a handheld gamer doesn’t hold the same wide-eyed nostalgia as my introduction to gaming, but if nothing else it has helped me realize my lifestyle as a gamer. Games are never too far away, and I like it like that. The future of handhelds currently has me wary (the lack of portability of one and the redundancy of the other), but that’s another article for another day. Semi-specifically, either tomorrow, Sunday, or Monday.

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