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Ethos and Riddles talk about video games...
            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Handheld Gaming Part 2 – The Present (Riddles)

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Welcome to another uneventful Friday night. True to form, I’m here in my cold apartment all by myself on my single day off for the week.

Wow, that sounded awfully fucking depressing. Let’s try it again, eh?

Welcome to another Friday night, Riddlethosians! I finally have a day off from work, and true to form, I’ve spent it in utter, blissful relaxtion. Lots of Dead Space 2, and lots of just plain nothing. Just the way I like it. And now? It’s time for a little Riddlethosing.

It’s part 2 of my three-part handheld-history-feature-thingy. If you haven’t read part 1, then just scroll down a little. Or don’t, it’s not like you need it to comprehend the following text wall.

To summarize, in part 1, both Ethan and myself talked about the past generations of handhelds, up to and including Nintendo’s original beast of a Game Boy. At the outset, our stories are similar – as young children, handhelds system were our initial window into the wonderful, beautiful world of interactive entertainment. From there, though, the similarities are practically non-existent. I’ll explain.

Straight fugly, dood.

I vaguely remember when the original DS was released. At the time, I don’t believe I was playing many handheld games. During those particular years of my life, I was in Vegetative RPG Mode. What that means is I spent hours a day, every day, playing console RPGs and nothing but. Suffice to say I wasn’t too interested in a dual-screened handheld. Also, I thought it looked ugly as shit. Also, it irked me how many games tried to engineer their titles so they, too, had a “DS” acronym. (If I see a similar trend begin with 3DS, I will turn into a serial killer. Dream Drop Distance had better be the first and last. Like I didn’t already have enough reasons not to buy another Kingdom Hearts spinoff.)

But, while I was fairly “meh” on the concept of the DS, it also came out around a time in my life when I had a lot of a very special, certain thing: money. I was making money for the first time, and I was still living at my parents’ house. (I was only maybe 16, y’see.) So, when the DS Lite came out, looking all sexy with its sleeker design and lower price tag, I figured: why the hell not?

Unlike Ethan, though, I didn’t exactly fall in love with the system. I played it – don’t get me wrong. For the first year or so, I actually played on it quite often. But if I’m to be truthful, most of what I played on it were GBA games. And most of those were Final Fantasy games. (This was around the time when Squeenix was re-releasing all of their 2D Final Fantasys for the handheld.) I played Final Fantasys I-V on the DS, as well as The Minish Cap. I think I had Mario 64 and Mario Kart, but I didn’t care much for either of those. I got Final Fantasy III DS for Christmas, and played quite a bit of that.

The first game I actually beat for the system was The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. And I loved that game. Far and away the best time I ever had with the DS. I bought Chrono Trigger, and played some of that. Didn’t beat it. I bought Dragon Quest IV DS, played 15 minutes of it, then proceeded to quite literally forget that I owned the game. I think I also bought Final Fantasy IV DS and never played it once.

*goes to check shelf*

I really did love this game.Yep, Final Fantasy IV DS is definitely on that shelf. And I definitely never played it. Also, my copies of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are both missing. Oh yeah, I never beat Spirit Tracks. Dunno why. Beat the first dungeon and never played again.

But let’s veer off the subject of the DS for a moment. I also owned a PSP-2000 for a time. With similar results. I bought the system for Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. I played, finished, and loved Crisis Core. And then I never finished a game for the system again. Even after Shawn Cooper was nice enough to hack it for me, giving me access to countless classic ROMs.

So yeah. If you haven’t pieced it together by now, I’m not much for handheld games these days. I guess handheld gaming, for me, doesn’t quite define the “gaming experience.” I like relaxing on my couch in a properly-lit room, playing games on my 42″ HDTV. The truth is that I don’t have as much time to play games as I used to, and when I do get the opportunity, I’d much rather be playing, say, Dead Space 2 than Patapon or some grindy JRPG throwback.

And that’s another point I should make: handhelds are a place where more traditional genres and gameplay styles are preserved. And I appreciate this. However, I don’t actually care much for 2D platformers, old-school JRPGS, puzzle games, or the like. At least, not enough to where I’d choose to play them over something else. There’s always a console game I could be playing. I mean, hell, the Metal Gear games have been sitting in my collection unplayed for years. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne remains unfinished, as does Infamous, Folklore, Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, Metroid Prime 3… you catch my drift.

“But what about your on-the-go gaming needs, Riddles?”

This one, too.Well, I don’t really have them. You see, Ethan lives in a real city with public transportation. He also has a life outside of his abode. I have neither of these things. I drive everywhere, and I spend the vast majority of my time either at work, or at home. When I’m driving, I can’t play handhelds. When I’m working, I can’t play handhelds. And when I’m home, well, I’ve got my PS3, 360 and Wii to fulfill my gaming desires.

So, I guess it’s fair enough to ask the question: what can Nintendo and Sony do to get people like me more interested in their handhelds? Or is that even something they should worry about? Hell, with games like Uncharted coming to NGP, maybe that’ll be the system that gets me back in the handheld scene. But that begs the question: if it’s essentially a handheld PS3 game then… why is it even on a handheld?

There shall be further discussion. For now, I’d like to note the fact that you (presumably)  just read 1000 words about how I don’t play games. Don’t you feel cheated? You should. Regardless, part three is coming up, and that’s where we get to the good stuff. Opinions and predictions about the upcoming 3DS and NGP will abound. Be there. In the meantime, if any of what I just said struck a chord with you, please: comment below!

Handheld Gaming Part 2 – The Present (Ethos)

Friday, February 4th, 2011

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.