Friday, August 19, 2005


I am a weak, weak man and on Saturday my weakness manifested itself in a shiny, new, silver Nintendo DS. When the DS first came out, I thought that the launch games were pretty crappy and didn't necessarily put the touch screen to good use. Like with most new consoles, it takes a few months for developers to hit their stride and start putting out good games that make the best use of the console's features. That is certainly the case now with the DS. I picked up Meteos which can be controlled without the stylus, but why would you want to, and Kirby: Canvas Curse which uses the stylus as it's only mean of control. Both games are mucho fun-o, but more on that later. Seeing how I now have the latest 2 handhelds, I shall compare them for you, my little console snuggle bunnies.

They're both pretty much the same size, which means you need cargo pants to carry them around in, or those crazy-big hip-hop jeans that all the kids seem to like. They are handheld in that they can be held in your hands, but so can a watermelon and I wouldn't want to carry that damn thing around all day. Having some sort of case is essential for both, if only to carry the unit and the games. For the PSP it's a goddamn imperative because that screen attracts scratches like monkeys attract things that like monkeys.

The DS has two screens, one of which you can touch and do things with. The PSP has one really big screen. I'd say the edge goes to the PSP as it's screen is a marvel to behold. It's big, bright and clear. The DS's screens are also clear and bright, but not as big or as impressive as the PSP's screen. I've also noticed that the DS's screen is a little harder to see in direct light than it's predecessor, the GBA SP. Maybe I'm just getting older. As mentioned above, you absolutely need a screen protector for the PSP, whereas the DS's clamshell design does a good job of protecting it's screenies. I'd give the credit for the DS having a touchscreen, but that is the fundamental purpose of this unit, so I can't see giving it credit for validating it's own existance. No one gives my pants a parade because they cover my legs, as without this leg covering they'd have a shallow and unfulfilled existence. Panhandling may come into play.

They both have speakers. Sound comes out of it. I usually play my handhelds either at home while watching TV with the missus, at work in the breakroom, or when waiting in line or in a waiting room. In all situations, having my handheld's speakers blasting at full volume would result in me having something large and unfriendly shoved into one of a myriad of orafices. Maybe myriad is the wrong word there. I don't want you to think I have more orafices than the next guy. I have the regulation number of orafices to function as a human being. Good thing we cleared that up.

The PSP has the little analog joystick, which I've found to be completely useless for anything other than menu selection. The face buttons, d-pad and triggers seem to all work well and fit the hands nicely. Ditto for the DS. Where the DS really takes the cake in this category is with the touch screen. Using the stylus to play games is both fun and intuitive. When I first played with the DS, it was a demo unit and I attempted to play Metroid Prime: Hunters, a first person shooter, with the stylus. This was such an awful experience that I wrote the unit off completely. Had I originally played it with the little thumb nubbin, or the thumbanubbynubbin as I like to call it, that comes attached to the wrist strap, I would have been unable to resist its wily charms. Controlling Metroid in this fashion works like a charm and is wicked fun to boot. For Meteos and Kirby, I use the stylus and the fun derived from these games is similarly wicked. Maybe it's just the newness of it all, but I don't think so. I think it's the simplicity of it all.

This is where the theoretical rubber hits the road. As I've lamented before, the PSP has shit for games right now. The DS, while not a powerhouse in that regard, does have a nice staple of games that are fun and play up the uniqueness of the unit. They also have Advance Wars Dual Strike and Nintendogs coming out next week which should launch my playtime into the stratosphere. For my PSP I currently have Lumines and Hot Shots Open Tee. Lumines is lots of fun to play and has a very slick presentation, however when you've plateued out like I have, it becomes a chore to unlock new skins as you have to battle your way to a new high score. Meteos, on the other hand, allows you to unlock new items based on the number of meteos you've launched during the game. Trust me, it makes sense if you've played it. Bottom line is that you don't have to achieve some crazy new high score just to get new things. You can just play your merry little heart out, selecting whatever stages that allow you to stock up on whatever meteos you're lacking. The game is very simple, can get very fast paced and has completly consumed my soul. When I close my eyes, I see meteos dropping from the sky, fusing and launching skyward. If I play for a while, and then look at Linda, I imagine her eyes are meteos that drop down her face, fuse with her mouth and then launch out the top of her head. I think I need help. Kirby is fun however it hasn't gripped me like Meteos has. It's a nice change though and I expect to play it equally as time goes on. On the PSP side, we've covered Lumines and while Hot Shots is a good golf game, it is golf, a genre I've played on pretty much every purveyor of digital entertainment I've ever let into my home. It's like getting excited over bread. It may have cool seeds or swirls of some sort, but in the end, it's still just bread.

The DS is $150, soon to be $130. Games cost about 30 - 35 bucks. The PSP is $250 with games costing from $30 - $50 with most at $40. Now that I've had a few months to step back and evaluate the PSP, I'd say you'd be a frikkin moron to pay that price now. The lack of games can't justify the price, unless you're buying it to watch movies, listen to music, etc and the games are secondary. If that's the case, please see my original comment as there are devices that play movies and music much more easily than the PSP. In a few months when the holiday titles drop, there may be justification for the price, but not at the moment.

The DS has a clock, Pictochat and can act as an alarm clock. The PSP has a web browser, can view pictures, can play movies and play music. Not much of a contest there in terms of extras. Personally, the extras on both are useless to me, so when you consider that the PSP's extras only inflates the price, I'd say the DS wins on this one. I don't want to play movies, music or browse the web with my handheld. I want to play games while I wait to get my blood drawn for a cholesterol test. That's just me though, and I know plenty of people that are content to use their PSP as a multimedia powerhouse as they wait for good games to come out. Yay for them, I say.

Bottom Line
Right now the DS is more fun to me, and with the games coming down the pike, I don't see that changing. Even with PSP games, the DS is a more fun experience. PSP games are very technically impressive but they have a slick, cold feel to them. I can see someone pulling out the PSP to impress people who are unfamiliar with what handhelds can do these days, but pulls out the DS when they want to have fun. This is probably the Nintendo fan in me speaking though. Nintendo, for all they do wrong, absolutely nails the fun factor of games and always has. Having a Nintendo handheld back in the house makes me a happy camper and makes my gaming experience complete. Once Virtua Tennis World Tour comes out for the PSP, my tune may change, but for now, I'm a DS man. Touching is good indeed.

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