Going Portable


A year and a half late, three years removed from discovering the PS3 original and now priced at only £7.95, I felt it was high time that I bought Valkyria Chronicles 2. SEGA's strategy RPG is one of a handful of home console franchises that have seen my interest wane with a move to portable devices. It seems I wasn't alone in being hesitant to follow VC across to the PSP, as poor sales in the West ensured that the third entry has been confined to Japan. This shift to the PSP certainly made sense for the Japanese market, where the 3DS/DS and PSP reign supreme, but over here it served only to kill off what was already a niche series.

Like Valkyria Chronicles, Metal Gear Solid has gone the portable route in recent years, but it fared much better than VC outside of Japan. Portable Ops and Peace Walker, and to a lesser extent the Acid spin-offs, were critically acclaimed and relatively well received at retail. However, as much as I enjoyed Portable Ops I was still unwilling to commit to Peace Walker. I was reluctant to invest substantial time in a game and narrative that I felt was somewhat wasted on a portable device, a reluctance that outweighed my devotion to the series. I never got beyond the opening sixty minutes, despite three separate attempts over the course of a year and a half. Fortunately, the MGS HD Collection has come to the rescue, allowing me to enjoy the experience on a 42” screen as opposed to 4.3”.

Western developed series have also passed me by. I completely ignored Syphon Filter's rebirth on the PSP, despite it being one of my favourite series on the PS1. I enjoyed God of War: Chains of Olympus, but not enough to shell-out for Ghost of Sparta and although I consider Resistance to be one the most overlooked and underrated first person shooters of this generation, I never entertained following it over to the PSP.


There are of course exceptions. I’m still thoroughly enjoying Resident Evil Revelations which, along with the addition of the Circle Pad Pro feels perfectly at home on the 3DS. The 3D effects are well integrated and the episodic structure, designed for short-burst sessions, really suits the story. With the Final Fantasy series, Square Enix has done an exemplary job of creating must-play portable titles made exclusively for those platforms, or older ports that lend themselves to handheld gaming. Final Fantasy aside, Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together was one of my favourite games of 2011 and served to remind me that seven years on, the PSP remains an impressive bit of kit.

Despite a reluctance to indulge in portable gaming, I continue to invest in the hardware. I added a 3DS to my collection not two months ago, and I'm still mulling a Vita purchase at or near launch. I need little encouragement to give my old portables the occasional prod while my retro home consoles, with their tangled wires and varying screen requirements, continue to gather dust.

With Golden Abyss, Uncharted is the latest in a line of beloved franchises to go portable. Fortunately, it will not come at the expense of a home console entry and, like Peace Walker before it, I'm rather eager to give it a go. It is the main reason why I am still considering buying a Vita, even if past history suggests that I might not give it the time I'm sure it deserves.

Comments

  1. I liked VC2 a lot, which is saying a lot since I'm not a huge fan of strategy games. Should probably get the first game sometime, heard there's a lot less anime influences and overall a better game. I love portables a lot though, I'm really excited for MGS3D, Kid Icarus Uprising, and Paper Mario 3D this year.

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    1. VC is a really good game. It's difficult to get into, and can be quite challenging in places, but its well worth sticking with it.

      There was a time that I was really excited for MGS3D, but that passed as soon as the HD collection was announced. Looking ahead, the only 3DS game I'm looking forward to is Monster Hunter. It's about time I gave that series a good go.

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  2. "Despite a reluctance to indulge in portable gaming, I continue to invest in the hardware"

    same here. i bought a 3ds last month and will be getting a vita this month even though i barely play my ds and psp. hopefully, that will change with vita having trophy support. probably not.

    speaking of portable gaming, like you i just a free upgrade to an iphone. let me know about any cool games or apps you come across.

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    1. I had completely forgotten about Vita's trophy support. That means more to me than it probably should! Every night I'm checking out bundle deals, but I have resisted thus far.

      Game Dev Story came highly recommended, but I haven't got around to playing it yet. Also, Ghost Trick is on the app store - the first 2 levels are free - though I haven't played that yet either!

      I have found a couple of non-gaming apps that I have been impressed with. There is an excellent, free Japanese dictionary (Kotoba!)that I have found myself using a lot.

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  3. I haven't been playing my handhelds lately for some reason. I think the Vita will respark my interest. I really have enjoyed the PSP and DS though. They've been good to me though they've got nothing on a powder blue Game Gear!

    Also, the Syphon Filter PSP games are on PS2 now. Maybe that would be a good route for you to check them out. I imagine they will control quite a bit better on PS2 though Bend did an admirable job with the PSP's button layout. Not sure how much you head back to the old PS2 these days though.

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    1. Playing the 3DS with the circle pad pro feels a bit like holding a Game Gear! Wrong colour though!

      I only just recently discovered that the SF games were later ported to the PS2. I was considering buying copies off eBAY last week, but I came to my senses and realised I wouldn't play them.

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  4. I'm a big fan of the VC series. I felt VC2's story and design was poor, but the game underneath was great. I hope we get another one on the home consoles...

    Trophy support on the Vita is a big deal to me too... I've become a Trophy/Achievement whore.

    I keep becoming more interested in the 3DS, but I feel that I can wait for the "lite" version to come out. I'd rather have a built in second analog stick and better battery life.

    I avoided NeverDead per your recommendation. Thanks. The game got horrible reviews. I dodged a bullet...

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    1. Would love to see VC come back to home consoles. How about a HD collection of all three?

      Glad I could save you from NeverDead. Could tell from my TGS demo that it was going to be a stinker. I'm half surprised that it was even released - thought the plug might be pulled at the last minute.

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  5. Daydream Drooler9 February 2012 at 04:31

    I'm both looking forward to getting a Vita and not, I want one day one but at the same time I don't wanna deal with newer models and cheaper price points only months down the road. day one I'm going to the store and if they are sold out or there is a huge line I'm walking away for now even though I wanna play Uncharted and Escape Plan soooo bad.
    I was pretty much the same way with my PSP, I got the Krato's edition and loved playing FF7CC and GOW but after that it was hard to actually wanna drop the money for the game let alone find the time for them when I wanted to be playing either the PS3 more or had something better to do.

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    1. I'm still battling myself with the Vita. Half of me wants one at launch, the other knows its best to wait. Not sure which will win out!

      I like the Kratos PSP, very red! I loved Crisis Core. That, FF Tactics War of the Lion and MGS Portable Ops made the PSP worthwhile for me.

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  6. Everyone always brings up screen size in handheld discussions, and it always makes me chuckle. If you actually watch yourself and others play handhelds, almost everyone instinctively holds them at a distance that makes the screen the same size from their perspective as the TV they're used to watching is from wherever they normally sit and watch it. The reality is that there is almost no difference whatsoever for 9 out of 10 people. Even when you find an exception, like someone with a massive projection TV that occupies a whole wall of their living room, it usually turns out that they're duplicating the size of their pc monitor or some other screen they use frequently.

    I prefer handhelds, and play them far more their console counterparts, assuming there's something great like Monster Hunter or Patapon or Zen Pinball available. They're just so convenient, and I love that they can be a part of your life instead of an altar you have to go to. Monster Hunter in the back of sardine packed Mexican taxi vans. A hotseat round of pinball with other discouraged punters in an endless bank queue. Performing a verbal vivisection on a Luddite in a bar without ever looking up from my 3DS. You can't really have those kinds of experiences with a console. I think there's a sort of disconnect for a lot of console-centric gamers, because they approach handhelds with console gaming habits, and then expect the handheld to bridge the gap. It's like buying a motorcycle and then assigning it all the expectations you have for your car.

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    1. I think its more of a comfort thing for me. I tend to get a headache if I play handhelds for too long and to get the screen in the best position usually takes a lot of shuffling around and holding the system at an uncomfortable angle. That's why I never play portables for more than 30-45minutes at a time. I can appreciate what you are saying about distance, but i do have a tendency to sit rather close to my HDTV. I'm surprised I haven't gone cross-eyed! Also, you are always going to lose a certain amount of detail with a portable, something that is more jarring when you are playing a series on a small screen that you have become used to playing on a home console.

      "I think there's a sort of disconnect for a lot of console-centric gamers, because they approach handhelds with console gaming habits". I think that's a fair point. In my case, I'd like to think I can appreciate & make the most of the differences between portable and home consoles. Most of the time, when I want to game I'm looking for the comforts of a home console, and that's why I don't play my portables all that often. I understand that my 3DS/PSP won't offer the same things as my Ps3/360, but at the same time i can't avoid the fact that my handhelds do have to compete with them as I so rarely have the opportunity to game away from my sofa. Cheers.

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  7. haha Yeah, I use a 40" Bravia as my desktop monitor, which also runs my consoles. You certainly cannot get that kind of screen/perspective relationship with any handheld I've ever seen. On the other hand, I've known a lot of people who complain about tiny portable screens when the portable they're dissing actually provides them with a larger screen than the medium sized television 8-12' across their living room. I've used the old Kids in the Hall head crusher bit on many of them. They rarely get the joke.

    Just to play devil's advocate on the second topic... I have no doubt that you understand the nuanced differences between handhelds and consoles in the abstract. You're one of the few real full spectrum gamers I know. But, honestly, how many of the games in your portable libraries are actually portable games, as opposed to console franchises converted to a portable? Most of what you bring up in portable discussions are games like Zelda, Resident Evil, or Metal Gear that are actually console series being translated into the portable universe. Look through my corresponding bags and they're dominated by games like Loco Roco, Patapon, Monster Hunter, Super Robot Wars, Style Savvy, Project Diva, Yu-Gi-Oh - games that actually call a portable system their home. Nothing is lost in translation on those kinds of titles, because they aren't translations. I'm not sure you can claim that you don't approach portable gaming with your console gaming habits if most of what you play on portables are handheld iterations of console franchises.

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    1. You are right about my choice of portable games. I wanted to tell you that you were completely wrong, but a quick glance at my pile of PSP games soon put a stop to that! However, I would make a distinction between console franchises that know they are portable games, and titles that just attempt to port the console experience to a handheld (a lot of FPS fall into this trap).

      MGS Portable Ops, for example, is a very different experience to its home console brothers. From the control layout to the camera, it makes the most of the PSP and differentiates itself from the rest of the series. This is the kind of portable game I'll enjoy, as it serves up a big, console like experience but does so in a way that suits the hardware. I enjoyed FFVII Crisis Core for these same reasons.

      You mentioned Monster Hunter, but wasn't that originally a home console title? Is there a huge difference between the portable and console entries (genuine question, as I haven't played more than about 20mins of any one MH)? I look forward to giving Monster Hunter a good go when the 3DS game comes to the UK later this year. My Circle pad Pro eagerly awaits its arrival.

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