January 10, 2006

PSP vs Nintendo DS

A year or so ago, I had a chance, briefly, to try out a Sony PSP and a Nintendo DS. Both handheld game consoles, but they couldn't have been more different. The PSP was – and is – a gorgeous piece of hardware which looks great, feels great in the hand and has a beautiful, bright widescreen display. Like the best of Sony's designs over the years, it feels as though it's been beamed back in time from about five years in the future; it's the iPod of consoles. Nintendo's DS, on the other hand, felt as though it had been beamed forwards in time about twenty five years; it looks and feels like it was made by Mattel in about 1980; it's big and clunky and if someone showed you the two of them side by side and asked you which one you wanted, you'd have to be insane to pick the DS.

And yet shortly before Christmas, I bought a DS. Am I insane? Not for that decision, at any rate. The trouble with the PSP is that it lacks the one crucial thing a console needs; good, distinctive games. There are games which look great when you see them running – Ridge Racer, for example – but the overwhelming majority of the PSP catalogue is stuff which has endlessly been done before – first person shooters, racing games, sports games, movie tie–ins. Owning a PSP is just like owning a PlayStation only smaller, and while I can see that for some people that's exactly why it's great, for me it's just completely uninteresting.

(As a slight digression, what I think is most regrettable about the PSP is Sony's boneheaded refusal to see that their DRM obsession is stopping them from having a genuine category killer in the PSP. If they'd given it a 30GB hard drive and made it easy to copy music and movies to it, and they'd encouraged rather than worked frantically to block all those developers who want to port their own applications to it, they could have completely ruled the emerging personal media player space with the PSP. What a waste.)

But back to the DS. It took a while for a range of interesting titles to emerge for it, but before Christmas I started to hear great things about games such as Advance Wars, Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, Sonic Rush, Kirby Power Paint, Meteos and others. Some of these games obviously aren't completely original, but they all offer something distinctive on the DS that hasn't been done before; Mario Kart, for instance, has managed to include genuinely seamless wireless multiplayer gaming which just works, even over public wifi access points. Sonic Rush plays across two screens simultaneously. Kirby Power Paint is a platform game which is controlled by drawing and tapping rather than the conventional joypad approach. They all feel fresh, different, innovative. And that's worth much more than a high gloss case or a big screen.

(Bonus points: If you close the lid of the DS, the game you're playing is automatically suspended and restarted when you open the lid. You couldn't ask for a better handheld for the parent who has to cope with 4 year olds materialising at a moment's notice to demand attention. And the DS plays GBA games as well, allowing me to resurrect some of my old favourites from the Game Cupboard of History.)


- 12 comments by 5 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Robert Southgate

    Just as long as you don't own Pokemon, it's all that matters..

    … j/k its a great game :P

    10 Jan 2006, 22:57

  2. Mathew Mannion

    As is the consistent argument that comes up every week in the Society, the truth is blatantly clear. The DS has the killer app (Nintendogs), whereas the PSP's battery life is appalling and has too many games that just aren't handheld games.

    11 Jan 2006, 03:59

  3. Three of my sons (aged 17, 13, and 12) have DSs (and Gameboys, GBAs, Game Cubes). When I ask them to explain their loyalty to Nintendo, they always say it's the quality, originality and variety of the games. If only it were possible to combine soothing a wakeful 2-year-old in the early hours with playing on one of their handhelds!

    11 Jan 2006, 10:47

  4. Steven Carpenter

    The problem for the DS has been, I think, that it's taken a while for the dual screen thing to become obvious. You should try Katamari Damacy or Lumines on the PSP for a some hints of originality (a DS version of KD is rumoured though), but you're quite right to say that everything else on PSP is just a reworked back-catalogue, albeit a well-executed one. The PSP may not have the power of a PS2, but it sure doesn't feel like it, and in terms of sheer polygon power it's an impressive piece of kit.

    Having said that, I've missed playing games like Mario Kart and Advance Wars for their replay and fun factor so much that I recently dug out my Gameboy Advance and put the PSP away for a few weeks – and it's the fun factor that Nintendo seem to inspire from developers better than any other platform. I'm a bit bored with playing the _n_th version of Ridge Racer and WipeOut, good as they are, and I'm planning to pick up a used DS from Gamestation soon, if only Apple would stop releasing nice things. Meet you at McDonalds soon then… :-)

    11 Jan 2006, 20:25

  5. Lucian Glenny, 12

    Couldn't agree more, what a waste of time the PSP is. It startles you with it's big screen and flashy decour but when it comes down to it it's just a PS1.5 in a box, and when you're looking for some top quality games, sony just can't cut it like nintendo can. The D.S has ingenuity, cool features and that "oh wow! I have GOT to get one of those" factor. Coupled with the fact that nintendo have had more than twenty years experience of making great games, it's no surprise that the DS wions hands down, every time.

    16 Jan 2006, 17:07

  6. While its styling does look oddly familiar

    it's the inventiveness of the hardware that appeals to me, with games that can only exist on the DS because of the dual screen or the touch screen. Remakes of popular titles on the PSP, with the same style of controls will have a broader appeal, but I would argue their place is on the original consoles.

    18 Jan 2006, 16:49

  7. Briggsy

    Thats what I've been telling my friends over the past year: in a nutshell that the DS will bring originality and igenuity. Although the power of the PSP is good it can't compare to a games system with new games (the re-used/ported games on PSP). I really enjoy playing on my DS even though I've only got mario kart ds, mario kart and project rub. I intend to get advance wars DS and partners in time as well.

    23 Jan 2006, 10:40

  8. Mathew Mannion

    Just ordered myself a DS… Bye money!

    23 Jan 2006, 22:53

  9. I bought a DS and not a PSP for two reasons:

    1. Money. The DS is cheaper and the games are cheaper. Enough said.

    2. It's a true revolution in gaming. Sure the PSP is very nice, but in terms of a gameplay experience it doesn't really offer me anything new to get excited about. A touch screen does.

    It can't be said that one is better than the other, it depends on what time of games you want to play and how fussed you are about extras. A DS seemed better for me and so I got one, and I sure haven't regretted it.

    26 Jan 2006, 00:36

  10. Nicholas Howes

    I'm happy to see Nintendo holding onto good gameplay rather than going for technical power. We got a Gamecube in our house recently and the most recent Zelda has been keeping me interested ever since. I've never really been a handheld console guy (nor have I owned any console before actually) but I will definitely be getting my hands on a Revolution when it comes out.

    03 Feb 2006, 16:50

  11. NTTT

    Couldn't agree with all of you more. but the games arrives really slow here in Malaysia. BYE

    09 Feb 2006, 13:59

  12. Daniel Francis

    I couldn't agree more the ds is better than the PSP by far because the ds is cheaper and so are the games.
    Also the PSP is just a ps1.5 and plays games that we have all seen before. The ds on the other hand others games that you can only play on the ds for example 'nintendogs' also it has never been done before and thats something you won't here been said about PSP games.
    Also even though some games may have been done before the ds still changes them to make it run perfectly on the ds system, also it adds a lot of extras like for example mario cart ds you can blow up your own ballon on ballon battle using the mic how cool is that. So I think the ds is by far the best of the two.

    12 Mar 2006, 13:57


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