DS vs PSP: My Thoughts

I'm quite sure that I've blogged about it before. The two portable consoles. My stand then was simple: they were obviously not catered to the same markets. It just so happens that quite a number of gamers are actually in both markets. Now, as we draw to a close to 2006, and I've had both consoles in my ownership for a while, I think I can make a pretty good guess as to which is the better console. I don't a DS Lite. But I'm not here to go compare specs toe-to-toe. We know who loses in the end, and that doesn't help me trying to be objective.

For one, let's talk controls in general. The DS has a great touchscreen. However, it has really lousy feeling buttons. In my opinion, the DS buttons are worse than the original Game Boy's buttons. Yes - you heard me - WORSE than the ORIGINAL GAME BOY's buttons. We're talking about a really really old console. One I owned and cherished for a long long time. One I didn't give up playing, even when my Game Boy Color came along. I don't know about the DS Lite, but if memory serves me correctly, it didn't feel any better when I tried it. The buttons are soft, lacking tactile feedback. Sometimes, I can't tell if I pressed it or not. For one, buttons are still important even if the touchscreen is there. I know the shoulder buttons are like those from the original GBA. I didn't like those. Imagine who suffers while playing stuff like Yoshi's Island, Super Mario which don't work with the touchscreen?

Of course, the PSP buttons are one hell of a pampering. They absolutely rock for puzzle gaming. While I feel constricted in Tetris DS, I don't feel such thing in Koloomn (Ultimate Block Party) or Lumines (be it 1 or 2). The fairest comparison would be Puyo Pop Fever. I'm quite sure that if you pit two average players of the same skill, the one with the PSP will win. Why? Because he can control better. That's all.

Then, we come to my main gripe. The DS has a touchscreen. Wow - that's cool and all. BUT - we come to how many games use it. You don't need to touchscreen to play Gyakuten Saiban 1 and 2 bar the fifth case of game 1. That's fine, they were ported from GBA after all. Then, we have Yoshi's Island - I have no clue why they had to make it for the DS. I haven't played much, but it doesn't look like I'll be using the touchscreen any time soon. Then, we have stuff like Yoshi Touch 'n Go. It WAS a tech demo. It IS a tech demo. I don't know how wrong that feels to you, but I sure ain't forking out the cash for that, or any tech demo like game (Warioware and Feel the Magic XY/XX immediately come to mind).

Then we have the issue of having two screens. I don't know about most people, but I for the most part haven't found many games which use both screens well. A lot of games could've gone 1 screen and that would have been fine. (Yes, Yoshi's Island DS I'm looking at you.) I honestly don't mind having that second screen, but often I feel like I need that fucking screen off so I can stretch my battery life longer. I don't call the second screen a significant advantage over the PSP - I call it a disadvantage. More often than not, I'm finding that the second screen is not only often not needed, sometimes an effort to put it to use is more distracting than it is useful.

That being said, why are those my gripes? It's because I believe they are hindering people from developing great games for the DS. Why do we buy consoles? Games. I believe this second screen with touchscreen capability is beginning to seriously hinder creativity and what nots from DS games. We have Elite Beat Agents - which I admit is pretty cool. We have Kirby Canvas Curse - also pretty fun use of the stylus. However, as time passes, we find ourselves going further and further towards the obvious. You have a touchscreen. There isn't much you can use it for. Often times when you do need to use it, it's really really just annoying. I can't think of a particular example right now not because I don't have any, it's just that they get so annoying that I delete them and wipe them off my memory. I remember this particular RPG that needed you to use the stylus to move. I just can't remember the name of that RPG.

Games that are mediocre on the DS are just purely mediocre. You don't remember them, you don't care much about them, and you try to ebay them off ASAP. I just think that sometimes it feels like they could have done so much better had they not had care about the touchscreen (or there being a second screen).

That being said - the DS is a good console with plenty of great games. Now, we come to another problem I have with the DS: battery life. Often, I find myself running out of battery. Is it because the battery sucks? Is it because I played it longer than the PSP? Well, I'll give you this. If it says the battery life is 6 hours, it is 6 hours. Regardless what damn game you play. This is usually a good thing - except that I love puzzle games. I won't survive having the recharge every damn time I decide that 6 hours of Meteos or Puyo Pop is needed. In this respect, I disagree that the DS has better battery life than the PSP. True, maybe I can't play 6 hours of Wipeout Pure or Killzone Liberation straight, but I sure can push a long time out of my Koloomn and Lumines. And so far, I find the DS sleep mode less than useful. In fact, I wouldn't rely on it. Somehow, it doesn't feel as battery-saving as the PSP's sleep mode. Don't ask me how - it just feels that way.

And then we come to the ultimatum: which do I play more at the end of, let's say, a month? The PSP. Why? I have no damn clue. I suppose part of it is that the PSP has better puzzle games than the DS. Yes, I like the big powerhouse for PUZZLE games. OK that's fine - I should ignore those. Those are like 100 hours of nonstop same thing kind of games. Not really fair. Then, I look at games like Ace Combat X, Killzone Liberation, GTA: Vice City Stories and Dynasty Warriors Vol. 2. And then I compare them to Gyakuten Saiban 2, Yoshi's Island DS, Elite Beat Agents, Cooking Mama, Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros. Out of some fairness, I'll put in Children of Mana and Magical Starsign. Two probably reasonable RPGs. Arguably, that's not the most favourable lineup for the DS, but a lot of what I named are new stuff. It doesn't take a genius to guess which console got more attention from me the last month or two. It's the PSP.

I've given up being fair to both consoles. It's just not possible. This post completely bashes the DS in front of the PSP. It's obvious I'm not completely in both markets. The PSP owns. It's beginning to kinda dawn on me that if I were to buy games new, chances are, the PSP will give me more per dollar/ringgit I have to fork out compared to a new DS game. Come on - let's face it. You are more likely to spend more hours on GTA: VCS than you are... on let's say... Yoshi's Island DS. OK, that's an unfair comparison. Let's try something else... Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime against... against... hmm... Valkyrie Profile would be unfair... so... (ah ha! snag! not enough good PSP RPGs!). That being said, it's not honestly fair to compare them like that. I don't know - I compare how much I tend to spend playing them. I believe that's a very fair comparison. The PSP may not necessarily have better games than the DS, but tendency is that you will play the PSP more. Why? The games are longer. Why are they longer? UMD is waaaaaay larger than the DS cart. We can go on in circles. I won't even compare puzzle games, since I obviously prefer Lumines and Koloomn over Tetris DS and Meteos. I hate Tetris DS. I love Tetris. I play it all the time. I have it on every platform I own - my phone, my PC, my PowerBook, my XBox, my PSP, my DS, my PS2, (I don't have one for GameCube sadly). It's just that I don't find the Tetris DS to be on par. I know personally I've played more Lumines or Koloomn than Tetris DS and Meteos combined. Is it because I got my PSP earlier? No. I enjoy playing Lumines and Koloomn more than Tetris DS and Meteos. I don't know why, but I blame the bias on controls. Somehow, playing puzzle games on the PSP feels so much more... controllable than on the DS. Oh well. I think this post is long overdue to end.

(So much for my hiatus. Oh well, it's not like it's some law or something, it's more like I probably can't post, not that I can't post completely.)