Opinion: Why I love Handheld Games Consoles

Atari Lynx Ad

I love handheld games consoles. I just love the pick up and play ability of handhelds and no matter how much more efficient computer components will be, you just will not be able to power a PS3, TV, and a Home Cinema system via one small Li-Ion battery or 2 AA batteries. So, for an environmentally friendly console, handhelds are by far the best choice.

Here are the handhelds I have owned over the years in chronological order:

Nintendo Game and Watch
Nintendo Gameboy
Sega Game Gear
Atari Lynx II
Gameboy Colour
Nokia N-Gage
GP32
GP2X
Sony PSP
Nintendo DS

I loved each and every one of them. My favorites would have to be the Gameboy, Atari Lynx, N-Gage, Nintendo DS and PSP.

Nintendo Gameboy. The greatest handheld ever invented? I think so. It does everything a handheld should do. Simple to use, long battery life and playable games. I played Super Mario Land to death and once the batteries died, would charge them up and play again and again, until I completed the game. My first real handheld game and probably one of the best ever created.

Atari Lynx. At the time, immensely powerful for a handheld and extremely underrated. Lots of quality coin-up conversions and the only console that emulated the Pit Fighter Zoom. Vector graphics and the ability to handle unlimited amounts of sprites. Surely a developers dream? Well, for Tengen, absolutely, but for everyone else, a big fat No! The biggest handheld ever made, with a battery life of a few hours and with only a small catalogue of games, it was clear to see why this handheld failed.

Nokia N-Gage. What can I say about this? Maybe one of the most underrated handhelds in the history of handhelds. Some fantastic games, Super Monkey Ball and Pathway to Glory stand out for me. Online gaming with the ability to talk to friends in multiplayer, real 3D graphics, and it was a phone. Clearly ahead of its time and maybe thats why it was a huge failure?

Nintendo DS. Sheer brilliance. A design similar to the Game and Watch and some of the best Nintendo games ever made. Innovative brain games (a new genre) and great use of the stylus and mic. only Nintendo could do this. Nintendo have made a handheld that has a wide appeal. I am currently hooked on Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Not as good as FF IIV (how could anything compare to that?) but still very engrossing.

PSP. Although I am not a fan of Sony. While sony bought out a great console with the Playstation, they made something everyone wanted and bought with it commercialisation of games (please don’t mention EA and the ever expanding Fifa series). Admittedly, the first games were original and some say, the finest 3D games to grace a home console. Destruction Derby, the mighty Tekken series, Twisted Metal. The problem was the amount of sequels. If a game does well in the charts, a sequel is sure to come out. Its the same thing that is happening with films. It didn’t used to be like this, but eventually the game and film studios will run out of ideas or just play it safe with a sequel to a great game. If your in that type of business, wouldn’t you play it safe?

The PSP is plagued by a similar problem, only in the form of PS2 games, converted to the PSP. But while the PSP is plagued by the amount of PS2 ports, there are some original games and another reason to use it. Homebrew.

Homebrew is one reason I still own my PSP. I can now play my own Sega Megadrive or Super Famicom games on my PSP. Nostagia, here I come! I must also mention the PSP’s ability to play Playstation One games. Final Fantasy 7 can now be played on the PSP. Of course you need to own the original version and you need to do various mundane tasks to achieve this, but it is possible. The games play at full speed and its just like having a ‘real’ Playstation Portable.

When ideas have been exhausted, will developers come up with new ideas? new concepts? new Genres? or look to the past for inspiration? Everything is now a risk and with some of the established leaders now changing strategies, sequels seem to be the easy way to succeed. It looks like a new handheld is only possible from one of the established companies. Microsoft may be working on one as I type. Maybe a small company is already developing a new handheld, ready to over the homebrew scene?

I believe for a handheld to be successful in the future, it needs to be innovative (accelerometer?), have a great control system, online community, provide homebrew support and have a long battery life.

I look forward to the day the next handheld is released and I will have my hard earned money ready to make that purchase. If it sucks, there is always eBay.

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