Holiday Helper: Handheld Gaming Devices
So you want to be the best mom/dad/uncle/grandma/(insert generic family descriptor here) by getting your son/daughter/niece/nephew/etc a fancy new portable gaming machine, but you’ve noticed that there are quite a few versions to choose from and aren’t sure which one will be the best fit.
Fear not! Your holiday shopping woes are at an end (for gaming handhelds at the least).
When it comes to handhelds, you have two real choices: the Nintendo DS or the Sony PSP. Here’s what you need to know:
The Nintendo DS Platform
Nintendo has been at the top of the portable gaming totem pole for quite some time (ever since the launch of the original Game Boy), so needless to say, the entire DS series has a lot of offer. Most notable is the DS’ game library, playing host to a very wide assortment of games, with the majority of its titles rated “E” for Everyone. The DS is home to the latest Super Mario titles as well as the extremely popular Pokémon series.
As a portable gaming platform, the DS stands out, but it also offers a few additional features, such as wireless multiplayer for select titles. Some of these titles include “Download Play,” which allows users to play multiplayer titles with only one copy of the game. The newer versions of the DS also include additional features.
You’ll find that there are several flavors to choose from, such as the DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL, each with their own pros and cons. The DS Lite is the cheapest, but also oldest of the three. Many new titles will only run on a DSi device; however, the DS Lite is the only one of the three that is still compatible with Game Boy Advanced games.
The DSi and DSi XL are both very similar, the only difference being screen size. Both include upgraded hardware compared to the DS Lite as well as improved wireless technologies and two small digital cameras. Out of the three, the DSi is generally the preferred purchase, but if Game Boy Advanced compatibility is a must, go with the DS Lite.
The Sony PSP Platform
The Sony PlayStation Portable is significantly more powerful than the Nintendo DS, leading to more advanced games with much more detailed graphics. Many of these games are aimed for slightly more mature audiences, usually rated “Teen” or higher. Of course that’s not to say “E” rated titles don’t exist for the PSP; they certainly do, but there are far less to choose from.
What separates the PSP from the DS is the fact that it’s much more than just a gaming device. Sony created it as an all-inclusive multimedia platform, with a larger, higher resolution screen. With the PSP, you can stream music from online radio, watch movies on UMD’s or downloaded from the PlayStation Network, and of course play the latest PSP titles.
Similar to the DS, the PSP comes in a couple different versions: the PSP 3000 (aka PSP Slim) and the PSP Go. The PSP Go is a smaller device with smaller screen and no UMD slot. Instead of purchasing games at stores, you download them from the PlayStation Network and save them either on the PSP Go’s 16GB internal drive or expandable MS storage. The PSP Slim’s hardware is nearly identical to the PSP Go, except that it foregoes the 16GB of internal storage in place of a UMD slot for games and movies.
The PSP Slim is generally preferred to the PSP Go due to its larger screen and cheaper price as well as the ability to trade games with friends in UMD form.
The Future of Portable Gaming
Oddly enough, both Sony and Nintendo have plans to release new gaming devices shortly after the holidays. Nintendo expects to have the new 3DS available worldwide in March of 2011. The 3DS will offer the same gaming experience as the current DS systems but with the addition of a glasses-free 3D display.
Sony’s plans are much more hush-hush. Only rumors exist currently, but it appears that Sony could be developing a PlayStation Phone, running on the Android Operating System. There is no word of an expected release date; however, it is said that when the device is ready, it will rival the gaming power of an Xbox 360.
It actually comes as little surprise, given the rate at which Smartphones are advancing lately. It’s very likely that come 2011 or 2012, Smartphones will be the pinnacle of portable gaming.