Thursday, March 24, 2005

PSP vs. DS

I was at the forums over on Tommy Tallarico's website when I saw a post asking for opinions on both the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS. While I haven't picked up my OWN PSP just yet (later today), I have put in considerable time with both systems and decided to put my two cents' worth in. Here's what I wrote:
"Due to my work as a journalist, I have to have both systems for the purposes of writing new game reviews and previews. I've already spent ample time with both, and personally I have to say that (in my opinion) the PSP is the better machine. Graphically, the PSP beats the DS like a red-headed stepchild. The PSP also has more available functions out of the box than the DS does.

A prime example of this is with the wireless play. Currently, the DS uses a proprietary wi-fi connection to allow the systems to play together, while the PS uses the standard 802.11 protocols. This means that I could play games like Darkstalkers over my home network in Florida against someone in California. Now, Nintendo has recently announced that it will be sending new dev kits to developers which will allow them to alter the DS wi-fi to run over a standard 802.11 network, but it's a little too late at this point. Nintendo is also releasing an adapter for around $50 US that will allow the DS to play MP3's and MPEG-4's like the PSP, but adding that adapter to the current MSRP for the DS puts it in the same price range as the PSP. For the record, the MSRP on the PSP system BY ITSELF is $199 US. In Japan, the system was available by itself OR in the Value Pack (with all the extra accessories). For the US launch though, Sony is only shipping the Value Pack. You can expect to buy the stand-alone unit later this year.

The next issue is clearly the software library. As of today's launch, the PSP library already has a number of titles on shelves comparable to that of the DS, and the DS has had a four month head start. Sure, the DS is backwards compatible with the GBA, but you can't really count the GBA titles as part of the DS library simply because they AREN'T specifically for the DS. Plus, the you can't play multiplayer GBA titles on the DS because there's no place for a link cable to connect. And keep in mind that there is no earlier system for the PSP to be backwards compatible with.

Keeping with the theme of software titles, I've played a fair chunk of the games for both systems and the PSP titles are just more entertaining as a whole. That's not to say the DS doesn't have some good games. Super Mario 64 DS is a great game. Sure, it's a remake of the original N64 game, but it's been polished up and revamped enough to still feel fresh. And it has all those mini-games to boot. But on the other end of the spectrum, there are games like Rayman DS. Rayman DS is nothing more than a remake of Rayman 2 for the N64 but using the touch screen to control movement. And there was absolutely NO polish to that game. Then there's Ping Pals ... which in essence is nothing more than a more stylized version of the Picochat that comes installed on the DS. Mr. DRILLER: Drill Spirits, while fun, it a game that could have just as easily been released as a GBA title. Try playing that game with the touch screen and it's likely you'll never make any real progress. Pokemon Dash seemed like a good idea when it was announced, but in reality it's nothing more than simply swiping your stylus on the touch screen as fast as you can. That works great as a mini-game, but NOT as a full length title. Although, something I do find cool is the interaction that can take place between the DS and the GBA titles. In Pokemon Dash, for example, if you pop in your GBA Pokemon game, the DS will create a host of new tracks based on the Pokemon you've caught in the GBA game. And on Feel the Magic, if you put in a Sega GBA game, it will unlock Ulala's costume from Space Channel 5. Unfortunately, most of the DS titles feel less like actual games and more like presentations meant to show off the DS features. It feels like developers just forced themselves to do something with the DS touch screen instead of focusing on making games fun.

On the PSP side of things, you've got games like Darkstalkers and Metal Gear Ac!d. These titles are banking on the success of their respective franchises, but still manage to feel original. And while Twisted Metal: Head On and Wipeout Pure don't add anything really new, they still feel like genuine extensions of the franchise, as opposed to just a rehash of old material (ahem ... Rayman DS? I'm talking to you). All three of these games look amazing and are a blast to play. And Lumines is so addicting and mesmerizing that it could end up being for the PS what Tetris was to the original Game Boy. Of course the PSP library has its clunkers too. Spider-Man 2 ( the game based on the movie) feels like it was dumbed down considerably from the console versions. It's something to stay far FAR away from.

So, its now four months after the DS launch and other than Super Mario 64 DS, Yoshi Touch and Go, and perhaps Warioware Touched, there aren't any titles that really stand out as "must-haves". But on the PSP, right off the bat you've got at least four titles that should be a part of your PSP's collection. And before anyone shoots down my statement by mentioning games like Castlevania DS or the recently announced Katamari Damacy DS title both of which look like they'll be excellent games, try to remember that I'm talking about CURRENT DS and PSP titles.

Also, before anyone thinks I'm calling the PSP flawless, I do have issues with it as well. First off is the battery life. While it's not nearly as bad as it was initially made out to be, the PSP's battery life still can't come anywhere CLOSE to the life of the DS battery. For now, if you plan on watching a couple of movies or playing a deeply involving game (especially with the Wi-Fi on), expect yourself to be tethered down by the AC cord. Also, I'm not completely sold on the UMD's just yet. The plastic cases which house the discs are what I've got a gripe about. Sure, it helps keep the disc form getting scrtched up, but if dust or such gets in there, it's a pain in the neck to try and clean. Also, as far as movies go, until more manufacturers add UMD functions to their home theatre equipment, the ONLY place you can watch the UMD versions of recent movies is on the PSP. The thing is, you can expect to pay about $20-$25 for a UMD movie which has little to no special features included ... OR you can pay $5 less for the actual DVD version which usually has all sorts of added goodies. Since I usually have my laptop on me, on trips I'd rather just pop a regular DVD into it and watch everything on its 15" monitor. And as slick as the PSP's high gloss finish makes it look, it also makes the thing virtually impossible to play in bright daylight due to the glare/reflection. This may be good for making sure no one sneaks up on you, but it's terrible for gaming. Also, and this is something I'm compulsive about, that surface pickes up dust, dirt, and fingerprints like noboby's business. I get frustrated enough having to constantly clean the touch screen on my DS every few days, but I have to clean the PSP after every use or it starts to look "worn in". And finally, some of the games for the PSP seem to take a lot longer than they should to load. I think this is more of a developer issue than a hardware issue, and I'm sure it will improve significantly in the future ... but that's the future. Again, I'm talking about the here and now.

Personally, I'm disappointed in the Nintendo DS. I was hoping it would be something great, and instead it feels like a marketing gimmick thats just one step above a Virtual Boy. The PSP on the other hand seems to be a pretty impressive piece of machinery so far. If I had to choose one over the other, I'd pick the PSP in a heartbeat."

Post your impressions and comments about both systems. I want to know what you guys think.

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