Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: Touch and go

Monday, December 06, 2004

Touch and go

I finally got some hands-on time with a Nintendo DS a couple of hours ago. It feels well built and the screens look very bright and sharp. I tried a Gameboy Advance cartridge on it and it looked great; much better than on a GBA. The screens look fantastic front-on, but the images tend to disappear when viewed from either side. That's no surprise really- the viewing angle is no worse then you'd expect from these kinds of screens. The touch screen is nice and solid. It looks no different from the non-touch screen and has no perceptible give to it. Overall, the DS feels slightly bigger than you'd expect. The top half is very slim, but the bottom half is quite bulky. The silver and black design disguises the size of the bottom half quite well, but its still considerably bigger than a mobile phone when closed. The stylus is tiny, but functional.

On first booting up Mario64DS, I spent a moment stupidly pressing all the buttons before I realised I had to touch the star on the screen. It's going to take some getting used to having controls beyond the buttons. Having instructions in English might help too. The 3D fly-around intro sequence to Mario64DS was beautiful. Very smooth - it looks nowhere near as pixelly as the screenshots seen around the web. The DS certainly has potential, but it isn't being met yet. The Japanese launch titles aside from Mario64DS don't excite me much.

Now more than ever, Sony's PSP really looks like a very serious threat to the DS. Having also seen a production model PSP running in English, there's no doubt in my mind about which is the more impressive device. The PSP eats the DS for breakfast. I originally thought the PSP would be significantly larger than the DS. It isn't. It's only marginally wider and is noticably thinner, though it's screen is huge in comparison. As a games machine, it's nowhere near as innovative as the DS, but I can't see that doing it any harm in terms of sales. It's a multimedia device, built for handling music, movies, photographs and games. The sheer graphical power they've crammed into the PSP blows every other handheld device off the map (including PocketPCs). While I don't believe that many people will start buying movies on Sony's UMD disc format, they won't have to - you can simply stick a Memory Stick Duo into the PSP with your own music, movies and photos on it. From its physical design to its user interface, the PSP looks smoother than a gravy sandwich.

As much as I like Nintendo, and applaud their attempts to move gaming forward with new ideas, there's no denying that from a purely visual standpoint the PSP leaves the DS looking like a tricked-out Gameboy64. It's encouraging to see that the DS is selling faster than Nintendo can produce them right now, but the tide will likely turn when the PSP is released. If the PSP can overcome it's only obvious flaw (its cripplingly short battery life) then Sony's dominance of the handheld market is assured.

The DS, PSP and GBA SP (bottom)

Still playing MGS3: Snake Eater. And it's still brilliant. Nevertheless, nothing tops Katamari Damacy as my vote for best game of 2004.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm afraid you're right...

7:36 pm  

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