Monday, September 23, 2013

Editorial: Nintendo 2DS and PlayStation Vita TV

The face of portable video games is changing.  And I'm not just talking about the rising popularity and viability of smartphones and other smartphone-based hardware.  (Darn you iPad for making this stuff harder to classify.)  I'm talking about the stuff put out by the establishment.  We all know about Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's PlayStation Vita platforms, both put out earlier in the decade.  But over the past week or two, they've both announced new models of these products, whilst scaled-down from their respective flagship products in their own ways, have the potential to open up new sections of the gaming market.  Ladies and gentlemen, enter the Nintendo 2DS and PlayStation Vita TV.


The Nintendo 2DS.
We'll start with the 2DS.  You know how the top screen on the 3DS can display images in stereoscopic 3D?  Yeah, that was a neat feat of engineering, especially considering that you don't even need 3D glasses to see the effects.  Welp, the 2DS is chucking that out of the window.  The top screen will now only be able to display the simulated kind of 3D graphics, not the illusion-of-depth kind.  Also, unlike the DS and 3DS families before them, the 2DS unit cannot be folded in half. The L and R triggers are located on the top corners of the unit, so as such the buttons are also located closer to the top screen.  From a functional standpoint, this should draw the player's attention towards the top screen, unlike on the foldable DS/3DS units.  How this works out for the player I have yet to see, although the reports I've read seem to reflect positively on its ergonomics.  Of course, the Internet being what it is, such positive pre-release buzz has been drowned out by the masses condeming it because... reasons, I don't know.  So is it an uninteresting, unnecessary piece of junk, as the netizens would have you believe?

Not so fast: it still runs the entire existing library of 3DS game cards, DS game cards, and downlodable titles from the Nintendo eShop. (In other news, Shantae is now available on the eShop for a paltry US$5.  Get on that, peoples.)  And even with the conspicuous absence of Mega Man Legends 3, the 3DS library alone already has a number of killer apps.  Just off the top of my head I can think of Kid Icarus: Uprising, Super Mario 3D Land, and upcoming titles such as Pokemon X & Y and the new Super Smash Bros.  Throw in the multitudes of DS and downloadable titles already available, and the 3DS is a fun platform, no matter how many dimensions are involved.  The 2DS is expected to go on sale worldwide on 12 October 2013 (the same day Pokemon X & Y come out, whoda thunk?), at a price somewhere around US$130, $40 less than the base 3DS.  So the best I can summarise it is that the 2DS is a cheap option to experience the many titles exclusive to the DS and 3DS's libraries, and shouldn't affect its bigger brothers in any way.

The PS Vita TV unit (left) and PS3 DualShock 3 controller (right).
On the other hand, we have the PlayStation Vita TV.  Whilst able to run most of the same software as the original PlayStation Vita, the Vita TV model is a different animal entierly.  Rather than being a stand-alone unit with its own screen and buttons, it plugs into a TV set (only HDMI hookups are supported) and uses existing PlayStation 3 and, in the future, PlayStation 4 controllers.  Sorta defeats the purpose of owning a portable system, wouldn't you say?  Not necessarily.  I've tried the original Vita at game-store demos, and you can colour me unimpressed, mainly because the buttons and sticks are too small for my comfort.  Even if you, the reader, have never had that problem,

The Vita TV is expected to run most existing Vita games on either card or download form, and by "most" I mean, don't expect games that are heavily dependent on the Vita's touchscreens, microphone, or camera to be supported.  In addition, it should also be able to support PSP, PSone, and (presumably for Japan only) TurboGrafx-16 games that are available for download from the PlayStation Store.  But here's the catch: right now, the Vita TV has only been anounced for a Japanese release in November 2013, with a retail price of around JPY10,000 (US$100).  No plans have yet been made for an international release, but personally, I've got faith in that taking place.  It's not like the PSX, that hybrid PlayStation 2 and DVR that Sony put out in the mid-2000s.  Whereas the PSX crumpled under the weight of its own price before it could make it out of the country, the Vita TV ocupies a lower price level than the regular Vita.  So if you've been enticed by the odd Vita or PSP game but haven't found enough incentive to buy one or the other, perhaps the Vita TV will give you a cheaper (and more hand-friendly) route of experiencing them... which is pretty much what I said about the 2DS.  Great minds think alike, I guess.

So those are my thoughts on the 2DS and Vita TV, but before I go, allow me to apply them to what I expect for the future of console gaming.  (And for the record, I'm building off of something I heard mused about on Brawl in the Family's podcast.)  You know Nintendo's developing nearly identical titles for both the 3DS and Wii/Wii U?  For example, Super Mario 3D Land/World, Mario Kart 7/8, and the new Super Smash Bros.  This essentially means that they're making similar products twice in quick succession.  All those extra resources, and any given customer is probably going to buy only one of them.  I'd imagine Sony's developers are in the same boat with the PS3 and PSP, or PS3 and PS Vita, or PS4 and Vita, or however you want to mix it up.


The Sega Nomad, from 1995.
So here's my concept for the next video game console: a stand-alone portable system, with its own screen and inputs, but it can also plug into a TV and use that as the display, along with separate controllers.  In other words, think a hybrid of the Vita TV and the Gamepad controller for Wii U.  In fact, we kinda already had something like that.  Anyone remember the Sega Nomad, a portable version of their famous Genesis console?  Yeah, it was a huge flop, due to its poor battery life and the lateness with which it was released, but perhaps now the time and technology are ready for this dream to take form.  But in the end, it all comes down to making memorable or desirable games, so get on that, developers.  Work together and bring your A-game, and the future will be a very bright one indeed.  Until then...

This is IchigoRyu.

You are the resistance.

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