I think there’s a problem with handheld gaming. It has an issue with identity. It seems to me that the systems are terrified we’ll find out that they can’t do what consoles can. I have a 3DS and, bar the current lack of games, I think it’s pretty cool. 3D without glasses, pretty awesome eh? People say it’s gimmicky and they’re right; but this system isn’t for spending hours with at home, it’s for dipping into on trains and in waiting rooms, so gimmicks are good. The problem is that the games try too hard to give you a console experience that the system simply cannot deliver.
One of the best games on the 3DS at the moment is Resident Evil Revelations and it is, indeed, a good game. I won’t be buying it though. I won’t be buying it because I have Resident Evil 5 on PS3 and for me the 3DS game just looks and plays worse than that. Perhaps I shouldn’t be comparing the 3DS to the PS3 but when you make a game that is similar to others on consoles you provoke such comparisons, and the 3DS is never going to measure up. It needs to play to its strengths in order to compete with the encroaching mobile gaming market.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is another game that was a console staple and has been placed on handheld systems. The difference is that the developers didn’t try to replicate the console experience, they created a completely different style of game that works with the system, rather than forcing a diluted copy of other GTAs. The result is a game that is unique, good and seldom compared to its console counterparts. This is what handheld systems should be aiming for; rather than games that make apologies for the limitations of the system, games that utilise the system’s strengths. And the 3DS has plenty of strengths, not least of all its 3D (without glasses!). Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is the first game I got for my 3DS and beyond the abysmal story line there is a good game. This is a mission based game that lends itself well to the dipping-in mode of play and the 3D is used to provide nice environments and effects. I’m not compelled to play for hours on end but for part of a bus journey it holds my attention and entertains. That is what I need from my 3DS, fun in moderation.
What the mobile gaming industry knows is its capabilities and its target market, this is what handheld gaming has to grasp. Embrace the ability of your system with innovative use of the tools available and recognise that the system is designed for short bursts of gaming not sustained periods of immersion like with consoles. In order to beat the mobile gaming market, handhelds must learn from it.