Nintendo has long dominated the market when it comes to handheld gaming; the Sega Game Gear was a joke, tablets are still in their awkward phase of deciding if they want to be full blown game machines, and those awful Tiger handhelds are still better coasters than game systems. So naturally, with a handheld as excellent as the Gameboy, who could really compete? This wave of supremacy continued for years, as one contender after another threw their best attempt at dethroning the mighty grey brick, and all the progeny that followed.
No other developer could really carve out much of a foothold, that is, until Sony came along. Releasing the Playstation Vita in 2012, their curiously strong little handheld started to garner attention, and eventually, praise. Although many would consider the Vita to be a flop, especially with Sony abandoning it by the side of the road like an unwanted sack of trash, the Vita is actually the superior handheld when brought into the ring with Nintendo's more recent handheld, the 3DS. Even though Nintendo has been able to dominate the market by pulling wool over the eyes of a vast majority of the gaming community, there are some who still clutch their Vitas close to their heart. Below, I will prove to you why the 3DS is an abomination next to the PSVita. Make sure you have some ibuprofen though, we may have to do part of this in 3D.
A touchscreen seem to be a feature on basically every device with a screen these days; if it has a screen, let it be touched. Following that principle —and to compete with the ungodly amount of games showing up in app stores and the like every day— any modern gaming handheld would have to have a touchscreen to be relevant. So of course, Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s PlayStation Vita both have that feature, although in differing levels of usefulness.
The Playstation Vita’s touchscreen is useful in a variety of ways; navigating the menu, starting and exiting games, and is even used for gameplay in games like Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection and Tearaway. The 3DS uses it for menu navigation and a few other scant things…and that’s about it. You don’t really see the touchscreen being utilized in-game like titles on the Playstation Vita. Plus, the 3DS comes with a stylus. If I wanted a palm pilot, I would have fished one out of the local dump.
The point of a handheld gaming system is to allow gamers to play video games outside of the house. On their commute, a long car trip, or really anywhere that they want. Because handheld gaming is portable, obviously the handheld in question will need to use a battery to power it. I know this. You know this. Apparently, Nintendo does not know this. Creating a system and then developing games that play on that system is common practice, but making games that suck the life from your system like a vampire on a bender is quite an achievement.
Playing 3DS games on a Nintendo 3DS gives you three to five hours of battery life. What if your forced family fun time vacation car ride is eight hours? Do you really want to play eye spy with your family for the remaining three hours? The PlayStation Vita, however, can last just north of the 3DS’s limit playing a game constantly. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather cut down on the eye spy time, even if it means by a few precious minutes.
While it seems like a neat idea in concept, StreetPass is an annoying little feature built into every current Nintendo handheld. When you have your 3DS on you, and you pass another gamer with their 3DS on them, it’ll let you know. It’ll give you some details on the gamer you passed, as well as what games they play. I understand that this is meant to broaden gamers’ friend circles when playing, and perhaps help gamers meet others with similar interests.
However, after a while, it really becomes a bother. I don’t need to know what every player that I pass with the same handheld as me is playing. I know you can turn this feature off which alleviates the problem, but that makes it even more useless. If I want to find players that play the same games as I do, I’ll play the games and seek them out that way. I don’t need my handheld serving as my personal stalker.
Done away with a few years ago because of its complete uselessness, Spotpass TV was a feature of the Nintendo 3DS that streamed exclusive Nintendo oriented shows, news, and other media right to 3DS consoles through the app. Sounds like a neat idea in concept, but its execution was much different. SpotPass TV was done away with shortly after its inception due to the fact that the programming featured on it just wasn’t that good.
It’s hard not to get a 1984 vibe when a company controls what’s directly streamed into your console, especially if it’s spinning that company in a continuously positive light. If you’re going to make original programming and an app that streams said programming, why not take some time to actually make it worth watching? Apparently, Nintendo didn’t get the memo and instead clogged it with useless ads and lackluster content that led to the company killing the app entirely.
The idea of a handheld gaming system is to put everything that normally requires a comprehensive gaming setup into one package that puts everything in the palm of a gamer's hand. This means including the capability of projecting sound from the handheld itself with built-in speakers. Obviously, the hardware included in the handheld will have a direct affect on this, and the difference couldn’t be more noticeable than when comparing Nintendo’s 3DS and the PSVita.
The 3DS is infamous for having shabby speakers, with most users recommending that gamers use headphones if that actually want to hear what developers intended. Not so for the PSVita; the two stereo speakers on the front of the handheld offer superior sound that rivals that of playing the game on an actual television. Considering that Nintendo has had an iron grip on the handheld market, they’d figure that gamers might want to actually hear what they’re playing.
Since the early days of handheld gaming, screen size has always been an issue. Small, poorly lit screen can cause eye strain, make the system completely unplayable in the wrong light, and have gamers constantly squinting, making handheld gaming something to be enjoyed only in short stints or in the right environment and circumstances.
The Nintendo 3DS’s screen is roughly 3 ½ inches, not bad for a handheld, but small enough that it can still subject some gamers to eye strain. The PlayStation Vita, however, is a much different case. The screen is bright, 5 inches, and able to display approximately 17 million colors! If that doesn’t convince you of PlayStation Vita’s display superiority, it also displays in a higher resolution, akin to high-quality smartphone displays. I’d rather bask in the intricate colors and higher resolution of the PlayStation Vita as opposed to the 3DS’s dull glow any day.
In my opinion, few controllers rival the excellence of Sony’s PlayStation controller. In all its iterations, it has been the most comfortable and well laid out since the console controllers of yesteryear. Sony basically took that control screen and slapped it on the front of the Vita. You have two Dpads, two built in responsive joysticks, and your typical L1 and R1 shoulder buttons. The control interface is easy to use, comfortable for fingers, and well spaced out.
The Nintendo 3DS uses the circle pad, an abomination of modern controller design. The thing feels like it’s constantly on the verge of breaking with even the most delicate of touches. Control is sloppy, and it feels cheap on a handheld that you want to be playing for extended periods. The rest of the buttons are commonplace and actually pretty well done, but that damn circle pad is just the worst.
Today’s handhelds are ridiculously powerful when compared to the handhelds of the past twenty years. It was impossible to imagine these high-end mobile gadgets when we were lugging around cumbersome bags full of Gameboy cartridges, and physically wiring their systems together. Now, if your handheld doesn’t function like a handheld supercomputer that can still play an insane amount of games, there isn’t a hope that you’ll survive in the market.
The 3DS can play a variety of games and run a series of apps and other things with a decent amount of power. However, the PlayStation Vita seems almost erroneously overpowered. It’s able to handle PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games without as much as a hiccup. It can stream PS3 and PS4 games with ease, keeping the frame rate constant and the graphics sharp. Due to the superior power of the PSVita's hardware, it will always outclass the 3DS when it comes to power.
If you’re playing a handheld in public, the stigma will probably follow from any onlookers; that you’re a nerd. While this isn’t necessarily true, the 3DS does little to disprove this; if you were playing a rectangle with Pokemon pasted all over it or a large Zelda faceplate on it, you are a nerd. There’s nothing wrong with having some pride when it comes to your gaming habits or preferences, but Nintendo wants you to look like a thirteen-year-old every time you have a 3DS in your hand.
Again, if you’re playing a handheld in public, chances are that people will still think you’re one of those “gamers." But, the design of the PSVita; those slender black curves, sleek angles, and large screen all make the PSVita seem more adult.
I know I already beat the 3DS’s controls up, and with good reason, but I think the Circle Pad Pro deserves its own entry on this list. The Circle Pad Pro was Nintendo’s admittance that their control scheme was flawed, and then they had the audacity to charge gamers to accept that.
The Circle Pad Pro was essentially a cradle that you snapped your 3DS into that had an additional joystick that made games easier to play. It promised superior control as opposed to what was available on the actual handheld. Does that not seem like a problem to most? Again, this is Nintendo saying “we know that the controls are bad, why don’t you pay us an extra few bucks, and you can actually play your games the way they were meant to be played?” In the age of DLC and micro transactions, this may not seem that crazy, but I cannot accept a company blatantly admitting fault in design and then charging you to actually have a decent setup.
Some would argue that the PSVita has some nonsensical features, such as the back touch pads taking the place of the back shoulder buttons. Indeed, aside from a few games, in particular, the back touchpad is little more than a novelty for the most part. Of course, that is aside from the fact that you can repurpose the touchpad to anything that you like as far as the game's controls go. What you cannot repurpose, and what really has little to no worth is the 3DS’s second screen.
For some titles, I know that they actually made the second screen somewhat useful, but never to the point where it is actually essential to playing the game. Maybe the map is constantly displayed. Maybe you have to swipe or poke at something with your stylus. This is all fine, but Nintendo boasted that the second screen would be a pivotal feature for the system. Not so, as it has simply devolved into a feature that developers seldom take advantage of.
I’m all for collectibles when it comes to video games; having your favorite characters, villains, or scenes immortalized in a statue or what have you is great for your home or office. It also helps to let other people know that we are serious about video games and other gamers know what our interests are. However, I don’t think that a line of collectibles should be needed to access content in a game.
With the popularity of series like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, DLC has been pressed in plastic figurines instead of download codes and micro transactions. Disturbingly, Nintendo followed suit with their line of Amiibos. Now Nintendo games require the purchase of Amiibo figures if you want to access certain content in a game that you already paid for, and the 3DS is no exception. It’s one thing if you have to pay for DLC, another if you have to have that DLC take up physical room on your shelves.
Nintendo’s 3DS is a rectangle. Simply that, a rectangle that you’re expected to hold for hours at a time. Hard edges and sharp corners start to wear on hands after awhile, with cramping and finger fatigue the first signs that Nintendo’s system was not designed with gamers’ hands in mind. Especially for gamers with larger hands, the 3DS can be a serious pain to the palms and phalanges if handled for too long.
The PlayStation Vita on the other hand (ha!), has an oval shape, with rounded out corners that make it more comfortable for gamers’ hands for longer periods of time. The longer you can hold your handheld, the longer you can game, and that is the sole purpose, right? If Nintendo wanted to dissuade gamers from using their systems or playing their games, you think they’d just continue the trend of releasing filler games amongst their better cornerstone titles and releasing systems that ruin their own screens.
Do you enjoy headaches? Eyestrain? Do you enjoy paying top dollar for both of those things, so that you can summon them from an ugly rectangle on command? Look no further than Nintendo’s 3DS. Before launch it even prompted Nintendo to issue a health warning about use with the 3DS, saying that the 3D technology may make eyes tires quicker and cause faster eye fatigue.
Post launch, players are still victim to the eyestrain and “slight discomfort” that the 3DS’s 3D display causes. Plus, many gamers report killer headaches after extended playtime with the 3DS, as the 3D display makes your eyes have a hard time focusing. I don’t know about you, but if I want mild discomfort and headaches, I’d go to dollar pitcher night and try to form a lasting relationship. I certainly would not drop top dollar on a handheld that cuts into my gaming with its nausea-inducing attempt at innovation.
I’m going to catch flak from a lot of Nintendo fanboys and fangirls for this and I’m perfectly fine with that. I welcome comments, complaints, and death threats with open arms. After all, you can flail behind your keyboard all you want — you’ll still be wrong. I’m not denying that classic Nintendo games are classic; everyone knows that the NES and all the excellent titles released on it saved America from being devoid of gaming, possibly forever. The Super Nintendo is no slouch either; some of the greatest games ever made were made for the Super Nintendo, so much to the point that I still own cartridges and play them regularly today.
But, the PlayStation Vita has a better library of games. Even with the exclusion of NES and SNES titles to play, there is a cornucopia of excellent titles from every generation of PlayStation that can be enjoyed on the go. The Vita has pretty much become a JRPG machine the last few years, allowing gamers to experience the joys of gems like the PS1 era Final Fantasy titles, Suikoden, and more recent JRPGS like The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, among others. In addition, a plethora of indie games and third party titles that will never be released on Nintendo handhelds, let alone Nintendo consoles at all, can be played right in the palm of your hand. Keep your Earthbound port, I’ll play one of the countless games you'll never get the chance to experience.