Con-soul Searching: Small Circles
I was talking to a friend about Kid Icarus. He mentioned the franchise is practically unknown since there has only been one game before Uprising. I looked at him strangely for a second. Then he told me the Game Boy’s Of Myths And Monsters doesn’t count because it’s a handheld game. The strange look on my face didn’t go away. I have heard this same argument used by several people I know. Why do they feel a handheld game is lesser than a console counterpart?
I suppose the obvious thing is the power of the system. Portables are usually a generation or two behind the home consoles. I can see how a PSP game may dull in comparison to a PS3 title, but that doesn’t mean we should discount it. PSP games are roughly PS1 games. If God Of War: Chains Of Olympus isn’t a “real game” then what does that say for Crash Bandicoot 2? What I’m getting at is it’s not a concept of power so much as it’s a concept of less than console power. That’s one barrier of people use.
Another attribute is the smaller screen. Instead of a window into another world, you get a peephole. I guess it’s hard to feel a connection when you see a world the size of a postcard. What I find odd, in some cases (say Zelda for example) you are in the same world as every console release. The world isn’t smaller, it just feels that way. Granted one may be restricted to a smaller section of Hyrule, but it’s still Hyrule. Huh, I just contradicted myself didn’t I? Okay so maybe the world is smaller in size due to restrictions of the hardware but, in the sense of story and placement, the world is still the same. That can’t be the reason can it?
It’s common for handheld games to be a prequel, a side story or anything other than a main entry to the existing, console timeline. In doing this, even the developers seem to be admitting handhelds are lesser games than their console counterparts. I suppose there are a couple business reasons behind this; companies make more money off console games and handheld games are usually made by separate studios. The first seems to be a cyclical problem. If companies invested more effort into handheld installments, wouldn’t they sell better? But they don’t invest as heavily into handheld games since they make less money from them. I’m not sure this is an easy problem to solve. The second can be excused since some studios have different levels of experience when working with different consoles. But think about it, don’t you always feel better when you’re told the original studio is overseeing the production of a handheld installment? At the very least, companies feel the need to make such an announcement. Maybe handheld versions are side stories simply because the next console game is being made and the story is already set in stone. Could it really be that simple? If so, how can that cause such a disconnect?
Perhaps the controller is to blame; or lack thereof. Handhelds have less buttons and less analog sticks. Lack of a stick was the main complaint about the PSP and it’s a big concern with the 3DS. Circle Pad Pro, anyone? Anyway, with the lack of input choices developers are forced to design things differently. Could this varying of inputs be the wall between handheld and console equality? Is a fixed camera or a reduction of movement options a reason to dismiss a game’s influence? I don’t think so.
As I circle back around for a landing I realize the irony of my friend’s original statement. If Of Myths And Monsters doesn’t count because of its handheld bounds, then how can Uprising? Is the 3DS more of a system than the Game Boy? I guess so, but only in the same way the 360 is more than the NES. It frustrates me when people dismiss handheld games. What’s worse is I don’t fully understand why. That’s where you come in, readers. If you’ve made it this far through my keystroke ramblings, I want to ask you to go just a bit further. Do you know of anyone that dismisses handheld games? Do you write them off yourself? If so, let me know why in the comments. Maybe I just have weird friends or something but regardless I want to get to the bottom of this issue.