Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: Your favourite portable video game
GameCentral readers name their favourite handheld games and consoles, from Pokémon and Phoenix Wright to Gravity Rush.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Onibee and inspired by the 3DS slowly coming to the end of its life. You could name any game from any format, including dedicated portables, as well as smartphone games, and Switch titles.
Plenty of people mentioned using the Switch in handheld mode but hardly anyone nominated mobile games, with the majority going for DS and 3DS classics, as well as indie games on the PS Vita.
The right screen
Easy, Persona 4 Golden on the PS Vita. As it’s an enhanced and expanded port of an old PlayStation 2 game. It may be cheating a little to nominate it but the charming graphics, music, presentation, gameplay, and characters make it number one in a heartbeat.
Basically, the PS Vita might as well have been called the Persona 4 Golden console in my case, such was the amount the game got played compared to other titles I own on the system. Just writing this is making me want to playthrough the game another time (fifth? Sixth? I’ve lost count) and I think it’s down to the affection for the characters the game fostered as opposed to any inherent feature of the handheld it was played on. Although the Vita is, or I guess I should say was, an awesome bit of kit.
I think with indie studios’ rise in prominence the idea that certain games types (i.e. a bit retro) would disappear in the absence of a dedicated handheld console is unfounded but there is something somehow more ‘right’ about playing such games on a handheld rather than on a big TV screen or monitor. More pertinent is that gaming itself tends to disappear for me over summer and a handheld is perfect for redressing this (provided there’s some shade to hunker down under!)
The biggest feature for me that handhelds brought to the table is having a sleep mode. The ability to instantly stop and start is a godsend, especially with lengthy role-players, and I am so glad this feature trickled down to modern day home consoles as well.
I’ve never owned a dedicated portable console, but my brother did have a Nintendo DS, so I was able to sample a few things on it. I never got to beat Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, as by then the console was developing technical faults like the touchscreen becoming unresponsive. Which was a shame. My early impressions of it are incredible.
I think that or a Pokémon or another Mario & Luigi will win this Hot Topic. For me, though, it is undoubtedly Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Yes, backtracking to the Ocean King Temple gets annoying after the third visit, if not the second – but this is still a very clever game. Like the bit where the game tells you to press a sacred crest onto the sea chart in order to transfer it. This baffled me for like a whole two minutes. Huh? What exactly does it need me to do, here? Oh! You have to close the DS! That was just brilliant!
It’s odd when the only new toy that Link gets (and I’m not sure it is entirely new) is a dismal, old shovel. But really, Link’s new toy is the DS itself. You can draw rope lines with your bow and arrow between conveniently parallel posts and in one boss use said rope to act as a barrier that will then bounce back its attack! How cool is that?
Then there’s the boomerang. The boomerang will never be that fun again. With the stylus you can trace out the boomerang’s flight path. And you are not restricted by silly, old physics. It can go on any crazed, squiggly route you desire! It can fly at right angles! Triple-back on itself! Do geometric shapes in the air! Hell, you might even be able to write your name! Or a shortened version of it at least. Sometimes I would just throw it around for the sheer joy of it.
I know it came out on the Wii U as well, but you won’t want that version. Its true home is the DS and is where it should always be played.
I feel like Pokémon and Advance Wars are the obvious answers here, but to avoid the obvious I’m going to say… Brain Training. No! Of course not, I mean Etrian Odyssey. I’m partially saying that because I know GC are fans so they’ll definitely print this letter but also it really is a series that I love and I’ve put hundreds of hours into the games, especially IV on the 3DS.
It’s the best dungeon crawler ever, as far as I’m concerned, and a game so full of content it makes things like Anthem seem like an embarrassment. I’m really worried about what’s going to happen to the series on Switch though as not only is there no touchscreen (so no making your own maps!) but the whole game just seems so much better suited to handheld than the TV. That’s definitely how I’ll play it anyway, whatever the new one looks like.
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The oldest of old school
My favourite portable game is probably the LED version of Defender made by Entex in the early 1980s. I received the machine for Christmas and even though you could only play one game on it, I thought it was wonderful.
Entex products were beautifully made (I also had Pac-Man 2 by the same company) and their Defender game was a loving tribute to the arcade cabinet.
I particularly liked the way the planet you were guarding blew up once all of the humans were abducted.
Grandstand’s Astro Wars was also pretty cool, I built up a small collection of LED games over a succession of Christmases. For me however Entex Defender was the pinnacle of the LED craze that flourished for a while before more conventional consoles and home computers took over.
You’ll never know (except I’m about to tell you) how happy I was to see Kat from Gravity Rush in the recent PlayStation 4 theme for International Women’s Day. I love that game so much on the PS Vita and I hate that it was never a big hit. Even when Sony valiantly tried to give it a second chance with a sequel and a remaster.
I don’t know that it ever really needed to be a portable game, which was perhaps part of the problem, but it was a beautiful and fun game with a really sweet protagonist and some very original gameplay and graphics. You basically had control of gravity and could sort of fly… except you were really always falling with grace.
I loved it and even if it wasn’t a game that had to be on portables it probably needed to be to have a budget low enough for them to make it, so either way it would never have existed if it was only home consoles that were an option.
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It’ll never catch on
I feel there will always be a market for portable games. People keep saying, oh mobile gaming is the answer but it isn’t, here are one of the issues: like the PC, every phone has different hardware so how will you manage to keep up?
Another issue is battery time, if you spend all your time playing games your battery is dead in no time. I believe Nintendo will make the DS2 or something similar.
In answer to your other question, the best portables games for me have to be the following:
Havrest Moon (GBA/DS/3DS)
Rune Factory 1 to 4 (DS/3DS)
Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)
Zelda: Link’s Awakening (one of the best Zeldas ever) (GB)
Fantasy Life (3DS)
Away Shuffle (DS)
Fact is, the portable market’s held its own for years and there still can be some amazing games. If Nintendo make a new console I hope they get rid of the very annoying region lockout.
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