Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nintendo 3DS vs Playstation Vita

Yes, I am one of those rare people that has both a 3DS and a Vita now...thank you tax returns!

So in my evaluations of the two units we shall go over what makes them great and what makes them suck and then come to an overall winner of sorts. I say of sorts because it is very hard to determine a winner when one has been out just a year and the other barely a month. Software-wise obviously the 3DS would be the clear winner. But what about the other merits? What about the system possibilities? How about the controls? Visuals? Overall design? These are the questions people want answered and I am here to kinda sorta give meager responses concerning most of those topics!

Console Design:

3DS - The 3DS is designed just like a DSi for the most part. It's major differences are the added circle pad, slightly larger top screen, and the obvious differences in the start and select buttons and a wifi switch. Apart from that the design part of the unit will feel very familiar to most of us who have played any of the DS systems.

Improvements could have been made though and there are some heavy design flaws. One is that the top screen being larger than the bottom causes line smudges when the unit is closed since the bottom portions plastic rubs up against it. This is very annoying. The second problem is the circle pad kinda sucks. Playing Street Fighter 4 it becomes apparent very quickly that the input window on the diagonals are very, very small. By that I mean if you want to do a quick up-right motion you have to be VERY precise in order for it to recognize that input. Mario Land on 3DS also has a similar problem with the circle pad in that running around feels strictly directional and not smooth like Mario 64 or Galaxy. It is as if the circle pad doesn't allow for good 3D plane movement. It is hard to describe unless you have used it but it's honestly not very good. Thankfully it doesn't really hinder Mario Land, but if Mario 64 was on this system it wouldn't play quite right on the circle pad.

Playstation Vita - The Vita is just like the PSP in many ways and improved in nearly every way. The only thing that's honestly the same is the L and R buttons, apart from that everything is pretty new. The D-pad is different from any Sony gaming product there has ever been and I haven't decided if that's a bad thing yet. Marvel 3 plays great on it though. There are two analog sticks and they feel great though it seems the sensitivity is a bit high. When trying to play Marvel 3 with the analog sticks moving left to right I often have my character jump when I don't want him to. I really have to play a dedicated 3D game to review it properly though. Oh, and the screen is soooo...soooo....sexy. Also the touch aspects of the Vita are far better than the 3DS, though I do question the feasibility of the Vita's touch screen over the 3DS since if you ask me stylus > fingers for gaming purposes. I can't fathom trying to play Trauma Center or Elite Beat Agents with my finger or many touch games for that matter. Plus who wants to touch this gorgeous screen?

The problems I have with the system's design though are the face buttons. They are like the 3DS buttons being hard and not very squishy. I LOVED the PSP buttons by comparison which felt like SNES buttons. It is a shame that only console controllers have those lovely buttons anymore. Also, the system is a beast! That doesn't bother me personally but it does fly in the face of portability. I also don't like that there isn't a Wifi switch like the 3DS has, especially given the nature of both unit's battery life problem which can be mitigated by turning Wifi off and it's much easier to do that on the 3DS.

Console Design Winner: Playstation Vita.

The system feels better in the hands and isn't inherently flawed like the 3DS top screen smudge issue. The screen is prettier and it has two analog sticks unlike the 3DS which requires an add-on. I find it hilarious and ironic that the system named for its 3D didn't include the basic functionality of a 3D system ie TWO analog sticks.

System Interface:

3DS - The 3DS interface is nearly identical to the Wii where you have a home channel with organizable squares to put your applications and games. It is clean and easy to navigate and adjustable too. Messing with system options during gameplay poses a problem since you have to close the game, but you are allowed to web browse during gameplay. Sadly not all functions act this way. Sometimes you have to close out of something to access something else and sometimes you don't. It really all depends.

Playstation Vita - Sony marketed the Vita like a portable PS3, and it lives up to that accolade in all but one area...the interface. For some odd reason they got rid of the menu bar synonymous with everything Sony's done lately from TV's to their Blu Ray players and of course their game systems. It has been replaced by touch-bubbles...Essentially Sony attempted to copy the way Apple handles its apps like a phone. But to me, it just looks very messy and cluttered and not much actually fits on each page. I do like the way you close out of stuff though ripping it down like a piece of paper. It is satisfying and not as cumbersome as Apple where you have to double tap the button then x out apps you don't want on anymore. Granted they are both cumbersome in their own little way, a marriage of the two ideas would be better. Still, why ditch the menu bar? It was honestly perfect. It was organized and very easy to navigate. It really was the perfect method for navigation in a game system. It didn't have any unnecessary areas and didn't look like garbage on the screen like the Xbox 360, why go for this bubble idea? Well I'll tell you why...the menu bar doesn't play nice with a touch screen and Sony wanted to whore it out as much as possible. The WORST part about the navigation on the Vita is you can't select anything with the controls other than the touch screen. What if the touch feature poops out? Useless system. One of my DS's touch screens has a permanent alignment problem but I still use it as a GBA player and various DS games that don't use the touch screen as a main control option (nearly all of them).

The only real positive here is that you can have anything open at any time even games. Also if the battery dies it saves all the things you had open where they were.

System interface Winner: 3DS

The 3DS stuck with what worked. If only the Vita did the same it would have been a much closer call.


3DS - The 3DS graphically speaking looks on par with or just worse than a Gamecube more often than not. I can't tell if we have seen the limits of what it can do yet but the games look pretty good most of the time. The only glaring issue it has is the games I have seen so far make no effort in applying Anti Ailising. The games look VERY jaggy if you pay too much attention. However, the strength in the 3DS is it's 3D technology which works very well. 3D without glasses looks great, however, I am one of those rare people that can leave it on for long stretches of time and it never bothers me. Most people from what I hear anecdotal or read online either don't like the feature outright or complain that it bothers them. That's all well and good, but the point is it works, and it works really well. People that complain about it baffle me, like, you knew what you were buying right? This is the selling point after all. Does it do much for gaming though? Nope...but it's pretty freaking sweet.

Playstation Vita - This system is a beast and performs nearly on par with a PS3. The visuals haven't been exactly on par with the PS3 though as games like Marvel vs Capcom 3 have noticeably lowered effects and MLB The Show 12 also has some lesser textures and overall worse lighting than its console counterpart, but for a handheld these graphics are matched by nothing. Though the iPad 3 comes out soon with a quad core processor could easily outpace the Vita, but...seriously who wants an all touch screen gaming device? The Vita for its innovation sports a touch screen on the back of the system....what possible use this will have I dare not say but it is there. That's really the only review I can give the back touch screen....it exists. Ultimately, it is difficult to reach properly and I question the feasibility of accuracy.

Hardware Winner: Tie

Yeah, I can't decide here. Each are a technical marvel for different reasons. No glasses 3D is impressive and the powerhouse abilities of the Vita are equally impressive though less inventive.

If I were to rate the potential of each system for software tied to the hardware though....

Software Potential:

3DS - Unlike the Wii, Nintendo's handheld systems are known for having great 3rd party support, quite possibly the best 3rd party support across any system. But we are in a different world these days. A time when iPhones and Androids occupy many developers and less are interested in making large scale handheld efforts. The 3DS has a year under its belt and still only a handful of decent games are available for it. What can we expect going forward? Well, that's not something I can answer, what I can do is speculate on the potential of what the system can do. What it can do is more or less what the DS could do only better online potential and larger games. We have already seen a great Zelda remake on the 3DS so the potential for a new 3D Zelda is certainly there.

Playstation Vita - The potential here as far as history is concerned is a much less bright spot considering most developers abandoned the PSP in the last two years of its existence. Will the same snobbery occur with the Vita? Possibly, but that's not what we're speculating on. The potential for the Vita is almost boundless. From rumors of Bioshock on the system, to ideas of an Elder Scrolls or Fallout game, the Vita can do it! Also, the Vita has great connectivity options with the PS3 but as we have seen with Nintendo anyway that usually ends up being a limited or forgotten feature. But the potential to play PS3 games on the go, or even elsewhere in ones own home is sweet. So far it only works with a few games none of which I own.

Software Potential Winner:
Realistically 3DS

I'd love to give this to the Vita since I feel like developers could really take advantage of that power, the online connectivity support the games have, and those analog sticks makes the Vita a much better candidate for "potential." But when the fan gets struck by reality poop it will all rain down on the Vita most likely. The odds are stacked against it to do well. The teeming history Nintendo has in the handheld market, coupled with developers probably not wanting to develop console caliber games at $40 really hurts the Vita's chances. So odds are we will see more software on the 3DS all the while wishing we could play it on the Vita's hardware. Think of Zelda on this sexy beast....droooool.


The gamer in me would of course recommend both systems, but the practical man in me who knows it's too god damn expensive to own both and supply yourself with their respective libraries is a task only for those who can afford it, or those who can afford to go broke on it. A game system can only be measured by the game library it ends up having and that is often difficult to predict. If you think the Vita will do well, buy that since it is sure to get some amazing portable games. But if you think the 3DS will dominate (it probably will) I'd recommend that especially if you like Nintendo's games anyway like Mario, Pokemon, Zelda, etc.

But purely as a system PURELY as a piece of technology, I would recommend the Vita. It's nicer to look at, nicer to hold, nicer to use, and it just works better as a multimedia device than the 3DS does if that's your thing. Plus if you have a PS3 it is really cool to see the trophy support integrate with your existing account, and see all your PSN friends online on the go. The best part is you can MESSAGE them! The 3DS just lets you see who's on...and that's it. I guess I should have done an online comparison...well...3DS online is terrible apart from playing games online which isn't so bad, but doing anything else with it is god awful. Netflix is slow, browsing is slow, yadda yadda yadda. Vita works much better in this capacity.

*In one hand I play 3DS, in the other I play Vita....yet no progress is had...*

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