Everybody loves to game on the go don’t they? From the Game Boy and Game Gear, to the Vita and 3DS. These things sell like hotcakes. We all love being able to take our favorite games with us wherever we go, right? Well, slow down a bit, it’s not so much the same for me.. I must admit, I do like the concept of handheld gaming, however in my case it just typically doesn’t work in practice for whatever reason. Before I go into more detail, let me get this out of the way now- I’m not bashing or putting down handheld gaming, I’m glad people enjoy it, and I enjoy it myself from time to time. This piece is merely an outlet for me to express my thoughts and opinions about handheld gaming, and why handheld gaming just doesn’t work for me in most situations.
I suppose I should go back and briefly explain my history with handheld games. I never had an original Game Boy, Game Gear, or Lynx growing up. My first handheld was the Game Boy Color, which I got in Teal for Christmas. I was six at the time, and I took that thing with me EVERYWHERE. No matter where my mom would take me, my Game Boy and Pokemon Yellow were in my pocket. If you’d like you can read more in-depth thoughts and memories on my GBC & Pokemon Yellow by clicking here. This trend continued on, through the 2nd and 3rd generations of Pokemon and me and my Game Boy Color were inseparable. It was around this time I got very brief exposure to the Game Gear, because my 18 year old cousin had one that I played when we moved from Ohio to North Carolina. To be honest, I don’t remember too much of my experience playing it. I chalk it up to being so young, and playing it so little, as an adult owning one now, I think the Game Gear is neat little system, but I don’t often find myself playing it, as with most other early handhelds, the console versions of the games greatly outdid the often poor handheld counterparts.
I believe I got the Game Boy Advance day one, and I loved playing it too. I don’t remember what games I had at launch, but I think it was most likely Sonic Advance, Sega Smash Pack, and possibly Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku. I remember harassing my then-new step dad to take me to Wal-Mart to buy both Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire at midnight on launch day, and trying to play Sapphire, with the non-backlit GBA and no light source in the car, using every street light as a chance to see more of the game, and honestly I loved every bit of that. I spent countless hours crouched by a lamp, just to play my favorite games into the late night hours, neglecting my rest that I needed for school (and really, not much has changed there!). My handheld love seemed to peak with the GBA SP. I logged hundreds of hours into that little silver box playing all the Pokemon games, Drill Dozer, the Sonic Advance trilogy, the DBZ trilogy, Zoids: Legends, and numerous other games. I still have my original GBA SP and today its battle torn, and scarred from hours spent in my pocket. It was literally everywhere I was. Later on in life, I got a Game Boy Micro for a great price, and it became hands down my favorite way to experience GBA games (yes, even over the DS and Game Boy Player), they looked and sounded so much better. The small screen and form factor showed just how beautiful those games really were. Though sadly, I seem to have lost it during a move, I found the charger, but not the system, a true crying shame, and something I definitely want to replace.
I remember when the DS was first announced, I honestly wasn’t impressed. I’ve never been a big fan of touch screen gaming (or motion controls, for that matter). So I didn’t get one, didn’t even WANT one, it was the first time I never really wanted the new Nintendo handheld, maybe my falling out of love with handhelds started here, I can’t say for sure. My friends tried showing their DS’ off ti me, and I just didn’t want anything to do with it. I thought it was an unneeded gimmick, and I wanted no part of it. Not even new Pokemon games could make me interested in the DS, and to this day, Gen IV is still my least favorite Pokemon generation. Let’s Flash forward a bit to 2009, I haven’t gamed handheld wise for about 4 years or so. I was talking on the phone with my at the time fiance (now ex-fiance), and she was talking about how her mom was getting her Pokemon Platinum as an Easter gift, and she joked about how I couldn’t beat her, even if I tried.
And with her words, a burning flame reignited within my heart, the flame of a Pokemon Champion. I told her that there was no possible way she could ever beat me at Pokemon. I told her I would go out to town the next day (which was Platinum’s launch day) and buy a DS lite, and Platinum, just to prove I could beat her. And I did, I went into town the next day to GameStop and purchased a red DS lite. I remember them asking me if I wanted a red or ‘gold’ DS, I remember thinking a gold one sounded awful. At that time I didn’t know it was the limited edition Legend of Zelda DS, hindsight being 20/20, I should’ve bought it. I asked if they had Pokemon and they told me they were sold out. Frustrated, I went to Wal-Mart and found they only had one copy left which I snatched up. I logged well over 300 hours into Platinum, and it got me hooked and handheld gaming again, having someone I loved to share it with (and she was actually pretty good, our win-loss records were typically pretty even).
I went on to own about 25 or 30 DS games and really loved the systtem, but over time, the DS began to feel stale, and it lost a lot of its appeal to me. So I sold off nearly all DS games I owned, keeping Pokemon HeartGold and Platinum. I went on to buy a PSP, which I had a brief and passing interest in. I took it to my College classes a few times, and did enjoy it, but the novelty wore of quickly until I hacked it for rom usage, that too couldn’t keep my interest, and so I got rid of that as well. It seemed that to me, I didn’t have any reason to play handheld games anymore- as a child, I played them in the car, in Wal-Mart, when we went to my mom’s friends, or places a child would be easily bored and need entertained.. Now as an adult, I can’t play in the car, I have to drive. I can’t play at Wal-Mart, I’m shopping. I don’t play at home either, because now I have my own large tv, and I can play similar games, on a larger scale, and be more engrossed in the experience (I know popular opinion says handheld games are more immersive, but I’m in the opposite camp, when gaming on a TV nothing around me effects me, but when I’m playing a handheld, I tend to get distracted very easily).
One game had temporarily changed this. I was at a GameStop picking up something (I don’t recall what it was anymore) and the clerk was pushing pre-orders on me, in typical fashion. I had originally denied, until I looked up at the list of coming soon titles. I read a name…and was unsure. I asked him about the game’s release date. He told me, and I didn’t think I could pay it off on time (being unemployed and in college will do that to you). Nevertheless, I decided to preorder it, and slowly payed off the $32. The game was set to release on March the 15th and I couldn’t wait. On the 13th of March, I had to go to GameStop, I had to make a return and it was the last day I could do. I passed casually by the DS shelf on my way to the counter, when I saw a game on the shelf. In shock and disbelief, I asked the employee when I could pick the game up…he told me, it had broken the release date and I could get it today! I excitedly took the game and my pre-order bonuses back to my car and drove home ASAP to make a YouTube video showing off the game, bonuses, and how I got it early. Then once the excitement fell, I put the game in my DS and invested a lot of time into it (around 20 hours, so far- and that’s 2015 time!)
So what was this game you may ask? It was Okamiden. This cute, incredible, and stylish game had rekindled my love of handheld gaming. I became incredibly psyched for the 3DS, which I unfortunately couldn’t get at launch. I did finally get the 3DS for Christmas of that year, Cosmo Black, with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Super Mario 3D Land, and both were terrific games. I was madly in love with the 3DS and bought quite a few games for it including Ridge Racer 3D, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Sonic Generations. Despite loving my 3DS, and the games I have for it, it often finds itself resting in it’s carrying case with a few game staples. I liked Mario Kart 7 well enough, but it wasn’t as good as Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and later, Mario Kart 8. However, my 3DS does see more use than I ever expected though, as now on Thursdays after work, my friends and I go out to eat at a 24 hour gas station, and play games there- typically Pokemon X/Y, Pokemon Alpha Ruby & Omega Sapphire or Super Smash Bros. for 3DS though sometimes a round or two of Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition will pop in and sometimes even my non-gamer friends will jump in and play different games we share with them and we always have a good time, staying out way later than we probably should into the wee morning hours.
The 3DS has given me games I never thought I would get the chance to play like Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon and introduced me to series I had never tried before, like Animal Crossing and Ridge Racer. My love affair with handheld gaming has had a checkered past- both times of great interest and great apathy. I tend to take less risks on handheld games, typically sticking to “safe” games like Pokemon, Mario Kart, and similar titles. It was great to see a handheld version of Smash Bros. even if it is inferior to the console version, but it’s an even trade to be able to take a fantastically fun game anywhere you go, and I guess, that’s the true appeal of handheld gaming. Perhaps, I’m not as apathetic towards handheld gaming as I thought, and revisiting my experiences has made me appreciate it more as I’ve gotten older, but no matter what the case, I know I’m not in love with handheld gaming anymore. I can still enjoy it from time to time, and can still have fun with it- but if given the choice I can safely say I would take a home console over a handheld any day, and that’s okay. Maybe you feel differently, and that too is okay. In the end we are all gamers, playing video games, loving them, and having fun playing them- and that’s what it’s really all about isn’t it?