5 Ways in Which the PSP is Better than the DS

The PSP gets no respect. It’s perceived as the handheld system for the mainstream; a shiny toy for frat boys to play GTA and watch Adam Sandler movies on. The DS, by contrast, is for the true gamer; it conjures images of pony-tailed Gamestop employees playing Advance Wars as they suffer through the torture of daily life. The actual merits of both systems are often overshadowed by these false images of contrasting demographics, just as they did during the 16 bit console wars.

Detractors of Sony’s easily finger-printed portable point out
a lack of original games for the system. And it’s true that most of the system’s high profile games are simply inferior installments in franchises that started life on home consoles. Why would you want to play scaled down versions of Jak or Ratchet or Metal Gear, when you could be playing fresh new games like Mario, Zelda or Metroid?

Perhaps I applied the sarcasm a bit too thick there, but the point is that the DS gets a lot of undue credit for offering fresh gameplay experiences. For every Ouendan there are fifty Mega Man Battle Networks, and using a stylus to play games that adhere closely to typical game design conventions is hardly what I’d call “fresh.” Meanwhile the original games for the PSP, such as Crush, get little recognition, though admittedly they are few in number.

But all this bitching and moaning about fairness aside, the fact remains; if this is a “war” (as people tend to think of it), the DS is clearly winning. The PSP is doing far better than most people would have expected though; nearly three years after it’s release, the system is still fighting and making Sony money, and that alone is impressive. But there’s no denying that it’s getting it’s ass kicked; for every PSP sold, Nintendo moves three of their units.

Being an owner of both systems, I have to ask; why is this? Now I’m not saying that the PSP is superior (I feel the two are about equal), but there are a number of ways in which the DS simply can’t (or doesn’t) compete with it. And do to my undying love of lists, I’ve assembled five of them for your reading pleasure (or, more likely, your skimming over indifference). Enjoy.

1. Shoot-em-ups

As of this writing, the DS has only a single shmup; Nanostray. The sequel should be releasing within a couple weeks, and there are plans to port Ketsui to the system at a later date, but this is still a relatively meager collection of shooters.

The PSP has significantly more, and Konami is almost single-handedly to thank for that. The venerable developer/publisher has released a large chunk of it’s classic shmup output in the form of various series’ collections. As a result, almost all of the Gradius, Parodius, Twinbee, and Salamander series are available on the go. Xexex also received it’s first home port via one of these compilations (the Salamander pack).

Also available are the (reportedly disappointing) third installment in Psikyo’s Sengoku Ace series, as well as Hudson’s Star Soldier. Star Soldier is particularly unique in that it actually requires you to hold the PSP sideways. It’s slightly unwieldy at first, but the game is good enough to justify a little initial discomfort.

Clearly, 20+ games spread across 6 UMDs easily outclasses the DS’s meager (yet fairly solid) selection, and that’s not even counting the several great shmups available via…

2. Classic Compilations

I suppose Konami’s shmup collections detailed above could just as easily have been put in this category, but whatever. And again, the DS isn’t without a showing in this department. Namco, Konami and Atari all have rather run-of-the-mill compilations available for Nintendo’s little cash cow, with probably a couple more that I’m not aware of. But again, the PSP rather effortlessly takes the crown in this department.

Metal Slug Anthology, Sega Genesis Collection, Namco’s mandatory “Museum” collection, Power Stone Collection (admittedly just two games), EA Replay Collection (yuck), and two volumes of Capcom Classics make for a pretty potent selection of classics. SNK is also planning a new release featuring a wide variety of their own underplayed classics. Again, I’m probably missing a few; I didn’t exactly do a ton of research here.

3. Racing Games

To me, this category is a biggie. Now I’m not saying that the DS doesn’t have any racing games. There are plenty, and by numbers alone, the two systems are about equal in this department. But here’s the thing; almost all of the DS racers suck in a major way. Of course there’s Mario Kart, and for many gamers it’s the only racing series that matters, but for serious fans of the genre, the DS isn’t the greenest pasture for handheld speed-seeking. As a matter of fact, it’s more of a desert full of sun bleached bones.

In keeping with this pointless analogy, the PSP is a lush rain forest. Big name titles like Ridge Racer, Burnout, WipeOut and even Outrun have all made absolutely outstanding showings on the system. The racing genre, much like the FPS, depends heavily on state of the art graphics and physics to convey a sense of realism. The DS unfortunately doesn’t have the horsepower (pun intended) to do the genre justice. Which brings us to our next category…

4. Graphics

Sure looks aren’t everything, but they’re certainly something. And while the DS can handle 2-D beautifully, it really struggles with polygons. It can handle them, sure, and a talented developer can make them look decent enough (especially if they’re viewed from a distance), but it’s quite rare for a game that doesn’t have the word “Mario” in the title to have attractive 3-D. Usually the graphics have that “early Playstation 1” look about them, which is about as mean an insult as I can imagine.

The difference between the two systems is best illustrated by a direct comparison. The following two games share the same name, but let’s see if you can figure out which one is Ridge Racer, and which is Riiiiidge Racer!


Can you tell the difference?

5. Multimedia Capabilities

“But it’s all about the games” I hear you chortle as you read this. True, it is all about the games when you want to play a game, but when you’d prefer to listen to some tunes, the DS is as handy as a foot. It’s true that these features aren’t very useful for those who play their handhelds in the comfort of their own home, but for anyone who actually uses their portable system portably, these features are borderline essential.

Movie playback is the most lauded of these features, yet it’s probably the one you’re least likely to utilize. Sure, it’s a nice option, but UMDs are pretty large critters, so it’s unlikely that you’ll opt to take a movie along with you in lieu of a game. You can put movies directly on your memory card, but it requires some monkeying around to convert your flicks into a form the PSP will recognize (the rare and obscure mp4).

Every bit as important as the music capabilities are the image viewing options. I’m sure by now you’ve noticed the sassy young tenderoni to the right. Well let me tell you, on a lengthy road trip, or during your week at Uncle Jeb’s farm, she and her ilk are much better company than Pac-man or Sonic could ever hope to be. Not only can you align your pictures to display vertically (as I’ve shown in the example), but you can zoom in quite a lot. In the case of Little Danni there, I can zoom in to such an extent that I can see individual goosebumps on her thigh. But I fear that this is becoming irreparably creepy, so let’s move on, shall we?

Games can also be downloaded. At the PSP Connect store, full PS1 games (only 1st and 2nd party titles so far) can be downloaded and played straight off the memory card (albeit for a price). While most of these games have aged horribly, it’s rather handy to have old standbys like Hot Shots Golf or Crash Bandicoot available without having to lug around any more bulky UMDs.

And of course there’s a thriving homebrew and emulation scene going on behind the scenes, but I’m restricting this article to features that don’t require any hacking or modding. Needless to say though, with a little technical know-how, the PSP can do just about anything short of washing windows.

So if you went through this list and still aren’t convinced, the PSP might not be the system for you. Not necessarily though. The above list is more a checklist of my own personal preferences than anything even bordering on definitive. The system has other advantages too, though they fall outside my area of expertise. SRPGs are well represented. The web browser is reportedly very functional. Playing the system in public is slightly less humiliating than it’s competition (no frantic blowing, for one thing). And it’s certainly a respectable option for those who just want a portable movie player (though you’ll need a pair of headphones).

Overall, it’s a very good system that has withstood some very stiff competition from Nintendo’s little juggernaut. Sure it might not have 2,037 new releases a month, but I’d wager to say that there are more than enough excellent games available to justify a purchase.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on February 7, 2008.

9 Responses to “5 Ways in Which the PSP is Better than the DS”

  1. great. i’m a psp fan. nintendo ds sucks. sony psp rocks.

  2. the ds is loads of fun if ur 5, if not, then grow up! poking a tiny screen with a cheap plastic rod, maybe theres a reason for all the games the system gets for “training ur brain”.

  3. PSP RuLez DS sucks has bad terrible graphics dumb useless boring games. PSP has great graphics awesome games you can watch movies play music and listen to podcast browse the web or even watch or call someone psp is truly better. DS is just a crappy bad handheld system with nothing but gimmicks.

  4. The DS does not suck…it is geared to a different core group of people and has done very well in the handheld market. The psp with the ability to modify the firmware and run unsigned code is an excellent piece of hardware.

  5. i think that the psp is better than a ds but the ds is still good

  6. all together the psp is better but not by far. the graphics are much better and the games are pretty good it just need a touch screen ./

  7. psp rocks ds sucks ass

  8. the psp is fun, but the ds is way better, my psp used to just lay there for months while i played the ds.

    also it’s HEAVY. :(

  9. The DS has certainly left the PSP in the dust as far as software goes. It’s been a number of months since I bought a new game for it, during which period I picked up probably six or seven great new DS games.

    Still, when I’m traveling, I tend to stick with the PSP. The fact that I’ve got movies, music, downloaded games, and, yes, porn all on the memory card, without having to lug around a bunch of extra stuff; that really puts it on top in my book. And since it’s got Williams Collection Pinball, it really doesn’t need a steady flow of new games. Might as well glue the UMD door shut. It may be the inferior game system, but it’s certainly a more versatile device.

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