Editorial: Ten games we wish weren’t on handhelds

March 15, 2012

Writers Andrew Passafiume and Graham Russell tend to be on opposite sides of the debate when talking about handheld games: Andrew would usually rather be playing on a big screen, and Graham likes that lower system specs makes devs focus on gameplay. In this two-part feature, the two get together and make their picks of the games that best and least fit on a portable. Check out part one here.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
Andrew: Okay, portable is even in the name, but this is one game that would have been much better had it been on a console. It tells an interesting story and has some great moments, they are just ruined by the terrible controls. The PSP was not made to play an action/stealth game like this and it really shows. Peace Walker managed to do more with the limited control scheme of the PSP, but the HD upgrade showed just how the series really needs two analog sticks. An update of this game for the Vita might fix the problems too, but it’s hard to say.
Graham: When Sony decided to make a portable system, I get why they’d want themselves and others to move their popular franchises there. The problem? That’s not how they were designed. Konami actually did some interesting things, like the Metal Gear Ac!d series, but this particular entry was one that really could have used some extra thinking.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Graham: Bringing a graphically-intensive open-world game with mature themes to handhelds? What were you thinking, Rockstar? Yes, Chinatown Wars was well-executed, but it brought with it myriad platform-specific issues: that it wouldn’t look like its big brothers no matter how hard it tried, that an open-world game’s size is restricted by system memory and that a game about thieves, mobsters and drug dealers is going to cause issues when you play it in public places.
Andrew: This is a perfect example of Rockstar trying to do too much with limited technology. It’s a decent game, but it really never felt like the right fit for the DS (or the PSP for that matter) for basically the same reasons you listed.

Mega Man Powered Up
Andrew: The cancellation of Mega Man Universe made me realize just how great Powered Up was, but I feel it would have had more potential as a downloadable title (like Universe). The gameplay is essentially Mega Man, which generally works no matter what system you play it on, but it’s the level customization options that make it stand out. It felt like it could have benefited from being able to share your levels through an interface that, on the PSP, felt incredibly unintuitive. Also, I feel this game would have gotten more attention as a downloadable console title; it was ultimately forgotten about on the PSP.
Graham: You’re right: this one got buried. And it got buried because it didn’t get to be a cool downloadable like Bionic Commando: ReArmed or Mega Man 9. Marketing aside, though, Powered Up was well-executed on the PSP, and I’m not sure it would have actually been a better game on the bigger screen.

Valkyria Chronicles II
Graham: When a main-series sequel hits a portable, there’s usually a bit of adjustment in the core dynamics. While much was done to offset the shift, Valkyria Chronicles II lost the scale of the original’s battles because of the PSP’s memory issues. This has happened to many series (notably Dynasty Warriors), but most were usually made in the context of being side missions or spinoffs.
Andrew: I haven’t had the chance to play this yet, but I think moving this series to the PSP was a bad decision. Part of the reason the original worked so well was because of how expansive the battles could be and how colorful it all looked on an HDTV. It’s still a nice looking game, but every time I see it I just imagine how much better it would have looked if it was developed for the PS3.

Power Stone Collection
Andrew: You know what would have been really good? A re-release of Power Stone 2 (or even the first) for XBLA and PSN with online play. Instead, we got a version of both Power Stone games that is competent (barely), but playing it only made me want to go back to the Dreamcast versions. These are not games that work well on handhelds, period.
Graham: Yep. Yep yep yep. Power Stone is a great game to play with friends on one TV and start some trash talk. It didn’t matter how good a port it was if it relied on finding four copies and four PSPs to make the experience you wanted.

Shining Force Gaiden
Graham: While turn-based games are usually nice on the road, the problem with epic strategy is that it can get… well, epic. The Game Gear’s poor battery life made a game like Shining Force a poor fit, and Sega agreed: it remade the two Game Gear titles as part of Shining Force CD.
Andrew: I forgot this even existed until I saw it here. I think putting any big RPG on the Game Gear is a fundamentally flawed decision because of the poor battery life, like you mentioned. It seemed like a cool game too!

Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku
Andrew: A bit of a random pick, I know, but I love Dragon Ball Z and I’m not afraid to admit it. This was part of a trilogy of RPGs set during the entire DBZ saga, and they were all enjoyable games. That being said, I’ve always wanted a large scale JRPG similar to these games and, although these are decent portable titles, they lack the large scale of the anime or the DBZ fighting games. I would have loved to see a larger scale DBZ action-RPG similar to these on consoles, and I think the portable games don’t do the series justice the way they could have.
Graham: I’m not sure, though. Have you seen the console DBZ games lately? Putting this on a portable gave them the room to make something interesting without the pressure to look flashy. Is there a possibility of a better, larger console DBZ RPG? Absolutely, but that kind of thing is a lot easier to mess up.

Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol
Graham: The original Chibi-Robo was, despite its shortcomings, a charming game that so greatly capitalized on the game’s scale. You, as a little robot, had to navigate areas that, despite being little rooms, seemed so expansive. On the Nintendo DS, you simply couldn’t show off that dynamic without reducing Chibi’s size to a speck.
Andrew: So they don’t try to change the mechanics in order to make up for the change in size/scope? If that’s the case, then I can see why it’s here.

Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble
Andrew: This was a decent version of Viewtiful Joe, except it had one problem: the touch screen powers were awful. I would have loved to see this as a proper VJ sequel on consoles with new abilities that didn’t feel super gimmicky or interfere with the Joe’s already existing abilities. There were some great moments in this game that were ruined because of it.
Graham: After the initial, wonderful first game, the Viewtiful Joe series went bad places. Yeah, this was bad, as was that fighting game and, to a lesser extent, the main sequel. While this probably would have been better as a Viewtiful Joe 3, I can’t be sure.

Retro Game Challenge
Graham: Don’t get me wrong: I loved this game. It’s funny, the games are inventively familiar without being infringing and XSEED’s localization did a fine job of getting around the fact that we didn’t have Game Center CX over here. But the idea, that you’re playing all these NES-style games, would have been much more special if I could have played them on my TV, since that’s how people played NES games.
Andrew: Agreed completely! It’s neat to be able to play it on the go, but it doesn’t really benefit from it. It would have been cooler as a downloadable game.

What do you think of our list? Let us know in the comments!