In what quickly became a heated debate here at The League of 42 Offices*, we discussed the merits of arguably the two best contenders in the handheld gaming market. Below you will find our thoughts: Ben and Mystie as 3DS owners and Cassi as the Vita owner.
This is ultimately where I feel the 3DS is going to win out. Both the 3DS and Vita have a relatively close number of total games released for the system, with the Vita actually having a slight edge. However, the 3DS can take advantage of almost the entire original DS’s extensive library, while the Vita requires that last gen games be available digitally, which not all are. But even more important are the number of “Must-Have” titles on the 3DS. You’ve got Mario 3D Land, Ocarina of Time, Link Between Worlds, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, Pokemon X/Y… and honestly that list goes on with quite a few other big hits. And some of these are not small games either, several could quite easily last you hundreds of hours if you so chose. And they have tons more on the horizon, with sure-blockbuster titles such as Smash Bros and new Pokemon remakes on the way.
The other thing is there is absolutely one thing that Nintendo has been king of for years, and that is portable gaming. Sure, this generation they are facing pressure, and they are no longer undisputed champion. But that experience has given them the ability to craft games that are perfect for on the go play. Almost all of their big hits are easy to pick up, play a level or an area, and quit (or continue for extended play). Almost every one of their top hits has a perfect balance allowing either extended play or quick bursts if you have limited time. Nintendo knows how to craft a game for portable play, and it really shows here.
The Vita’s game catalog is far superior to the DS’s catalog. Sure it doesn’t have Zelda, but once you’re done with Zelda what do you have? Pokemon? Animal Crossing? While I don’t deny that Zelda and these other games are great titles – once I’m done with these games the DS doesn’t have that much else going for me.
Now the Vita, it may not have Zelda but it has a few other big names under it’s belt – Little Big Planet, Uncharted, Guacamelle, Sound Shapes, Gravity Rush, Hotline Miami, and more.In addition to that the Vita is set up to allow for indie developers to create great games for it. With Nintendo putting all its focus into the Wii U the 3Ds has nothing more to offer us than first-party games.
The reason to have a 3DS is for the Nintendo DS-exclusive games. I’ll gloss over the ones that Ben has already mentioned (but seriously MARIO and LINK/ZELDA) and bring up one of my favorite series: Professor Layton! These delightful puzzle games are part of what pushed me over the edge to purchase the new 3DS. I thoroughly enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the game and the difficult to solve but fascinating puzzles. As far as I can find, there is not a comparable game for the PS Vita.
The 3DS definitely does not have a strong showing in the Online Features department, but I did not expect it to. The first several generations of the DS did not even have an online component and, though it has gotten much better, it is still not a huge selling point for the game system.
You can still play with friends fairly easily, both nearby if not on Wi-Fi, and distantly if you are both connected to the internet. The 3DS has a “Street Pass” feature that allows you to receive gifts from other 3DS owners when you pass within a specified range of each other. However, this is not a feature I have used at all since owning the 3DS.
I’d have to give this category to the Vita, but it is not a star in this either.
While one might argue that online features in both these systems are lacking – the Vita’s still offers a greater offering in this. Although I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer – the Vita does provide online competitive play that you can hook into.
The Vita does only connect to WiFi – but when you have that it offers a lot. You can access the online Playstation Store making buying and getting downloadable games a breeze, you can access the internet and youtube if you need to pop over and look up a game tutorial or take a break from playing to watch a cat video.
Seriously. Ability to watch cat videos on your portable device should be it’s own category.
This one is a bit tougher. Nintendo has never really had a solid track record for online play, but they don’t really want to either, and it has never been one of their stated goals, as they put focus on single-player and local multiplayer. As such, their purely multiplayer options (especially competitive) are very lacking. Compared with most other systems matchmaking/online capabilities, the 3DS absolutely falls a bit flat, and if what you are looking for is online competitive play, Vita will probably be a better answer.
That being said, 3DS has some very cool features that are more designed to compliment solo playthroughs. It’s fairly easy to be online and maybe get a helping item or small boost from other players, or to get little bonuses from passing people on the street who are also carrying their 3DS. It’s much more subtle, but a fun way to interact with others, especially those who are nearby. The online store could also use a bit of work, as Nintendo rarely/never offers any sales on their items, and many of their old classics are a bit overpriced without them… But purchasing/downloading a new game is a relatively straight-forward process, and definitely isn’t a burden to go digital.
Again another spot that I have no problem admitting the Vita, on paper, certainly has advantage here. But again, it has never been Nintendo’s goal to be the most powerful system, but to instead fit the game to the hardware, which is why so many of their games are designed in house. So it tends to be when you get a hit (see above), it is designed perfectly to take advantage of what the system offers. So it’s hard for me to completely fault Nintendo here, because it simply isn’t their goal at all, they are focused on games only, and a platform that can play them, but do little else. So yea, Vita wins this one, but like the online features it just depends on the importance of that to you personally, because it isn’t Nintendo’s goal.
The Vita has better hardware and, therefore, better graphics. It also can come with 3G, bluetooth and Wi-Fi to the 3DS’s Wi-Fi. This is definitely not to say that the 3DS is a bad-looking device, it just simply does not have the horsepower of the Vita.
The Vita hardware gives you all the enjoyment of playing on a console with the convenience of a hand-held. With two joysticks and a d-pad there is wide range of game play styles to choose from. It also offers a front and back touch screen which is capacitive vs. resistive so you don’t need to go looking for your stylus to play.
Portability & Durability
Although you could make the argument that the DS technically is lighter coming in at 8 oz vs the vita’s 9 oz. However, with the announcement of the PS Vita Slim – coming in at 7.7 ounces, they’ve now got the DS beat. The Vita is also the ultimate in portable – you don’t have to open and close the screen whenever you need it – just throw it in your bag and go, grab it, turn it on and start playing.
One strong bonus to the way that the DS is configured is that the screens are protected when the DS is closed and can be thrown into a bag or a very large pocket without worrying about your keys scratching the glass.
The weights are so close (8.3 oz for the 3DS XL and 9 oz for the Vita) that you’d be hard-pressed to tell a difference. Both systems are easily carried and great to travel with. Just don’t throw your keys in the same bag as your Vita.
First off, battery life. Playing 3DS games will last approximately 4-6 hours while DS games will last 6-8 hours. If you go with the 3DS XL (highly recommended), it will net you an hour to an hour and a half extra. The Vita is rated fairly similarly, but is a touch below. They are close enough though that I will call this a tie.
The 3DS (the larger XL version) is lighter than the Vita, by about an ounce. Not much, but it’s enough that any extended play should be noticeable in ease of use. Definitely an important bonus for a portable system.
The 3DS’s clamshell design also is fantastic for on the go gaming. There is very little worry about closing the lid, tossing the system in a pocket or bag, and continuing on your way. I don’t care what the screen is made of, I doubt this is something that Vita owners are as comfortable doing. Again, it may seem small, but for a portable system, this small feature can become a much bigger deal.
The Vita can run for over 5 hours on a good charge and doesn’t take too much time to charge. The DS probably does have an advantage in this that if you let the Vita die you can’t start playing it once you plug it in. But honestly it takes so little time for the Vita to wake up once it starts charging I don’t find it that big of a deal.
Kinda addressed this, but the measures I have seen puts the 3DS slightly ahead of the Vita (especially the 3ds XL), however they are so close that honestly it will come down to what settings you have on. The Vita does have a quicker listed charge time, to me this isn’t really that big of a deal.
As both Cassi and Ben mentioned, the Vita and 3DS have similar battery lives (~5 hours) and charging times. There is no strong edge given to either competitor in this category.
DOES IT PLAY LEGEND OF ZELDA?
If you are a fan of the Zelda games and want to play the DS-exclusive games, I am not sure why you are still reading this article and not out purchasing your very own 3DS.
While it’s true, one big downfall of the Vita is that you’re not going to be able to play Zelda any time soon. However, my point above still stands – once you’ve finished that, what’s left? I see your Zelda and raise you both Little Big Planet and Uncharted.
Ah yes. We have come to the most important section for our competition. 3DS has it, but you will notice a very conspicuous absence of Zelda games on the Vita. That’s a dealbreaker.
Connectivity to PS4/Wii U
Umm… Mii’s? Smash bros brawl will probably take greater advantage of this connection, and maybe future games… but seriously I don’t give a shit about some gimmicky connection between the Vita and PS4. Yea I said it Cassi. Boatload of Meh. But Vita definitely wins here…
The connectivity to the Vita to the PS3 and PS4 is great. Many games, such as Guacamelle, offer crossover play in which you can start a game on your Vita and switch over to the console and pick up where you left off.
In addition to that it the PS4 offers remote play – you can connect your PS4 to your Vita and play your PS4 games on it. Which means you can play next gen games. Which means you can also use your Vita as an entertainment device – watching Netflix or Youtube. This really offers a whole package deal
Because let’s be honest. At the end of the day…if we’re going to talk about boatloads of meh – seriously I don’t give a shit about some gimmicky Mii character that I can customize and make friends with some other character someone has spent way too much time customizing and getting weird hats for. Yea I said it Ben.
If you have a PS4, the Vita is definitely going to get your vote in this category. As Cassi mentioned, the stop-and-go play from one console to the other is a incredibly cool feature and remote play is fantastic (even if it does seem that your vita is just a fancy Wii U controller) and the 3DS has nothing that really compares in this category.
Umm… I’m a gamer? In all seriousness, 3DS does encourage you quite a bit to get out and move around, since you can both interact with other 3DS game owners for special rewards, as well as use the built-in pedometer which will give you special coins you can use in most games to purchase extras. So yea, walk for dat lootz!
Nintendo had some pretty great success with the fitness aspects for the Wii and they strove to add something to their handheld unit. The 3DS has a built in pedometer and you can score bonuses and “game coins” for walking with your 3DS. These game coins can be used in the built-in “Find Mii” game where you must battle demons and ghosts in order to escape. This also uses the StreetPass feature mentioned earlier.
The Vita knows you. You’re a gamer and you don’t give a shit.
While the Vita doesn’t have a pedometer in it- however it has the option to download and store apps, giving you the option to get fitness games and apps on it.
The main tactile feature the Vita offers is the touchscreen and I’d say many of the games I’ve played have utilized it in an interesting way. Games like Little Big Planet and Tearaway work it into the gameplay seamlessly (in Tearaway you can use the touchscreen to customize your character). And it’s far less awkward than blowing on your device.
I will say in terms of extra stuff the DS probably has a bit more going for it (the 3D features, the dual screens). However, in the end I don’t feel like they utilize those enough or in a way that’s useful (apart from maybe the dual screens and maps) that I despite having more features – the DS and the Vita are still pretty evenly matched in this regard.
Again not something I’m really all that concerned with, but I don’t see how you can deny that Nintendo is the king of weird ass tactile features. You’ve got the microphone to talk to your digital shit, or even to blow your digital shit. Touch-screen capabilities that are actually fairly helpful for a lot of games, and pretty well designed. 3D. 3D camera. Dual-Screens. 3D is a bit of a gimmick yea, but some of the big name games actually make good use of this, and absolutely improve gameplay (Mario 3D land is a biggie here). Dual-screens are kinda awesome too, as you can now manage inventory, maps, all sorts of shit on that bottom screen, and it’s fantastic.
I have to admit, blowing or talking into my DS was a great novelty the first time that I did it, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do with every game and I think Nintendo figured that out. The latest Zelda game did not have you blow into the microphone or yell at the screen.
However, one of the times I was most blown away by my DS was during a Professor Layton game I had to close my DS in order for something on the top screen to match with something on the bottom screen- I thought this was incredibly clever. Nintendo has been very creative with the interactive features on the 3DS and I have been duly impressed.
This is really going to come down to the games that you want to play. If you are constantly on your PS4 and want to expand that universe, you are gonna go with Vita. If you want those Nintendo-exclusives, you have to go with the 3DS.
At the end of the day, I am going to fall in line with Nintendo’s philosophy: It’s all about the games. I don’t give two shits about all those extra “features” that may exist on the Vita, all that matters to me is the games that you are putting out, and how many are a quality, must-play experience, and are easy to play on the go or for an extended period. Nintendo has been doing this for a long, long time. They know portable gaming, and they know how to design games to take advantage of their hardware and create a one-of-a-kind experience you truly cannot get on any other system. The vita may have it’s bonuses, but ultimately, I can get what it offers on other systems. If you want the 3DS experience, you have to have a 3DS, that’s all there is to it.
After all this, the Vita offers a great gaming experience. I have a Wii and a Super Nintendo so if I need to get my Mario and Zelda fix I’m not too far off.
Don’t listen to those lies about not having a great library, because it’s certainly there with the potential to only get better. And being your Indie Corner gamer being able to see a device that will offer a great gaming experience that I can cross-play, get great games from indie developers and enjoy a cat video or two in between gaming, this system really does have it all.
*Our “offices” are our computers. Those were some intense emails.