Rub, Wiggle and Blow

Rub, Wiggle and Blow
Portable Soup for the Soul

Tom Endo | 9 Dec 2008 13:18
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Portable games also reflect this new set of expectations. While the PSP has some genuine console moments in games like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, most of its games represent something wholly different from their console brethren. Although they may be based on a console franchise, portable games work within the limitations of the hardware to provide an experience that is no less ambitious. We can see this idea at work in the innovation of a game like Patapon and the unprecedented scope of the upcoming GTA: Chinatown Wars.

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Portable games have also become scrap books of videogame history, particularly of that moment in the mid-90's when Japan dominated the development scene. Square Enix is famously involved in an archeological excavation of their back catalogue. But mostly we see Japanese developers fine-tuning genres that no longer have a place in the living room, genres like the tedious dungeon hacking of Etrian Odyssey and the sidescrolling adventure offered by the Castlevania series. To see any of these games on a 42-inch screen is ultimately disappointing, but on a three- to five-inch screen, these games retain a quaint dignity befitting of our memories of them.

Portable gaming is the equivalent of comfort food. It will never demand our attention the way console games do, but like chicken soup we'll inevitably turn to it first no matter how divine the pine nut foam with a side of foie gras may sound. The raw emotion a great console game is able to elicit just isn't the domain of portable gaming. Rather, our most cherished memories are those of the portable system itself. I recall throwing my Game Boy across the room, only to pick it up a few moments later and start playing again; the hilarious failings of the Lynx and Virtual Boy, the unrealized potential of the Neo Geo Pocket and the first time we blew on the DS. We cherish these devices and the moments of small joy they bring to us. That's why we buy DSs and PSPs: not for any one experience a game can offer, but because these systems allow us to lie in bed, as cozy as Liv Tyler, while we smile and giggle our way through another lazy Sunday.

Tom Endo is The Escapist's Acquisitions Editor. He hopes the next DS commercial features the following: Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Mario Kart and a pillow fight.

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