Continuing the Trend in Handhelds: Resident Evil Revelations

As I said in one of my posts awhile back, I do not think that traditional handhelds and mobile phone gaming actually share the same market. The goal of mobile phone gaming is to provide very brief, cheap experiences, which is perfect for waiting at line or when you’re bored waiting at an airport. Handhelds on the other hand have been continually pushing the medium into home console territory. While huge 3D games have only been possible in the last generation or so, games such as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening have been claiming to provide a console experience in the palm of your hand since the original Gameboy. Last generation the PSP and DS took very different routes, but both continued to push the medium to include bigger and more complex games. This is the halmark of the traditional handheld. With the popularity of mobile phone gaming and the fact that throngs of ridiculously unqualified analysts have been proclaiming the end of handheld gaming, it is strange and somewhat comforting to see Resident Evil Revelations coming out; a full attempt at providing gamers with a console experience in the palm of their hands. So today, I’m going to look at some of the advantages and pitfalls in this policy.

I dare you to say Pokemon was inferior to console games. I dare you.

Let’s start with the disadvantages first. As I said in the first paragraph, it is a commonly held belief that traditional handhelds are in direct competition with mobile gaming. Taking that view, it seems ludicrous that developers wouldn’t try harder to capitalize on vast amounts of dirt cheap disposable games. According to that logic, gamers don’t want large scale complex games on the go, they only want a minor distraction. I, of course, think that this is total bullshit, but the argument can be made. Another major disadvantage has hit both the 3DS and the Vita and that is battery life. Larger more powerful games eat up much more juice than the smaller, more simplistic mobile phone games. This actually ends up working counterintuitively to the idea of a handheld gaming system, as it makes it more difficult to bring it with you on the go. The last disadvantage that I’m going to go into now is the watered down effect. When a game is too similar between two or more different platforms then gamers are likely to choose the one that is clearly superior. Basically, when a handheld game mimics a console game too much, many gamers will simply skip the handheld game and just buy the console edition. That is something that Nintendo has addressed with its dual screens approach last gen and 3D this gen. Sony looks to be trying to combat this with their own touch screens as well. As much as these companies want their games to look and play like a console game, it is in their best interest to differentiate the experience somehow.

You weren’t getting this experience on the Gamecube

As the title of the post suggests, I’m going to be using Resident Evil Revelations in order to highlight the advantages of trying to make a portable console game. Traditionally, handheld games are split up into very small gameplay segements in order to make it playable in chunks when you aren’t busy. The Resident Evil along with many other console games have been supporting this style of play for quite awhile now with the addition of chapter breaks. The game doesn’t need to be a tiny collection of minigames in order to be appropriate for on-the-go play, all it needs are plenty of save points/quicksave, and good stopping points. In this way, console games are accomodating handheld development as they themselves chop up their experiences into easier to digest bits. This is an advantage because it makes the transistion between console gaming and handheld gaming more fluid and intuitive. We’ve already seen that Resident Evil 4/5’s minigame The Mercenaries is a great fit for quick and easy handheld play. With the chapter system in place, Revelations can easily mimic a console experience while not seeming like it is shoehorned into an unworkable system.

Truthfully not a whole lot of difference between the quality of this and Revelations

Of course the biggest advantage to making a handheld game in the same way one makes a console game isn’t a good transition; it is the fact that a bigger more complex gaming experience can be made. As I said in the linked article at the top of the post, I’ve played the best mobile gaming has to offer and it doesn’t come close to anything we’ve seen on handhelds let alone consoles. Handheld gaming pushes the boundaries of what a person thinks is possible on the go both graphically and in complexity. Sure mobile gaming can throw good graphics out, but I wouldn’t count anything that’s on rails or has the equivalent to prerendered backgrounds as a feat in any way. Resident Evil 4 would have been impossible on the Playstation 1, the same could be said of Revelations being impossible on the DS (Maybe a watered down version on the PSP). It is this progression and evolution, which fuels the industry. Mobile gaming is evolving in its own way in a very different direction, and it is good to see that traditional handhelds are still as comitted to bringing out as deep an experience as possible, and not getting stuck in an overwhelming Wii-like flood of cheap shovelware titles.

Yeah, no shovelware at all…

The point being is that Resident Evil Revelations is the latest game following a very old trend to trying to put a home console into the palm of your hand. It wasn’t until this generation that people started questioning this approach due to the rise in mobile gaming popularity. How should gamers as a whole take this trend? Is Revelations an overpriced, low quality console game, or is it a fully functional, portable Resident Evil title worthy of acclaim? These are questions which are going to become more and more important as traditional handhelds take a stand against the increasing mobile phone market.

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