Handheld Homunculus


As the annual rush to show our loved ones just how much we really care by bequeathing them a family debt mountain for them to inherit upon our demise jollies its holly-bound and bag-o’-nuts self across the shelves of supermarkets and pound shops Nintendo are getting ready to launch their next space-taking dust gather in the war on keeping you from contributing something meaningful to society in the wibbly wonderful Wii-U.

With the success of the pre-Wii-U wonder, the Wii, it is easy to forget Nintendo lost a massive slice of the market, and almost the fight in the console war itself. If it hadn’t been for a freakish set of the bastard offspring culled from Dali’s constipation impaired nightmares any rational person would take as proof God was in absence keeping the mighty N afloat through its Game Boy releases, it could almost have become the might N’d Of The Line, Mario.

Maa-rio, fuck yeah..!
Maaa-rio; fuck yeah..!

Given the Herculean task undertaken by the humble handheld during the N64 and GamecCube days it is with an ironic lifting of an eyebrow in mild surprise we find ourselves in a situation where the hero is beginning to fall.

The handheld market has always been presented as being seen as the ginger step-child by most gamers, the Game Boy and its forebears being more of a shits n’ giggles approach to gaming when held against the more traditional requirement of large plastic box of oriental magic and radioactive shine.


Indeed, recent launches of both the Vita and 3DS have highlighted a significant change in peoples approach to portable pastime pleasures, the numbers in the profit column lacking the guess-timated numbers of zeroes any reasonably hopeful Fagin may have predicted when flicking through the previous year’s ledger.

Nintendo’s own brand of portable piss-about pleasures should have had Miyamoto and mates doing the Macarena all the way to the Bundesbank, as foregone a conclusion as the sun rising to burn the fields sewn too close to the Equator to yield anything other than kindling.


And though numbers have indeed appeared healthy enough now a rather sparse selection of launch titles and excuses as to why no essential releases in subsequent months ensured a subsequent price cut drove numbers through the roof and consoles into pockets.

But for those who played Ocarina when the Water Temple put hairs on your chest and fists through the walls it’s a landscape of paucity of plenty – turning up with a bunch of flowers up your sleeve may get you the gig as a magician, but sooner or later someone wants to see a rabbit sawn in half, and beyond the 3D angle Nintendo haven’t really offered much in the way of reasons for playing once the initial rush of purchase has subsided and regret is setting in.

...you big baby!
…you big baby!

The Vita too suffered a fate similar, with speculation over poor launch titleage and the wedge of plenty needed to invest in the tech too steep a climb for most.

On the flip-side of all this doom we see a huge increase in the uptake of swipe based gaming on the Android and Apple markets, with recent rumblings suggesting the pocket friendly price points and with-you-everywhere nature of the platform two major pluses in the eyes of gamers and developers wishing to save and turn a few bucks respectively.


Quality of content also helps flesh out the available choice, any arbitrary rulings on what passes as a satisfying gaming experience completely in the hands of the developer, rather than the platform holder, themselves.

And though wholly self-governed and in charge of the guns there are no fields ablaze at this cotton-picking ranch, the plethora of titles appearing on the markets being of comparable quality to those one would expect a more traditional format may employ.

...seems legit...
…seems legit…

True, the way feedback is applied in these touch-based games may be one motion repeated ad nauseum Angry Birds-style, they are also capable of embracing full d-pad and button control through in game on-screen overlays.

And when a company like SquareSoft brings the Final Fantasy series to a platform it raises one or two querulous voices within the industry. As much a license to print money as it is an unparalleled adventure the Final Fantasy franchise appearing on any platform shows at the very least a company with belief of there being sufficient enough demand to produce significant sales.

As developing a game for the mobile-phone market is considerably quicker and easier than it is to develop one for the major consoles – the open-road outlook of the market offering designers the freedom of trying new and inventive ways at re-inventing the wheel – costs can quickly be recouped and profits blown on diamond teeth without having to carve a slice of the pie to anyone else eying up the frosting.

...ooh; pretty!
…ooh; pretty!

Choice of gaming indulgence is as abundant as choice of platform to engorge upon, the Apple and Android markets providing quick-fix, single swipe style shenanigans for those looking to fill a few minutes, as well as more fleshed out adventures and R.P.G.’s and racers for those with time to kill and a Moogle fetish. Free and micro-transactions within game add yet more reason for fulfilling your one-of-five-a-day with an Apple or Blackberry.

With OnLive dead and Cloud-based gaming still yet to convince the majority into paying money for no actual physical product in significant enough numbers for anyone to actually care home consoles still gather dust beneath the telly in the front room, a row of game boxes and accessories spilling out the back as essential to the experience as the game itself.

The next generation promises much to remedy this truism, and with the big three talking more of digital downloads and connected networking, wherein all are joined by one single server and the world is your back-up as you storm the stronghold to free the hostages, it seems for now at least there is room enough in our lives for the old war horses grazing beneath the television, even if we control them with waves and gesticulations to the dead eye of camera lens perched atop our inch thick screens.


Handhelds, however, seem destined for the pastures behind the barn, as the choice of filling our pockets comes down to functionality rather than fan-dom in this new world of digital connectivity. Where being able to kill legions of monsters from the darkest pits of Hell in-between trolling a social network for O.C.D. sufferers with dead-links saying ‘Click This’ can be done between wipes and replying to grandma.

The public votes with its pockets, and with the centralized hub of hubris afforded by modern day mobiles expecting consumers to offer up space in their trousers in these money-saving times, it seems, takes more than half a dead rabbit and migraines from extended play.

...there are some upsides, mind...
…there are some upsides, mind…

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