Handheld Gaming Consoles Back in Action with the Switch

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    Remember the good old days of playing Super Mario sitting in your car? The cult handheld gaming consoles of the 1990s and 2000s are back with a new life, creating a stir among the gamers once again. Packed with modern features and awesome games to play, here is how the handheld gaming consoles look today.

    Nintendo Switch

    Nintendo Switch

    The design and appearance of Nintendo’s 2017 offering are without a doubt quite impressive. While the Nintendo Switch is a 15.7cm (6.2-inch) touchscreen tablet, the gamepad is its main USP. The gamepad comes in the form of two detachable JoyCon controllers for left (L) and right (R) controls. You can either lock these onto the two edges of the Switch screen or use as a separate system.

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    The box comes with a Dock, which can connect the system to a TV screen or monitor for gameplay. So essentially, the portable handheld system can convert into a proper gaming console off-the-shelf, which justifies its moniker Switch. The device can be plugged out of the monitor and the play resumed without requiring a restart or even pause.

    Switch packs an impressive internal memory of 4GB, which can be expanded by a microSD card up to a massive 2TB (although microSDs above 256GB are rare in the market). Connectivity modes include HDMI, Wi-Fi, USB as well as Bluetooth 4.1. The battery life is quite decent, offering three to six hours of straight gameplay with Wi-Fi turned on. While the gadget is not powerful enough to run very high-end 4K games, developers have rolled out some impressive features.

    Exclusive classic titles like Super Mario, Mario Kart, Ultra Street Fighter, Splatoon along with the latest iterations from popular global series like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have enticed gamers to buy this device. The game library is limited for Nintendo at the moment, which somewhat affects the price as well. However, with expanding reach of the device, we can expect better games at cheaper costs. Nintendo Switch costs Rs. 25,000 onwards.

    Nintendo 3DS XL

    Nintendo 3DS XL

    Nintendo has been the leader of the portable gaming market since its first generation consoles. Currently, its 3DS XL system is a popular choice among handheld gamers.

    3DS XL has made many improvements over the initial 3DS model. It comes with two screens—one on the lower flap (10.6cm) and the other on the upper flap (12.4cm). The biggest boost has been the addition of 3D display.

    The system has a 6MB internal storage, which can be expanded with a MicroSD card. Gameplay has certainly improved with refined display and performance units. The battery allows up to five hours of straight gameplay. The controller pad has generic and simple control buttons. An analogue stylus stick can be implemented for touchscreen action. The console also includes a camera.

    The biggest reason to buy Nintendo 3DS XL is its massive library of games that have been evolving for generations. All Nintendo exclusive series like Mario, Donkey Kong, Megaman and The Legend of Zelda are available for 3DS XL. While graphics are not as advanced as that of Switch, gameplay is certainly better. Nintendo 3DS XL costs around Rs. 20,000.

    PlayStation Vita

    PlayStation Vita

    Although Sony’s PlayStation (PS) Vita is an impressive system, it could not be as successful as Nintendo new generation consoles. PS Vita’s display technology is quite commendable though. Its backlit 12.7cm (5-inch) AMOLED display makes gaming comfortable even under bright sunlight.

    Also, it provides near-HD-quality resolution. Sony provides a few extra keys in its proprietary control pads, which are available in Vita as well. Vita’s operating system and interface are smooth and easy to use. Also, it can connect over Wi-Fi.

    PS Vita is backward-compatible with PSP games. However, it lacks a UMD drive, which limits the support for PSP games downloaded and stored digitally. The console includes front and rear cameras as well as motion sensors that impact gameplay based on screen movements. It supports Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick for storage expansion. The downside is a limited game library with lack of further game production. Still, exclusive game titles like Uncharted, Resistance, Dead or Alive and Silent Hill make the library and the console worth exploring. The console costs Rs. 15,000 onwards.

    Nvidia Shield Portable

    NVidia Shield Portable

    Nvidia is known for powerful system performance and stunning designs— and it has kept this reputation intact in the handheld domain as well.

    Launched in 2013, Nvidia’s Shield remains one of the most powerful handheld gaming devices in terms of performance. It is basically a stunning joystick (an Xbox look-alike) that
    houses an NVidia Tegra 4 system-onchip coupled with 2GB RAM and a 1.9GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor, making gameplay super smooth! In the box, along with the joystick, you get a 12.7cm (5-inch) wide 720p HD foldable touchscreen, which docks on the controller. The fun part comes when you stream the game from the console on your television. You can either use a micro-HDMI cable or Google Chromecast, which Shield readily supports. You can tune the TV resolution up to 4K. The system runs on Android operating system and packs a 16GB internal storage with an expandable microSD memory slot. It also supports Google Assistant.

    Shield has access to Google Play, which adds a good number of games in its library. You can play Android games optimised for Shield, including Injustice, Grand Theft Auto, Oddworld and Need For Speed. Nvidia Shield is available through import only and costs over $200 ( Rs.13,000).

    PlayStation Portable

    PlayStation Portable

    Among the above-mentioned current-generation handheld systems, Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) also deserves a mention as a legacy console. Compared to the previous generations of Sony’s gaming consoles, PSP reached its height of popularity. Packing a 32MB internal memory that could be expanded with a Memory Stick, this UMD-driven device comes with a strong game roster. It supports Wi-Fi an cable connectivity. Fun gameplay and easy-to-hold structure still make PSP a memorable favourite among gamers.

    What next?

    The devices are becoming sleeker, yet more powerful. However, we are yet to see a handheld gaming device that becomes the definitive standard in the market. With the revived demand for handheld consoles, it would be interesting to see how the future plays out. Till then, let’s enjoy the games we have in hand!

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