A Question: Nintendo DSi or Sony PSP?

The question machine has plunked a spinning, golden question in front of me:

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My 8 year old son is very keen to purchase either a PSP or Nintendo DSi …however his parents have no idea which is the better option – if there is one? We would appreciate any information you can give us – even if it is just a website where we can compare the two machines. Thanks for your help.

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Firstly, I must warn you: by asking this question you are raising one of the most fervent religious battles of our time. The religiosity of the Sony-Nintendo-Microsoft console fanboy battle makes Christianity vs. Islam look like an angry game of mini golf. At each corner of the battlefield, you will find acolytes willing to claim that their console of choice is capable of curing cancer and ending world hunger, while asserting that the competing consoles are built from the carcasses of innocent kittens.

And so I beseech you, check carefully if your son has a preference for one brand over another. If you choose not to heed this warning, you may risk unleashing the wrath of a fanboy scorned. One possible way to check for a preference is to casually drop the name of some “exclusives”: games and characters that exist on one brand of console, and not others. Here is a handy list:

  • Nintendo DS(i): Mario, Zelda, Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum
  • Sony PSP: Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Grand Tourismo
  • Microsoft (who don’t have a portable console): Halo, Master Chief, Forza Motorsport

If you get a rousing Huzzah! regarding one of these “exclusives”, you may have solved your question there and then. If on the other hand all options raise equal (dis)interest, then you have a hard road to travel. In this case, to help you (and perhaps your son) I’m going to try to outline the general ‘vibe’ of each console below, and add a spanner into the works too, just to make life hard.
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Nintendo DSi Review: Evolution or Revolution?

The Nintendo DSi might look like an evolution on the previous DS console, but it is more like a revolution.

Nintendo DSi Comparison The console is almost indistinguishable from the previous model (click on the image to see a comparison). By removing the Gameboy Advance game slot, Nintendo has been able to slim the console down by a barely noticeable 13%. The coating is now matte instead of gloss, and the colour options are black and white. When you flip it open, you’ll only notice the bigger, brighter screens if you’re a long-time DS user. From a distance, the only noticeable difference might be the black spot on the cover that belies the revolutionary nature of the DSi.

The black spot covers the lens for one of the two built in cameras. The 3 megapixel external camera is never going to out-shoot your regular digital camera, but it’s more than enough to capture silly memories. The 0.3mp internal camera will no doubt spawn some interesting new games, with at least one Wario title already announced: you leave the DSi on a flat surface, then wave your body around in front of the camera to play. The included camera software is great fun, but doubles as a nice, usable photo archive too, with a calendar to show you when the photos were taken.

I personally prefer to use dedicated devices for photos, music, and gaming, but I’m sure a large number of DSi buyers will appreciate its ability to store and play music files. The downside is the DSi doesn’t support normal MP3 files: you’ll need to convert music to AAC. I have absolutely no idea why consumer electronics companies do this to us. Just stick with the de-facto standards please!

Despite the horrifically bad name (DSiWare? It makes my teeth ache!), Nintendo have stepped up their online game with DSiWare: an online shop that you can use to browse and purchase games and add-ons right on the console (assuming you have access to a Wifi network). If you’ve used the Nintendo store on the Wii console, you’ll be familiar with the approach. Early downloads include a web browser and ebook reader. Unfortunately I can’t test these out yet, because Nintendo have locked the store away until after the April 2 release date. I’ll update once I’ve had a play.

Of course you can also play all your old DS games on the DSi. The removal of the GBA slot means you won’t be playing any old GameBoy games, but there is a huge back catalog of DS games available.

Overall I’m a bit more impressed with the DSi than I ever was with the DS. I’m a little less sure whether it deserves the NZ$150 price premium, but I’m hoping the DSiWare shop and the cameras will bring us some fun times.

Update: I’ve had a bit of a play with the DSiWare shop. The process is almost identical to the WiiWare shop. I tried downloading and installing the web browser, and it was painless. The available games were rather pathetic, but I presume that will improve in time.

Games for Zune

Microsoft have come out and announced that XNA developers can build games for second-gen Zunes. Finally a use for the Wifi in the Zune instead of the crappy ‘Social’ and wireless syncing.

Cesar at ZuneInsider adds some clarity:

Here’s an important point of clarification: The announcements at GDC
are about the new XNA Game Studio tools, which allow developers to
create games that run on Zune devices. These added XNA capabilities are
the first step toward offering developers the opportunity to design
games that could be played on Zune devices, but Zune is a
wireless music and video player first and foremost.

I own a first-gen Zune, so I’m outta luck. I never turn the Wifi on, because I’ve tried syncing several times but it seems impossible everywhere but within about 6 foot of my wireless access point. Same with the FM radio. The RF reception on the Zune is horrible at best, probably because they’ve shielded the buggery out of it so you don’t get any RF noise through the headphones.

Nintendo Wii E3 Roundup

There is so much for the Wii owner to be excited about from E3.? I hear some grumblings about there be no spectacular “core” games, but how can you not wet yourself about the following:

And that’s just a few of the ones that I find interesting. The full list has even more!