Handheld games have always had one stumbling block – they are considered to not be as good as, or shouldn’t be worth as much as home-console releases. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate provides an interesting case-study as a game that could be on home-console just as easily as it is on the 3DS – with some critics and fans alike complaining that it was made for the handheld instead of the “superior” home-console.
This is an interesting claim to make, albeit a wrong one, Monster Hunter 4 was created ground up for the 3DS, it was therefore designed knowing the limitations and differences a “console style” game would receive on a handheld device. Thus Monster Hunter 4 feels like a 3DS game, sure it would be different on the Wii U for example, but better? I’m not too sure; marking a game down because it is on the “wrong” console is dodgy criticism.
Typically I feel the reason people wish a game is on home-console instead of handheld is one of graphics – people gawk that a “big” game has been made small, with small, “worse” graphics. However, with the 3DS and Vita producing some lovely visuals of their own, this reason seems more and more redundant.
Ultimately, games will be made for whatever console the company feels will provide them with the most revenue. The vast majority of handheld owners are Japanese; indeed, the 3DS is the best-selling console in the land of the rising sun week-in-week-out. As gaming culture is a widely accepted practice in Japan, people play their 3DS on the train, bus and just out and about – it would be silly for Capcom to dismiss the several million 3DS players in Japan for a more social game like Monster Hunter.
Newly announced Dragon Quest XI is being made for Playstation 4 and the 3DS (in a slightly strange move), but generally speaking, more people seem interested in the 3DS version. This is a strange phenomenon in the videogame world, but this is a game that looks to have had more development time on the handheld, rather than the home-console version.
The interesting part in this discussion is the Vita however, with the Vita; we have a console that produces graphical fidelity close to that of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (it’s not on the same level, but on the small screen the difference is all but negligible) and consumers of the device ask why they are getting crappy handheld games instead of “console style” releases (they used to at least); the answer is simple: the handheld and home console market are two different entities that rely on different aspects of gameplay for their success.
Take Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star for example, both of these games provide gameplay that is without compromise to their respective series but they change the formula through the use of levels – handheld games are typically designed with shorter gameplay sessions in mind.
But why is this a problem? Why aren’t handheld games truly considered for game of the year awards? I’m afraid I can’t really supply a good answer for that, besides bias against the handheld system based on lesser graphically fidelity and generally less grandiose games – critics are too quick to jump on the side of games providing a “cinematic experience”. What I’m calling for is videogame equality, neglecting a handheld game is like neglecting a film of its worth because it is animated, or worse, a comedy.