NGP arises out of the PSP ashes. Is it enough?

Actual image of someone attempting to play an NGPIn case you don’t know, Sony announced the successor to the PSP recently, dubbed the NGP (Next Generation Portable). Goofy name aside, I thought I’d share my feelings on the newly announced portable system.

First and foremost, the NGP features a much more powerful processor, which opens the gates to the more demanding games shown such as Uncharted. On top of that, the NGP features a 3G connection (something not seen outside of cell phones or the iPad). While I am open to the prospects that this opens up, I can’t help but compare it to smartphones. Call me crazy, but the only portable game I deem worth a damn is the kind I don’t have to think about, it’s just always with me whenever I want it. This is why is the iPhone is the only portable game system I’ve used in the last year.

Having that 3G connection does open up the possibility to download games anywhere you are, as well as play them online whenever you like as well. My question is: who would want to? Technically, you can do this with games on smartphones right now, but I have yet to see any game that I would want to play anywhere (outside of like, Scrabble or something). I suppose the improved processor could open up the possibility of better games that you’d want to do this with but this also poses a few new questions/issues: The battery life and monthly cost.

The estimated battery life of the NGP is around 5 hours of playtime. While this does say more about battery technology than Sony’s ability to utilize it, it is a huge detriment to the system either way. Also, who’s willing to bet that this does not include statistics from when the NGP is using the WiFi or 3G connection? Any seasoned smartphone user can already smell trouble because smartphones probably get around 6-7 hours on a constant 3G connection (or when playing a demanding game), with the omission of it getting around 10-12 on the average phone. All this is telling me that the NGP is going to be not so great for the wireless gaming everyone’s hoping for. On top of that, is anyone really going to bother with the extra monthly cost this will undoubtedly have? That’s going to be at least an extra $30/month, folks. No carrier is going to give this away, no matter how much Sony begs.

Okay, enough about this 3G crap and more about the rest of the system. NGP features many different control types that are clearly all well thought out and will work together perfectly. Oh wait, maybe in a perfect world where everyone has 5 hands it would work but I just looked at the system and nearly had a hand cramp from hell. This thing has not one, but TWO touch screen…pad… things, 2 analog sticks (which I will admit is an improvement over the original PSP’s one), a D-Pad, a full set of buttons, and a gyroscope/accelerometer. Surely you’ve heard of addition by subtraction? Sony hasn’t. First, there’s the touch screen….. pads… (they will be dubbed touch pads from here on in), and there’s one on the screen (like an iPhone) and another on the back of the system. WHAT!? How does this even….. WHAT!? Maybe I’m just not seeing this with beer goggles, but that sounds like the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard for a game system. A touch pad you can’t even see while playing. You heard it here first, folks.

Next, there’s the analog sticks. I have little to no issue with the analog sticks, or the d-pads, or the buttons. These were all on the original PSP and worked just fine, except the NGP now has 2 analogs. Having two analog sticks will allow for more robust games, with better control schemes (or at least they would have if there weren’t 15 other possible configurations in this thing). In my eyes, Sony should have stopped here.

Lastly, we have the gyroscope/accelerometer. I’m going to say it flat out, I have played very, VERY few games on the iPhone that use this well. Rage HD on iPhone allows for the gyroscope and accelerometer, so it’s definitely a good example. With the gyroscope, you pretty much have to look like an idiot while you attempt to get the thing to move where you want it to. This control setup is not ideal at all for many games outside of  a few good racing titles.

“Okay then, if it sucks on the iPhone, why do you like it so much?” Well, simply because most game developers have figured out by now which types of games work best with the control schemes. I say most of them, because who the hell knows what id Software was thinking when they released Rage HD on it. For the most part though, a quality game has quality controls. I’m just simply hoping that NGP developers figure this whole thing out quick.

In fact, all of the problems (minus battery life) could be fixed if the developers of the games just figure out a single control scheme that works best, and just stick with it. No one is going to want to switch to an analog stick, back to the touch pads, back to the buttons while dancing around with their NGP like a schizophrenic ballerina.

I realize I’ve been entirely negative with this whole thing, but this is just how I feel at the time. Perhaps E3 will change my mind on the NGP, we’ll just have to see.

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Talor Berthelson

Talor Berthelson is an established games writer who uses TheWesker.com to share other interests with the internet.

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