Video Game Franchises Better on Portable Systems
Rare cases where the console games take a backseat.
For the most part, multi-platform franchises always fare better on consoles, where developers take advantage of advanced processing power to display superior graphics.
The portable versions, meanwhile, normally come under fire for being inferior, mere shadows of their big brothers, and it's been this way since the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Game Boy, the Sega Genesis and the Sega Game Gear, and more recently, the Wii and Nintendo DS.
With this in mind, a handful of video game franchises are actually better on portable systems.
Let us know if you agree.
Nintendo brought its immensely popular Pokemon franchise to Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, where audiences the world over have enjoyed such hits as Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon Battle Revolution. We'll even be nice and throw Pokemon Snap onto the list.
That said, everyone knows the best way to experience these battle monsters are on a handheld system, where Pokemon first got its start with Red and Blue for the original Game Boy. Since then, Nintendo has released new installments for its portables, the most recent being Black and White, which debuted this March. We've also seen more innovation on the portable front, including the Poke Walker (a pedometer that lets you take a Pokemon with you) included with each copy of Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver.
Sure, there have been a couple misfires, like the entire Mystery Dungeon series. That notwithstanding, if you only play Pokemon on the Wii, you're doing it wrong.
Konami's vampire killing franchise first appeared on the Famicom (Japan's version of the NES), where audiences flocked to its catchy music, variety of monsters and whip-cracking play. In fact, it thrived on consoles for many years, with sequels on the NES, the Super Nintendo and even the Sony PlayStation, where critics raved about the outstanding Symphony of the Night. The Game Boy versions, meanwhile, failed to surpass their console counterparts. They were appetizers, at best.
Then, for whatever reason (pressure to use 3D, possible mismanagement), the publisher churned out some average games on the Nintendo 64, PlayStation 2 and Xbox (we have a soft spot for Lament of Innocence).
The portable Castlevania games, on the other hand, kept the franchise from descending into limbo, with Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia leading the charge. Basically, Konami took the successful Symphony of the Night 2D formula and continued to modify it on Game Boy Advance and DS, while at the same time releasing sloppy and uninspired 3D adventures on consoles. It's a strange contrast.
We have a ton of love for Nintendo's pink puffball, but his console resume makes us sleepy. Kirby's Adventure for the NES was a slice of platforming brilliance, and the more recent release, Kirby's Epic Yarn for the Wii, has some of the coolest graphics around.
Those titles notwithstanding, Kirby's always shined the brightest on a handheld. He first appeared in the universally acclaimed Kirby's Dream Land on the Game Boy in 1992, and since then, has starred in a string of enjoyable games, from Kirby's Dream Land 2 on Game Boy to Kirby: Canvas Curse (among the best Nintendo's DS has to offer), most of which follow the same, basic formula: jump/float around, eat enemies, copy their abilities.
To be fair, the console games work along the same lines, except when Nintendo does something lackluster. Case in point, the ho-hum Kirby's Air Ride on GameCube.
Although we've played plenty of great Kirby games on home systems (Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Kirby's Dream Land 3), his portable adventures far outshine the console ones, where even some of those titles were ported to handhelds.
Sonic the Hedgehog
We still remember flipping through old video game magazines and seeing perfect tens for Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis games, but those days are long gone. Sega released the brilliant Sonic CD for the ill-fated Sega CD, then proceeded to take fans on a stomach churning roller coaster ride that had a few highs (Sonic Adventure 2) and far too many lows (Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog on Xbox 360/PS3), where horrible 3D cameras, absurd plots and terrible voice acting became the norm.
Except, of course, on handhelds, where we thoroughly enjoyed the Sonic Advance trilogy on GBA, followed by two Sonic Rush games for DS, all of which paid homage to those aforementioned Genesis classics, where attractive 2D graphics and a wonderful sense of speed propelled these titles to the top of the sales charts. At least the company righted the ship (kind of) with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colors, though you can also play enjoyable versions of those games on the iPhone and DS, respectively.
Like Pokemon, WarioWare first appeared on a handheld system, and the portable games outnumber the console ones, but there's more to it than that. The GameCube and Wii WarioWare games, while good in their own right, cannot compare to the more imaginative hits on GBA and DS. WarioWare: Twisted!, arguably the best in the franchise, made the best use of the Game Boy Advance accelerometer, while WarioWare D.I.Y. gave users the chance to create their own microgames with the help of a handy and surprisingly advanced editor. The motion controls in Smooth Moves for Wii were entertaining, but when it comes to franchise innovation, you're more likely to see it on a tinier platform.