Want to give the gift of gaming on-the-go, so your loved ones can play at work, at school, on the bus, during childbirth — whenever? Face-Off has you covered. Today, Nintendo’s lastest goes head-to-head with Sony’s higher-end system. Check back each weekday through Dec. 24 for a new match-up.
In this corner… Nintendo DSi with The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (System: $169.99. Game: $34.99)
Earlier this year, Nintendo slimmed down its popular DS portable gaming system (grandchild of the Gameboy — remember those?), and embedded two cameras: one on the outside, for snapping pictures, and one on the inside, to be used for motion-capture games. The technology for the latter is still a work-in-progress, but there’s no denying this stylus-totin’ system is the sleekest it’s ever been. And its reputation for cartoonishly fun, unbearably addicting games continues with the recent release of The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. This sequel to 2007’s Phantom Hourglass once again has a hesitant Link stumble into an epic battle, this time taking on an evil chancellor who’s trying to unleash a demon onto the world. Of all the franchise’s 15 titles, this one embraces its silliness the most—Link gets around via an ancient train, is haunted by the shrill ghost of Princess Zelda, and finally rocks his woodland nymph-like persona by literally playing a pan flute. And given most of the game’s controls are done by slashing and swinging the stylus, it’s also as fervent a gaming experience as you can get on the small screen.
In the other corner… PSP Go with LittleBigPlanet (System: $249.99. Game: $39.99)
This new companion system for the longstanding PlayStation Portable does away with playing games on the pint-sized Universal Media Discs; instead, games are downloaded via Wi-Fi from the PlayStation Store directly onto the 16MB system. So there’s no need to carry around your game library, and the unit has a compact design where the screen slides up to reveal the controls. This is by far the most “portable” PlayStation Portable yet. That doesn’t mean it lacks the punch of its big-system counterparts. Take LittleBigPlanet, a popular 2008 PS3 title that was given its own title for the PSP last month. The game’s trippy, Tim Burton-like aesthetic and simple platformer gameplay survived the transition nearly flawlessly. The smaller game even includes a favorite feature from the PS3 version: the ability to build your own levels from scratch—hell, the creation mechanisms have even improved somewhat.
And the winner is…
Nintendo DSI with The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Given the PSP Go requires nearly a fresh start game-wise—it won’t play those UMD titles you inherited from your cousin—it’s awfully expensive; and at the moment, the game selection skews more towards hardcore players. The DSi is a lot more inviting, with titles like Scribblenauts that are a step forward in inventive, interactive gaming. And though Zelda titles are all structurally the same, each feels fresh with new enemies, new levels, and an arsenal of new gadgets. Truly, Link is the James Bond of the video game world.