Gaming is a huge commitment as any avid gamer can tell you. It isn’t as easily digestible as forty minute music albums or two hour films, both of which are generally meant to be completed in a single sitting. By virtue of the fact that video games are so long and cost more money than other forms of entertainment, it can be daunting trying to finish them all.
Life is life. It can be hectic, unfair, and stressful. When we’re escaping the real world, we want our free time to mean something. That’s why so many gamers end up with huge backlogs of games still yet to be completed from their day 1 purchases years ago. Simply put, games, specifically RPG’s, are too long and life doesn’t wait for us.
This is why handhelds have always been one of my gaming safe-havens growing up. The comfort of knowing I can play anywhere at anytime is something console and PC games can’t match. Of course, that’s not to discredit the significantly better hardware on home machines which does allow for more complex simulations and games. You won’t be seeing an RPG on the scale of The Witcher 3 on handheld devices any time soon.
Regardless, there’s something special about playing Persona 4: Golden or Dungeon Travelers 2 while waiting for a restaurant to finish my order. Maybe I’m on a bus or in a waiting room and take out my 3DS for a bit of Etrian Odyssey or a Shin Megami Tensei game. Life hasn’t given me the opportunity to sit down in a comfortable environment and enjoy engrossing adventures on a big screen in recent weeks so i’ve taken this situation to jump back into the 3DS and Vita.
There’s this common misconception that handheld experiences need to be designed to be played in small chunks. This is why we see so many console franchises make the jump to handheld in a more bite-sized fashion; more due to the portability rather than hardware limitations. This is a trend and a misconception I hope dies off quickly. I’m not dismissing games that can be played in shorter bursts on the go. Fighting games, racing games, and puzzle games are genres perfectly suited to the handheld. I’ll even go on record as stating that Mario Kart 7 is possibly one of my most fondly remembered handheld games of all time.
I don’t want bite-sized experiences to go away, but rather, hope they can peacefully co-exist with more involved adventures. One needs to look no further than handheld ports of console rpg’s. On the 3DS, we have Tales of The Abyss 3D and on the Vita we have Persona 4 Golden. These are two of the finest contemporary console RPG’s and despite that, made excellent conversions to their respective handheld platforms. The success of these two games alone proves the viability of the genre on the go. Rpg’s and all their off-shoots are the longest genres in gaming. Tackling a new RPG is a nightmare. With only so much free time available to sit down at home in front of a tv or monitor, it’s nigh on impossible to make a dent in any of these kinds of games. We can have our Mario Kart’s and our One Minute Hero’s, but we can also have our incredibly engaging and complex RPG’s that won’t go unfinished because there isn’t enough time at home. In fact, the only reason I finished Dungeon Traveleres 2 over a total playtime of 80+ hours is because I spent all my downtime on campus between classes sinking into that game. It was one of the most gratifying gaming experiences of my life and to have that game as a sort of “comfort food” I could carry with me everywhere cemented my love of handheld RPG’s.