With the 3DS slowly working its way into retirement and countless other consoles that have been put out to pasture, there has been an annoying trend that crops up every time a successor is released; the complaining of games coming to an older platform. It seems there is a misconception that continues to propagate—in that new is always better. This is not always the case, and just because a console or device is newer doesn’t mean that every game coming out should be released on the new console; platform matters.
The 3DS and its older brother, the DS, both feature something unique to their design, two screens. Two screens enable certain types of gameplay that aren’t possible on a single screen, or, in the case of a portable, offer additional screen real estate when it is at a premium. Let’s take for example a title such as Xenoblade Chronicles, an RPG series that has continually struggled with screen space due to the sheer amount of information being displayed at once. With the size of only the top screen of a 3DS, the information would be overwhelming and literally blind the player to the action on the screen with just numbers of auto-attacks and damage taken flying across the screen. In this situation, the platform has a unique benefit to the design of the game and vice versa. If this same game was made available on the PlayStation Vita in the same manner as its main console counterpart, it is likely it wouldn’t work as well displaying that information.
For other games on the 3DS and the DS, the design element benefits are far more obvious and far more difficult to replicate. Hey! Pikman may not be the most fun game, but it is a game that takes full advantage of the 3DS’ double screen by using both as the playing field of the game.
Sushi Striker is another game that has obvious benefits when playing on the 3DS, especially so as it also released on the Nintendo Switch. Not only is the second screen used for part of the playing field, but the addition of that separate screen as a touchscreen enables better gameplay with more precise controls thanks to the stylus. In the Switch version of the game, the main controller scheme for gameplay (touch controls) becomes inferior as the Switch’s touchscreen functions less favorably to the game as opposed to the 3DS and using touch controls has the added drawback of blocking part of the playing field that would have been separated on the 3DS. In both of these cases, the benefits of the 3DS’ abilities are extremely obvious in these particular titles and show that the platform of choice matters. Of course, the 3DS isn’t the only console this is true for, it is simply the most obvious in recent memory. For most other consoles, the benefits in choosing one console over another are far more subtle.
One of the biggest trends in Japan—that has only recently gained notoriety in the west—is visual novels. If you are unaware of visual novels, their title describes the genre and how it plays almost in its entirety. It plays much like a book, however, it may feature moments of interactions or decisions that aren’t possible in books to the same degree; the Ace Attorney and Danganronpa series are some of the most notable series of the genre. Visual Novels, as one might imagine, contain a lot of reading and text in the same vein as a book. A book has a unique property that many game consoles lack; it is portable. When we read, we like to do so with portability in mind, we want to lay down, sit outside, and not remain completely in places that are bound by large screens. Visual Novels as a genre, benefit the same way, some of the best places to enjoy a visual novel are the same places that you enjoy reading books, making the platforms that best take advantage of that (portable consoles) provide an arguably better experience than home consoles. Porting these titles to home consoles such as the PlayStation 4, while beneficial to some, don’t provide the best experience for everyone and arguably, a worse experience overall. Just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it should be done.
One of the unique features of the Gamecube has to deal with its controller, which featured analog shoulder buttons. What this meant was that when pressing the shoulder button, it was pressure sensitive and could react accordingly. Super Mario Sunshine used this function to control the strength of Flood’s water pressure. Press the button lightly, and you could run around while spraying water, hold the button down all the way, and Mario would stand still while aiming Flood to shoot water. Attempting to translate this function to another controller without the same functionality would result in either changing the game’s mechanics to understand the player isn’t able to perform this function in such a way, or another would be finding a workaround with what is available, resulting in a worse experience.
The titles listed in this article are just a small fraction of the games that—if brought to other consoles—would suffer greatly if not changed significantly from their original designs. They represent games that, while can be ported, are better when on platforms that play to those game’s design strengths. They exist as testaments that just because you can port a game to another platform, doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes the best place a game can be is on the platform it was designed for all because of one simple fact, each platform is different. And because each platform is different, each platform matters.