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Retro Revolution: PSP

Posted on Friday, February 24 @ 18:26:10 PST by KevinS

Being a man with a money flow problem (i.e. broke, dood) and a game collector, I've grown a small but nice collection of PSP games. I don't have all of the big guns for the platform, but I've found myself with a nice little stash over the years it's been around. And, since the Vita is on store shelves in all its shiny glory, it's a great time to go back and look at the PSP's lifespan… and what sucked about it.

Surprisingly, not a lot really sucked about it. The system launched in 2004 (2005 in the US), and its launch line-up in the States was actually diverse and, overall, strong as hell: fighting game lovers could grab Darkstalkers Chronicles, racing fans had both Ridge Racer and WipEout Pure (the latter being exceptional in presentation and speed), and puzzle fans were greeted to the amazing experience of Lumines (just don't ask anyone to pronounce the title correctly, if there is such a thing). The same went for the second wave of titles, like NBA Street Showdown, Mercury, and Hot Shots Golf.

The original price? $249.99, which is steep compared to earlier notable portables like the Game Boy ($89.99), the Game Gear ($149.99), and the DS released in 2004 as well ($149.99). But the power of the system was on display for all to see; it was even touted as the portable equivalent of the PS2, one of the greatest systems of all time on every front. It might not bring about the same visual quality, but with ports of PS2 games like SMT: Persona 3 (that is nearly the same to look at and every bit of game intact), it certainly succeeded in living up to the hype. The PSP library was not only filled out with its own unique licenses, but also a long list of ported material.

And they weren't just one genre or "big" name, as publishers ran the gamut of what they could bring over.  Revamped classics like Lunar: Silver Star Harmony and Mega Man: Powered Up are right on the shelf next to direct ports of SMT: Persona 3 and Street Fighter Alpha 3, accompanied by originally Japanese-only games like PoPoLoCrois and the original Star Ocean. Sit those along your gaming shelf with totally unique and platform-specifics like Loco Roco, Patapon, or Infected, and you've got a lineup that can truly stand on its own against any other. Hello, world… it's Monster Hunter! Who's up for some hardcore ad-hoc play?

No matter what you might remember about the PSP's official game release list, it's the unofficial titles that many people remember most fondly; specifically, what they could do to that update 1.5. Yes, the PSP was an early example of piracy running rampant. Systems like the Game Boy and Game Gear had their fair share of pirated and copied material, but they were much more difficult for the average consumer to experience or exploit; Sony actively challenged people to try and play illegal games on their machine. The various hackers and dissectors are playing old SNES games and MAME ROMs on their units and still teaching us all how to do the same, so I'd say Sony lost that battle.

Aside from the other regular bumps along the way that many portables have to deal withshort battery life, specific new media format, racist ad campaignsthe PSP actually had a nice run. It's one of the few devices to legitimately challenge Nintendo's handheld prominence (the other being the Game Gear, which wasn't really that big a threat), which makes it stand out all the more from the pack that came before. Are there bad games on the system? Sure, there are plenty of Naruto games and the dreadful movie port of Dragonball Evolution (which by contrast, led me to write one of my favorite reviews). But overall, it's a strong piece of machinery that's earned its place in the gaming pantheon.

Just don't drop it. I get the feeling if I dropped it from more than three feet onto anything other than carpet, it might explode into a puff of smoke.

What are your favorite PSP memories and titles?

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