Today marks the tenth anniversary of Sony’s PlayStation Portable here in the UK and, boy, haven’t the years flown by. Touted as a handheld powerhouse years before the smartphone and tablet takeover, the PSP was cherished by many despite some notable shortcomings, and it makes a great discussion point as we launch this new Open Forum feature.
Since day one, I remember taking issue with the lack of a second analogue stick. Although a few crafty developers found a way around this hardware limitation, many games were plagued by poor camera controls. Chief among these was Monster Hunter Freedom (which we’ll talk more about later), forcing players to contort their left hand into a claw as they tried to jab away at the D-pad.
More pressing issues would eventually lead to the console’s decline, however. A new console generation was largely to blame, forever skewing our expectations – expectations the PSP could no longer match. Although it never fell from grace, Sony’s handheld simply couldn’t keep up with the demands of modern gamers, many of whom had become partial to playing online with friends or exploring vast open worlds.
Through the highs and lows, we recount some of our memories of the PSP, from its multimedia capabilities and stand-out games to its unachieved potential and rivalry with Nintendo’s world-beating DS system.
Stefan | My first memories with the PSP came when I borrowed one off a friend and played through (and loved) every second of Daxter – the PSP exclusive spin off from Jak & Daxter. It wasn’t until years later that I picked up one for myself off eBay, and grabbed all of the best games available for it on the cheap.
There’s some really excellent stuff on there, whether it’s Killzone: Liberation, Patapon, God of War: Chains of Olympus, or the belated release of Gran Turismo, yet there was almost always a compromise to be made. In GT, you didn’t have analogue triggers for acceleration, Killzone had to adopt a top down perspective to compensate for just having a single analogue nub, and so on. It was really these necessary compromises which I felt held the console back from ever matching the expectation of it being a PS2 in your pocket.
But it was still a cracking handheld console and, most importantly, one that had a lot of support both from consumers buying it and from Sony themselves, with regular AAA game series being adapted to suit and unique titles created specifically for it. Sadly, it’s not a story which has been able to repeat itself for the PS Vita.
Dom | The PSP was a fantastic handheld that really made Nintendo’s offerings at the time seem like children’s toys. The screen seemed huge and while the promise of console quality games wasn’t ever quite achievable it played host to some of my favourite series of all time. I’ve spent entire weeks of my life listening to “Pon Pon Pata Pon” as my tribes went to war in the fantastic Patapon series. Time well spent!
The other huge series for me was Monster Hunter, a franchise that singlehandedly ensured the console’s success in Japan. While earlier entries in the series were hard to grasp, I always found them ridiculously involving, and I just love the quirky world that Capcom created.
Lumines is possibly my favourite handheld puzzler of all time, and it’s fantastically cool aesthetic and soundtrack really epitomised what Sony wanted from it. It’s worth noting too that the PSP version of Ridge Racer is still probably my favourite in the franchise, and I still play it now on my Vita. I think the fact that the continued stories of various franchises appeared on the PSP, including the incredible Valkyria Chronicles and of course God Of War, should have made it an essential console for gamers.
It wasn’t without its flaws mind you, in particular only having one analog slider caused some interesting (aforementioned) camera issues, and the UMD format was impressive but ultimately hugely power-hungry – and noisy too! It was a genuine multimedia device though, playing MP3s and boasting expandable storage via Memory Stick Duos, features that made it feel like a premium device. I also remember spending a lot of time playing Neo Geo games on mine via emulators, and that seemed like an amazing feat at the time.
Dave | Many will probably remember it for the likes of God of War and Crisis Core, but the PSP also had a couple of great ports and remakes of older titles. It also sparked the first time that handheld titles were made readily available for download. Luckily a lot of these great ports made it to the PS Vita library too so you’re able to download them still to this day.
While Castlevania: Dracula Chronicles X is an astounding port of a game that never made it beyond Japanese shores, it also included the original game for completeness’ sake, as well as the definitive version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for Westerners.
Persona 3 Portable on the other hand represents how a PS2 game can be tastefully streamlined to fit on a handheld device, but also how you can make it desirable with bonus content. This is the only version that allows you to choose your own gender, with the story changing drastically at points to suit a female protagonist. Sadly the additional content from Persona 3 FES was omitted, but it was a must-own port for fans of the franchise.
So now we pass it over to you, our lovely readers. What were your first memories of the PSP? Which games stood out the most? If you never jumped on the PSP bandwagon, then why not?