Open Forum: Remembering The PSP

Ten years on.

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.

psp1

StefanMy 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.

psp3

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.

psp2

DaveMany 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?

23 Comments

  1. I have just one thought/question. Was the PSP profitable when it comes down to hardware/games sold and how much it cost to manufacture? Same question goes towards the Vita but maybe in a few years time when sales really quieten down.

    • Good question, I would think it was for them to have gone ahead with the Vita.

    • Wikipedia says it’s sold 82 million units, and 25 million in its first 2-3 years. It was pretty successful, despite being vastly outsold by the DS and maybe not being quite able to back those hardware sales up with game sales – though a handful of games did near the 5 million mark)

      The Vita, by comparison, hasn’t had sales figures reported in ages, and might not have even passed the 5 million mark, let alone reaching 10 million. Sony would’ve piped up if it had, and they would have been much more likely to support it with more AAA games too.

  2. I got the PSP 2 years after release and at the time I was very impressed. It had better hardware capabilities than the DS aside from its touch screen and dual screen. For games, there were some cracking titles on the PSP. The big franchises all got some PSP love from Final Fantasy to Metal Gear Solid.

    It clearly missed a second nub stick. Imagine the PSP with that? That was its single biggest limitation as it held up its attempts in delivering console quality experience. Also, the PSP was rife with piracy.

    It was the first multimedia device of tis kind and it was very successful initially but then diminished from 2010 onwards. That lack of momentum did not transpire well for the Vita-also a brilliant console.

    Would I recommend buying the PSP? Yes. It can be bought for around £50 and it has a wealth of games. If you already own a Vita, take advantage of the regular PSP sales on the PS Store and grab some gems. Here are a few recommendations;

    Final Fantasy Dissidia
    Final Fantasy Tactics
    Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
    Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
    Valkyria Chronicles 2
    Resistance: Retribution
    Disgaea: Afternoon Of Darkness
    Ridge Racer (Ridgeeee Racerrrrrrr)
    WipEout Pure

    Some games are not on the PS Store or an not compatible with the PS Vita;

    Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core
    Rock Band: Unplugged

    • Completely forgot about Rock Band: Unplugged. Surprisingly made for a good game without all the peripheral nonsense. Great track list too.

  3. Ten years. Wow.

    I loved my PSP. I remember seeing videos and pictures of its remote play functionality (the rear view mirror, how that sparked my imagination) which didn’t really ever amount to anything until Vita.

    Something else that always felt like an unnecessary omission was the second analogue stick which has already been mentioned. That was also recified with Vita.

    However, with the PSP I always felt like there was another big exciting new game to play, something I just don’t feel with Vita. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not an indie hater, but I do miss having some real big first party stuff to enjoy.

    Off the bat I loved Ridge Racer and WipEout, then came Daxter which I adored being a massive Jak fan. Ratchet and Clank had a few games, God of War had two incredible games, there was the excellent Resistance Retribution, Syphon Filter was brilliant, Locoroco, Patapon, Burnout.

    The PSP may be marred by a poor design decision, but it more than makes up with this with a plethora of fantastic games and I look back on it very fondly.

    I also want to give the PSP go a shout out as well. I really loved the flip out controls and although it did miss out on that second analogue stick once again, Sony gifted me about fifteen games which kept me busy enough and more than justified its cost.

  4. Got one a few years down the line for long flights. Literally played it about five times, then sold it. Barely any good AAA games and ended up being a giant mp3 player. As a result, I’ve never been remotely interested in the Vita either. Predicted it would be a flop when it was announced, and again, there are just no good AAA games for it. I also predicted it would be the last high end hand held, as mobile gaming is a far cheaper and efficient way of playing basic Indie games. Yet another Sony gimmick with pitiful support.

    • In contrast, my wife had a DS and we played Mario, Mario Kart, Zelda, etc.. for hours on end. Would recommend a DS over a PSP/Vita any day.

      • I’m curious as to how you can recommend a DS over a console you’ve never even owned. Also, you must have an extremely niche taste to truly believe there are no good AAA games on Vita.

      • I’ve seen enough to make an informed decision, and 3 or 4 good games is not enough to warrant buying a console. Remember I’m not alone here. The majority of people feel the same, but opinions are always gonna be skewed a bit on here, as it’s a website for hardcore gamers. I don’t really belong here tbh!

      • Although I disagree about PSP having few decent AAA games, I can’t say I’m surprised you feel that way having brought the system only a few years ago.

        At the end of the day it comes down to which games you’re familiar with. If you like Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong etc. your always in safe hands no matter which Nintendo platform you have access to.

        With the Vita, I struggle to come up with a shortlist of must-have games, at least when put on the spot. There are some definite crackers out there, but most take searching for.

  5. I remember seeing it in Edge and thinking “must have that”, which a few years down the line I did, courtesy of my sister getting me one from the US (although for some reason a Japanese model so the X and O are often reversed in game menus etc)

    Sad thing is I haven’t really played it that much beyond almost completing Killzone and a reasonable amount of GT, so it sits in the cupboard, unloved – but at least it has my NDS for company! (That got the heck played out of Super Mario and Zelda Wind Waker but very little else)

    There’s probably a bunch of good games I could get cheap for it now, but due to being ham-fisted with analogue sticks generally (finesse is not my strong suit) I was never that fond of the PSPs, which made games like GT more difficult for me. I dare say I’d find the UMD painfully slow these days too… patience is not one of my strong suits either!

    Damn it, I’m tempted to dig it out now!

  6. Ahhh I remember it well. Getting it pretty much on launch day with a bonus UMD of Donnie Darko (via Play) and then afterwards Spiderman via a Sony offer. Enjoyed GTA and Ridge Racer loads but can’t recall any other games I had, well I did get Lumines to allow me to do the Homebrew hack just before selling it :)

  7. I owned the launch psp-1000 which eventually broke (the analogue stick, which I have to say was fairly awful anyway) and got modded and used as an awesome emulator machine. I also owned the psp-3000, the psp-go and the new one which didn’t have wireless. All great machines and got a lot of use out of at a time where I regularly worked away from home. Used them almost as much to watch films as play games (from the memory card – I tried to avoid used the UMDs as much as possible.

  8. I still have a very soft spot for my psp-2000 – I picked up the God of War red edition from the states in 2008, and I believe that the 2000’s design (excluding analogue stick) still holds up to this day and feels like a premium device.

    Sadly I didn’t end up getting too many games for it as I couldn’t handle the noise of UMD’s, despite it having the last Burnout game that was any good, and as a result it became an emulation machine mainly for SNES and PS1 games, which I adore it for even now. Yes I can do that on my phone, but I hate touchscreens for gaming and the PSP is quite perfect for emulation.

    It’s a shame that the Vita will be the last handheld from Sony, as there is so much that is great about both the PSP and the Vita, I love them both and put more time into them than either DS or 3DS, despite having Pokemon.

  9. Got the pspGo myself, I used it quite alot for a couple of years, solid piece of kit but I haven’t used it in years. I used it mostly in the house which is why I haven’t bothered with the Vita (and the ridiculous storage situation). If anything I’ll get the PSTV, but I’ve got more than enough entertainment for the PS4 and X1 so it may pass me by.

  10. For me (didn’t get time to mention earlier) the PSP was that one go-to platform that kept me gaming through the long summers.

    The two games that really sold it for me were Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops.

    Despite its lack of online multiplayer being a huge setback, I still can’t find it in my heart to hate on MHF2. Some of the best gaming moments I’ll ever have were spent at friends’ co-ordinating attacks and reaping our rewards.

    Meanwhile, MGS Portable Ops had an awesome online component. Although not as fully featured as, say, COD or Battlefield, it had me captivated for hours on end. It’s also one of the only games that I’ve ever played competitively as part of a clan.

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