What a letdown the PSP turned out to be. It didn’t reach anywhere near the levels of success that the Nintendo DS has enjoyed. The upcoming release list is depressingly scant. Better portable systems have already made it practically redundant as a music or video player. Even the Playstation brand couldn’t save it from its drawn out, agonising demise.
Is this really how it is? As with most things, it depends on how you look at it. You probably see it through the eyes of other games journalists: a failure, an embarrassment; a lifeless, dead console that deserves to be overlooked and ignored, because, let’s face it, there’s bugger worth playing out for it.
Here’s how I see it: even now, the PSP has plenty going for it. Perhaps “especially now”. The PSP scene may seem quiet (because it is), but there aren’t truckloads of baby simulators and Luv Your Petz games coming out for it, either. If you look below the surface, there’s plenty of gaming fun to be had on Sony’s portable – and you don’t have to look far, either. Forget the media functions for a few minutes. Sales figures don’t matter either – they’re still good, apparently, but they don’t matter. The games are what matters, and there’s more than enough to keep most discerning gamers happy.
I still play Lumines. It’s still an incredible game. Most people treat games as being far too disposable these days – partly because most of the gaming media is a glorified buyer’s guide, and partly, one suspects, because of the preowned games market – but Lumines was a wonderful game when the PSP launched, and it’s still wonderful now.
I was an early adopter of the PSP, and I sold mine on soon after. There was nothing worthwhile to play after the launch period, and while the DS was showered with wonderful games, Sony’s machine, it seemed, began to flag. Fast forward a few years, and all the good games for Nintendo’s console have been played – there’s still a few kicking about, for sure, but the DS has seen its day. The PSP, on the other hand, has a treasure trove of great games – original, exciting and fun games buried amongst the rubbish – that begged to be played.
Let’s not pretend for one second that the PSP hasn’t got loads of crap on it too, because it does. But it also has Exit. And God of War. And Patapon – one of the most refreshing and engaging games I’ve played for ages. And Echochrome. Crush is good, too. LocoRoco is fun, if sickeningly cute. Ratchet and Clank. Daxter. Flatout. Space Invaders Extreme really shouldn’t be incredible, but it is. Worms Open Warfare 2 is on my shopping list, as is Crazy Taxi. And then there’s the games that I don’t like, but everyone else does: Wipeout Pulse, Everybody’s Golf, Crisis Core, Jeanne d’Arc, Monster Hunter 2, MGS: Portable Ops, Virtua Tennis, PES, Ridge Racer, and so on, et cetera, et cetera.
Granted, it’s not the greatest back catalogue a games console has ever had. But they’re all great games, and they’re all worth playing – by most people’s standards, at least. And surely such a list is good enough for most people? The PSP is a portable console, after all. Most people don’t play their handhelds unless they’re taking a very long trip, or they’re going on holiday, or both. You don’t need a massive list of games: you just need one or two to keep things fresh now and then; a few passé-temps. And after starting to feel more and more like the best has been had out of the DS, I’ve been keen to discover the best of the PSP. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.
And when I’m done with all of that, I might do what most other people seem to have done with their PSPs – crack one open like a nut, and enjoy the full back catalogues of every console from the PS1 back to the NES, thanks to custom firmware. It’s the trendy thing to do at the moment with PSPs, apparently, and while it may be illegal, I have few qualms about downloading all the wonderful games from yesteryear that I’ve already paid for once upon a time, and giving them all another go on a portable console.
My opinions might not gel with the rest of the gaming community (it’s just me and the mums playing the Wii these days), but with the PSP’s excellent back catalogue, along with the huge wealth of games that custom firmware can offer, I don’t think my decision to buy a new PSP three months ago was a bad one. They still have plenty to offer, despite what the gaming press would have you think. (And they’re still damn sexy machines, as well).