These days, it seems tough to justify paying the full retail price of many portable games. I definitely like Dragon Quest 9, which cost me about thirty-five dollars. But I also definitely like Pocket Academy, which cost me about four dollars. And keep in mind that I have a PSP with firmware 1.5, which I do not use to play any legit retail games. So while I am willing to pay for some handheld games, I have been finding fewer and fewer examples which seem to justify their costs.
In the fall of 1991, I was really excited for two Gameboy games. Sure, I had Tetris and loved it, but I really liked RPGs. And 1991 was the first year when two portable RPG style games were released in English. Both were marketed with the "Final Fantasy" imprint, but only one of the two was even somewhat connected with the main series. To be more specific, the game known as Final Fantasy Legend 2 was originally an unrelated game called Saga 2; and the game known as Final Fantasy Adventure was originally a pseudo-spinoff called Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden. Regardless, both were great.
After that, I never got super enthusiastic about handheld games. Yes, I liked them. I could play portable games without having family or friends complain about how boring it was to watch me play them. (While I find simulation/strategy games like Simcity or Gemfire to be deeply fascinating, they are only interesting to the person playing them.) I could bring them on vacations, and later in life, bring them for train and bus commutes. But there were only a modest amount of "gotta have it" portable games over the years.
That said, I really believed in three portable systems from the last decade or so. Each one seemed to have great potential, and had at least a few games which I deeply cared about. I will dedicate a paragraph each to the GBA, the DS, and the PSP.
Regarding the Gameboy Advance... it is easy to look back now and not see much besides a string of decent ports, and a ton of licensed games. I did buy a bunch of those remakes, and enjoyed them. Thought that the GBA version of Shining Force improves on the original Genesis game. And if you count the original untranslated Wonderswan game, then Riviera: The Promised Land was a remake. But this is the same system that gave us the first instances of Fire Emblem games in English. It gave us two rather good 2D Metroid games. The first of three Mario and Luigi games (Superstar Saga) was published on GBA. Also, there were small, unexpected gems. The Sims: Bustin Out was a game that genuinely surprised me with its quality. And the relatively unknown action RPG Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 was honestly one of my favorite games of 2000-2010. Finally, while I thought each version of the Gameboy Advance had some problems, overall I rather liked the GBA SP. Nice screen, more resistant to scratching, and easy to recharge.
Regarding the DS... again, there is a long list of remakes and licensed games, as well as educational software. Buried under that are some crazy innovative games that either never previously existed in English, or only existed as obscure computer software. We saw the first instances of games about lawyers and doctors, and some rare examples of games about wilderness survival. We got a virtual pet game that reinvigorated the genre, and inspired dozens of knock-offs. The first Atelier game in English with life simulation elements similar to the early, untranslated PS1/PS2 Atelier games appeared on the DS. There were games that broke the fourth wall in unexpected ways, such as Contact and Phantom Hourglass. There were games that were mostly driven by their text, such as Time Hollow, Again, and 999. A rare example of a western RPG with some cute graphics, with Sonic Chronicles! A rare example of a reverse harem game, with Princess Debut! So many others... honestly, I thought that the vast majority of the DS games that I wanted in English was published. And thanks to an active fan translation community, some of the remnants are now playable: Jump Ultimate Stars, Tales of Innocence, and two Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side games.
And regarding the PSP... it was kind of sad to see how publishers became less and less willing to release games for the system. Everything started strong with Lumines, which was one of my favorite puzzle games in years. By the time I got around to buying Harvest Moon: Boy and Girl, an expanded port of a PS1 game, it had become clear that all was not well. And yet this system had a bunch of good translated RPGs, from the largely forgotten Brave Story to the much-requested Trails in the Sky. It had a competent western romance game. There were humorous games, such as Thirty Second Hero and What Did I Do to Deserve This. It does not seem right that the system will fade into obscurity with just a few niche products such as a Persona 2 remake, Fate/Zero, and Hakuouki. To be honest, the PSP deserves more chances. Some fans are already putting effort into it, by translating a version of the original Clannad visual novel, and by working on Idolmaster SP. read