If you’ve been keeping up on your Podtoids since episode 8, you might be aware that I’m a PSP owner and perhaps one of its more vocal critics. We’re coming up on nearly two years since the PSP’s advent and I can only now come up with a laundry list of reasons why you might be compelled to own them. That I’m even here, even bothering to say stuff about the PSP, that should mean something. Right? Not many people cruising about espousing the good word on Sony’s handheld-what-couldn’t. By virtue of my very need to speak on the topic, you ought to be excited for what I’m about to say. You stoked? Good.
Despite the recent public backlash over particularly slimy marketing strategies, I think now is the best time to own a PSP — almost none of it having to do with Sony’s influence. Indeed, the PSP is a unique wunderkind, owing its current streak of successes not to its creator, but to the valiant efforts of a handful of third-party developers and folks like you and me. Well, folks smarter than you and me, anyway. Don’t believe me? Hit the jump and I’ll do my damndest to sell you on a nigh-useless $200 hunk of plastic and silicon in five simple reasons, and all without almost any mentioning of on-the-go porn!
#1: The games.
It seems as though it took Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops to awaken folks to the idea that good games are finally beginning to find a home on the PSP. Truth is they’ve been trickling in for months now, but it’s all the same, really. Now we’re paying attention.
So maybe you’ve seen the GTAs come and go and you’re still not interested. I’m the same way. Truthfully, within the first year-plus of the PSP’s shelf life, I purchased three games: Lumines and Metal Gear Solid at launch, Me & My Katamari some time later. When Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth finally came out, I was startled when I noticed how much good stuff had suddenly popped up, all ripe for the picking. Capcom had a slew of good stuff on the shelves — we’ll get to that in a minute — but there was a sudden strong showing on the part of a number of third parties.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the onslaught of quality PSP experiences, let me give you a brief list of games that no PSP owner should be without: Daxter, Virtua Tennis: World Tour, Loco Roco, OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast, Gitaroo Man Lives!, Gradius Collection, Power Stone Collection, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, Lumines 1 and 2, Every Extend Extra, Gunpey, Ys: Ark of Naphistim, Tales of Eternia, Metal Gear Acid 1 and 2, Wipeout Pure, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, Tekken: Dark Resurrection, the Grand Theft Auto games — the list goes on. Now, I could go on and on about these games in detail, but just look at that — that’s a mighty list. I figured just the scope of such a list would be reason enough to consider getting back into the PSP if you, like me, thought it had died an early death.
And if you’re still on the fence, the House that Mega Man Built would like to have a word with you.
#2: The Capcom.
Holy god, Capcom pulled out all the stops for the PSP this last year, and it doesn’t seem like they have any intentions of letting up. You might be saying to me “But Aaron, most if not all of Capcom’s PSP games are ports from other systems!”, and you’d be right. But you’d also be bleeding from the eyes, because nobody disagrees with me in front of my children, understand? Nobody.
Anyway, they’re ports, to be sure — but they’re ports that operate exceptionally well as portable experiences, every last one of them. A wide spectrum of gameplay experiences ranging from classic arcade (Capcom Classics Collection), platforming, and a slew of fighters (Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX). It’s likely that you’ll find at least two or three games fitting with your gaming preferences within Capcom’s burgeoning PSP library.
Some of these games even constitute full-fledged remakes, like the excellent Mega Man: Powered Up, Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X and Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins which, no matter what some people say, is an amazing title an worth your cash. And don’t forget about Power Stone Collection, which — huh? Never heard of Power Stone? It’s only the greatest four-player fighting game this side of Smash Bros, and the very reason that God granted you the gift of fingers!
Enough hyperbole. Let’s move on to what you’ve no doubt heard whispered in the darkest corners of the internet…
#3: The homebrew.
Yep, this is the part I mentioned about us doing the work that made the PSP worth it, despite Sony’s best efforts to keep us out. Why the hate, Sony?
It’s the user-created software that really brings out the best in the PSP. For those of you unaware of the homebrew community’s latest developments, the PSP is now capable of emulating almost everything up to 4th-gen, in some cases perfectly, in others almost perfectly. Not that I would ever advocate piracy and rommin’ it up or anything in any sort of public forum — but, you know. I own an unholy lot of games, and I have no qualms running them in various other forms on my other consoles capable of doing so.
There are some exceptions. Games with complicated software/hardware architecture, particularly on the SNES, still aren’t running at full speed — this includes games that use the Super FX chip (like Star Fox, Super Mario World 2, and Stunt Race FX) as well as those utilizing the Nintendo SA-1 (Kirby Super Star, Super Mario RPG, Kirby’s Dream Land 3). Rest assured, however — they’re workin’ on it.
Meanwhile, Genesis and PC Engine/TG16 emulation is damn near perfect, going to far as to allow you the opportunity to play games for their CD addon counterparts (Sega CD and PCCD, respectively). What the hell’s so special about that, you ask? Sonic CD and Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, stupid! No longer am I restrained to tossing my discs in the ol’ PC and playing them on some crude keyboard — I’ve got ’em on the go!
Mind, the whole process is a little sketch. If you haven’t got a PSP yet, chances are good that one off the shelf will come equipped with the latest firmware — currently at 3.02 — which negates the possibility of running unsigned code. While there are (limited) options for some other firmware versions, 1.5 is currently the golden boy of the PSP homebrew scene. Though there are downgraders available for some key firmware versions like 2.0, 2.71 and others, it gets tricker the higher and more current your firmware might be. Of course, new solutions are cropping up all the time, but if you aren’t keen on waiting, you can always buy an older model secondhand, or go to a place where PSPs don’t exactly sell at lightning speed — the bundles at Costco or Sears. There’s a fair chance you’ll find an older model with lower firmware in such a place.
But when you’re finally bored of playing Toejam & Earl whilst steeped in the bathtub, what then? Fortunately for you, children, there’s good stuff on the way.
#4. The future.
We’re just gettin’ started, bitches! In little more than a week we’ll be getting our hands on Metal Slug Anthology which, as much as I adore it on the Wii, belongs on a PSP. From there, everything’s coming up Milhouse.
Capcom (blessed Capcom!) is hitting us with Capcom Puzzle World next month, cataloging some of their best puzzlers over the years, all of which, again, belong on a portable machine. If anything, this’ll be your chance to get your hands on a copy of Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo, whose PSOne version commands a ridiculous fifty-plus bones on eBay. And while we’re talkin’ up ports, Landstalker and Earthworm Jim are being revamped for release on Sony’s little black brick, too.
The new Ratchet and Clank, due in February, is said by our own Robert Summa to be dynamite — if it comes with the same marks of quality with which the Jak and Daxter series hit the PSP, it should make for a great time.
Square-Enix’ll be gracing their fans with a remake of the brilliant Final Fantasy Tactics, hopefully with as many updates and additions as earlier revisions of other Final Fantasy titles have enjoyed on other portable systems. Moreover, word is that Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core won’t be the same sort of bullshit abortion that the other VII spinoffs have been (namely, Dirge of Cerberus), and who doesn’t love a solid action RPG? Nobody, that’s who!
The PSP is poised to shine in 2007. Will it wrench control of the handheld market away from Nintendo’s undefeatable DS? Hell, no! But that doesn’t mean that the games won’t be fun. Keep an eye out for some big names in the next year.
#5. The porn.
Hey, hey– I said almost without any mentioning of porn on the go.