Things Sony did right with the PSPgo

I’ve made no attempt to hide my venom for the way Sony has handled the PSPgo at launch. From its ludicrous price point to the lack of features and way upgraders have been completely stiffed, Sony has done an amazing amount of things wrong with the latest PlayStation Portable.

However, spending a few days with the system, and doing my damnedest to like it, has revealed that there are at least few things Sony did right with the machine. It would be unfair to paint the PSPgo in an entirely negative light, as much as it deserves the criticism it’s received. With that in mind, we’ve restored the balance a little by examining some of the things Sony’s actually done right with the system, bringing a little positivity to a system that has been surrounded by very little rage and disappointment.

Are these positives enough to justify the system’s existence? In the case of many people, not at all. However, perhaps those that bought the system will be able to feel a little less conned by looking on the brightside. Read on as we discuss the things Sony did right with the PSPgo.

The aesthetics:

Obviously scoring huge points for those prone to technolust is the sleek and saucy new design of the PSPgo. I’m not going to praise its “smaller form factor” because that’s Sony marketing speak and it makes me cringe when people use it. However, there is no denying that it is a sexy bitch, and that’s not something you’ll hear from PR. I love the way it’s designed, and there’s something immensely satisfying about popping the screen up and watching the system instantly buzz into life. 

Let’s face it, the old PSP models have always been a bit on the bulky side, despite efforts to reduce its size. The PSPgo’s lightweight design makes it so much easier to carry around, certainly a blessing for someone who secures a multitude of games devices and gadgets about his person when traveling. 

The controls:

I don’t care what anybody says about the so-called “cramped” controls. The PSPgo’s button layout is superior to previous PSP models, and I’m not even sure how they did it. Despite situating the analog nub, D-pad and face buttons close together and putting the shoulder buttons behind the screen, Sony somehow made the control layout feel comfortable and sensible on the PSPgo. I have been pleasantly surprised by just how nice it feels to play on a PSPgo than an older PSP, and this is coming from someone with great big fat mammoth hands. 

One has to get used to the fact that the analog nub is situated within an indent, but when your thumb comes to terms with that, it feels great. I always felt like my hand was about to slip off the nub when playing games on my old system, but with the PSPgo is feels like I’ve always got a good grip on the thing. The shoulder buttons behind the screen works out great too, with the index fingers unwittingly providing decent support for the screen itself. 

It’s not perfect, by any means. The volume and brightness controls are hidden between the shoulder buttons and are quite awkward to get to, while the flatness and proximity of the Select and Start buttons make them a hassle to use. However, while actually playing games, which is the important bit, I’ve found that the discomfort I used to feel when using the PSP is next to nonexistent. Playing an action-intensive game like Undead Knights no longer causes my hands to cramp, and that’s good news!

The “pause game” feature:

Imagine you’re on an airplane, and you’re getting your Final Fantasy VII freak on. The plane is about to touch down and the Nazi-esque cabin crew has demanded that you switch off your electronic devices like a bunch of damn Nazis. However, you’re righting Ruby Weapon and you can sense that you’re going to beat it! What do you do? Put the PSP on sleep mode and wait silently, paranoid that the pilot can detect your PSP and will kill you, or that the plane will crash thanks to your selfish actions and kill everybody? Do you switch the PSP off like an obedient puppy and destroy everything you have achieved? If you have a PSPgo, the answer is this: None of the above!

The “pause game” feature is one of the best new additions to any handheld, ever. While certain games allow for a temporary “save anywhere” feature, like the DS Castlevania games, the ability to save whenever you want in a game and then come back to it later is nonexistent in far too many portable games. It should have always been a mandatory feature for every handheld title, and thanks to the PSPgo, it now is. 

With the “pause game” feature, you can stop playing, temporarily save the game’s progress to the PSPgo’s internal memory, and then safely power the machine down. This is different from simply pausing the game and putting the PSP into sleep mode, since you can turn the PSPgo off completely and still pick up where you left off during the next play session. What’s more, you can exit a game and then do other things with the PSPgo, like listen to music or watch a movie, before going right back to the game. It’s not quite as good as having direct access to the XMB while running a game, but it’s certainly better than nothing. 

The Bluetooth:

Okay, so actually using the Bluetooth is a needless hassle and requires all sorts of roundabout bullshit to pull off, but hey, it’s something, right? Having the ability to use a Bluetooth headset and a PS3 controller with the PSP is a pretty cool addition, and maybe in time it will lead to some neat and inventive videogame design opportunities. It probably won’t, but the option is there regardless. 

I guess this one’s a bit of stretch. Sony did right by including it, but didn’t exactly do the inclusion itself right. Ah well. 

The PlayStation Network rollout:

While not exactly a feature of the PSPgo, it’s certainly something that happened because of the PSPgo. The recent boost to the PlayStation Network’s content, coinciding with the system’s October 1 release date, has been terrific. In just a day, PSN was transformed into a service full of actual choices, with some great deals and cool additions to the PSP library. The PSPgo ushered in 16,000 pieces of digital content, and while only a small percentage of that content was game content, there are loads of cool titles to choose from, and some of the prices really aren’t bad.

God of War: Chains of Olympus is totally worth a purchase at $15.99, while some of the discounted NIS games are more than welcome. Perusing the PlayStation Store, I now feel spoiled for choice, which is something I’ve never really been able to say about PSN before. The huge digital support Sony has shown for the PSPgo is a huge step in the right direction, and if Sony can keep up the momentum, the PlayStation Network will be an awesome, awesome place. 

Yeah, the full-priced digital versions of games like Persona and Gran Turismo is utter crap. The stuff that isn’t a racket, however, is plentiful and worth scoping out.

The Rock Band Unplugged ‘demo’:

This was genius. Bullshit, but genius. I’ve never been a big fan of music games with plastic peripherals, but I like a good old fashioned button-based rhythm game, and Rock Band Unplugged is certainly that. However, by not including the full game, Sony and EA have stumbled upon pure strategic brilliance. They’ve given me a mere taste of the game, and now I keep wanting to supplement it with downloadable songs. Sure, getting “Still Alive” for free is great, but then I see Spinal Tap’s “Back From the Dead” is on there, and I want it. Then I see other songs I recognize, and I want them too.

It was rather shitty of Sony to not provide a proper bundled game, and the whole idea of giving us a free taster and hiking the price up is something that stereotypical drug pushers do in eighties movies. Even despite the somewhat scummy nature of the scheme, it was a very smart move and one that has worked like a charm on this poor sucker. 

Even if it’s a grift, you have to give credit where credit’s due. This was a smooth move.

Oh, and the battery is removable:

Y’know … just saying.

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James Stephanie Sterling
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