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PSP - A Story About A Misfit

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In 1994 Sony released their PlayStation. It was so rival N64, and with tons of content, appealing to all ages, it did a very solid job at that. In fact, the PlayStation brand did such a fantastic job, that come the future gen, many well established franchises moved to the PS console permanently, and never even dared to move Nintendo's home consoles... but one gen of gaming always held my attention in a special way, and it wasn't a gen of home consoles, no instead it was the gen of handhelds where both Nintendo and Sony were trying something new and entirely revolutionairy.

The Nintendo DS had a dual screen with 3D graphics running very smoothly - spite its power demonstrated very well in the release title that was Super Mario 64 DS, the majority of (good) games on the console stayed 2D, or somewhat 16-bit 'late-SNES-era' looking. Well graphics isn't all, we know that, and Nintendo proofed that once again, with many great releases for their DS, the succesful 2004 console quickly became the succes nobody thought it would - in fact a lot of people, even Nintendo themselves, saw the DS as a side-product, a niche alternative to their main handheld, the Gameboy, but obviously this shifted and Nintendo bet all their money on the DS, which payed off!

 

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Remember buying this at release. Was young and happy!

 

Traditional franchises like Mario Kart, Mario Party, Pokémon, etc. saw their releases on the DS, but other older franchises saw a revival on the 3DS in forms that, well to be honest, gave some new life to those games. The New Super Mario Bro. series saw its first game on the DS in 2006, which was critically recieved with much praise. Metroid Prime: Hunters, which was bundled as a demo with all fat-DS's, made use of it's 1st person angle like the GameCube games, and while potentially risky (seing as Fusion and Zero Mission on the GBA was excellent), Hunters proofed to be an excellent game, and even though the controls were somewhat quirky, it was just a matter of getting used to it - in fact Hunters had one of the best online multiplayers on the machine, and was very acclaimed for it's fast-paced "unreal"-like gameplay, which holds up to this day - and hopefully the 3DS will see a sequel of sorts someday.

 

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this was quite excellent though!

 

New games like NintenDogs were INCREDIBLY hyped, and wether or not they held up to your excitement is all subjective, but i remember coming home with my "pup", taking care of him day in day out - for about a week, then i sold him. I'm sorry. The console was great, and even better, up until the DSi (i believe), it was actually possible to play your old GBA games! Heck i always had Super Mario Bro. 3 Advance sitting in the GBA slot, just in case i needed some solid 10/10 Mario Action!

A lot of great games came out for the DS, but it was limited to some genres, perticularly racing games and open world games.

They weren't entirely gone, i mean in some sense GTA: Chinatown Wars was an openworld, and the Driver games, but it couldn't hold up to the standards of those genres... oh and believe me, i had my fair share of fun with Asphalt (believe it or not), but content lacked, and most racing games looked like early PS1 games - which was kind of boring. So while it was certainly strong in platforming games, party games and 2D RPG's, it did lack the distinct power to keep up with other genres.

This is where Sony entered the market.

 

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this thing was down right hot. JUST LOOK AT IT!

 

See in 2004 Sony also wanted some of the handheld action. With the domination of the PS2, Sony felt it was about time they joined the game! They did so, with the excellent PSP - a machine with PS2 like graphics, an analog stick, sleek design, MP3 support, flash card support, web browser, and with it's appealing UMD that could handle 1,6 gb of data, this machine could pull off stunning graphics, deep gameplay experiences, and expand on excellent PS franchises such as ... such as... wait... 

See this was the PSP's issue. The first couple of years it did fine, heck it had 'Daxter' a spin-off game with the funny little sidekick Daxter, of the Jak & Daxter series, as a release game! But where was Crash? Where was Lara Croft? Where were Parappa the Rapper? Spyro? Tekken?

Actually they were there, but there were issues... Crash had gone multiplat, Lara was undergoing a dark phase, and Tekken was well it was still good, and Dark Resurrection was quite a fine game when it released in fact it felt almost exactly like a home console release, and this was maybe the true deal breaker for people. The handheld market was about to face a challenge: keeping the attention of the GameBoy generation. A lot of people had grown up now, they didnt have time for the handheld machines, and if they did, it couldnt be on deep games with hours upon hours of gameplay, which naturally sounded better with regards to value, but time is money, and people werent kids in the back of the car, with the privacy of their own little room, with the time to wander off to another world like we did when we were 9. Some did of course, but the majority of people couldnt see purpose of buying the PSP, that was basically a portable PS2, when they could just get the real deal. When time for games was apparent, why not just play on the big screen?

 

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maybe that's abit excessive

 

Saying that the console was completely rid of well known PS characters would be a bit harsh, and naturally a lot of people, adults mostly, lined up at the midnight releases, but fact was that most of the games were either ports with worse graphics than the PS2 (and soon to be released PS3), or they were mere shadows of their main installments (like 'Daxter' - fun game, but it wasn't anything like Jak & Daxter, same goes for Clank, of Ratchet and Clank, even he had his own adventure which was so so...)

It couldnt rival the iPod with regards to media consumption. The iPhone was quickly expanding, and since it had one focus only: room for your entertainment, the 64 GB card (which was hysterically expensive) couldnt rival a 160-gig iPod, and with the MP4 format arriving, the PSPs UMD movies (mini-DVDs if thats what you wish to call it) was doomed. Nobody wanted them, and they quickly vanished from shelves.

What was going on?! We had this great console that could pull of excellent graphics, but every wanted the DS? Or what? Well sort of. Nintendo was constantly pushing out software for their machine, and since resources was much cheaper for NDS development, 3rd parties had an easier time too. The PSP did actually have some fine years to begin with, but with the PS3 releasing, and its 1-year drought, Sony had to shift focus, rearrange their strategies, and suddenly the PSP was dismissed almost entirely. In fact Sony did so poorly with PS3, that spite its 850 dollar production value, they had to sell it for 499 soon after release. It had released at a completely disturbing price of 699, so it was already selling at a loss, but they were determined to push the Blu-Ray format into every home, and not lose another format-war, so it was a sacrifice they were willing to make, and it cost them around 3 billion dollars or so.

The PSP didnt see a whole lot of releases, and franchises like Syphon Filter, which had gone exclusive for the PSP, couldnt help.

Now Im almost making it out to be some sort of complete failure, but the PSP was actually quite a good machine with many awesome releases, sadly the gaps were too many and too far in between. The God of War series made a debut on the console with the excellent Chains of Olympus, followed by Ghost of Sparta. Both were up to par with the series installments on the PS2 and later the PS3. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was also a solid release (with stellar, but different, AC!D and Portable Ops too). Gran Turismo was an excellent PSP racing game, and lets not forget the GTA: Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories that both got ported to the PS2 due to their huge success. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was a prequel to the much beloved Final Fantasy VII, and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep was possible the 3rd best installment in the Kingdom Hearts series next to KH1 and KH2 on the PS2.

 

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I always did giggle at Mickey in this series


In fact there was a lot to the PSP. Parasite Eve on the PS1 saw a successor in the form of The 3rd Birthday, in fact Square Enix did quite well on the PSP JRPGs overall. If youre a fan of those, definitely get a hold of the PSP. Valkyrie Chronicles, Disgea, Final Fantasy Tactics, Dissidia etc. the PSP became more or less the home of JRPGs because the machine saw a huge amount of success in Japan. The Monster Hunter series did excellent on the console with the Freedom and Portable series.

How about my favorite JRPG on the console: Persona 3 what a game! 1, 2 and 3 were available on the console. Heck with the active updates on PSN, we had the privilege of enjoying PS1 titles like Crash Team Racing (cough*betterthanmariokar*cough), Medieval, Tekken 3, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy VII etc.

See this is kind of what I was getting excited for: everybody saw the PSP as some sort of gameless abandoned console with nothing to offer, but truth of the matter is it had so much to offer, it just landed in an awkward spot between the DSs slightly-improved-GBA position, and the PS3s wauw I cant believe thats not real people-graphics.

Its best games were niche games. I could actually go on forever, my point is: Ive had the PSP since 2004, my PSP-1000 model still works wonders, and today I found the PSP Go for 40 dollars. Nobody wants it, because it was a stupid decision on Sonys behalf. They released a digital content-only PSP, which was a fair idea had it come at a reasonable price, and not so close to the release of their much anticipated NGP or PS Vita as it came to be named. It was an odd release, yet I have never held a handheld with such grace, such beauty! The PSP Go has to be owned, to be believed in. Initially wanted to give it to my brother as a gift, I know how much he loved Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy, so he could use it as an emulator or something (oh yeah it does that too handheld N64, PS1, SNES, Gameboy Advance but officially I dont use it for that officially ) but Im telling you, this PSP Go is MINE!

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I mean it is beautiful isn't it!?

 

Do yourself a favour, find a PSP any PSP and get digging in its wonderful library of games. The gaming community has sadly become a review-dependant rumor-hungering no-thought-of-your-own kind of place, and youre missing out more than ever. The PS Vita is probably gonna do fine, but for now you have the option of getting hold of the PSP for a cheap price (most likely) and you wont regret a minute of it. Its excellent all throughout! 

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