On many occasions in the past, I've admitted to being completely, utterly mistaken in my expectations for how the Sony PSP versus Nintendo DS war would pan out. First, let me go ahead and do that once more in penance. I got a great first impression from the PSP, which seemed like an amazing portable game system, while the DS initially left me cold, and seemed like a gimmick. Time passed, games came out, and I found myself spending probably 10 times as much time with my DS as with my PSP. In so doing, I also found that the DS had a solid, function-over-form feel to it while the PSP's controls and interface often seemed to interfere with my enjoyment of the relatively few games for the system I wanted to play.
Now a game that's good enough for me to dust off my PSP has finally come out. Tekken: Dark Resurrection is the best fighting game I've played since Dead or Alive 4, and the fact that it's portable is kind of crazy. However, playing it reminds me of all the things I wish I could be fixed in a revised PSP device. Here they are:
-Make it quieter. Not only is the UMD drive obnoxiously loud, but when you have the volume set to its lowest possible setting that isn't "off", the system makes a racket. I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes playing portable games before going to sleep. But since I have a wife and baby in the same room, the only function my PSP serves when the family's asleep is as an alarm clock. Where did I leave those stupid earphones...?
-Fix the battery life. Why does my PSP run out of batteries when I'm not even using it? My DS seems to hold its charge much better than my PSP. One of my colleagues made an interesting observation--the PSP almost seems to hold its charge better when it's in sleep mode than when it's off. For that matter, the device should make it easier and more obvious when you're powering the system off versus putting it in sleep mode. I'd much prefer a power button than the PSP's weird slider thing.
-Fix the square button. When the intial reports came out about the unresponsive square button, I scoffed. Well, they were right. Playing a precise game like Tekken, it's annoying that one of the most commonly used attacks in the game (left punch, mapped to the square button by default) is less responsive than the other attacks.
-Fix all the buttons along the bottom. When I'm playing in the dark, it's almost impossible to use any of the buttons relating to volume control and so on. They're hard to get a feel for and invisible when there isn't some ambient light. As a rule, buttons should have a firm, responsive feel to them, rather than give you the impression that you're just pushing on solid plastic.
-Fix the D pad. It tells you something that at least two games have shipped with replacement stick-on D pads for the PSP, designed to give the player more leverage. Without such aid, the PSP's D pad is stiff and unresponsive, kind of like the Xbox 360's. The difference is, at least the Xbox 360 has a good analog stick, which leads me to the next point...
-Fix the analog stick. I feel like I have a light touch playing video games. I've never physically broken a videogame controller in my life. So why is it that it seems like I'm always about to break my PSP's analog stick whenever I'm using the system? It's a flimsy, finicky thing. And the fact that there isn't a similar stick on the other side has led to numerous design problems, what with all those PS2-to-PSP ports that simply remove the ability to manually control the camera.
-Kill the WiFi switch. Is that thing really necessary? Just another moving part that can break and probably adds cost to the manufacturing.
-Fix the loading times. This is a portable game system, intended to let you play for a few minutes at a time if that's all you've got. If that time is taken up just waiting for a game to start, you're not going to be a happy camper. There've been some otherwise-great PSP games with heinous loading times, and I've just had to avoid them. My tolerance for long loading times in any games, especially portable games, definitely hasn't improved over the years. Loading times should be getting shorter, not longer.
-Give it away for free. Look, this is a wish list, OK?
Those are all my gripes, having played with the system on and off for over a year. The PSP's screen is still as magnificent as ever, and technically the system is amazing...just look at Tekken. But, man, I hope I can go back through my favorite PSP games and play them on a system that just felt a little more solid and responsive. Sony has redesigned all of its consoles at one point or another, and the success of the DS Lite couldn't have gone unnoticed by the company...so I'll be crossing my fingers that the next PSP model will fulfill all the untapped potential of the device. It's a great system that could be much better with just a few important tweaks.