Finally, the perfect format for this well traveled game
If you want to attack ships, mercilessly plundering the Spanish Main, go nuts! If you want to avoid combat enitirely and simply forge a career out of crafting port trading, you can do that, too. Heck, romance a governor's daughter or three, and even hunt for buried treasure if the mood strikes.
There is a narative to this game, somthing concerning an evil marquis who has sold your family into slavery, but it is 100% completely optional to participate in. This game practically invented the open world concept, which has since been perfected by games like GTA.
Gameplay consists of a series of short, strategic mini-games. A different game exists for dancing with the governors daughter, ship battles, land battles, stealthing into town, and of course, dueling.
It is this connected mini-game style coupled with the open form and surplus of charm which makes this a compeling PSP game. Perhaps more than any other format on which this game has appeared, this feels like the perfect fit. Pirates! is ideally design for compact protable gaming, though you may often find yourself playing it for substantially longer. In fact, this game may be one of the best arguments in favor of the PSP as a gaming system. It has the pick-up and play quality normally oozes from DS games, but probably couldn't be executed as well on that machine.
The games negatives tend to be nitpicking at worst. The load times are very resoanable, and fiarly infrequent. The graphics can occaisionally apear a bit rough around the edges. The dancing minigame requires that you focus your attention to the bottom of the screen, thus ignoring the action of the scene. All of your interactions in the various locations in town are simply text based interactions. The world is so open, early on you may feel directionless. All of these complaint are really, truly, ver minor though, and don't detract from the experience much at all. As far as the different versions go, this is clearly the best fit for this game. The XBOX version was simply too dumbed down, and the PC version, while excellent, prevented the pick up and play enjoyment that this game in retrospect seems designed for.
The overall value of the game is further augmented by online multiplayer and various difficulty settings and time periods to challenge the player. When taken as a whole, this represnts an easily accesible, charming game, with varied gameplay elements and tons of replay value that is one of the few superb options available in the PSP library.