Monday, January 9, 2017

Video Game Thoughts - Potential Slightly Passed (PSP, get it?)

10 years ago, handheld gaming for me was the coolest thing ever. How could it not? It kept me sane from boring family gatherings, school outings, and therapy. Now, I and other people have considered the smartphone to be the most convenient handheld gaming platform nowadays. “Convenient” doesn’t necessarily mean “the best”. 7-Eleven is a convenient place for fried chicken but that doesn’t mean it overshadows KFC or Bon Chon (shoutout to you South Korean chicken lovers). 10 years ago, cellphones were still dominated by Blackberries and Nokias instead of the sleek iPhones and Samsungs of today so gaming was out of the question mostly. The best handheld experiences have come from dedicated gaming consoles instead of phones that happen to play video games. Handheld consoles were always going to be a step better with their dedicated hardware controls and gimmicks.

When I was a little boy rather than the actual big boy I am today, the PSP was something I wished for. Instead of buying a PSP though, I bought a Gameboy Micro for my birthday because it was the more familiar choice. Even if the Gameboy Micro was fun, the PSP was revolutionary for my untrained mind because the idea of 3D gaming with PlayStation or PlayStation 2 levels of graphics on the go was an awesome thing to have. My rich classmates had it and seeing a full 3D Dynasty Warriors game on the go was awesome at the time.

Shall we talk about the PSP? We should, otherwise I wouldn’t have used that oh so clever title. High five, Ralph! Yeah! Big boys!

The PSP should’ve been greater than it actually was. Because how could it not have been? It was like bringing a portable PS2 anywhere, if the battery didn’t die along the way. We could be looking back at the PSP with great fondness as we do with the Gameboy Advance SP or the Nintendo DS but circumstances and the console itself prevented that from happening.

The battery was terrible, especially if you were playing games on disc. Loading times also attributed to that battery killing, even though there some games eventually did let you install data into the memory stick to reduce them.

The horrible analog button is what’s keeping me from playing my old favorites unless I download a mod to disable it entirely, which I eventually did when the damn thing wouldn’t stop going left. This was useful for games that don’t require the analog button that often such as Tekken: Dark Resurrection, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Yu Gi Oh GX: Tag Force, and Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness. However, removing the analog functionality prevents me from playing games that required analog functionality like Dynasty Warriors and Smackdown vs Raw 2010 and repairing it nowadays isn’t nearly worth it as it was 9 years ago.

A personal pet peeve of mine was the lack of standard memory card capabilities of the game. See, Sony is quite the horrible company when it comes to proprietary stuff, which means they want everything to be proprietary. Instead of the usual SD or Micro SD cards, they opted for Memory Stick Pro Duo cards. Through the years, SD cards have gotten cheaper to where a quick Amazon search would deliver you SD cards that range from 10 to 20 dollars at least. Memory Sticks today cost around 40 dollars for the 16 gigabyte version which is insane since Micro SD cards are 12 dollars or so for 16 gigabytes of storage and 30 dollars for 64 gigabytes.

The big thing it lacked was a true killer app. Nintendo handhelds always have the titans known as Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon while the PSP had Grand Theft Auto and God of War. As much fun as Grand Theft Auto was, not a lot of people would buy a watered down version of a console game right after the heels of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. San Andreas, of course, was ported to Android and iOS instead of the PS Vita which shows how far Sony handheld consoles have fallen. Also, God of War, as awesome as it is, didn’t have the mainstream appeal that would make a gamer say “Holy crap, my pants just ripped at the sight of this game! I have to buy a PSP NOW, NOW, NOW!”

The DS has a much more capable library for all kinds of fun. 5 Cooking Mama games, 18 different versions of Nintendogs and 99 different versions of Pokemon would definitely lure the casual gamer with its simplicity and lack of obvious violence compared to two main Grand Theft Auto games and God of War.

However, all these problems haven’t stopped people like me from liking the system. I personally like the PSP more than the Vita but that may just be the nostalgia talking. The PSP has a great library of RPGs and when games utilize 2D instead of blocky 3D, they look absolutely wonderful on the PSP’s screen. With games like Growlanser: Wayferer of Time and Metal Gear Acid 2 keeping me company, the PSP sure is a great portal to massive games that take hours of your life.

The awesome feature about the PSP is that it can be easily hacked in order to play downloaded games as well as ROMs for SEGA and Nintendo games. Heck, I bought a fat PSP in 2015 and immediately installed custom firmware on it as soon as I got home. I then bought a PSP Go this past December since I had a hankering to play some GBA games on the go but with hardware buttons so sorry, Ralph’s Samsung phone. This is what makes the PSP’s game library even more massive than it already is. Not only can you play a ton of sports and racing games on it as well as JRPGs, you also have the original Playstation’s library of games to play as the PSP natively supports it. You then hack the PSP and get access to libraries from the Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Color, SNES, Sega Genesis, and a ton more retro consoles as long as there are emulators developed for it. Sure, it wasn’t legal but it got people more use out of their PSP which was already getting less and less support outside of Japan.

The PSP was a B+ player in its time, a solid 2nd place to the Nintendo DS, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a terrible system. It has a lot more games than the Vita, that’s for sure, and could easily be hackable for retro gaming, something that is absolutely awesome. There were a lot of improvements that it could have made that the Vita addressed but the PSP is still a wonderful console to look back on and play some games of yesteryear.