Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Arcade and Retro Podcast: 1993

In this episode of the podcast we look and gaming and the games of 1993. It was quite an interesting year with the first real shift in videogames to 3D and some superb 16-bit titles released. Even the 8-bits didn't get ignored.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Some recent acquisitions from the last few weeks

Since I’m in college taking a break from coding I might as well go through some of my recent acquisitions I picked up in the last few weeks.

First up is a US SNES.

While it’s as ugly as sin compared to the Japanese and European console it does mean I can play all my games at the correct speed of 60Hz and Mario RPG will now work. I do however need to get a 50/60Hz switch on it since a few on my PAL games won’t work due to a frequency check on boot. At least I know someone handy with a soldering iron.

Since I got the US SNES I’ve been expanding my quite meagre SNES collection lately. I’ve picked up quite a few of the more common games but unfortunately I’ve noticed some of the ridiculous prices many of these games are going for now. However I’ve also noticed that for many of these stupidly priced US and PAL games the Japanese versions are going for a fraction of the cost. Games like Super Castlevania IV go for silly money considering how common they are. I picked up a JAP copy of that game and it works perfectly and since there’s no text it’s not like I’m missing out. I also noticed that one of the more expensive ‘vania games, Dracula X on the SNES, was much cheaper as the Japanese version so I snapped that up.

Speaking of cheap Japanese versions of games I’ve been busy building up a nice Gameboy collection. If you know your Gameboy games then you know one of the harder to find games in Megaman 5. However Rockman 5 is very affordable and I picked it up. While the story is in Japanese I don’t think I’m missing out too much.
I also picked up two other Megaman gameboy games, namely 3 and 4. I’ve not played 4 before but 3 was one of my favourite games growing up but it was stolen on me so it’s great to have it back. I’ve already played through it and beaten it and it’s as good as I remember and still incredibly tough! You can see Hybrid Heaven in there as well. I picked it up after hearing how bonkers it is. I’m playing it at the moment and it doesn’t disappoint in that area.

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on Castlevania Legends for a while. I know it’s one of the poorer ‘vania games but the ‘vania fan in me had to own it. I finally got it for a decent price from Germany of all places. It’s not a terrible game, just frightfully dull. I picked up Belmont’s Revenge to make up for it which is superb. I can’t get enough of the music in that game.

Back to SNES games again I finally got my hands on a game I’ve wanted for the last 20 years, the Firemen. After seeing great reviews of it at the time of release I always wanted to give it a go but didn’t have a SNES. When I eventually got a SNES the price had risen to silly levels since the English language version was only ever released in Europe. To make matters worse early emulators had trouble emulating a rain effect it used in one of its levels making the game impossible for me to beat at the time. Well I finally found a copy with a decent buy it now price from Germany. It cost me 60 euros which is expensive but a bit less than it normally goes for on auction.

In the last few weeks I’ve also finally got my Megadrive modded with a 50/60Hz and language switch and bought a RGB cable for it meaning I can play games as they were intended. What pushed me to finally get it modded is that I won a competition on Facebook for the 100th Mega Everdrive from Stone Age Gamer. This thing is quite the piece of kit and allows you to play any Megadrive/Genesis game from a SD card. I’ll write about it some other time. Anyway I’ve busy building up my Megadrive collection as well. I came across one of the best bargains I’ve gotten in a long time. I picked up Alien Soldier for the Megadrive for 10 euros. This game usually goes for significantly more and is very sought after since the English language version is a European exclusive. I think they thought they had Alien Storm. I’m not complaining!

Lastly some weird imports. First is Gunhound EX. I’ve not gotten around to playing it but looks like a Cybernator/Assault Suit Valken clone and a very good one at that. G.Rev had something to do with it so you can be sure there’s plenty of blasting action.

Lastly I got a game that absolutely reeks of shame, Gal*Gun. I bought this for a laugh when I saw on playasia that a budget price version was released. It seemed like a really fun lightgun shooter at first until I found out what the triangle button does in the game and now it just seems a little bit creepy. One feature I thought was hilarious was the panic button. Press select during the game and it will pause and overlay what looks like a 8-bit RPG over the screen to hide your shameful game playing from your family who don’t need any more reasons to be disappointed in you.

Friday, June 7, 2013

My new game development blog


You might have noticed that I haven't been posted as regularly as I had been and it's all down to college. I'm back at school doing a crash course in programming and game design and it's taking up an awful lot of my time. I'll still be posting on this blog and hopefully a lot more since I'm finished exams.

I have set up a development blog which will be detailing all the game projects I've working on, if you are interested then feel free to follow it. It's located here:

I've only got my first game project up but I'll post up my other one I finished in college as well as a gamejam game I created as well later.

Friday, April 26, 2013

PSP retrospective

It’s 2003. Sony is pretty much the dominant force in the videogame market with the release of the hugely successful Playstation and Playstation 2 consoles. While Nintendo flounder in the home console market and vie for second place against the newcomer Microsoft they still hold a strangle hold over the lucrative handheld market with the Gameboy Advance. Nintendo had seen off SNK and its fantastic Neo Geo Pocket. Great hardware and games couldn’t compete with the marketing force of Pokemon. The only other competitor, the Bandai Wonderswan, never saw release outside Japan where it remained a niche console. With Playstation synonymous with videogames and the huge market share it held people wondered why Sony had not tried to take on Nintendo in the handheld market with its own handheld console. It seemed like the next logical step for Sony, it had already forced Sega out of the hardware market and left Nintendo a shadow of its former self, quite the feat for company only breaking into the market against two established leaders.

2003 saw the beginnings of rumours that Sony was prepared to make a move into the portable space. This was confirmed at E3 2003 with the announcement of the Playstation Portable. Although no hardware was shown, attachment of the Playstation name to the hardware was more than enough to get many people excite. Despite Nintendo stating that it was not worried it seemed like their last foothold in the games industry was about to be stolen away from them. The shock announcement of Nintendo DS at the tail end of 2003 didn’t help to change the perception that Nintendo where far more worried than they let on. The DS seemed to be a stop gap measure against the impending arrival of the PSP and even Nintendo didn’t seem to have much faith in the system. It was starting to look like another Virtual Boy, a console sent out to die against 32-bit rivals when the N64 was constantly delayed.

It wasn’t until E3 2004 that we finally got to see the PSP.  The PSP surprised everyone. In comparison to the recently revealed DS the machine looked a lot more modern and sleek. It had a d-pad as well as an analogue nub and included all the buttons on the Playstation pad except for two of the shoulder buttons. The biggest surprise was the screen. Full colour and 4.3 inches across the diagonal, it looked absolutely glorious. Games would run on a proprietary optical format, UMD (universal media disc) which could also play movies. The PSP came with functionality to play music and had wi-fi capabilities. It was the full multimedia package in comparison to the DS which was built only to play games.

The technical specifications of the hardware completely dwarfed any other handheld device on the market. The games shown at the launch at E3 demonstrated that the PSP was more than capable of handling games close to the quality of the PS2. In comparison the DS was demoing an upgraded port of Super Mario 64. Demos of Ridge Racer, Wipeout Pure and Gran Turismo stunned attendees. A new Metal Gear game was demoed and the announcement of support from a large number of publishers and developers meant that the future looked bright for the PSP. The stage was set for a new market leader in the handheld sector.


The PSP was launched in Japan on December 2004 and March 2005 in the US. Europe was supposed to share a simultaneous release with the US. However, as always, Europe got shafted and the release was delayed until September 2005, Sony citing the need to redirect stock to the US and Japan due to shortages. To make matters worse the price was $100 dollars more expensive in Europe. Despite these issues the PSP enjoyed a very successful launch in all regions. It released after the Nintendo DS in all regions but this didn’t seem to affect sales at all. The PSP managed to smash the sales of the Nintendo DS everywhere. Tales of hardware selling out on launch were common place. 

At launch in Japan the only real stand out games were Lumines and Ridge Racer but a steady trickle of quality titles over the next three months meant that post launch wasn’t the usual dearth of quality that most consoles experience. The European and US launches were much better and the PSP enjoyed one of the strongest launch line ups of any consoles.

Lumines: Lumines is one of the greatest puzzle games ever made and was pretty much the best puzzle game on a handheld since Tetris. Created by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Rez fame, it combined excellent puzzle gameplay with trippy visuals and music. It was the perfect PSP game and despite games taking far too long when you became good at it, it was perfectly suited to the PSP and its suspend feature. 

Ridge Racer: The series that sold the public on the Playstation was hoping to do the same with the PSP. Although mostly comprising of tracks from previous Ridge Racer games the proposition of having Ridge Racer on a portable was too good to pass up on. The classic arcade handling was still as fun as it had always been and quick races suited the portable nature of the game.

Wipeout Pure: Ridge Racer was good but Wipeout Pure was far better. A real killer app for the machine Wipeout looked and sounded fantastic and was a real return to form for the series after the poor Wipeout Fusion. This futuristic racing game proved to be well suited to portable gaming in particular the spectacular and addictive ‘zone’ mode. Wipeout was also one of the earliest console games to have DLC. New tracks, music, vehicles, etc. were made available on a regular basis and could be downloaded for free to the memory card. 

Everybody’s Golf: This series gets rolled out by Sony for nearly every hardware launch and unfortunately gets ignored every time. Anyone that did pick it up was treated to one of the best golf sims money could buy.

Metal Gear Ac!d: Those expecting a portable Metal Gear game were in for a shock. There really is nothing like Ac!d out there. It’s a cross between a strategy game, a card game and a stealth’em up... ok, let’s just say it’s beyond classification. A very weird game with an even stranger story but one that was quite fun once you understood the gameplay systems.

Archer Maclean’s Mercury: Only a launch title in Europe but it was one of the games that really defined the PSP. Mercury was a wonderful puzzle game that required the player to guide a blob of liquid metal around a maze. This game really showed off the power of the system. The physics of the liquid metal blob still impress. Screw angry birds, this is how physics puzzlers should be done.
Outside of those stand-out titles were some very solid games. Virtua Tennis was very playable, Darkstalkers Chronicles was a good conversion of the arcade game let down by dodgy controls and Pursuit Force was dumb but great fun in short bursts.

It wasn’t all good news for Sony however. The original model of PSP suffered badly from a myriad of design flaws. Many people reported the Square button becoming unresponsive and stuck. This was due to the size of the screen; the square button was placed right up tight against the screen and would catch on it very easily. Some early UMD drives also had a bad habit of ejecting at random which would send the UMD flying out of the drive. The biggest problem was stuck or dead pixels. The LCD screens used in the PSP were relatively new tech and prone to this problem. Pixels would either appear white or else be stuck on the same colour. This could happen over the lifetime of the device as well. Sony handled this extremely poorly saying, first refusing outright to replace affected units (, before changing their policy to PSPs affected by three or more dead pixels on the screen. Nintendo in comparison replaced any DS unit with dead pixel issues.

One of the more unfortunate incidents to occur due to the delay in the launch of the PSP in Europe was the closure of the legendary website Lik-Sang. The Hong Kong based Lik-Sang was the go to website for people importing videogames and electronics. Not wanting to wait an extra 6 months for the PSP many customers imported the PSP system. The region free nature of the console and the fact that Europe was paying more made this a no brainer. In August 2005 Sony took legal action against Lik-Sang for importing the PSP to regions where it was not yet available saying it was infringing on its trademarks. I’m no legal expert so won’t go into the details but it resulted in the closing of the site. As a knock on effect many other import sites stopped selling Sony goods to Europe until very recently, I myself could not order the asian release of Demon’s Souls from Play-asia since it was Sony published.


We come to piracy because unfortunately for Sony the PSP was cracked very early in its life. The initial PSP firmware was not very secure and within weeks hackers had full access to the PSP system and could run unsigned code on it. Sony tried to stop this with regular firmware updates but the cat was out of the bag and hackers kept finding ways around the new security measures. Save game exploits in games such as GTA Liberty City Stories allowed users to downgrade their PSP to earlier vulnerable firmwares. Eventually downgrading became obsolete with the release of custom firmware that allowed the running of unsigned code and as well as containing all the features of the official firmware.

Hacking of the PSP revealed some interesting information and allowed the running of some creative programs. The CPU of the PSP was actually underclocked at 222 MHz and could be clocked to 333 MHz for increased performance in some games and applications at the expense of battery life. This feature was left locked initially by Sony to be unlocked to developers at a later date. A large variety of homebrew applications were available. The PSP could emulate a variety of consoles but I found anything from the SNES and beyond was very poor. You could even turn your PSP into a universal remote. However the main use was to play pirated software which had a very unfortunate affect on sales of PSP software. 

Startropics for the NES running on a emulator on PSP

PSP software sales took a major hit very early on and this really affected software releases particularly outside Japan. The PSP continued to sell well throughout its lifetime but software sales remained relatively low. Developers and publishers moved to the more popular DS, itself affected by piracy but it had a larger install base. Although a direct connection is impossible to prove it’s more than likely a factor in the reason that games such as Valkyria Chronicles 3, Final Fantasy Type-0, Persona 2 Eternal Punishment, Suikoden and Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner to name a few have remained in Japan.

PSP through the years


No different from any other console’s launch year there were very few notable titles for the PSP. The PSP usually gets criticised for having too many poor ports of PS2 games and 2005 was full of them. There were countless ports of sports and wrestling titles and some awful ports such as Prince of Persia Revelations and King Kong. 

However 2005 wasn’t a total washout, look beyond those uninteresting ports and there was some diamonds in the rough. Burnout translated wonderfully to the PSP with Burnout Legends. The classic SNES game Megaman X received a decent remake in the form of Megaman: Maverick Hunter X. Platform game fans were appeased with the respectable Tokobot. Puzzle game fans also received the excellent Exit, just remember to turn the annoying sound effects off! One game that gets unfortunately over looked was Gripshift, a weird addictive mix of puzzle game and racer. Katamari & Me was an ok if you wanted Katamari on the go but was really just a cheap rehash of the previous two games.

Burnout Legends

Two games were released that highlighted one PSP design flaw that many comment on, the lack of a second analogue stick. Coded Arms from Konami was one of the first FPS games released on the system and was ultimately let down by poor controls and boring level design. In comparison SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo replaced aiming with a lock on button and faired a lot better. The game also featured online and ad hoc local multiplayer.

Metal Gear also made an appearance on the system but not as most people had imagined. Metal Gear Acid (or Ac!d) was a bizarre mix of turn based stealth gameplay with a card based system, MGA managed to confuse a lot of gamers. However give it some time and it was one of the more interesting and entertaining games on the system even if the story gives MGS4 a run for its money in the stupidity category.

The game that for many thought would cement the PSP as the dominant handheld console was released this year, GTA Liberty City Stories. Despite being a bit underwhelming compared to its brethren on the PS2 and having awkward controls due to the lack of buttons and a second analogue stick GTA:LCS was still GTA running on a handheld and could not fail to impress. It was a good game and an amazing technical achievement. One overlooked feature was that this was the first GTA to officially support multiplayer through local ad hoc and online. I’ve not experienced it myself but heard the multiplayer was superb and insanely chaotic.

GTA: Liberty City Stories

A mention must also go out to an unassuming release that would later shape the faith of the PSP. A port of the PS2’s online game Monster Hunter was released on the PSP. This Phantasy Star clone hardly set the sales charts on fire but this unassuming title would have much greater influence later on. It also introduced gamers to the god awful ‘claw’ control scheme. Only people with high repetitive strain and cramp resistance need apply.


2006 ended up being a fantastic year to be a PSP owner. The DS had just become a phenomenon with the release of Nintendogs and Brain Age but times didn’t look so desperate for the PSP and piracy had yet to kill sales on the system.

Sony however messed up their advertising with two disastrous campaigns. The first was a blog/website called ‘All I want for Xmas is a PSP’. It followed the quest of a ‘hip’, ‘urban’ ‘trendsetter’ (I’m running out of inverted commas) to get a PSP for Christmas. It felt like it was written by a 40 year old who thought he knew how all the hip kids talked. A bit of hacking later and it was found to have been created by one of Sony’s advertising contractors. After some flat out denials Sony apologised and a dreadful advertising company lost a contract. 

The second awful advertising campaign was the Dust ball campaign in Europe. I’m not even sure what they were trying to go for here. Apparently the PSP was as exciting as carpet. At least 2006’s PSP releases would beg to different.

Again the PSP was riddled with uninteresting ports but some were worth taking note of. Europe received ports of the wonderful PS1 RPGs Tales of Eternia and Breath of Fire 3. Eternia had never been released in Europe and both PSP releases strangely remained PAL exclusives in the west. The US received a port of Valkyrie Profile, now subtitled Lenneth; PAL territories would receive it the following year. Although not a great port, the screen is stretched and a disgusting blur filter is applied to the gorgeous 2D art, it was still better than forking out the price on ebay for what had become a very rare and sought after RPG. 

Another game that had become a very expensive rarity was Gitaroo Man. One of the best rhythm action games and made by the team behind Osu Tatake Ouedan, the PSP release was a great and more affordable way to pick up this excellent game. 

Tales of Eternia

Konami released Gradius collection which contained Gradius 1-4 and Gradius Gaiden, formally a japan only PS1 release and a very expensive one at that. Gradius Collection was a bargain at the price and contained 5 of the best shmups ever made. Konami would later release other shoot’em up collections including Twinbee, Parodius and Salamander that would sadly stay exclusive to Japan. 

The popular Disgaea strategy RPG also got a PSP release and it really suited the portable system.

Of course it wasn’t all ports. Sony supported its system with some excellent software. Field Commander was a total shameless rip off of Nintendo’s Advance Wars but if you are going to rip something off rip off the best. Field Commander proved to be an excellent strategy title for PSP owners even if it didn’t have the charm of the Nintendo original. Daxter, a spin-off of the popular Jak and Daxter, was a fantastic looking platformer that was very playable from all accounts. It certainly satisfied PSP users in need of a quality platforming fix.

Field Commander

The boring and dull Killzone franchise even managed to produce something surprising. Killzone Liberation abandoned the first person view of the console game and went for a top down isometric view. The result was a surprisingly entertaining blaster from an otherwise dull franchise.

Sony even tried its hand at a third person shooter with Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. It used a lock on mechanic in place of dual analogue control and even had cover shooter elements. It proved a big success with gamers and reviewers. 

The most interesting, and in my opinion best, game that Sony released this year was Loco Roco. It was an innovative platform game that saw you guide your Loco Rocos to the exit by controlling the tilt of the landscape rather than the characters themselves. It was enormously entertaining and had excellent music and visuals. The game was unfortunately hounded by ridiculous claims that it was somehow racist.
The  incredibly racist Loco Roco
It wasn’t all good for Sony, their GTA wannabe Gangs of London proved to be a bit of a stinker and let many people down. However GTA was on hand itself to alleviate any disappointments. GTA Vice City Stories was an improvement on the previous GTA Liberty City Stories. Despite the control issues persisting it was still a must have for the system and a technical showcase.

A second Metal Gear Acid game was released to confuse Metal Gear fans further. It was a small improvement on the MGA gameplay so if you couldn’t get your head around that one then you’d be equally lost with this one. Interestingly the game came with a piece of cardboard that when folded up could be placed over the PSP screen and divided the screen in half. You could then set the game to 3D and be treated to a surprisingly effective stereoscopic 3D effect. Who needs a 3DS when you have a PSP! That was not the end of Metal Gear on the PSP, Metal Gear Portable Ops arrived in Japan and the US while PAL territories had to wait until May 2007. Unlike the Acid games Portable Ops played just like previous metal gear games. The game was now mission based and took place in much smaller areas but this ultimately suited portable gameplay. While not the best Metal Gear game and having some bad control problems it was still worth playing especially for Metal Gear fans.

Metal Gear Acid 2's 3D viewer

A surprising release for the PSP was Tekken Dark Resurrection, surprising that it was released for the PSP before the PS2 or 3 and also surprising how faithful it was to the arcade machine. No matter your feelings on the series it was an impressive conversion and a big seller for the system.

Ultimate Ghosts n'Goblins

 As a massive fan of Ghouls n’Ghosts I was really looking forward to Ultimate Ghosts n’Ghosts which was being made by many of the original creators. It unfortunately turned out to be a big disappointment despite what many reviews state from the time. While the original games were extremely harsh but always fair this one was often unfair with annoying respawning enemies harassing you constantly. This is coming from someone that can one credit run the arcade Ghouls n’Ghosts. Annoying exploration elements were also added. Capcom recognised the game had problems and released an updated version in Japan that sadly remained there.

Last I have to mention one of the most underappreciated games on the PSP. Megaman Powered Up was a remake of the first NES Megaman game but with many twists. While the original game was available to play with updated graphics the game also gave the option to play through a ‘New Style’ game. This new style re-imagined the levels, added two new levels and bosses that had to be cut from the original and let you play through the game as all 8 robot master bosses as well as an additional 2 characters. Not only that but each character would proceed through each level differently opening up new areas. The icing on the cake however was an extensive and brilliant level editor that predated little big planet. You could create levels and share them on PSN and some of the fan-made levels are exceptional. Don’t pass up on this gem.

This was the year that the PSP slowly died in the West and we got the tail end of big releases and also the year of the PSP’s surprise resurrection in Japan. Piracy had taken a big foothold in the market and was scaring away developers due to poor software sales. Despite this unfortunate occurrence there was still quite a lot of excellent software.

Sony’s support of the handheld was again exceptional. A new Wipeout game, in the form of Wipeout Pulse, was released and again was a great addition to the series and the PSP’s library. Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow followed on from the gameplay in Dark Mirror and supposedly is another worthy third person shooter. The intriguing Patapon ended up being one of the highlights of the year, it was a strange rhythm game where the rhythm you keep determines the strength and type of attack of your Patapon horde.


 Ratchet and Clank Size Matters arrived and while I’m not a fan of the series I’m sure this one was well received by fans of the series if review scores are anything to go by.
Falcom’s Gurumin by some miracle managed to find a release in the West. This wonderful Zelda clone often gets overlooked but like all of Falcom’s games it’s excellently crafted and has great music.

Silent Hill Origins, the first portable entry in the series, was a decent survival horror game that was marred by a crappy story by a team that wanted to copy Silent Hill 2 but didn’t understand what made it so good. Unfortunately it was the start of a series of disappointing western made silent Hill games. It was eventually was released on the PS2.

It took 17 years but Castlevania: Rondo of Blood finally got a release in the West. Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles was a remake of the classic PC Engine CD game but also contained the original game and an updated version of Symphony of the Night, which now allowed you to play as Maria. The package was excellent value for money. The Rondo of Blood remake despite having dodgy 3D graphics still played great and even improved on the original in a few ways. 

Castlevania: Dracula Chronicles X

It was a great year for RPG fans. Final Fantasy Tactics was released on the PSP which was good news for European gamers who missed out on the PS1 game. It’s one of the best RPGs ever made and a great match for the portable system. New cutscenes were added and a much needed new translation was applied. The unfortunate effect of FF Tactics being released was that many other great RPGs were ignored. The most unfortunate was Level 5’s excellent strategy RPG Jeanne D’Arc which missed out on a European release. It had gorgeous visuals, great voice acting and a ‘historically accurate’ account of the French fight against the demon summoning English during the 100 year war. Brave Story released the same month also went unnoticed despite being a great looking game with fun, traditional RPG mechanics. Another release worth picking up was Sting’s excellent Riviera. Playing like a mix between a RPG and visual novel it had a great story and interesting battle system, just don’t play it with the awful English voices.

Jeanne d'Arc
2007 saw the release of two games that changed the fortunes of the PSP in Japan. The first game was Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, a prequel to the PS1 classic. Westerners would have to wait until 2008 to play Crisis Core. The lure of the Final Fantasy VII name ensured that the game sold ridiculous numbers. It also helped that it wasn’t a bad game despite the god awful story. Crisis Core was so popular that it drove PSP sales to silly levels and for the first time since release it managed to eclipse the sales of the all conquering Nintendo DS. 

Crisis Core: FFVII

This PSP craze however wasn’t a flash in the pan. Another game had been released just before Crisis Core and that game was Monster Hunter Freedom 2. New PSP owners attracted to the platform by Crisis Core discovered Monster Hunter through this game and became addicted to cutting up monsters and making weapons and armour out of them. The ad hoc multiplayer mode was well suited to crowded urban life in Japan and multiplayer sessions took off on the Japans public transport system and it school yards. The PSP and Monster Hunter were on the fast track to becoming Japan’s biggest console and gaming franchise respectively.

Monster Hunter (2 I think?)


This was a pretty bleak year for PSP fans. While Japan was enjoying Monster Hunter mania and developers were starting to take notice and switch development to the PSP there wasn’t much of note released in Japan or in the rest of the world.
Sony were again doing a good job of supporting the system. God of War: Chains of Olympus was their big title and it was incredible. The God of War gameplay translated brilliantly to the PSP since it didn’t rely on camera controls and it somehow managed to convey the same sense of scale that it’s bigger brothers did on the PS2. It really showed what was possible on the handheld. Sony also released sequels to Loco Roco and Patapon. While there wasn’t much difference between these titles and the predecessors the improvements were welcome and they were great additions to the library. Platformer fans were satiated with Secret Agent Clank although reviews of this title don’t seem that good.

God of War: Chains of Olympus
Space Invaders Extreme was released on the PSP and DS and the PSP proved to be the best platform due to its much better audio and visual capabilities. It was a trippy, psychedelic reimagining of the classic title.
One game that got unfortunately overlooked was Fading Shadows, it’s a fun little puzzle game that’s kind of hard to describe so look it up!


This started off as another bad year for the PSP in Europe. In Japan however a glut of software started to get published off the back of the popularity of Monster Hunter. By the end of 2009 many of these Japanese games started to get published in the West and the PSP got its second wind in the West with fans of niche Japanese titles.
There were two big PSP developments that coincided with each other in 2009. The first was Gran Turismo finally getting released on the PSP. This game was used to show off the system before it launched and was promised to be released shortly afterwards. It quickly joined Duke Nukem Forever in the lists of potential Vapourware. When it was eventually released the PSP was effectively dead in the West and nobody really cared.
Sony used the release of Gran Turismo to promote the new PSP model, the PSP Go. The PSP Go lacked a UMD drive so relied on game purchases from PSN. Retailers weren’t happy considering they usually make very little money on hardware sales and make most of it on software sales. They either refused to stock it or kept it well hidden from customers. Sony didn’t help either and it would seem they sent the system out to die as an experiment on how well people would accept a digital only system. The system was ultimately a failure.

Gran Turismo
Sony did manage to release a portable version of Little Big Planet that went down extremely well. It featured everything from the PS3 game including the level creation and sharing features that defined this title.
Resistance: Retribution by Sony Bend studio was another third person lock on shooter and apparently pretty good in keeping with the excellent quality Sony Bend have been producing. It also featured quite an impressive fully featured competitive online mode.

Death throes of the PSP: 2009-present

There’s a strange phenomenon that sometimes happens in videogaming. The runner up and oft ignored console in a generation receives a glut of amazing software in its last few months. It happened with the Saturn, the Neo Geo Pocket, the Dreamcast and the Gamecube and in 2009 the PSP pretty much became the Sega Saturn of this generation.
With the success of Monster Hunter in Japan most Japanese developers were now developing for the PSP as their primary platform. The PSP was resurrected as the must have platform for gaming and there was an explosion of software for it. Japanese publishers were releasing subpar Monster Hunter clones for the system that were pretty much guaranteed sales of half a million units. It wasn’t just Monster Hunter clones, many other types of games were released on the platform, many of which were extremely good. While many of these remained in Japan a few small publishers such as Aksys, XSeed, UFO, Atlus and Nippon Ichi brought the cream of the crop to the US and released many digitally so that Europeans were not left out.
Sega decided to jump on the Monster Hunter bandwagon by releasing Phantasy Star Portable, PSO is the game Monster Hunter ripped off after all. Phantasy Star Portable was a superior Monster Hunter clone but unfortunately for western gamers it only supported ad hoc local multiplayer. This was rectified in the sequel which appeared in Japan in 2009 and the west in 2010. It featured online multiplayer and was for all intents and purposes a full PSO game on your PSP. Both games also managed to be significantly better than PS Universe.
The final big PSP release in the West for Sega was Valkyria Chronicles 2. Fans of the fantastic PS3 original were disappointed with the god awful story but the gameplay translated well to the PSP. It featured hours of content and hundreds of missions and I was particularly fond of the new classes that were introduced. It’s just a shame I never got to experience the multiplayer in this title. Unfortunately poor sales of this game meant Sega pulled out of publishing anymore PSP titles in the West which meant the superb Valkyria Chronicles 3 was denied a release.

Valkyria Chronicles 2
Project Diva became a big Sega franchise in Japan that would end up being one of the biggest on the PSP platform. It was a rhythm action game featuring famous vocaloid music (fan made music using synthesised voices) that had become hugely popular in Japan. Sega could have sold thousands of copies based on the fact that Hatsume Miku was in the game but they went all out and produced a rather excellent rhythm game. There have been rumours of a PS3 release of the series coming soon to the west.
Square Enix was still a big supporter of the PSP and brought over the weird Final Fantasy cross over fighting game Dissidia. It played a bit like a hyperactive Virtual On and was apparently pretty good. If you are looking for this game it’s best to hold off and get the much improved sequel which included everything from the first game as well.
The Parasite Eve license was resurrected on the PSP with Third Birthday, the name change due to Square Enix losing the game rights to the original novel. The game was utterly daft in the way only bad Square Enix stories could be but it made up for it with stunning visuals and sold third person action.

The 3rd Birthday
Kingdom Hearts fans still waiting on Kingdom Hearts 3 were left waiting still but at least they had Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep to play and it was supposedly one of, if not the best in the series. Tetsuya Nomura might have created something that even out does Twilight in terms of bad writing but Square Enix managed the impossible of bringing the gorgeous visuals and setpieces of the PS2 games to the small handheld system.
Strategy RPG fans rejoiced when a remake of Tactics Ogre was announced for the PSP. The original game is considered by many to have one of the best stories ever written for a game, it’s pretty much game of thrones but based on the 1990’s war in the Balkan region. However the original had problems with a broken levelling up system. The remake updated the gameplay and fixed the levelling problems and is considered by many the finest game in the genre. It  featured an innovative rewind mechanic that let you rewind any mistakes made in battle but also let you turn back in time in the story to experience the many different branching story paths and endings.

Tactics Ogre
Of course Square Enix couldn’t leave out its biggest franchise, Final Fantasy, and graced PSP owners with a remake of FFIV. Unlike the DS remake which changed the gameplay significantly, the PSP game played exactly like the SNES original but with new gorgeous looking 2D art. As a bonus the mobile phone and wiiware sequel episodes were also included as well as a new prologue chapter to link them together. While this additional content was a bit crap the original game still holds its own as one of the greatest RPGs ever made.
Unfortunately the waning PSP market meant that the West missed out on a brand new Final Fantasy game in the form of Final Fantasy Type-0. I’ve not played it but everything points to it being a fantastic addition to the franchise. Fingers crossed for a Vita release.
Metal Gear Solid made one final appearance on the PSP with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. It was a big improvement on Portable Ops, most of all due to a far better control scheme. One of the more interesting and amusing sections of the game have Snake visiting the world of Monster Hunter, which I think just goes to show how important that franchise was to the PSP.

Can you spot Snake? MGS Peacewalker

Speaking of Monster Hunter, Capcom of course kept on releasing more games in the franchise ending with Monster Hunter Portable 3rd.
Sony never really abandoned the PSP either and supported it with a couple of releases. God of War: Ghosts of Sparta, arrived on the PSP and proved to be more than a match for its home console releases, some would say it was far better than the disappointing God of War 3. Sony also released Patapon 3 although reports indicate it was slightly disappointing. A strange release was White Knight Chronicles Origins which Sony snuck out on to shelves in Europe but never got a US release.
In a move to combat the growing popularity of smart phone gaming, Sony began digitally selling PSP minis. These were much cheaper and smaller digital games, many of which were conversions of mobile phone games. It was never going to put a dent in the smart phone market but we did get some great games out of it including the excellent indie platformer Where is My Heart? and the digital versions of the first two Fighting Fantasy books.

Where is my Heart?
With the big names out of the way it’s time to for the weird stuff that really defined the PSP in this era. Atlus really went out of its way to support the PSP. The wonderfully quirky platformer Hammerin’ Hero is a good game to look out for and a lot of fun. Atlus was looking to build on the massive success Etrian Odyssey andthe  resurgence in popularity of the first person dungeon crawler. It released the Wizardry spin-off Class of Heroes. It wasn’t the best dungeon crawler, especially compared to Etrian Odyssey, but still worth your time. One of their more over looked releases was Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble. It’s an open world game where you play as a bad ass school kid brawling with other school kids and getting into insult fights with them. It was utterly insane but a hell of a lot of fun.

Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble
Shin Megami Tensei made its western debut on the PSP with Persona, Atlus had previously been denied by Sony to bring Devil Summoner to the West. The original US release of Persona was notorious for having a terrible localisation and half the game cut from it. This release reinstated the missing content and had a much better localisation.
That wasn’t the end of the Persona series on the PSP. Persona 3 Portable was a conversion of the amazing PS2 original. While it didn’t include the extra material from the FES rerelease it did have the option to play as a female protagonist which significantly changed the social links. The new minimalistic interface was a step back but was better suited to gaming on the go and sped the game up considerably. Persona 2: Innocent Sin finally made its way to the West on the PSP. The original PS1 releases of Persona 2 was released as two separate games but only the second of these games made it to the US. Despite some changes from the Japanese release (the removal of the dungeon designer) and Hitler now getting some kick ass shades, it was great to finally be able to play this missing chapter of the Persona series. Unfortunately the PSP release of the second part of Persona 2, Eternal Punishment, didn’t get a western release but Atlus made amends by releasing the PS1 version on PSN.

Persona 3 Portable

 Atlus continued its relationship with Sting and continued releasing its quirky and inventive RPGs in the US and on PSN for Europe. Sting’s Dept. Of Heaven series continued on PSP with the release of Knights in the Knightmare and Gungnir. As usual for Sting these weren’t your usual strategy RPGs, Knights in the Nightmare even contains elements of bullet hell shooters of all things. Hexyz Force, another of Sting’s strategy RPGs also made it to the West courtesy of Atlus.
The last PSP release from Atlus was Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time a strategy RPG with dating sim elements.
Nippon Ichi was also became a great supporter of the PSP in its dying years. It released Disgaea 2 and again the portable was the preferred method of experiencing this game. Disgaea also got a spin-off in the form of Prinny: Can I really be a Hero? starring everyone’s favourite exploding penguins. It was a strange very difficult platformer that tasked the player with beating the game in 1000 lives. A very similar sequel followed. Fans of Dungeon Keeper should check out Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman: What did I do to Deserve this my Lord. It played every similarly and tasked you with creating a dungeon to foil the plans of would be adventurers. The weirdly named ZHP Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman was a strange turn based rogue-like featuring Nippon Ichi’s unique humorous style or writing.
The small localisation company XSeed took a big interest in the PSP. They formed a partnership with Falcom to bring their games to the west and the first fruit of that union was the superb Ys Seven. This ultra fast action RPG was heaps of fun and had Falcom’s trademark amazing music. More releases of Ys games continued with Ys 1 and 2 Chronicles, a great update of the first two games in the series, and Ys: Oath in Felghana, which is considered by many to be the best in the series.

Ys Seven
The Falcom relationship lead to the release of Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky for PSP. It was the first part in this excellent RPG series but despite fans clamouring for the sequels and XSeed desperately wanting to release the next two games the current PSP market prohibits it. XSeed are now looking into releasing the sequels on PC. Fingers crossed we get to see these two games in English.
Mega CD fans will remember Game Arts delightful RPG Lunar. An update of Lunar called Lunar: Silver Star Harmony was released by XSeed on the PSP and is a must have for anyone yet to experience this great game.
XSeed also released the quirky RPG Half Minute Hero which saw you trying to complete a full blown RPG in 30 second chunks. It’s now available on Steam and XBLA, just make sure to change the settings to the much more appealing retro graphics. Dungeon crawler fans should check out Unchained Blades which plays very close to old school Wizardry games. One of the stranger releases from XSeed is Corpse Party. It’s a PSP remake of a legendary NEC PC-98 homebrew horror game. Despite the cute visuals it’s a surprisingly scary game thanks to some great writing and very effective 3D sound when using headphones. The sequel was also recently released by XSeed on PSN.

Corpse Party
Two other late PSP games worth mentioning are Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom and Elminage Original. Hakuoki is localisation of a Japanese dating sim released by Aksys in the West. However unlike most dating sims this one belongs to the Otome genre where the main character is a girl chatting up guys, which is a bit of a rarity in the West. If you are comfortable with your sexuality and not afraid of catching the ‘ghey’ off it then it’s surprisingly enjoyable. Elminage Original is an entry in a long running Wizardry style dungeon crawling series and is one of the best games in the genre. The localisation by UFO Interactive is dreadful but the gameplay is great and a patch is promised to fix the poor translation.

So many men to choose from but I've only the one heart! Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom

I’ll finish up with one mention of a good import game that is well worth looking into. Gunhound EX is a spiritual sequel to Assault Suit Valken (Cybernator for everyone else) and was made with the help of shoot’em up experts G.Rev.

Gunhound EX
The Future

Even with the Vita and 3DS released there’s still life left in the PSP since with a little tweaking PSP games can be made playable on the Vita. There have been a few surprise releases recently with a few more on the way. Between the time I started writing this and finishing there have already been two releases that almost completely past me by. Natsume, the guys behind Harvest Moon, released Carnage Hearts Exa on PSN. Some of you might remember the first Carnage Hearts for the PS1 that let you build and set up AI for your robots and send them to do battle. This looks just as much fun. The next is Black Rock Shooter released by NIS, a game based on a frighteningly generic anime girl that was created for the music video for a frighteningly generic fan made vocaloid track that somehow managed to gain huge popularity in Japan. I’m not sure how good the game is but from videos it looks like a bit of fun.

Class of Heroes 2
There are still releases coming to the PSP. Aksys is planning to release Sweet Fuse on the PSP. It’s another Otome dating sim and Aksys have been convinced to translate it due to the surprising success of Hakuoki. Last is Class of Heroes 2 which is being released as collaboration between Monkey Paw Games and Gaijin Works (set up by Victor Ireland who many old schoolers will remember from Working Designs). While the first game was a by the numbers dungeon crawler the sequel is apparently far better. It was supposed to be released by now but is delayed due to a rights issue with the opening video music track. You have to sign up if you want a physical copy of this game and it is looking like it could very well be the last physical release for the PSP in the West. There’s even talk of them bringing out Class of Heroes 3 if the rights issue clears up soon.

In Summary.

While some might view the PSP as a failure for Sony it couldn’t be further from the truth. According to Wikipedia the system has sold 76+ million units worldwide, a staggeringly large number. It was the first console to really challenge Nintendo’s stranglehold of the market and was, at the time the most successful non-Nintendo handheld released. If anything the PSP failed publishers when the market was completely destroyed by piracy early on. Sony’s handling of the PSP was pretty good, despite a few dodgy advertising campaigns. They never really abandoned the format. Sony’s biggest problem was out of their control, Nintendo had managed to pull off a miracle with their DS system.
As a system I have some problems with the PSP. There’s no denying the fantastic hardware and power of the machine. However I feel it wasn’t as well suited to portable gaming as the DS. The DS’s clamshell design helped protect the screen from damage whereas with the PSP I’m constantly afraid of the screen getting scratched despite the nice foam protector that came with it.
Using a disc medium was a bad choice in my opinion. Battery life on early models was severely affected and was pretty terrible in comparison to the DS. Hacking the console to play games from the Pro Duo memory card was a viable option to increase battery life. Load times were dreadful for the first few years until developers started to really understand the hardware. As with nearly every Sony console the disc drive laser was prone to failing.

 The screen might have been a technological marvel at release but on earlier models there was a lot of ghosting. This wasn’t as noticeable in 3D games but severely affects the look of 2D games. Battery persistence was also a big problem. As a handheld device I usually found myself not playing the PSP for long stretches. If I wanted to have a quick game of something on the device I would always need to charge it up first because after a week of inactivity you could be guaranteed that the battery would be empty.
Thankfully the issues with battery life and the screen were remedied in later iterations of the hardware. I do however really like the suspend feature of the PSP which was much better than the DS sleep mode which only turned off the back light.
Of course the hardware doesn’t really matter; it’s the software that counts and it was here that the PSP excelled. The library might not have been as diverse as the DS but it still had a wealth of excellent games, many of which are exclusive to the console. For any fans of quirky Japanese games or RPGs it’s pretty much an essential console to own.