Thursday, April 26, 2012

Report Card - Sony PSP

It's Thursday, so that must mean it's time to head back to class for another edition of Report Card! Today's subject is none other than Sony's PlayStation Portable or PSP. There are but a few games left to be released for the little-handheld-that-could, so allow me to grade everything from the hardware to the games the system has!


Hardware

The build of the PSP is fairly light for all the power the system possesses. The screen itself is 16:9, offering an exemplary view of gameplay. The system is the only handheld device to have an optical disc format known as the UMD or Universal Media Disc. These discs allowed lots of storage for games, but it also meant long loading times. Meanwhile, the battery life of the system is surprisingly good with a charge lasting anywhere between 4.5–7 hours. Not bad! The system takes about an hour-and-a-half to charge the battery. As for the controls of the PSP, the d-pad feels nice with each direction (left, right, up, and down) being its own individual button with the triangle, square, circle, and X buttons feeling great to press in as well. On the bottom of the PSP is the home button that can take you back to the XMB of the system, the volume controls (- and +), the brightness button, a button that sends you to the music player, and the select and start inputs. My main problem with the PSP comes from the analog nub, located under the d-pad. It's like a little disc that you slide around. It's uncomfortable for games that have three-dimensional gameplay, and for titles that require both the d-pad and the nub like Monster Hunter, for instance, you have to hold your hand like a claw. That notwithstanding, you have a technical beast on your hands with the PSP, a system that won't set you back in the cash department by much.

Grade: B

Features

The PSP prided itself in being a multimedia hub for gamers. It marketed itself this way to differentiate the system from its competitor, the Nintendo DS. The PSP has an MP3 player which you can store music to a memory stick and then play music from the system's speakers or through headphones. Though, I must admit that carrying around the large but thin system can be difficult to do. Regardless, outside of music functions, the PSP received its own line of downloadable games known as PS Minis. There's an abundant array of titles to be purchased and played, and the selection is quite good. Sony also dabbled in connectivity between the PSP and its latest home console, the PlayStation 3, as well as the Internet.


Grade: B-

Online

The PSP utilizes Wi-Fi play, so there's no need for wires to be connected to the system. Unlike Nintendo, which stumbled heavily with their online and went in kicking and screaming, Sony's online for the PSP is tremendous and easy to use. Online games like Resistance: Retribution, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2, and MotorStorm: Arctic Edge offer simple access to the various multiplayer functionality each game contains. The online is usually lag-free and the entertainment value through playing with friends or total strangers is astounding.

Grade: B

First-party Exclusives

Behind Nintendo, Sony is a fantastic first party, and they deliver greatly on content for their systems. But unlike Nintendo, Sony does not mind investing heavily in new IPs, even at the expense of killing off old ones. We've seen quirky titles like the colorful LocoRoco, the rhythm-based war game Patapon, and the Sackboy-starring LittleBigPlanet. Then there's old standbys like the duo of PSP-exclusive God of War games, two off-shoots that surpassed the PS3 console installment, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 1 and 2, the ice-cold racing of MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, the third-person shooting bliss of Resistance: Retribution, and don't forget the lombax and robot pair of Ratchet & Clank in Size Matters. Even classic franchises returned like Syphon Filter and the F-Zero-inspired Wipeout. Sony definitely delivered on first party content with the PSP, but I feel they could have put their A teams on the games instead of their B and C teams.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Grade: B


Third-party Games

We already have come to terms that Sony's studios delivered on the PSP. Well, if Sony delivered on the first party front, then third parties mailed first class with delivery confirmation. The biggest franchises ended up on the system including Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Grand Theft Auto, Tactics Ogre, Star Ocean, Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania, Mega Man, Ys, and the title that cemented the PSP as a fierce competitor for the Nintendo DS, Monster Hunter. Sure, sales outside of Japan for PSP software was lukewarm at best, but the quality content from third parties certainly makes the system rank up there with the better of handheld libraries.

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

Grade: A-


Overall

When Sony announced they were entering the portable market, many so-called "unbiased journalists" claimed it was the end of Nintendo's dominance in the handheld side of things, even though no games were revealed yet. Even though the PSP failed to defeat Nintendo's DS, it did become a serious competitor for Nintendo. It gained a fair share of third party and market mind share, and it also earned itself a legion of happy fans. This is all for good reason as Sony's first foray into the portable arena is one of my favorite handhelds period. It's sleek, it's sexy, it has a library that is hard to resist, it has an excellent set of features, and it's just fun to play. Here's hoping the Vita can get up and dust itself off because I'm still looking for an excuse to pick one up; Sony just isn't giving me any reason to.


Overall Grade: B+
(not an average)

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Do you agree with my assessment of Sony's PSP? Piracy damned it to failure, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. Let your comments about this installment of Report Card be heard/read below.

2 comments:

Matt Sainsbury said...

Yeah, I've always felt like the PSP was an underrated console. For RPGs, especially, it had an enormous range of great quality games, and coupled with the PSOne classics I probably spent more time playing this console than any of the others.

That said I was a late adopter (PSPGo), so I didn't have to deal with the frustration of having releases trickle out like they did.

Chalgyr Vokel said...

I absolutely agree with this review. I was a pretty early adopter, but had enough other games that I never worried about the release titles being a bit thin. I just waited and picked out the ones that I really liked and enjoyed my God of War or Crisis Core titles along the way. Such an under-appreciated system, I agree

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