Can we all take a second to appreciate how weird the PSP library was? I don’t know if it was just the hardware limitations or a limited perspective of what handheld gaming could be, but there are very few PSP games worth even remembering. It’s quite telling that Lumines is widely regarded as the best PSP game of all time. Nothing against Lumines, but Tetris 2 isn’t exactly Breath of the Wild.
I remember PSP games. It came out when I was 15 and working in a seafood restaurant, so it was the first console I ever bought for myself. When I turned 16, I quit my job at Wholly Mackerel (it’s true) and got a job at Best Buy, where I found out how bad I am with money. I had an outrageous PSP collection, which included dozens of UMD movies, a format that I still think was ahead of its time. If you can think of a PSP game, I’ve probably had it.
Thanks to the Razer Kishi 2, I recently got into PSP emulation on my phone (no narcs) and was surprised how many of the more obscure games were preserved. Games like Coded Arms, a first-person shooter made by Konami that takes place entirely in a military training simulator.
While the lack of a right analog stick made Coded Arms basically unplayable, I still think of the interesting premise it had. In a cyberpunk future we never see, hackers are able to directly interface with computer networks anywhere in the world. A group discovers this long-abandoned VR game that they can use to mine military secrets – but only by fighting their way through a series of combat scenarios featuring soldiers, robots and, for some reason, plant monsters. I guess GMOs will get pretty out of control in the future. Completing the game unlocked an endless mode with a cool narrative rationale. After beating the last boss, your character’s hacking tools malfunction and their consciousness is trapped inside the game where all they can do is run endless scenarios. Having just played Returnal, I can’t help but notice the similarities.
I’m also revisiting Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, the first game in the Untold Legends trilogy, if you can believe it. It was a pretty uninspired Diablo clone, but I imagine some people will remember it just because it was a launch title. Wireless co-op made Untold Legends a hit after school with my friends (we were very popular) and I especially like the Alchemist class, which used poisons, bombs and poisons almost a decade before the Witch Doctor class from Diablo 3. The Alchemist could also transmute items on the ground into gold so you don’t have to lug them around to resell later. It was a shallow action RPG, but it still had some great ideas.
The PSP is best remembered for its spinoffs of popular PlayStation games. A group of former Insomniac and Naughty Dog developers formed the now defunct High Impact games to create Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, Secret Agent Clank and Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier for the PSP. There was also Ready at Dawn’s Daxter and two God of War games (Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and the tactical spin-off/card game Metal Gear Acid, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories , Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and Killzone: Liberation.
These are the ones most people will remember. I had them all, but I also had Dead to Rights: Reckoning, a third-person shooter about a renegade cop and his bloodthirsty dog Shadow. I’m hesitant to call Dead to Rights a Max Payne rip-off since the first game came out just a year after the original Max Payne, so let’s just call it the other neo-noir with bullet time. The calculation takes about two hours and yet it still feels repetitive. I managed to find some redeeming qualities about the other games I mentioned, but this one is actually better forgotten.
You have to appreciate the effort that went into creating such a deeply mediocre library of exclusive PSP games. It’s strange to think that entire studios like High Impact Games came and went during the PSP’s life cycle. Part of me misses the days when smaller studios could cut their teeth on handheld spin-offs, even if that meant a lot of substandard products, because that’s what gave those platforms their identity. The PSP and its terrible games marked a time in my life that only I remember, and despite their flaws, that’s what makes them special.
Next: It’s time for Sony to appreciate the PSP library