Review by dancer62

"The Little Engine That Could"

PSP: what an amazing device, big bright screen, near-PS2 level technology in a package not much larger than the original Game Boy Advance! It has a micro optical disc drive and is capable of playing super games on Universal Media Disc out of the box, like the Monster Hunter Freedom series, Burnout Legends, Need For Speed Carbon, Wipeout Pure, Daxter, etc. With small modification ($20 invested in a Pandora battery and Magic Memory Stick) it can play most of my old PS1 games (Gran Turismo 2!), plus emulators for DOS (Doom, Duke Nukem 3D), GB and GBA (Pokemon series), NES, SNES, Amiga, Commodore 64, Neo Geo Pocket, Sega Master System, Genesis, Game Gear, and more obscure old systems. It can also play homebrew games developed for the system.

Each iteration has advantages and disadvantages, the 1000 series (Phat) is larger and heavier with slower loading times, but has a larger capacity battery, infrared capability (unused), is easier to hack, and is capable of playing more homebrew games. The 2000 (Slim & Lite) series is thinner and lighter, has more internal memory for faster loading of disc games, has composite and component television output, most models are easily hackable, but some homebrew games will not play. The 3000 series (PSP Brite) is like the 2000 with a brighter screen and a built in microphone, but is less hackable. The newest PSP Go is smaller, has a huge internal memory, but has no optical disc reader, and is not easily hackable.

With its metal chassis, the PSP has a good heft and feels good in the hand, like an expensive camera. And, like an expensive camera, because of the large vulnerable screen and the relatively delicate drive mechanism, you'll want to keep it in a protective case when not in use.

Besides games, the PSP can also play movies, MP3s, and has WiFi connectivity for internet and multiplayer. The wide screen is sharp and clear, and UMD movies look better than they do on DVD. The special effects in Serenity and House of Flying Daggers take on new life on the PSP screen. On the other hand, for some reason The Fast and the Furious just ends up looking hokey.

There is a design defect in the UMDs, the case is a four piece design with two slender white plastic pieces framing two large clear plastic windows, and the windows can easily collapse against the disc, preventing it from spinning. About half of the defective UMDs I receive have this problem, corrected either temporarily by flexing the UMD gently to pop the window back into place or permanently by transferring the disc to a new two piece aftermarket case. Why Sony didn't stick with the rugged design of their original MD MiniDisc is a mystery.

Another issue is that newer games require special attention, because they require the latest version of Sony Official Firmware, currently 6.3x, supposedly as an antipiracy measure. This requires a choice between loading the OFW and sacrificing the ability to run homebrew, emulators, and PS1 games; or to dump the UMD to memory stick, extract the file structure, patch the loading program, and recompile the ISO. Patching the game requires that you not only buy the commercial game, but also a memory stick to dump the game to, and several hours researching the game and experimenting to get it to run. As an antipiracy measure, it's a dud, hacked ISOs are readily available on the net. I would much prefer to play the game from the UMD, and after I've been forced to hack it, it's only my conscience that prevents me from selling the original UMD and still keeping the game. Dumb move, Sony, really dumb! To be fair, though, PSP games keep getting better, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge has more content and features in the PSP version than in the PS2 version. Although Modnation Racers is a disappointment, I'm looking forward to God Eater.

Gaming on the go, I spend a lot of time busy-waiting at work, standing by for long periods in readiness for brief flurries of activity. The PSP has a huge variety of games, from puzzle games that can simply be set down to answer the phone, to my favorite racing games that can be paused to give attention to a customer at the desk. There is also a sleep mode accessed by flicking the power switch, flicking the switch again returns to play, hopefully with me regaining orientation fast enough to not ram a virtual tree at 200mph. A small purse holds a cased PSP, half a dozen UMD games or movies, a couple of spare batteries, a USB cable for an emergency charge off the boss' PC (if I should ever need it, battery life is about 6 hours), and another half dozen memory sticks with PS1 games and various emulators. If I ever take another trip to Japan, this would be the real deal for entertaining myself for 12 hours on an airliner.

I have a pair of PSP-1000s and a 2000, they replace my Sega Nomad, my Gameboys(O,C,A,SP), Sega Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and NES clones. Plus, I'm replaying DOS, PS1, Atari, and SNES games on the go. I thought it was a good deal just for the commercial games when I first bought a PSP, without any intention of hacking it. I'd also intended to buy a portable NES clone, and/or a GamePark 32, but I discovered that the PSP can do it all: games new and old, movies, music, internet. It has to be the best gaming investment I've ever made, and it keeps getting better.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/16/10, Updated 12/02/10

Game Release: PSP Hardware (US, 03/24/05)


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