Retro Monday: The Playstation Portable

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The PlayStation Portable

Released: December 12, 2004 (Japan)

March 24, 2005 (North America)

September 1, 2005 (Europe)

This is going to be a slightly different “Retro Monday” today. Rather then talking about a game, I’m going to talk about a gaming device. The “PlayStation Portable” (PSP) to be exact. Why? Because the “PS Vita Slim” (Or the “PS Vita 2000” if you’re Japanese) is going to be released in the UK on February 7th. So why not have a retrospective on the device that started it.

The PSP was announced during the “Electronic Entertainment Expo” (“E3”) 2003 and was unveiled during E3 2004. It was Sony’s first shot at the handheld market, a market that was (and partly still is) supremely dominated by Nintendo since the release of the GameBoy in 1989/1990 to the DS which was latest installment at the time. Going off the popularity of the PlayStation 2 and with the developing of the PlayStation 3 in full swing, Sony thought making a beefy handheld device would be a good idea.

The PSP was a powerful little device. It had good graphics for the time, it was fast and the games that came out on it were good. “Mercury” (Awesome Studios, 2005) was an immediate release standout. It was a physics puzzler that let you take control of a blob of mercury. The aim was to travel through a course while losing as little of your blob as possible. It played very well. (Score: 4.5/5)

Then there was one of the games that I really wanted. “Daxter” (Ready At Dawn, 2006) was a sequel/prequel to theJak & Daxter” series. You play as main game sidekick Daxter as you fill in the 2 year gap between “Jak & Daxter” and “Jak 2.”  It was good. A nice little platformer. (Score: 4/5)

But playing “Daxter” shows the biggest problem that I have with the PSP. The camera.

The PSP was designed with a directional pad, PS buttons (circle, square, triangle, X) and one analogue stick with 2 shoulder buttons. While most games where ok to play with only one stick, like “Mercury,” playing 3rd person games with one stick became a huge pain because there was no proper camera control. With “Daxter,” the camera was controlled with the shoulder buttons. It takes some getting used to but is manageable. Other games like “Killzone: Liberation” (Guerrilla Games, 2006) just didn’t have camera control, making you have to fight the games camera.

The PSP was reviewed well by journalists and critics, but it sold badly when it was first released. (This was going to become a common theme for Sony.) It was criticized for its high price. It became very much a late hitter as its price slowly dropped. Versions of the PSP are still made and sold around the world, especially in Japan. I said that it was becoming a theme because it looks like it’s going to happen for its successor, the PS Vita. Criticized for its high price, it sold badly on release. The slim version of the PSP, the PSP Go, sold very badly and was swiftly dropped for the soon to be released Vita.  There is hope that lightning doesn’t strike twice on the PS Vita Slim.

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