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My Shiny New PSP

A PSP has always fallen under the very definition of a “luxury item” for me. I am an incredibly passionate portable gamer, but I was always happy with my trusty Nintendo DS. There weren’t that many games I wanted for the PSP, and it always seemed too expensive. Over time, the number of good games increased and the price decreased, to the point where- a few days ago- I finally took the plunge and bought myself one. A piano-black, pre-owned 3000-model with only a few scratches on it. And it’s mine, it’s all mine.

I managed to cut a deal with the seller which also netted me three games, and I borrowed a fourth from a friend. Since then I’ve been having lots of fun playing around with the PSP, setting up the themes and wallpapers, downloading demos and generally seeing what my new toy has to offer. The Playstation Store is impressive for its sheer breadth of on-demand content; on-demand shops are the most evil thing for directly appealing to the impulse buy instinct. I love being able to download and play old Playstation games on it, as some of the old ones really stand up well. My first purchase (and an immediate purchase at that) was the underrated classic Vagrant Story, which I intend to review properly at some future date. I was incredibly tempted by Final Fantasy VIII, but was put off by the download size: 1800MB. Considering Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days (a PSP port of a PS2 game) is a mere 500MB, this was quite a big chunk of my 4GB memory card. I do find it interesting how a copy of Final Fantasy VIII for the Playstation- either new or preowned- goes for at least £30 in most shops, but on the Playstation Store it is a mere £6. (And it’s not the rarity factor, as the Playstation Final Fantasy games are still getting published today.)

Having played at least an hour of each game, I present my first impressions of them:

First up is Persona 3 Portable, a PSP port/remake of one of the best RPGs for the PS2. When Atlas made Persona 4, they listened to all the complaints that people had about Persona 3 (though few, there were genuine points of irritation) and fixed them. No more invisible Fatigue meter in dungeons. More dungeon variety. More relevant Social Links, including all your party members. More things to do with your spare time. A better experience curve that doesn’t force you to stop when you hit predefined level caps. Persona 3 Portable has applied every single one of those improvements to this port, polishing up one of the most interesting and personality-filled games to a stunning level.

Fatigue is still there, but passing the invisible threshold does not incapacitate you while you remain in Tartarus. Instead, you simply remain Tired for a number of days afterward. The main addition is the choice of a female protagonist, which changes nearly all of your relationships and offers new insight into old characters: a superb idea on a series based on character development. Junpei, in particular, is much improved in Persona 3 Portable: they really have toned down his inherent jerkishness from the first game, creating a much more likeable character. Even with the Data Install option, the loading times are still noticable: music cues sometimes don’t kick in until a few seconds too late. The graphics are good enough for a PSP game; naturally they’re not as good as the PS2 versions and all of the anime cutscenes (save for the two openings) are cut out. But the heart of the game is still there and I’m having incredible fun.

Second game is Dissidia: Final Fantasy, the Final Fantasy version of Super Smash Bros. I’m quite a fan of the Final Fantasy series and I do like how it feels like a fan’s game: a celebration of the series chock full of references and callbacks. It’s a pretty awkward game though. I don’t doubt that after you’ve mastered the system, the battles can be truly spectacular, but there’s a steep learning curve here. The basic idea of the game- based around HP and Bravery attacks- makes sense, but when you have to factor in movement and fast runs and context-sensitive attacks… it becomes a bit of a juggling act. The PSP already feels a little flimsy in my hands… I feel like I’m about to drop it when my fingers get tied up, and the analog stick is hard to control properly. (It’s telling that I choose to use the D-Pad whenever possible.) In the background there’s a ton of random stuff like Achievements, Equipment, Magicgen, Chocobo Items, Calendar Events… the complexity is staggering and also very intimidating, especially compared to the simplicity of Smash Bros.

Third game is Tales of Eternia, the game I’ve probably played the least of. It’s a Tales Series game, so I was hoping to really like it. The battle system feels slow compared to the others I’ve seen, and the voice acting has a “I’m reading from a script with slight inflections” quality to it. I can’t really say too much about it until I’ve played it more and the story has unfolded, but I’m quite underwhelmed at the moment.

Last game- and the one I borrowed from a friend- is Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology. This is like the Tales Series version of Kingdom Hearts: make up a story that’s an excuse to throw in as many cameos as possible and make it a big hug to the fandom. The structure of the game is very much like an MMO: you make a character, you take on missions and then you go to field maps to complete the missions. The character development system is pretty poor if I’m honest, and has that annoying thing where you’re required to choose a voice set for your character that pretty much defines their personality, stripping you of the ability to fill in the blanks yourself. The personalities themselves are pretty generic too: you’ve got the Happy Girl, Wendee Lee, the Lone Wolf Jerk, and so forth. The battle system is standard Tales Series affair (circa Tales of the Abyss), and felt quite sluggish to me. My first character was a Thief class and felt very… boring. Nothing that interesting or unique about how he attacked or moved. I know that it’s supposed to be a generic character but a little personality would have been nice, especially since you’re technically the main character.

I’m planning on making a post about portable gaming somewhere down the line, possibly after a review or two. I finished the first scenario of Chaos Rings for the iPhone the other day and have many good things to say about it. Even sitting at home with my consoles and TV, I still love to curl up on my sofa with a good portable game.

[Screenshots courtesy of RPGFan and MyPSP.]

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  1. Gil
    August 24, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Nice! Congrats on the System. It’s definitely a great one. My problem is that I own the pspGo and the entire PSP library is not available to me. On top of that I can’t take advantage of the sweet psp game sales and clearanced games at Wally world and Target (any retailer for that matter). Aside from those downfalls I’m loving my PSP. It’s great to be able to load up games directly from the system and not have to worry about carrying around multiple UMD’s.

    • August 25, 2010 at 12:26 am

      I really like the idea of the PSPgo. I like the idea of being able to carry around my games on one memory card instead of five or six losable UMDs. But like you said, there are more disadvantages than advantages.

      Another issue important to me is that the PSP is region-free, yet with the PSPgo you can’t import at all: you’re stuck with what’s available in your region’s Playstation Store. I wouldn’t be able to play Persona 3 Portable, or any number of Japanese-only PSP games.

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