Playstation Portable (PSP): - Jack Of All Trades, Master of Just One
Written: Apr 12, 2005 (Updated Apr 14, 2005)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Library, Sleek Cosmetics, Multi-Functional
Cons:Isn't the Greatest MP3 or Movie Player, Load Times, Price
The Bottom Line: If you're looking for the most powerful and advanced handheld on the market, than look no further.
The handheld market, for as long as I've been paying attention, has always seemed to be on lockdown. Countless companies managed only abismal success, though it didn't always seem like they were prepared enough. This is until Sega hit the scene, and created the Game Gear which became the most serious attempt at stealing marketshare from Nintendo. In the end this handheld failed just like all the others, but what Sega proved themselves to be the most capable out of the many that tried. This is until, Sony announced years ago that they were working on a handheld to combat Nintendo's marketshare. The project laid under wraps for a very long time, but was officially unveiled last year to compete with Nintendo Gameboy Advance. This handheld was dubbed the Sony Playstation Portable (or, PSP) and was shown to have Ps2 quality graphics. Just last month, this sleek handheld was released. Does it have what it takes to hold it's own against Nintendo's latest handheld, the Nintendo DS? Read on to find out.
What's Included With The Sony PSP:
Sony PSP Handheld Gaming System
32 MB Memory Stick Duo
Headphones With Remote Control
Soft Carrying Case
Screen Wiping Cloth
Cosmetics of the PSP
One of the major upsets with the PSP was the fact that it is a horizontal based unit, with no clamshell. This means that the screen is more prone to scratches, and so you should purchase screen protectors for it, or just be very careful. Unlike most handhelds, the PSP's face is covered about 70 percent by just it's wide, sleek, and vibrant screen. Never before has a handheld console featured such a nice screen, and at such a size. Compared to the DS' 3 inch horizontally long screen, the 4.3 inches of high resolution wide screen on the PSP is very welcome. The bad thing about having such a big screen is that at times I have slightly missed the Directional buttons with my thumb, and inadvertently touched the screen and left a fingerprints on it. As I've played more this doesn't happen as often, but I'm still paranoid about scratching up the screen. Another slight downfall to the system's screen is the presence of ghosting, but I've only noticed this once or twice. This isn't such a bad problem, and is only something nitpickers will have a problem with.
When first holding the PSP in your hands, you may find yourself surprised at just how small this unit really is. What's intimidating is just how many buttons and lights featured on the face of the console, with 6 face buttons, two shoulder buttons, four directional buttons, and a small analog 'nub'. Less noticeable are the buttons located in the southern realms of the unit's face; the Home button, volume control, display button, sound button, select button, and start. These lower buttons are mainly used to control the media aspects of the unit but are still important to notice. The system itself is 6.7 inches wide, and 2.9 inches tall, making for a very compact and easy to move unit. Featured closely to the screen on each side are the unit's speakers. The compartment for loading the UMD discs is located in the back of the console, but more on this media format later. The handheld is surprisingly comfortable, with a sleek surface, and smooth, easy to reach buttons. The analog nub takes a bit to get used to though, but it's really a pretty cool feature.
The small little Gamecube-esque discs Sony has chosen for the PSP's default media format are dubbed the UMD (Universal Media Device, I believe). These small little discs can hold a massive 1.8 gigabytes of memory per disc, thus allowing for some pretty large games. This 1.8 megabytes of space may seem small compared to PS2 DVDs (which hold 4.7 gigabytes), but this amount of space for games has been virtually unheard of in the handheld gaming realm. When you compare this to the Nintendo DS' miniscule 128 megabyte cards, you'll see that the more massive games will be on the PSP. What's more is that movies are also being released on these discs, allowing for you to watch movies on this handheld. Very few movies have been released (to my knowledge, only Spiderman 2 so far) but the potential is still there to turn this little beast into a full portable entertainment system. What's more is that you can store photos and MP3s on memory cards, and access them on on the PSP. Sony has created no mere gaming machine.
Though the format does allow for a lot of data to be stored, it also means that the system will take longer to load data than with a cartridge based format. I'm sure that once developers become more familiar with the format they will find ways to shortcut through load times, but for now it seems that we're stuck with load screens. They aren't too agonizing, but it's still inconvenient for a handheld system, especially when you are on the go. Also, because the system must read the discs, the battery is drained much more quickly due to the moving parts. The disc format was a bit of a risky one for Sony to release their first (technically, but I don't consider the Pocketstation to be a real handheld) portable with. The game Ridge Racer gives you things to do while the game is loading, which is a pretty cool feature to implement into future games.
Because the UMD is a read-only format, in order to save your game you will need a memory card. These duo memory cards are actually cheaper than you would expect, as you can pick up a 128 MB card for around $40 nowadays. The PSP comes packaged with a card holding up to 32 MB, which is decent if you plan on playing only games on it, but if you want to store mass amounts of music and video you'll need something bigger. Transferring files to the PSP is a rather simple affair, with a USB connection. The PSP is read as an external harddrive (if you have a memory card inserted, that is). Setting up the PSP to play music requires you to create a special folder on the memory card, and to store the songs in it. It's rather simple if you know what you're doing. Playing back videos from your memory card is a little more tricky, as the video size must be formatted to correctly fit the PSP's screen.
The battery life for the PSP falls short of that of the DS, but this was always expected. Through my experience, the PSP surpassed my expectations by lasting over 5 hours through playing MP3s and Wipeout/Darkstalkers, but it didn't quite make it to 7 (whereas my DS easily makes it past 10). I have heard often that watching UMD movies will cut the battery life down to just about 2 hours, which is enough time to get through a movie at least. Thankfully the interface features a small display of how much battery juice you've got left, and so you can gauge when to save your game and when you've got enough to watch a movie, etc. Extra batteries are sold at about $50, and it really wouldn't be a bad idea to buy one or two extras to keep charged in case you run out. Battery life is very dependant on what the system is doing, the brightness setting, using the wi-fi. The game you are playing also will take different tolls on playtime, with more complex games requiring more reading from the disc, thus using more power. Charging the battery takes around three hours.
As earlier stated, Sony is taking a different path from Nintendo by making their handheld a portable media device. Not only does the system feature the ability to play the UMD movies, but as I mentioned earlier it can also play audio, video, and display pictures that you may store on your memory card. These multi-media options are not included on the Nintendo DS, and so if you are looking to do more than gaming on your handheld than the PSP is likely the better choice for you. The MP3 playback is nice, despite the fact that you cannot create playlists, so the songs will play through in alphabetical order unless you create other folders. This is the major fallback of the MP3 player support for this handheld console.
One of the big options that Sony is pushing with the PSP is wi-fi support. This allows for multi-player gaming, but players must have the same game in order for this to work. Wi-fi serves a greater purpose here, with internet play. Yes that's correct, right from launch the PSP has been internet ready. What do you need to get online? All that's required is a PSP, an online game, and a wi-fi hot spot, or you can use your wireless modem to go online. What's cool is that when you go online the PSP checks for software upgrades to the system's operating system. I'm quite surprised Sony hasn't already released an Internet browser for their little handheld, as the functionality is there and there is certainly a market for it.
The PSP is a beast of a machine, as far as it's power to push out graphically impressive games goes. I'm not going to get too technical with the system's specs, but it can easily pull off Playstation 2 caliber graphics and audio, and it is already showing in the current crop of released games. What this means is that this handheld features some of the greatest graphics ever known to portable gaming. What's more is that the high quality screen looks absolutely terrific when displaying the already pretty games. Admittedly, the Nintendo DS's two screens look quite ugly when compared to the vibrant display being put out by this nifty little unit. Gamers who value eye candy are going to have a difficult time putting this unit down.
What I'm Digging With the Sony PSP:
- Third Party Support (They've Got You Covered For Almost Everything)
- The Possibilities (It's Graphics Mirror The PS2's!)
- Wi-Fi Capabilities
What I'm Not Liking:
- Games May Be a Little Too Much Like the PS2 In the Future (Ports of PS2 Games)
- Seems a Bit Easy To Break
- Limited Square-Enix Support Thus Far
- Too Easy To Smudge With Fingerprints
- Cannot Purchase Base System (Value Pack is The Only Package)
The PSP's Games
Already the PSP has seen the release of a comparable, or even better overall library of the Nintendo DS. This all depends on your tastes of course, but if you dig sports and racing than by all means, let this be reason enough to consider a PSP. 18 games have currently been released, and include such big names as Metal Gear, Wipeout, Twisted Metal, Tony Hawk, Darkstalkers, Ape Escape, and Need For Speed. So far I only own two titles (Wipeout, and Darkstalkers) but this will change as soon as some quality RPGs see their release dates (I'm counting on you, Tales of Eternia).
With it's strong launch, the PSP is seeing quite a bit of third party support. The UMD movie scene isn't seeing as much support as I would have liked, with only some of the newer movies that I really don't care about. The problem is that it just doesn't seem like Sony will give anyone proper incentive to go out and waste money on a film that they could have purchased on a DVD and had more compatibility support with other peripherals. As far as games go, Sony has signed on some big hitters such as Konami, Capcom, Sega, Namco, Atari, EA, Rockstar and much more. The main problem I have with the line-up is it's lack of a decent RPG, with no signs of more than one to three in the works. All of the other genres seem to be supported quite nicely though.
Here're a few games that that have already been released. These ones are the games that you surely must consider if you are considering purchasing a PSP.
Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower
I've only recently become a fan of the Darkstalker's series after playing Night's Revenge for Saturn, and so I decided that I should start here as far as updated versions go. This game has a tremendous amount of character, pairing darker visuals with off the wall animations, and a mostly solid combo and fighting engine. This gives me high hopes that the PSP can push out even more beautiful 2-D games, and that developers will even consider making them.
Developer: SCE Studios Liverpool
Again, I was a fan of the older games in this series and so I figured that instead of hitting all of the older sequels that I would just go for the newest version. Plus this pretty game was staring at me when I got my PSP, I couldn't just leave it. I've always liked the wipeout games because of their sense of speed, and this title is no different from the others, just was super glossy graphics and more stylized than before. This is easily my favorite PSP game I've had the chance to play thus far.
Metal Gear Acid
One of the first games that was headlined with the PSP was none other than Metal Gear Acid. Disappointment quickly flew rampant when everyone learned that the game now played as a 'card game', but from what I've seen it still looks pretty complex. Basically Snake now carries around a deck of cards, and you select his actions by using the cards in your hand. Yeah it certainly seems different, but I'm sure there's enough here to keep the more hardcore Metal Gear fans plenty happy and busy. I would be very surprised if this was the last Metal Gear game to be released on the PSP.
Twisted Metal: Head-On
Developer: Incog Inc. Entertainment
Twisted Metal is yet another series that I became fond of on the original Playstation. It's car combat antics and dark sense of humor have always made it a pretty stylized game. The high point was always multi-player, and this one seems to be no different with a plethora of cars to choose from, and different modes to play with anyone else who's got a copy of the game. This game seems to share a lot with my favorite Twisted Metal game, part 2, and so I can't help but regret not picking it up yet.
Racing games have never exactly been my forte, but from what I hear, Ridge Racer is one of the best around. Not only is this game the most graphically impressive of the PSP games I've seen in action, but it also seems to be quite the solid racer. Eight player wireless racing seems to be the high point with this one, but there's also a seemingly solid racing engine incoporated here, and the usual Namco polish. This version just kills the DS version (which was a port of the N64 version).
Nobody should have to make the decision to purchase a new system without first knowing what's in the pipeline for it. Here's a few upcoming titles that I feel deserve the spotlight.
New Grand Theft Auto Game
Release Date: Unknown
Rockstar announced a while back that a new Grand Theft Auto title would be headed to the PSP. What can we expect? Based off of the PSP system itself, I would say to expect graphics on par with the console versions, but maybe not such a big world as that in San Andreas. This game will certainly help the PSP sell through the roof, unless of course Rockstar decides to take the series back to 2-D for this handheld version.
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core
Release Date: 2006
The creators of the cell phone RPG/Final Fantasy VII sequel are now working on a PSP action game set in the Final Fantasy world. So yeah, maybe we're all getting a little tired of all the new Final Fantasy VII sequels, but this one will supposedly play out like an action game. We really have no idea what to expect, but as Square-Enix's only PSP game announced thus far, nobody knows which direction they're taking it.
Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim
Release Date: June, 2005
The Ys series is a classic action/rpg series that has recently seen a revival, in the form of a sequel for the PS2. Now a sequel is underway for the PSP, and it's looking absolutely terrific with graphics that I never thought I would see on a handheld gaming console. Surprisingly the PSP doesn't seem to have a lot of announced RPGs thus far, and so this is certainly a game that you'll want to keep your eye on. This is one pretty looking adventure so far.
Gran Turismo 4 Mobile
Release Date: September,2005
This is the game that everyone has on their wishlists, as Gran Turismo is easily one of the most celebrated racing franchises of all time. What's more is that the developers have gone on record, stating that they are trying to do something a little different than they have done with their home console versions and so it will be interesting to see what comes out of this. This is yet another game that will cause surges in the PSP's sales.
Tales of Eternia
Release Date: Sometime 2005
Though it is just a port of the Playstation RPG, Tales of Destiny, I'm totally excited about it. Not only does this appear to be shaping up as the PSP's best announced RPG so far, but it also looks to sport the series' trademark cool battle system, and it supposedly has no loading times whatsoever. This one is already out in Japan, and so if you know Japanese, and are craving an RPG outside of Untold Legends, than this may just be for you. Otherwise just wait for the US release, which should be later this year.
The PSP unit, sold only in the value pack, will run you $250. This comes with everything I listed at the top of the review, and I must say that I would much prefer them to eliminate this package and sell the base unit by itself instead of forcing somewhat cheap peripherals on us to jack up the price, yet they don't even include a USB cable to hook up to your computer. Most games are priced at $39.99 which is just $10 more than the usual DS game, but some of the PSP games (such as EA games) are priced at $49.99. This is certainly the more expensive handheld to own, by far.
If you're big into handheld gaming, than you probably already know quite a bit about Sony's handheld. The system is basically as powerful as a PS2, but with more features that you would want in a handheld. The problem is that the only feature of the PSP which is above average is it's gaming. If you just want to play games, and are on a stricter budget than you may just want to go with Nintendo, however, if you're looking for a handheld device that does just about everything you'd want in a handheld, than go with PSP. Be sure to use the games as the biggest element in making your decision, as the two libraries are quite different.
Can't make up your mind? Here is my DS review:
Nintendo DS Review
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