The PSP, or PlayStation Portable in full, is a reminder of the fonder days, much different from our current gaming landscape of 2022. Before microtransactions became the norm and companies pledged support towards NFTs, gaming was a much simpler affair.
During the latter half of the 2000s, mobile gaming wasn’t a cash cow yet. In fact, we were just being introduced to the iPhone! Besides home consoles, these were days of Facebook games, of Farmville and Mafia City. For handheld consoles, the biggest “mobile gaming” options at the time are the Nintendo DS and PSP.
Of course, looking back, it’s clear who won the handheld gaming war. The DS, building on the established brands of the Gameboy, Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advanced before it is the second best-selling console of all time, only behind the PlayStation 2. Despite being the loser, the PSP can still be considered a commercial success, selling around 80 million units—not bad for Sony’s first foray into handheld consoles.
Despite all that, throughout the majority of my teenage years, the PSP has been my closest companion, as is the case for many of my peers. Whenever the TV was occupied at home or while waiting for extracurricular activities to take place after school, the portable gaming console was there to comfort me. In hindsight, many of the games I enjoyed on the PSP back then represented the hopes and wishes I have for the gaming industry now in 2022.
Remembering the Games which Made the PSP Great
One thing that the PSP had over the DS was the hardware. The PSP had superior processing power, with many of its games being graphically comparable to the PS2, a classic example being:
GTA Vice City Stories
While there are GTA Liberty City Stories and Chinatown Wars on the PSP as well, it was Vice City Stories which really cemented my love for Rockstar.
Like any other kid back then, GTA San Andreas was the ultimate form of escapism. When I got my hands on the PSP later on, Vice City Stories was a no-brainer. It expanded the story of the original Vice City, another game that I loved, and really solidified my view that Rockstar was one of the best gaming companies out there.
Compared to what we’ve seen in recent years, there’s such a huge disparity between the state of Rockstar now and then. During the mid-2000s, Rockstar released so many great titles year after year, such as the various GTA spin-offs, Bully and Manhunt games. Fast forward to 2022, and the only Rockstar releases were depressing re-releases or remasters—GTA V for next-gen consoles and the absolute abomination that is GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition, which makes the PSP titles look like GOTYs in comparison.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
And the game with the most playtime on my PSP goes to…MHFU! With over 2600+ hours on the game as I recalled, Freedom Unite is the game that turned me into a hardcore gamer. In this year of 2022, as more and more people get into Monster Hunter thanks to Rise and its Sunbreak expansion, I couldn’t help but shake my head at people who complain about difficulty as someone whose left hand has mastered the art of the “claw” on PSP.
While they can enjoy all these quality of life improvements, I was molded by the Plesioth hipcheck, the superman pose after drinking a potion, and so on. Despite the jank, the early Monster Hunter games paved the way for newer, more commercially successful games like World and Rise. Back then, Monster Hunter never really took off outside of Japan. Actually, the reason why I have thousands of hours on Freedom Unite is that Portable 3rd never got an English release! Monster Hunter fans today are blessed that they’re getting simultaneous releases and even PC ports.
Gods Eater Burst
It’s pretty obvious by now that I’m a fan of the Monster Hunter genre. During the PSP days, I tried out other Monster Hunter-likes, such as Lord of Arcana (never played Apocalypse) and Gods Eater Burst.
Setting aside the grammatically-scuffed name, Gods Eater Burst was a blast to play. It introduced so many cool stuff, such as the ability to custom design how your bullets will fly, their trajectory and the damage they deal, something that I don’t think has ever been done before in gaming.
Sure, while Monster Hunter Freedom Unite had better combat, Gods Eater Burst had another important element over early Monster Hunter titles—a compelling story. It’s certainly a surprise that it took 5 generations of Monster Hunter games for Capcom to finally decide to implement some kind of story in World. While current Monster Hunter games at least have some sort of plot, Gods Eater Burst was groundbreaking for me, with one of the best endings in video gaming that I can remember—the time when the silent protagonist actually spoke during the final boss fight.
Another groundbreaking game for me on the PSP was Patapon 3. Sure, Patapon fans will probably chastise me and say that 2 is superior, but 3 is the one which resonated with me the most.
The Patapon series wasn’t just groundbreaking, it’s genre-defying. No other game merged rhythm game and RPG mechanics as well as Patapon, especially the third game. Patapon 3 had a robust class system, evolution and so many other cool stuff that no other video game after that (excluding the mobile knockoffs) ever replicated.
It’s 2022, and I can assure you, Patapon fans and myself will jump at a new Patapon game or spiritual successor if they’re ever announced.
Dissidia Final Fantasy
Square Enix is known for their amazing RPGs. While we had Crisis Core and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep on the PSP, it was the fighting game Dissidia that I spent the most hours on.
Imagine…as a child and a Final Fantasy fan, you got to see some of your favourite Final Fantasy characters like Zidane and Sephiroth interacting with each other. Heck, it wasn’t just that—Dissidia is just an amazing fighting game. Does Tekken: Dark Resurrection let you fly around the map or summon…summons? I don’t think so.
While current day Square Enix has Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XIV being absolute cash cows and amazing games, their CEO’s interest in NFTs doesn’t exactly fill gamers with confidence. Nevertheless, whether it’s RPGs, tactics games like Triangle Strategy or Final Fantasy Tactics, or even a fighting game like Dissidia, the developers at Square Enix really know how to spec into just about any genre. They’re even planning to go into farming sims with Harvestella, but only time will tell whether it succeeds.
Obviously, I couldn’t fit all the PSP titles that I love here without making it go on for eternity, but these are the ones which I remember most fondly, as someone in 2022 reminiscing my earlier adventures in gaming. With how the Vita flopped and the being Switch as dominant as it is, it’s unlikely Sony will make another handheld gaming console, at least not soon. Nevertheless, here’s to hoping for more amazing games to come out, that will emulate the joy we felt in our earlier years.