The Sony PlayStation Portable is the first handheld gaming device to survive a battle with Nintendo DS, but is it worth your money? On paper, it seemed like such a good idea. Updated.
This is our best advice - updated regularly - about whether or not you should buy a PSP, what games to get for it and what to watch out for.
[This post was last updated on September 28, 2010, and will be updated if events, news, games, prices or acts of nature cause our opinion to change.]
Should I buy a PSP now?
Sure, but we recommend buying the cheapest model you can find. Consider buying a pre-owned PSP, given the right deal. There are a lot of very good, very cheap games available for the PSP and there is still no clear information about when or if a successor to the PSP will be released. While the PSP's future release list looks a little barren, there's a strong software library - including original PlayStation games released as "PSone Classics" available on Sony's online PlayStation Store - that will make owning one worthwhile. We know that the rumbles of the PSP2 are getting louder, but we don't expect that system out until deep into 2011, at the soonest.
OK, I'm buying one. Which one should I get?
Answer updated September 28, 2010.
There are several models available, including the original chunky PSP, which you can get cheap for about $US100. It's not a bad machine, though the PSP 2000, a slimmer model, is less of a brick. The PSP 3000, the newest model of the regular PSP has the same-sized screen as the earlier two models but some people are convinced it has an inferior screen. You can get it for about $US200, bundled with a new game, perhaps the upcoming God of War two-game bundle? That's a decent deal.
What isn't a decent deal is the $US250 PSPgo (pictured all the way up top) that adds cost to the system while offering a smaller screen and no disc-drive. Sure this makes it the littlest PSP, but it's not an impressive enough unit to command a console-sized price. Sony has made owning a PSPgo financially more attractive recently, throwing in three free downloadable games for North America and 10 for European customers. If you do like the idea of an all-digital-download system, though, and you can afford it, consider the go. It's a cute device, just pricey.
Hold up... I have a PSP... I just want to know if I should "upgrade" to a newer model
Nah. The PSPgo has a nice compact design, but if you trade up to it, all your PSP disc games will be rendered unusable. You can't jam them into the thing and will either have to re-buy them or hang on to the older PSP too, which kind of defeats the purpose. If we recommend the go to anyone it would be some newcomers to the PSP but definitely not legacy owners.
What are the best games on the PSP?
Answer updated September 28, 2010.
There are lots of good games, most of them available on disc or as a digital download for any PSP or PSPgo with enough free memory for them (games can be half a GB or more… big files). Most genres are well represented on the system. You've got good action games (God of War: Chains of Olympus), good puzzle games, (Lumines), good fighting games, (Tekken: Dark Resurrection), good platformers (Daxter), good throwbacks (Mega Man Powered Up), good games about being a no-good lowlife (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories), good role-playing games (Half-Minute Hero), basketball games that can be played like Advance Wars (NBA: The Inside) - even good games about rhythmic armies of little dot-like guys who fight dragons! (Patapon)
It even has some experimental Metal Gear Games (Metal Gear Solid Ac!d, Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker), some Final Fantasy VII spin-offs (Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII) and Japan's favourite game of recent times (Monster Hunter Freedom Unite).
Sony will release a new God of War for the PSP in 2010 (God of War: Ghost of Sparta), Square Enix will release Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Sega has Valkyria Chronicles II planned for later this year. A handful of very cheap games, branded as PSP Favorites or PSP Essentials, depending on where you live, includes good deals like LocoRoco 2, Patapon 2 and PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe. his program keeps expanding, so keep an eye on which PSP greats are now 10 bucks.
Original PlayStation games like Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Final Fantasy VII-IX are available in most regions as PSone Classics, most of which cost less than $US10.
Which ones are the worst?
There are some problem sectors of PSP-land. First, watch out for games that look like ports of console cameos. These are often bad, the result of shaky porting or, worse, developers who didn't solve a riddle. That riddle is this: How do I turn a a game designed for a twin-stick PS2/PS3 controller into a game for a one-stick PSP? The answer to that riddle is: Horrible idea… don't do it, because most have failed abysmally except the folks who made Resistance: Retribution (good game)! Don't let anyone tell you there are good first-person shooters on the PSP either. They are lying.
One more warning, offered with heavy hearts: the download-only PSP Minis are, so far, only as uniformly good as iPhone games. And if you know anything about iPhone games, then you know that ain't so hot.
So if I buy a system, what are the first three games I should get?
1) God of War: Chains of Olympus because it breaks some of the above rules and provides a short but grand action game starring Kratos… just be mindful that a new God of War for PSP is in the works. 2) Lumines because it was one of the first PSP games and one of the coolest puzzle games ever made, a techno riff on Tetris. 3) WipEout Pure because a high-speed, stylish widescreen racing game is just the trick of gaming hypnosis the PSP was made for.
The PSP isn't only a gaming system, right
Correct! You can download movies and music to your PSP, browse the internet using the system's Wi-Fi, use Skype on newer PSPs that include microphones. In some regions you can even use the PSP as a radio player or TV tuner, but check to see if that's available in your market first. If you want to make the most of your PSP, you'll want to tap into a lot of the system's lesser-publicised features like these.
What are the big drawbacks of the system, the stuff they don't tell you?
Battery life on PSPs won't usually last you a long flight, though the system is OK for normal commutes. Older PSPs have battery-life indicators that will be hidden by your thumb while you play. That can be a problem, so keep checking the power levels.
More and more games are made available for download through the PlayStation online store, but releases often lag behind in-store releases by a few days, so download-minded folks will need to have some patience.
This can't not be avoided, though many people will not consider this a drawback: Sony and some PSP users are in something of an arms race with each other. PSP users hack their machine so that it can run (with questionable legality) pirated versions of games from many classic gaming consoles, while Sony regularly upgrades the firmware of the PSP, preventing new games from working with cracked systems. For the non-hacking consumer, this means that you will often discover that the new game you are starting to play on the bus ride home requires you first to wait several minutes while the firmware is upgraded - hopefully that firmware is at least saved on the disc that contains your new game, but sometimes you have to download it.
Any hidden costs?
You will want a case of some sort. Lots of people get hard-shell cases, but even a soft one will protect the PSP screen, which tends to get covered in scratches and fingerprints fairly easily.
You also want to be sure you're got a big enough memory stick for the PSP. These memory sticks are, unfortunately, not compatible with many other electronics. A 4GB to 16GB stick could run you $US35-$90, though note what stick the PSP you're buying is already bundled with. You might have enough in the box. The Go has 16GB of memory already in it.
But is there a better version of the PSP coming soon? Or a price drop? Maybe I should hold off?
Answer updated September 28, 2010.
The PSP2 did not appear at September's Tokyo Game Show, though a couple more big PSP titles did, including a new Final Fantasy fighting game, Dissidia 012[duodecim] and Valkyria Chronicles 3. More and more developers are saying they have PSP2 development kits, so that follow-up machine is coming. Just not in 2010. Next year seems like a good bet.
Essential Facts For The Sony PSP
System launched in America in 2005
The Sony PSP is the most powerful gaming-centric portable device on the market today. It includes a single analogue nub and a directional buttons, either of which is typically used for character movement. It also sports face buttons and shoulder buttons, to allow for comfortable mapping of early PlayStation One-era control styles. The system's defining characteristic is its big and beautiful screen.
All PSP systems include both short-range wireless communication and WiFi online access, but games have to be programmed specifically to use either feature. Sony calls short-range system-to-system connections "ad hoc" play; the company labels WiFi-connected modes as "infrastructure" mode. Weird, but now you know.
Each PSP contains its own internal, rechargeable battery. Battery life varies based on the model of the PSP. Better batteries can be swapped into the system.
The PSP has been promoted by Sony as an adult gamer's portable device, something you grow out of, they would say, when you're done being a kid and playing a DS. Fair marketing slant or not, that is how the system is positioned, with a high number of teen and mature-oriented games. Frequent firmware upgrades have also expanded the system's non-gaming functionality, allowing users to download music and movies to the machine, use it as a radio, a Skype device and other things.
Currently available models: PSP 3000 ($US170), PSP 3000 bundle ($US200)*, PSPgo ($US250), PSP Slim [used]($US120)*, PSP Original [used]($US100)[recommended models marked with an asterisk] Price of new games: $US30-$US40 Discount line of games: PSP Greatest Hits ($US20) PSP favourites ($US10)