Should You Buy A PSP?

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)


Comments

    I think there may be a couple of references in there that say "DS" when it should say "PSP". No need to approve this comment, just hoping to help :)

      Thanks - fixed. Although, I only found on reference where it was incorrect...?

        "What are the best games on the DS?

        Finally a chance to say nice things about the PSP! "

    I just really hate the D-pad & analog on the PSP, you can't 100% play fighting and shooting games with them. First game I got for the PSP was the Darkstalkers game, it looks nice but doing commands on the PSP was really frustrating.

      What are you playing it on though? I have a slim, but a friend has a launch phat, and his D-Pad is pretty rubbish. It's too far down into the case so it doesn't have very good sensitivity (if you get my meaning? I'm not quite sure how to describe it). My slim is alright, although I don't really play fighting games on it.

        I can't properly touch the diagonals on the d-pads with 1000 or 2000, I don't know about PSPGO but I don't think it's any different by the looks of it. Not going to bother.

    I've had two. Sold both and my whole game collection. Whatever I liked on the handheld I bought for the console version instead (Wipeout Pure: Wideout HD, Twisted Metal Head On: Twisted Metal Head on PS2, same with Syphon Filter and Motorstorm Arctic Edge). It was a really good handheld for what it did, felt like a pointless system. Nothing to really drag you back to it. I was getting sick of my 1000 not being used so I upgraded to a 3000 to get me excited but it didnt work. Yes the screen for the 3000 was horrible. Had vertical sync lines, most people say stop being so fussy but they stand out like dogs ears. It also felt lighter and looked like it was made of all cheap plastic. I prefer the 1000 overall, but the 2000's TV input ability and the 3000's screen contrast (but the sync lines ruin that for me).

    I, probably like a lot of people now, have a PSP, and also like a lot of people I hardly pick it up these days. I originally got it as a gift a while ago, thinking it would be like a ps2 in my pocket. It sort of is, but at the same its not.

    The reason don’t pick up my PSP too much these days is that it just doesn’t have enough games I would actually want to play. I really don’t consider this a portable system (for me anyway) I don’t play for 15 mins at a time, on the go. I love sitting down with a good game and play for 2-3 hours at a time. And I just can’t do that with most of the games, because they don’t entertain me for that long. With that being said, the PSP has some awesome games of its own.

    Anyway, I won’t be picking up any more PSP consoles until I hear some news about the next PSP. But, if it’s a well executed as the PSPgo then I may just give up on Sony’s handheld for good.

    Im in shock that Crisis Core:Final Fantasy VII didnt get a mention.
    Also less shocked but needs a mention:

    FF Tactics: War of the Lions
    Pangya Fantasy Golf
    Outrun 200? Coast to Coast
    Street Fighter Alpha 3
    MGS: Portable Ops.
    Katamari

    I think theres more but they escape me at this time...

    Unofficial reasons to get an older model:

    1. Custom Firmware (which leads to...)
    2. Portable emulation machine

    Ooooh yeah!

    I can't believe Rock Band Unplugged got no mention!

    i wish the psp would drop in price like even on ebay they are still expensive

    I picked up one cheap for AU120, second hand though but still good, included postage. The worst part of it is having to buy a memory card in order to use any of the DL games, and the sony prices are a ripoff. I mainly use it for playing final fantasy 7-9, its absolutely great for playing them, and feels right, aside from the boost system in 8 which is just annoying.

    I prefer the 1000 model, its bigger, but it feels better when you are playing, the later ones are better for carrying around, or using as a music player, but they just feel off when playing games.

    PSP Go for $369 includes 10 games (RRP $300)- could be Sony's last throw of the dice on the format... brilliant ploy, just wish they would reward ppl who ALREADY HAVE A PSP-GO for their custom over the last 8 months.

      Indeed. I was wondering whether Kotaku's advice on the PSPgo would change if US had the same deal as we have (aka, PSPGo + 10 games).

    I love my little PSP, it's one of the few things that keeps me sane on commutes or when I need something a bit portable to play.

    For me, it's all about the likes of Prinny 1 & 2 (insano-difficult button bashing platform fun!), Disgaea (no, that's no pattern), FF7: CC and Dissidia (flawed but fun). Between all of those, I've probably dropped about 50-60hrs + per game, in the case of Dissidia and Prinny 1 that's double as I played the imported versions first.

    @Lucas - RB: Unplugged never saw an official Australian release..

    I desperately want a psp, but not that desperately, I'm too bumbed-out to afford one right now. Hopefully they will have something awesome to share at E3. It'll be a better-kept secret than the 3DS anyway.

      i have a PSP in immaculate condition if you want to buy it(this goes for anyone interested) just contact me at [email protected]

    The PSP is by far superior to the DS.
    It looks better, it has a lot of great games and isn't cramped up with pointless kiddy crap like Nintendogs.
    It has WiFi and an Internet Browser. Offers other sorts of media entertainment. It has greater graphics... its just better!
    The only thing the DS wins at is a 0.3 megapixel camera, so that doesn't really count.

    Unfortunately - the PSP is a pricier item AND its aimed at more core gamers I believe. The problem is that the DS is more casual/kids/people who have no taste unless its Pokemon orientated. The core gamers hate this and hate the DS and the Wii for that. So the PSP and all handhelds pretty much immediately fall into that category aswell.

    Yeah fair enough the PSP does have its draw-backs like no second analogue among other things - but it is a greater device than the DS. The PSP2 I would hope, would just smash the DS outta the ball park. Hopefully SONY learn alot, in terms of in Europe and America with the next PSP. Things like pricing and development etc...

    Japan don't seem to have a problem. But if they can improve but keep the costs down, it could beat whatever Nintendo offers next. It COULD happen, probably won't cause Nintendo fangirls just wet their pants instantly at any sort of announcement - but the PSP truely deserves to.

      Just beause there is "pointless crap" on the system, doesnt mean its cramped up with it, and just because you dont like it, doesn't mean it's "pointless crap".

      The psp may be a better device for you, but that doesn't mean that it is a better device for everyone. The base DS doesn't even come with the camera, so that's obviously not what makes it succeed.

      You also forget the great games it has, that's something it has going for it (not to say that the psp doesn't have great games). Mario's, zelda, final fantasy, kingdom hearts, kirby, etc etc. Yes the psp has some of those, but they are still on the console. Also pokemon is a great game, just because you don't like it doesn't mean its for people who have no taste. A lot of the 'core gamers' have a DS, and love it, whether you believe it or not.

      Now don't get me wrong, i love both the systems, but your logic is very flawed and just full off the stereotypical anti-nintendo arguments of its kiddie and for the casuals.

      I smell a troll

      LOL! Sounds like you are trying too hard to convince yourself that the PSP is better; in fact, it sounds as though you know the DS is better and you are desperate to bag it.

      Anyway, I own both and personally think the DS is a way better machine. The battery life is aweseome, I surf the net on mine [I have a DSi], The apps ar great, THE GAMES BLOW AWAY THE PSP's and in general it is a better supported and designed machine.

        Oh yeah, and the 3DS will own. It is 3D AND has graphics matching the Wii, which will is superior to the PSP. Sony should just give up now. Oh yeah, and check the mond-blowing games in 3D on it like Metal Gear Solid 3.

      No True on the price side, DSi XL cost as much as PSP.

      On the other hand, PSP games are overall cheaper. Retailers are still selling 1st gen DS games (eg. Mario 64) at full price, but you can get brand new 1st gen PSP game for as little as $14.95 (eg. Wipeout Pure)

      I'm a 'core gamer', and I like my DS and selection of games.

    The PSP is a phenomonal system. this article is full of shit. There's great games, it's great for media such as music or taking movies/tv shows on the road. I use my 3000 with a 32 gig stick inside it everyday. Is it worth the money? yes. first thing this article got wrong.

    -sigh-

    You don't need a case, but as with every portable, a Screen Protector does help, especially since you can't close the lid (one of the only advantages of a DS).

    The Screens don't play as well outdoors as they could, which is a bit of a downer, when you can see them though, it's the difference between the PS3 visuals and the Wii's comparing the PSP and the DS.

    The DS is very lucky, it has all the nostalgia of a generation obsessed with GameBoys and Pokemon to sell it. The PSP has neither of those two, but it does have excellent graphics, wireless multiplayer, the ability to link in with your PS3 and a bunch of excellent games, both released and downloadable.

    There have been some shocking exclusions of a number of puzzle games such as the excellent Exit series (which eventually got DS ports), Loco Roco, echochrome and a number of others. The amount of time I've spent playing Disgaea on the PSP would make it worth it alone and I haven't even made it to the bonus content which is 4 extra chapters dedicated to Etna and is only available on the PSP. Conversely, the DS port has content removed and downgraded graphics.

    However the Killer App for me on PSP has been Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. I have logged over 900 hours fighting terrifyingly hard monsters and that's not counting all the times I've had to reload. I won't say I've enjoyed every moment as there are some serious frustrations in it, but I STILL haven't finished the game. It's an action game which has redefined the idea of what constitutes a challenge and if you do play it, please give it a chance. Once you get past the Kut Kus and into the proper business of fighting things twenty times your size, you'll be glad you did, if you like a challenge.

    For more classical gamers, you can download FF 7, 8 and 9 and carry them around with you anywhere, witht he ability to play whenever you like. Portable FF7? What's not to like?

      You should buy a Wii then, because Monster Hunter Tri is said to be the best in the series ;)

        AHAHAHA, AHAHAHA. No.

    Out of this whole generation, the PSP has been my favourite platform. It has some great games, the screen is nice and big and feels great in my hands. I've got the 1000 model which is big and heavy comparatively but I still like it, feels nice in my hands.

    I can't believe you didn't mention Crisis Core: FFVII or Dissidia though..? They're by far the most fun I've had on the platform...

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