PlayStation Portable Buyers Guide

I love articles like this since they are always subjective to the person writing it and because of that I usually get to learn about games I haven’t tried yet. So now it’s my turn to give back and present my own advice on what games you need to get if you decide to buy a PlayStation Portable (PSP) and start collecting for it.

The first thing I want to talk about is the system itself. It was originally released in 2004. The system blew people away at first, never before had anyone seen a handheld with graphics as good as the PSP. It was like having a portable PS2. It also had an analog nub that worked similar to an analog stick which allowed more freedom of movement in games which really helped out with racing games. The library spans more than 700 games so you have plenty to choose from. The system even plays PSOne games downloaded from the PlayStation store.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Sadly, but expectedly, the PSP is not really supported by major retailers anymore, at least not in physical stores so sourcing the system and games will require lucking up locally at second hand shops or buying online. The nice thing is, I feel the system and it’s games are at a sweet spot right now where they are getting stupid cheap and will only go up from here. I have been buying games like crazy to add to my collection as you can find good games, still in the wrapper, for as low as $5 shipped from Amazon. Even cheaper if you shop around. I’m calling it, now is the time to buy.

My personal recommendation is to get a PSP-3001. It is a good compromise between weight, battery life and screen quality. Opinions vary on this so if you can try out the different models locally, do that and decide for yourself, but I prefer the 3001 and have been very happy with it.

I would not recommend the PSP-GO at this stage in the game since it’s a download only system. You can’t use UMD’s with it. Many games are no longer available as a download so you may miss out on a some good titles. Plus collecting is all about showing off your games so having physical copies of games is kind of the whole point. However if you can find a PSP-GO cheap enough, may as well at least add it to the collection. I’m always on the hunt for a cheap one.

So what about the games then. Well there are a lot of very good games but when I first buy a new to me console, meaning it’s probably been out a bit, I always like to buy an assortment of games with it to really try it out. Normally my sweet spot is about five to six games so that’s what I will cover in this article. So in no particular order, here are my picks for the first PSP games to go after. They may not be the best, but in my experience if I had to do it over again these are the ones I’d seek out first.

1. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Image courtesy of ign.com
Image courtesy of ign.com

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was the third Metal Gear released for the PSP but the first to be directed by Hideo Kojima making it nearly on par with it’s console counterparts. The game does have cut scenes but they are told in a comic book style. So there are no famously long cinematics that the series is known for which makes sense on a handheld.

The gameplay is exactly what you would expect from a Metal Gear game. IF you are familiar with the main entries in the series then jumping in will be familiar. The controls transfer to a handheld easily enough but do make some boss battles a little frustrating at times.

If you are not familiar with the title it’s basically a third person stealth shooter with big boss fights. The story is broken up into short missions and there are plenty of them to go through. They all come together to form a deep, cohesive story and experience. In fact the events of this game lead directly into the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. So if you have not played Peace Walker, do so and your questions will be answered. You can also buy this game on the PS3 so you can use a Dual Shock controller. It helps a lot later on and both titles support cross-save so you can play on one device and transfer your save to the other.

2.  God of War: Chains of Olympus

Image courtesy of ign.com
Image courtesy of ign.com

This was the first title I bought for my PSP. I have played it through many, many times and enjoy it every time. It’s a solid action title and plays similarly to the console version. It was the first God of War game released on the handheld. It is a very good game to show off what the little system is capable of.

In short, the game is gorgeous. It’s only a handful of hours long, in fact the first time I played it, I just layed back on my couch and finished it. It was a bittersweet moment. I just played a great game on my new console and was so happy I had a good experience with my new investment. However here I was, day one, and I already needed a new game. But then, that’s a good excuse to go back and shop anyway.

This game has been praised countless times by critics and fans alike. It really should be on everyone’s list as a must-own for this system. The action is fast and fluid. Pulling off Krato’s moves and combos feels just like you’d expect. A great adventure from second you start all the way to the conclusion.

3. Gran Turismo 

GTPSP_wiki
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Gran Turismo is such an iconic game on Playstation and still a must own on the PSP. There were some compromises made to get it into a handheld but overall it’s a very fun game to play. It looks great, runs smoothly and sounds like it should on a handheld system. It is not as detailed as the PS2 versions but miles ahead of the PSOne games. Being able to fit all those cars and tracks into a disc as small as the UMD is an accomplishment.

But it’s not magic or witchcraft that made it happen. No, something had to go to make all that fit on a tiny disk…customization. Yup it’s not here. Part of what makes Gran Turismo such an addicting game, the deep customization, is gone. You race stock cars or cars that are pre-prepped for racing. No tuning for you!

I’d say that’s ok, but it really disappointed me. However, the rest of the game is solid and it definitely did not stop me from pouring in hours upon hours to the game.  I’ve played many racing games on handheld systems, this is the one you want.

4. The 3rd Birthday

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

The 3rd Birthday is the technically the third game in the Parasite Eve series back from the PSOne days, but in reality is more of a spinoff. It’s a third-person shooter where you play as Aya Brea fighting the monsters referred to as “Babels” or “Twisted”.  As is the case with many PSP games in this style, it’s setup in missions or episodes.

Graphically the game looks very, very  good. I have even played it on my PlayStation TV on a 51″ plasma and it still looked fine.  The games runs smoothly and the action is fast paced. There are a few random difficulty spikes that can get frustrating, however it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

The 3rd Birthday is a very solid third person shooter that has a decent story, beautiful graphics and satisfying gameplay. The shooting feels great and the pacing of the game makes you want to keep going. It’s a great addition to anyone’s library.

5. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

If you are on this site, chances are you are familiar with Kingdom Hearts. If not, here is a very brief rundown. It’s a third person action RPG set in a universe where Final Fantasy characters and Disney characters/worlds coexist. And it is fantastic. Not only that but the art style is timeless. The game on PSP looks just as good as the PS2 games.

In the game you can choose to select any of three characters which each have their own story adding some decent replay value to the game. Each story will have you visiting Disney worlds and interacting with many of your favorite characters.

For me the biggest draw was just how beautiful the game looked and played. It’s got a silky smooth framerate and enough content and fan service to keep you wanting to press on. Finding yourself running out the batteries on your PSP while playing is a very real possibility. Not only because you will want to keep playing, but also because it allows you to set the PSP’s CPU clock higher in the options menu so it plays well…but also runs down the battery. It’s worth it.

Honorable Mentions – Pick these up later.
-Resistance: Retribution
-Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
-GUN: Showdown
-Army of Two: The 40th Day
-Symphony of the Night – Either the PSOne title or the via Dracula X game for the PSP.

You’ll notice there are no FPS games in my list. While there are some decent ones, my opinion is to hold off on them as they play a bit awkwardly on this system. I have Call of Duty and Medal of Honor and enjoyed my time with both but would not recommend them as starter games on the system.

So that’s my list of entry titles. There are a lot of great games and a lot of other opinions on the topic. This is just based on my experiences and tastes in games, but it’s still an all around solid list of games you should have for the system regardless. I hope you have learned a bit and if you decide to buy a PSP and start collecting then good luck and happy hunting! Thanks for reading.