There’s something poetic about the PlayStation Portable bowing out just as the PlayStation 4 claims its place at the head of the home console space. Back in the hazy days of 2004, a much more lucrative Sony was on top of the world, with the PlayStation 2 blowing away its competitors, and the Japanese giant’s oft-rumoured handheld device garnering publicity based on brand power alone. Fast-forward ten years and times have been tough for the format holder, but while its first foray into the pocketable gaming space never quite unlocked the imagination of the mainstream market like so many anticipated in those early days, the system can still be looked upon with fond memories.
Prior to its announcement at E3 2004, rumours were already rife regarding a portable PlayStation of some kind – especially after the firm released an infamous set of images showing off a prototype handheld device. The platform holder had already experimented in the space with the PSone peripheral PocketStation, of course, but this was less of a contender to the Game Boy’s crown, and more of an imitation of the Dreamcast’s nifty VMU accessories. The company did intend to bring the diminutive device overseas, but this release never occurred, and by the time that the unit was discontinued in 2002, the PlayStation 2 was already established worldwide. It would take a further three years from that point for the West to get their hands on a pocketable PlayStation platform.
Damien McFerran, Editorial Director
The game which had me glued to my PSP the most has to be Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions. I was a massive, massive fan of the 32-bit PlayStation original, and being able to carry the game around with me at all times was – and still is – a massive boon. I sank hours into that title, and thanks to my habit of constantly selling and re-buying PSP consoles, I've owned more than one copy over the years. It's quite simply a wonderful, wonderful game – and back in the early days of the PSP, it was the title that entertained me more than any other.
Sammy Barker, Editor
I remember purchasing a PSP at launch in Europe on 1st September 2005, which just so happened to coincide with my birthday. I later fell out of love with the device, but rekindled my interest many years later. My fondest memory of the format by far is playing Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast on it. I believe that I was waiting for a train on an uncharacteristically hot British day. Granted, glare meant that I needed to squint to see my Ferrari tearing through the title’s oversaturated tracks, but I’ll never forget that moment.
Robert Ramsey, Associate Editor
The PSP was a strange console for me. I owned both a PSP 1000 and a PSP Slim, but I think it's safe to say that my Vita has actually had more use – despite its obviously shorter lifespan. However, the games that I did enjoy were the ones that I came back to repeatedly. I remember playing all of the PSone Final Fantasy titles on there, but my fondest memories with the device stem from my time spent with the portable port of Warriors Orochi 2. I did absolutely everything that there was to do in that hack and slasher, and I remember being amazed that I could play a true Warriors game on a handheld console.
Ben Potter, Video Editor
My love affair with the PSP began when it first launched some nine years ago, and while our relationship has been on hiatus for the past number of years, it helped me to kindle my unhealthy obsession with Sony that continues to this very day. Many fantastic titles graced the portable powerhouse over its lifetime, but none stole my attention more than Harvest Moon: Innocent Life. I was a huge fan of the PS2 entry, and was thrilled to learn of a portable version. It’s this game that will forever help me to look back happily on my time with the PSP – even if the memory cards were horrid.
There’s something poetic about the PlayStation Portable bowing out just as the PlayStation 4 claims its place at the head of the home console space
And much like the rest of the firm’s output during Ken Kutaragi’s reign as Sony Computer Entertainment chief, it was ambitious beyond belief. At its unveiling, the firm referred to the platform as the ‘Walkman of the 21st Century’, speaking to its diverse range of multimedia options. Unlike the Nintendo DS, the console’s main competitor at the time, the device wasn’t just about playing games, but also listening to music, watching movies, and browsing photographs. The divisive Universal Media Disc format promised to provide the kind of visuals that had never been seen before, and it was successful to a degree, with launch titles like WipEout Pure, Lumines, and Ridge Racer offering experiences above and beyond the likes available elsewhere.
But while it went on to break numerous sales records at release – setting a longstanding launch record here in the UK – a lot of the early enthusiasm surrounding the system quickly started to subside. The price of the platform was a particular problem in parts of the West, with the forced Value Pack – featuring a cleaning cloth and, in limited quantities, a copy of the Spider-Man 2 movie – retailing for approximately $100 more than the Nintendo DS. Moreover, the software lineup – which started to get overrun by poor quality PS2 ports – meant that the console eventually started to lose some of its lustre. Big releases such as Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories kept the console afloat, while new franchises such as LocoRoco and, a little later, Patapon were also introduced.
But then the PlayStation 3 came. Already struggling to find a market against a ubiquitous Nintendo DS and an increasingly popular iPod, Sony was forced to take its eye off the ball as it attempted to resurrect its ailing – and overengineered – home console against a ferociously competitive Xbox 360. This led to a software drought that almost killed the format’s relevance in Western territories. Heavy hitters such as God of War: Chains of Olympus and Gran Turismo did eventually deploy, but by that point, the format had already lost a lot of its momentum from launch. Complaints regarding the cumbersome UMD delivery mechanism, and the hardware’s general bulkiness – improved with future hardware revisions – were also rife.
Fortunately, a revolution was taking place overseas, with Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and its updated expansion going on to sell over five million copies globally between them. Such was the animal slaying series’ success in its native Japan, that it single-handedly resurrected Sony’s format in the region, and provided a colossal install base for developers to target. Spin-offs such as Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Yakuza: Kurohyo arrived as a result, as well as the likes of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and new franchises such as God Eater, which were directly inspired by the success of Capcom’s co-operative brand. The frequency of these titles kept the console alive in the East, and while the ship had already sailed overseas, localisations of the biggest games kept existing owners of the handheld happy.
Jamie O’Neill, Retro Editor
My preferred game on PSP was called ‘hunt the retro compilation’, because there were a number of amazing retro collections. I targeted coin-op anthologies, covering everything from Capcom, SNK, Namco, and Midway arcade classics. I remember buzzing from being able to play coin-ops like Rastan Saga, Rainbow Islands Extra, and New Zealand Story on my travels, via an import of Taito Memories Pocket. The Japanese exclusive titles were especially enticing, and my favourite one of all is called the PC Engine Best Collection. The version I bought covered highlights from the Star Soldier series, and since NEC and Hudson Soft’s marvellously miniature retro console was renowned for classic shmups, it felt fantastic to play Star Parodier on my PSP.
Nicola Hayden, News Reporter
Valkyria Chronicles II stole my heart when it came to the PSP. Not possessing a PS3 at the time, it became my first taste of the franchise. While the unique first-person, strategy warfare and characters initially wooed me, it was the multiplayer that swept me off my feet. I’d spend entire evenings playing through the campaign with my husband, and we eventually became an unstoppable force – it was a really exhilarating co-op adventure. We shared tears as well as many sweet victories, and I doubt that another title will replicate that experience.
Joey Thurmond, Reviewer
Oddly enough, the PSP never drew me in with its low catalogue of games, so I never bought one. But when Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep came out, I was fortunate enough to play this masterpiece, because my sister had – for some reason – a purple Hannah Montana PSP. Although some people may have called my manhood into question, the game was more than worth it in the end. It's my favourite Kingdom Hearts title to date, with its wonderful cast of characters, compelling narrative structure, and unique gameplay features. Most importantly of all, though, it showed me the hidden power of the PSP, and what it was truly capable of.
Nathan Michalik, Reviewer
Back in high school, I remember my friend and I helping tons of other people kill their first Kut-ku in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. It was a game that most of us played, but only myself and a couple of others in my town could say that we mastered it by putting an insane amount of hours into farming monsters so that we could eventually take on Gold Rathian and Silver Rathalos at the same time. It was easily the reason that I bought my PSP, and easily some of my best memories in video games.
As with so many other discontinued consoles from the past, the PSP's legacy will forever live on as a result of the catalogue of quality titles that it played host to over the years
Meanwhile, the platform holder continued to tinker with the system’s hardware. Following a leak during a 2009 episode of defunct web show Qore, the company accidentally unveiled the PSPgo to the world, a compressed console featuring 16GB of built-in memory and a revised form factor. The organisation’s intention was to do away with physical media, but while the unit boasted some pretty nifty features – including the ability to pause gameplay at any point – the absence of big titles from the PlayStation Store sealed its fate prematurely. It was discontinued in North America less than two years after its original release, and is often referred to as an "experiment" by the manufacturer. The cheap and cheerful PSP-E1000 followed it in Europe, offering a more traditional UMD-based experience for €99.99.
Alas, by the time of its arrival, the PlayStation Vita was already announced, and the industry had started its slow and steady transition to tablets and smartphones. As a consequence, the PSP never quite recaptured the enthusiasm of its earlier days. It did, however, go on to assemble a strong lineup, and the appreciation of owners all over the globe. And now, ten years following its original launch, the device is preparing for its victory lap. Sony has said that it will stop replenishing stock in Japan later this month, while deliveries will conclude in Europe by the end of the year. As for North America, well, apparently that territory’s already moved on, meaning that outside of the odd developing region, the device is more or less done. Fortunately, as with so many other discontinued consoles, its legacy will forever live on as a result of the catalogue of quality titles that it played host to.
What are your favourite memories of the PSP? Did you pick up one of the handhelds at launch? What do you think was the console’s best game? Boot up the diminutive device’s web browser in the comments section below.