The PSN 100: PSP
A retro gamer's guide to PSP, on the eve of its digital destruction
The PSP/PS3/Vita digital stores are about to go the way of the dodo. That is, dead. Extinct. They're all going to go dead extinct. As a result, it seems like a pretty damn good reason to prepare a list of digital titles for each system that you really ought to consider getting while they're available. I'll be doing a list for PSP, PS3, Vita and a final list of errant PS1 and PS2 classics available on PlayStation 3, soon to go the way of the void. Allegedly. 100 games, total.
Initially I was planning to focus on games that have no physical release, but that felt too limiting so I've just used the criteria of "anything available digitally", which is why Mega Man Powered Up isn't on here so don't bother yelling at me about its absence.
I've also stuck with stuff available on the US store, though I may do a supplementary list for Japan-only titles. We shall just have to wait and see, shan't we?
Activision Hits Remixed
What’s better than playing a huge set of absolutely brilliant Atari 2600 games (such as River Raid, Keystone Kapers, Frostbite and H.E.R.O)? Playing them while listening to Twisted Sister, Talk Talk, Men Without Hats and Blondie, amongst other 1980s bangers. A tremendous collection of Atari excellence and still enormous fun to this day.
Brandish: The Dark Revenant
A remake of a SNES game that's a remake of a PC-98 game, Brandish: The Dark Revenant is a slow-paced but full-featured dungeon crawler that's absolutely worth your attention. Its unusual perspective sees you rotating the world around your character akin to a first-person game like Dungeon Master, but you'll get used to it very quickly and come to enjoy its rewarding, challenging design. It's digital-only so get on it before you no longer have a chance. Brandish is grand. Ish.
Breath of Fire III
A lovely, smooth port of a lovely, smooth RPG. Rich in charm and character and one of the prettiest games on the PlayStation, it’s only a shame that it wasn’t followed with a handheld version of the underrated follow-up, imaginatively titled Breath of Fire IV. Now put Dragon Quarter on the Switch, you cowards.
Capcom Puzzle World
While arguably a slightly miserly compilation at a “mere” five games, Puzzle World justifies its existence by including the content that made up PlayStation title Buster Bros. Collection – being Buster Bros., Super Buster Bros. and Buster Bros. 3. These Pang-tastic games are always a treat, though they’re not really “puzzle games”, are they?
Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles
This remake of arguably the finest Castlevania, the PC Engine CD’s Rondo of Blood, is a perfectly serviceable 2.5D take on a very, very side-scroller. However, the real treasures within are the unlockable original versions of Rondo and – excitingly – Symphony of the Night. It’s not the best version of the game - the redone voice acting is a point of contention – but any SOTN is a good SOTN. Even the Game.com version. Probably.
Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy
One of the blurst game titles of all time, Duodecim is nonetheless brilliant and essentially replaces its predecessor by virtue of including all of its story content in its lengthy, involving and rather brilliant campaign. An absolute ton to see and do and all your favourite Final Fantasy lads are playable. Much better than the PS4 one. Also, buy the DLC costumes now because once they're gone, they're gone.
Hard to believe there's an EA retro compilation, isn't it? Not what you really expect from them. Still, it’s the only way to buy and play B.O.B on a contemporary-ish system. Oh, you want more? Road Rash 2. Desert Strike. Now go and buy EA Replay, you charlatans.
Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection
Well, it's one of the best Final Fantasy games presented in a very attractive package along with its godawful follow-up The After Years and a less godawful third game called Interlude. It looks great and includes an auto-battle feature to take the labour out of grinding. In my view the best way to play Final Fantasy IV. You may disagree. I don’t care. Go away.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
I don’t say it too loudly for fear of upsetting them, but this is probably my favourite game in the God of War series. Previous PSP effort Chains of Olympus was very good, but felt cut down. This, though, is a full-fat and thoroughly satisfying God of War experience. It looks incredible, plays beautifully, tells a decent story and – best of all – has the funniest, stupidest, most OTT sex mini-game in the series. Essential.
The only Western release of Gradius Gaiden. Oh, some other games are included too. That’s Gradius 1-4, naturally. No Gradius V but that seems a little beyond the reach of the humble PSP. A stonking good collection here, with Gaiden and Gradius 2 being among the greatest horizontal shmups I’ve ever played. Checkpoint saves mean you might actually be able to beat Gradius 3, too. But probably not.
Guilty Gear Judgment
A rather fun belt-scrolling beat 'em up starring all of your favourite Guilty Gear freaks. Basically, it's Streets of Rage but with an incomprehensible story and a free copy of Guilty Gear XX #Reload bundled in. Why yes, thank you, that will do nicely, yes, I will take it, thank you, yes, thanks.
This game is wild. An RPG condensed into a series of minute-long carnage-'em-ups, you must zip around the maps solving quests and finding secrets, making sure you're able to return to town to pray for more time before the clock ticks down. However, the cost of doing so increases with every attempt. A startlingly brilliant and full-featured puzzle game, Half-Minute Hero is just fantastic from start to finish.
The return of cult hero Gen-San, Hammerin’ Hero is an extremely simple and fun platformer embellished with all sorts of colourful super-deformed anime trappings. Performance issues – namely slowdown – plague the proceedings, and the difficulty is remarkably high, but I had a lot of fun Hammerin’ things with this Hero. Yet when I hammer things in real life I am taken to a prison cell.
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier
Heavily criticised at the time, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is actually an exceptionally enjoyable take on the PlayStation 2’s premier platforming series, with a focus on aerial combat mixed in with the usual jumping and shooting. It’s not up to the standard of the PS2 trilogy (and its amazing Jak X spin-off) but how could it be? With an impressively large world for a handheld title and no compromise in the action, The Lost Frontier doesn’t deserve to be lost at all.
Is this a great Lemmings game? No, but it’s the last time Lemmings was actually Lemmings, rather than some weird touch-screen rubbish. Unless you count the homebrew Lemmings DS, which is a masterpiece. Anyway, this imprecise port packs in a bunch of new levels to go with a selection of the old ones, but your mileage may vary on its 3D visuals. But it’s still Lemmings, and even a relatively compromised Lemmings is a very fine experience.
LocoRoco Midnight Carnival
The first two LocoRoco titles are available on PS4 but Midnight Carnival remains elusive; pick it up while you still can! It’s basically exactly the same as LocoRoco 2 with its shoulder-button slidey-hoppy action, but the brand new BOING move lets you chain powerful smashing leaps in order to increase your score and become number one on the planet. Except the leaderboard went down a decade ago, probably.
Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
This remake of the SNES masterpiece Mega Man X is actually extremely rubbish compared to the original, but so is almost everything so don’t let that put you off. On top of a bunch of spurious dialogue and an added anime short entitled “Day of Sigma”, there’s an enjoyable new mode wherein you take control of perennial rival and Mandalorian reject, Vile. It’s a fun, fresh new way to play one of the all-time great sidescrollers and well worth checking out.
Metal Slug Anthology
Yes, there are a lot of ways to play these games, but this PSP version of the Wii Anthology might still be the best one. With a host of options and unlockables, this thing packs Metal Slugs 1 through 6, for boundless, brilliant blasting action. There are occasional loading pauses, but outside of this minor inconvenience it's an absolute treat to have these games on the go.
This charming, silly take on the classic line-'em-up Qix is a rare gem and only available on the PlayStation store - so you'll want to hurry up and buy it while you still can. Carving ships to pieces across 30 missions and multiple difficulty modes doesn't really ever get old. Even if it is a bit of a patchwork of other games. Tee hee.
Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
It’s Ratchet & Clank, but on PSP. Very little has been compromised in this downgrade besides the graphics, and even those are pretty spectacular in places for a handheld title. It plays fantastically, just like the PS2 titles, and packs in plenty of content, secrets and post-game antics. A bit of a blinder.
Riviera: The Promised Land
This anti-RPG from Sting is essentially an upscale of the Game Boy Advance version (which itself is a remake of a Wonderswan game), and it’s an awkward treat. To this day I have no idea how the combat system really works, but this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-esque RPG is easy to pick up and play despite its esoteric style.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX
The best version of Street Fighter Alpha 3, this little miracle packs so many modes that it’s almost intimidating. But the real score is the resurrection of the PlayStation and Dreamcast port’s magnificent World Tour mode, allowing you to tailor and customise the development of a character through fight after fight. There are also new characters such as Ingrid from Capcom Fighting Evolution, though she’s not exactly in great demand.
Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins
A joyous mash-up of the previous series games, Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins arguably misses the point somewhat by focusing on collecting items, but it misses the point in gorgeous and consistently enjoyable way. The ability to permanently upgrade Arthur will chafe with purists, but for newer players this may be the best Makaimura to start with. There’s also a Japanese re-release called Goku Makaimura Kai which eschews the collectathon elements, amongst other tweaks.
WTF: Work Time Fun
This is bonkers. A daring and spiteful little game, Work Time Fun sees you taking on laborious, often-sinister “jobs” to earn piffling amounts of money in order to buy meaningless trinkets. You’ll find yourself capping pens, crossing roads and playing a fairly rudimentary version of Lunar Lander among many other extremely silly endeavours. Shades of Wario Ware, but WTF is its own animal. And it has teeth.
Z.H.P Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman
An insane (yet quite conventional) roguelike experience, Zettai Hero Portable is a comedic journey of body-modification and dying over and over again, such is the wont of this genre. If you don’t like roguelikes, this one is not going to win your heart, but if you’re a fan then ooh baby do you know what that’s worth. The story and humour are typically risible but this one’s all about that pure gameplay. Give it a go!
Coming soon: Similar, brilliant lists for the Vita and PS3, then a final list covering PS1 and PS2 classics from all regions that may never be available again!