Colors: Black, White
The PSP is a legendary system. There were so many fantastic games on this console that it has been considered the second-best next to the GameBoy Advance. The PSP had a great start and a rough ending, but overall hundreds of games were released and a good quarter of them was worthy of being in a collection. Now, I have played and owned the PSP since that wonderful day on March 24, 2005, when I was a teenager and saved up my allowance on pre-order payments for 6 months. However, what ultimately killed the PSP sales-wise was piracy. The PSP was very easy to hack and many custom firmware were installed on the system and thus downloaded games. While this is possible on every console in existence the PSP became a Pirate Station Portable if you will. Emulators were made for the system so you can carry around SNES, GBA, Genesis, and even PS1 games on this thing. It’s a very powerful and versatile system and many things can be done with it.
While I can’t condone piracy, if you own a large collection of classic games it’s great to have them on the go with you and this became my main driving point for playing this system to this day. Outside of emulators, the PSP library is like no other. Racing games, action, and RPGs were among the most popular genres on the system. The PSP had one of the greatest handheld launches of all time with Ridge Racer, Darkstalkers, Lumines, Ape Escape, and many other brands on board. The system was sleek, the most beautiful handheld system ever created, and powerful. I remember booting up Ridge Racer for the first time and being overwhelmed by the graphical fidelity, sound, and large screen. This was also the first handheld with this large of a screen. We had widescreen gaming in our hand with a huge 4.3″ LCD and that was even bigger than phones back in the day. In 2005 you had BlackBerries with small screens and flip phones. Phone screens didn’t catch up until 6 years later. The PSP was way ahead of the time.
While many great games took forever to be released it was a slow trickle for sure. Huge games were milestones for the system like God of War, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Tactics Ogre, and many others. These games defined the system as fantastic and there were also many other hidden gems thrown in there. There were also many JRPG ports that were only seen in Japan that were now ported to English for the first time and this trend continues with the Vita. The PSP was perfect for JRPGs that you could keep in your pocket. Now the PSP had many flaws like the terrible UMD discs that nearly crippled the system. The system also had many failed services like comics, Skype, UMD movies, and the terrible internet browser. The system remains great for watching movies, listening to music, and playing games but more so natively rather than through paid services. They just didn’t work on the PSP at all.
This will be my very last review of the PSP hardware line as it was the last (outside of the E1000 unit that was in Europe only). The PSP Go is a very difficult system to find these days as it is the least widely available. The PSP Go was released in 2009 and was discontinued barely 2 years later. The PSP had two previous models that greatly improved the system with the 3000 model being the best. Surprisingly, what drove sales were how easy the hardware was to hack and downgrade. The original model was the easiest to hack as it was mastered by the time the 2000 model came out. The 2000 model had a new motherboard and several hurdles had to be overcome with various firmware updates and are the least popular model of the three. The 3000 system didn’t take as long as Sony was slowing down on the firmware updates and the PSP Go was hacked in no time flat.
With that said, the actual system is even sexier than you could imagine. A slide-out PSP? No way! Many mock models were created for the PSP 2 that was said to be announced around the time of the PSP Go release. The system does have drawbacks over the original models but there are advantages that help iron some of this out. First off, the system fits in your pocket easier. The PSP wasn’t really the best for your pocket as it was very wide.
The Go eliminates the buttons on the side of the screen but putting the screen on top of the buttons which is a genius idea. While the chassis is now all plastic it’s still very sturdy. The system retains the overall shape of the PSP and has rubber feet on the bottom of the system and the PSP ring logo is now removed. The buttons have been completely rearranged, more dramatically than the PSP 3000’s arrangement. The new PS Button introduced on the 3000 is now on the top screen being the only button on there. The Bluetooth and Wifi lamps are at the top of the screen as well as speakers flanking the screen. It’s very minimal and looks great, and this is my favorite Home button so far on the system. On the top of the system are the usual L and R buttons but they are larger than the previous systems and lay more flat as they don’t makeup part of the shape of the system like before. The PSP has a volume rocker for the first time which is on top of the system and the screen and note buttons flank that. These are the only bad decisions as to when the screen is up these buttons are hard to press as you have to blindly feel for them. Your most used buttons are under the screen with the analog nub between the D-pad and face buttons which is interesting as it was under the D-pad previously. The nub is inset so your thumb stays inside and feels more like an analog stick and it sticks up away from the console but doesn’t tilt still. The D-pad is much improved as it doesn’t rock like previous systems and the face buttons are the exact same size as the Vita. You can actually see the influence of the Vita in the PSP Go.
With that said the buttons feel great and the body is nice. The power slider and wifi switch are very similar to the PSP 3000 on each side of the system, but the worst change of all is a new proprietary memory card called Memory Stick Micro. This was one last stab to combat piracy, but the internal flash actually helped it. The new memory cards are much more expensive than the MS Pro Duo cards that were widely available. So, if you upgraded to a PSP Go you had to ditch your Pro Duo which is an awful move on Sony’s part. While the internal storage is a nice 16GB for several games, a larger size would have been nice to eliminate the removable media altogether. 32 or 64GB would have been just fine and no one would have complained. On the plus side with this internal storage comes lightning-fast read and write speeds so load times are greatly reduced in most games. The Go also has Bluetooth 2.0 which no other model had. This was to connect Bluetooth headsets and the DualShock 3. Oh yes, you can play games with the DualShock 3 which is a nice feature, however, there’s no easy way to play as you have to put the Go on a flat surface. USB 2.0 was also removed and now has its own cable which means your other cables are out the window. If you lose this cable you’re screwed, however, USB A to B was being phased out as phones were using Mini B cables which is now a standard. Hey, at least it still has a headphone jack and mic.
Most people complain that the Go has a screen that’s almost half an inch smaller than the previous models. After a while, you don’t notice and the picture is extremely clear due to the better LCD tech inside the Go. The “looking through a screen door” issue is gone here and the screen is crisp and bright even by today’s standards. Overall, I can consider this the Gameboy Advance Micro of the PSP. Every handheld system usually has a miniature “best of” variation and this is it.
With that said, the PSP Go is my personal favorite system. I love the larger versions, the PSP 3000 is the best of the three, but something about ultra-compactness and the slide-out screen really sells the entire package. It’s a gorgeous system and it’s a shame it hasn’t been re-released. The only true way to play this is by buying the UMD versions, downgrading the firmware, and playing the backed-up ISO of your game. You can even downgrade a UMD PSP, and there are plugins that allow you to rip the game from the UMD onto the MS Pro Duo and then transfer it to your Go to completely circumvent piracy. This huge hurdle is probably what killed the Go and the fact that the PSN store is shutting down on the PSP natively this month is a crying shame. You can still buy and purchase PSP games, but eventually, those will go away as well and this hacking circumvention will be the one and only way to even get games on this system.
It’s also the rarest of the variations as a new system will run you over $200 which was the original price point and even just finding one in good shape is a chore on its own. I picked up a beat-up system near me for $80 with the charger, and it was the only one in my entire county. I later tracked down the white model used in perfect condition for just $100, but again, most cheap Go systems are extremely beat up. If you don’t care about that then $60-80 is your price range which isn’t bad.