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Shoot from the Lip: The PSP Disaster

Is it me, or was there a huge gap of anti climax after Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories released for Sony’s PSP? We’d lapped up Ridge Racer, exchanged glances over Lumines and drummed our fingers a thousand times waiting for Midnight Club 3 to load when Rockstars behemoth launched and ensured a good Christmas sale. But there was never a follow up; it’s reminiscent of a bad boxing match, where the expected victor throws a few jabs, followed by a huge punch, and then sits back watching his weary opponent stagger around and find his feet, rather than landing more heavy blows to floor him for good.

I’d heard rumours of Sony copying Nintendo’s ideas, but this is silly…

The DS was on its arse; we’d barely seen a game since its launch this time last year. Advance Wars kind of wandered onto the scene unnoticed, and Nintendogs followed up shortly to try and steal some thunder from the Sony bandwagon. We all thought that by this time we’d be singing the praises of a certain big screened handheld and pitying that of a dual screen one. But it’s the exact opposite. Suddenly DS owners had a fantastic line up of games to choose from. Lost in Blue, Animal Crossing, Trauma Centre, Mario Kart and Phoenix Wright lept out of nowhere, offering not only fantastic gameplay but also originality. The online structure kicked into place and suddenly Nintendo were cool again.

What has further undermined the PSP’s position, besides the announcement that its biggest title in Liberty City Stories will be reproduced at a budget price for the PS2, is the slurry of, well, crap that has hit the handheld. There’s no must have titles in there, instead above average or slightly good games that would be worth a purchase should you see a 2 for £30 sticker in a shop somewhere.

Pro Evolution Soccer 5 was well below par. Given the sheer brilliance of the home console versions, it’s obvious that this version was released purely and simply to cash in on the new cool machine. There’s no way in hell you can tell me that the developers put their heart and sole into something that lacked the Master League mode, which is the bread and butter of the game, incredibly bad camera views and a control layout that would break your fingers. Prince of Persia was another example of shoddy developing. By no means a bad game, but without the heart and soul that made the console versions big hits. Splinter Cell and Football Manager 2006 are further examples of companies attempting to cash in on Sony’s new gadget by feeding us shoddy releases. Pursuit Force was another title that promised so much yet ended up becoming boring and repetitive.

…although you have to admit, this looks incredibly sexy

The UMD format is now almost obsolete in Hollywood. Sales have gone down the pan spectacularly, publishing studios have pulled the plug on future releases, instead concentrating on the DVD format, and there’s even speculation surrounding the future of the PS3’s Blu Ray technology. But we’ll save the ranting for another day.

Sony has been incredibly slow to recognise the potential of retro gaming, and has instead been battling with hackers releasing emulators and homebrew media to give gamers something to play other than the stuff we’re expected to part hard cash for. Only now have they (Sony) announced that a “future” firmware update will include a PSOne emulator. How long it’ll take to emerge is anyone’s guess.

The handheld is redundant when put alongside the PS2. You can connect it and listen to music from your memory stick, but you can’t watch movies in full screen, or play games on your TV. You can’t even get an adapter to plug into those horrendously underused USB ports and channel the PSP’s online browser through your PS2’s broadband adapter. Lost potential? You bet.

Yes, that’s right folks, Toni is heading back to the PS2. Sharpish.

Nintendo on the other hand are having a ball. We already knew that the Game Cube was sliding off shelves when the DS came out, so there was little point in making a connection like the GBA had with the ‘Cube. Instead we’ve a rock steady online service which is safe for all ages; little Timmy can’t be led astray by nasty men in overcoats because they can’t communicate with each other. The focus is purely on gaming, something with Sony seems to be tip-toeing around by concentrating on everything else but.

I’ll admit it, some of us here at Thunderbolt have been hard on Nintendo (mind you, without any games being sent to review, who can blame us) but you have to give them their due, they saw the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. And it’s us, the gamers, who are feeling the benefit of all this.

If Nintendo release another version of the DS, it should resemble this.

Where we’re feeling the blues is in the pocket, because suddenly that sleek black machine is still playing the same games it was back in August. The office copy of GTA was sold off as soon as the announcement came through from Rockstar that it would be making it for the PS2, because we could get a good amount for the title on eBay. We’re still hacking round corners on Ridge Racer and are still swearing profusely at Lumines. Our handheld now has its 4th screen protector covering the screen, because the other three have had ring marks from cups of tea sat on it as we played our DS. Has yours?

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

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