The PSP was a beast of a console. As with its successor, the PlayStation Vita, the PSP went through its life being quite under appreciated (and unsupported) in the west (and by western developers), but the Japanese loved it, so the Japanese developers used it as an opportunity to cheaply produce quality, creative stuff.
It is, in fact, still worth picking up a PSP if you haven’t already got one, because not all the PSP games were released digitally, or are available on the PlayStation Vita’s PlayStation Network.
I’ve been wading through my PSP backlog, after the news around Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 had me picking up my PSP again to play some Dead or Alive Paradise. So I figured I’d throw together a list of my ten favourite PSP games for this week’s Friday 10.
Note, an awful lot of the PSP games that I keep getting told to play, such as Knights in the Nightmare and Jeanne D’Arc, were never released in Australia, so my list consists purely of games I have played. And please do let us know your favourites in the comments section! This is obviously a personal list, so I’m not claiming some kind of definitive truth about it.
People love to rip on Dead or Alive Paradise, but as I noted in my look back on the game earlier today, I actually love it. It’s my kind of really casual gameplay; it’s light entertainment, and it’s very entertaining. It’s silly and sexy, it’s easy to play in five minute bursts or, if I’m in the mood, for an hour or two at a time.
The polar opposite of Dead or Alive Paradise, Tactics Ogre is for when I’m in the mood for something hard-and-heavy. A ridiculously deep and challenging tactics RPG, this one is supremely well balanced and contains a brilliant time reversal mechanics, allowing you to jump back to a point where your strategy went all wrong and try again without replaying the whole level. Every tactics RPG should have that mechanic in it.
Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy is to Final Fantasy what Smash Bros is to Mario franchises. Basically it’s an excuse for popular characters from the Final Fantasy series to duke it out, so if you’ve ever wanted to watch Squall beat the pants off Kefka, this game is your wish fulfilment. There’s a very good chance that the arcade version of this game will also come to the PlayStation 4, but in the meantime this is very much worth playing, even though it is slightly disappointing that Rikku isn’t a playable character. She’s the best.
White Knight Chronicles on the PlayStation 3 was a very traditional JRPG narrative, wrapped in some interesting MMO-like mechanics. With Level-5’s eye for production, it was also a gorgeous game, and offered a world you could lose hours in. For the portable White Knight Chronicles Origins, the developers instead created a mix of JRPG and Monster Hunter, with a small, contained mission structure and a focus on co-operative gameplay. It worked, really well, and ended up being my most played PSP game.
Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley
No handheld would be complete without some Harvest Moon games, and while Nintendo’s consoles tend to get more of them, the PSP got one of my favourites of all time. In Hero of Leaf Valley you’re given a couple of years to raise enough cash to save your farm. You do that by completing missions for people and growing stuff. The meandering pace of Hero of Leaf Valley means that you’ll never feel stressed to meet that target, and that’s just fine, because simply existing in this bright, cheery, pleasant world is enough.
Warriors Orochi 2
The PSP had a half dozen or more Warriors games released on it. Considering that it took Nintendo until the 3DS to be able to offer a decent Warriors experience, for the longest time the only option for Warriors on the run was the PSP, and Warriors Orochi 2 was the best of them. Bringing together favourite characters from both Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors, Warriors Orochi 2 isn’t the most complex game in the series, but it offered fast combat and plenty of levels to work though, so it was a resounding success in scratching that Warriors itch we all have from time to time.
The Lord of the Rings: Tactics
EA did a better job with the Lord of the Rings franchise than anyone gives it credit for, and Lord of the Rings: Tactics was one of the better games that it produced. With plenty of levels to work through, all dressed up in that iconic Lord of the Rings aesthetic, this was also a reasonably challenging and deep game, and offered a couple of unique features that we would like to see happen more of in the genre, such as the simultaneous movement of both the heroes and their enemies, and the ability to use a strong melee character to control the area around them, and prevent enemies from moving past them.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
The game that started Atlus’ most popular franchise was much more Shin Megami Tensei than it was Persona, but that’s not complaining. The same focus on an intense, deep and dark narrative that is in the later games is in this one, and though it looks primitive, it’s going to take you all of five minutes to get over that and start appreciating the game for its strengths.
Valhalla Knights 2
This series is routinely criticised, and I’ve never quite understood why. There’s a melancholia about the art style of Valhalla Knights games that I find quite intriguing, and while I find the action RPG combat to, perhaps, be a little too fast, I find that the intricate and interesting level design more than makes up for that. There’s a fair bit of grinding involved, and some archaic statistics and equipment systems, but that’s part of the charm of the thing.
Valkyria Chronicles II
The sequel to one of the most revered tactical RPGs ever created, Valkryia Chronicles II continued the series in such style that it was a compelling reason to buy a PSP all by itself. As with its predecessor, Valkyria Chronicles II has an incredibly interesting story that features a group of school kids trying to juggle life as a student, as well as their jobs as soldiers on the battlefield. It’s very Japanese, very creative, and some of the best tactical action that you’ll find on any platform, before or since.
– Matt S.