The PSP might be the most slept-on console of the PlayStation line-up. Overshadowed by the Vita, abandoned for the mainline platforms, and left as a relic in the memories of ‘00s kids everywhere, it’s the home of spin-offs and experimental deviations from the mainline games. I can’t count the number of drives made tolerable by the PSP or the nights spent fighting Templars in Cyprus under my bed covers. And now, I have a chance to tap back into that goldmine without needing to buy the old hardware.
It’s neat that we’re getting downloadable PS1 and PS2 games. Together they make one of the greatest libraries in the medium’s history, and it’s just sitting there, waiting to be played – but there are so many spin-offs that have either been forgotten or never got their proper time in the sun to begin with – we might get another shot at GTA: Chinatown Wars or a crack at Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters on consoles. Sure, Size Matters had a PS2 port, but it was terrible, watered down, and missing features. It’s like playing the Lego Star Wars games on DS. This will be the original, the real deal.
There’s a history here that’s been shoved to the wayside, left to the occasional publisher. GTA made its way to mobile but so many of these oldies were abandoned entirely. Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, the sequel to the first game that continued Altaïr’s story, is barely talked about, let alone in circles of remasters or ports. It’s as much a part of the series’ long narrative as Brotherhood, Revelations, or Rogue, but it doesn’t crop up because of the platform it launched on. At home on the PS4 or PS5, it’ll finally have a place, and maybe it’ll grow a whole new audience.
Maybe the best example of the PSP’s abandoned motif is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7. This, along with Daxter, Vice City Stories, Secret Agent Clank, and Chains of Olympus, is what cemented the console as a home for spin-offs. It’s a prequel to the original Final Fantasy 7, telling the story of Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER. It sold well, especially for a PSP game, pushing two million copies, and it was incredibly well-received, but when you look back at the legacy of Final Fantasy 7, it’s been left to the wayside. There’s no way to play it outside of the PSP even though fans were hoping for it to be remade alongside 7.
Now there’s a chance to bring it back and make it playable. It’s a shame it’s locked behind a subscription service, but baby steps – PlayStation is a stubborn beast. These spin-offs often gave more depth to the main games on the main platforms, offering new insights and even experimenting with gameplay in a way that could potentially scare off fans. We saw this with Daxter which focused more on the platforming than the later main-line Jak games, but it also served as a prequel to Jak 2, setting the stage for his awakening. It let us see what this world was like before Jak stepped onto the scene and lent a hand in the rebellion.
These games weren’t average shlock pumped out to sell a system – they were well-designed, handheld exclusives that took series into new places, adding depth to their narratives, but they rarely sold as well as the main games. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker nabbed an 89 on Metacritic but didn’t move copies, Burnout Legends received an 86 but didn’t make much noise, and Size Matters only sold one million units despite its critical reception of 85.
That doesn’t matter. These are fantastic titles worth playing, just as much as any PS1, PS2, or PS3 game, and the fact that Sony is recognising that in 2022 is a breath of fresh air when so few give the PSP the respect it rightfully deserves. When all the shiny old games come back for air, don’t ignore this gem of a platform’s library.
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