Could Sony’s PSP be the Best Portable Game Console Ever?

On May 11, 2004 Sony announced that the beloved line of PlayStation consoles was getting a new member, the PlayStation Portable. Everyone went crazy. In those days, Nintendo had already dominated the portable game console market. No one was crazy enough to try and compete with them, and those that did, failed miserably. RIP N-Gage.

However, Sony was full of confidence following the huge success of the PS2 and the Japanese giant believed it had what it took to dethrone the then launched Nintendo DS. On paper, the PSP blew the DS out of the water. It was faster, it had better ergonomics, it had a much better screen and it was definitely more popular. Hardcore gamer’s were ecstatic. The casual public however, well they didn’t really bother.

People didn’t really care about specs, all they wanted were games that were fun. Kids wanted to play what their friends were playing. Parents wanted a brand they could trust. “Oh Nintendo, that’s the one with Mario and Zelda right? Yeah I’ll buy my kid that one! Sony? What? Is that the one with Sonic? No? Nah I’ll stick with the Mario”. That was the general consensus back then. It was a tough market for Sony to enter.

I’ve never really classified myself as a gamer. Sure I play games every now and then and I pride myself on having beat every Pokemon game I’ve ever played, but that’s about it. However, around the year 2000, A cousin of mine had given me his old PSX (that’s the first ever PlayStation, the one before the PSOne) and it was really cool. Previously I had only ever used a GameBoy color and I loved it. When the PSX came, I thought I would never use my GameBoy again. I loved playing the PSX when I could, but most of the time it would be my sister playing it, and I would get like an hour every weekend to play Speed Racer. So then I fell back into habit and stuck with the GameBoy.

However, as I grew tired of portable consoles, and in between the launch of Pokemon games, I decided to give the PSX another shot. It was fine, it was fun. I didn’t really care too much for it, or Sony consoles for that matter, at least until the PS2 came out.

Until this day I stand by my statement that the PS2 is the best console of all time. I’ll never forget the day I first put my hands on that DualShock controller, it was in my cousin’s house in Bangalore, a mere few months after the console was released. I went back to Indonesia later that week and balled my eyes out till I had a PS2 of my own. The controller was basically glued onto my hands for the next couple of years.

In the days leading up to the PSP’s launch, I didn’t even know about it. It was late 2004 and I didn’t know about the internet. We had a computer in the house, but we had a dial up connection and it was shared by four people. I had my PS2, I didn’t need the internet.

It was only in late June of 2005 that I became fully aware of the portable console’s existence. Knowing about it changed my life. I worked hard that summer and by the time I was back in school in August, I was the proud owner of the first ever portable console that Sony had ever made.

“I used it for 2 months before I put it in my cupboard and barely ever saw it again.”

Yeah, for a device that had so much promise and hype, it’s safe to say it didn’t deliver. I still kept the device, only used it every now and again for the casual game of Burnout or FIFA when I was travelling or God-forbid accompanying my mother when she went shopping. A couple of years later I sold it and got the Nintendo DS Lite. A console that let me play Mario, Pokémon and most importantly, Cooking Mama. The DS was revolutionary compared to the PSP and that was that.

A couple of years later, mostly due to nostalgia, I bought the newer, slimmer PSP. Same as last time, I used it for a while and back in the cupboard it went, never to be seen again. Until, 2015.

Now, if you’d recall my story from above, the only consoles I ever owned were Sony ones. This means I essentially missed out on what some would call the “Golden Era” of gaming. Games like MegaMan, The Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros and so on. Games that come up so often on podcasts like IGN’s Beyond! and The Idle Thumbs Podcast that you tend to feel left out. Not only Nintendo games, but even games from Sony themselves that I missed out like the insanely popular Final Fantasy and Suikoden series. It was around this time that I started looking into emulation and I came across something that changed my life forever, the PSP has emulators for every game console from the past 20 years.

Now, you may be wondering, what is “emulation”? Essentially, emulation is the process of playing games on a device that they could never be played on before. Emulation has become insanely popular in the past couple of years for people who want to play older games on their laptops and computers.

However, after discovering that the PSP could run emulators, this fundamentally allowed anyone who owned a PSP to have The Golden Age of Gaming in their pockets.

A couple of hours later, I was up and running playing games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and MegaMan 2 on this device that only a few hours beforehand I had still regarded as one of the biggest failures in Sony’s history. This one device, that allowed me to play NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, GameBoy, Nintendo DS, Sega, PSOne and GameCube games amongst many others.

So yeah, if you want a current generation portable game consoles that plays all the latest games with the best performance, go with one of the current heavyweights, but if what you’re after is a portable console with the biggest library of games known to man kind, with the most renowned titles from all the consoles of yesteryear and all the fond memories of games from your childhood, even if they were games that you had missed out on, the PSP is the only device you should be looking at.


This article first appeared on Rabelais