Now isn’t this a sweet sight?
The current official version of the PS1 emulator on the PSP is quite limited – it only plays the handful of games available from the PS3 store, it requires a PS3, and it requires you to buy games that you already own at $6 a time – but, wouldn’t you know it, the hackers are well ahead of the curve and the emulator has been hacked to play games that you rip yourself.
If you need a reason to use the PSP, are there any better ones than Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, Symphony of the Night, etc? With any luck you’ll still be on 1.5, 2.71 SE, or another firmware that supports running homebrew, in which case I suggest you obtain 3.02 OE-B and whack it on there poste haste.
Ever since Subsistence revived my interest in the Metal Gear series, this one has been high up my wishlist. It fulfills both the need to continue the excellent Big Boss saga and the more pressing requirement for something to play on the PSP. I got my US copy this morning and, after a couple of hours spent trying to get the 3.02 firmware emulated so I wouldn’t have to upgrade, I gave it a crack.
The immediate concern when playing this game is the control system. One of my criticisms of MGS3 was the convoluted controls and although they still take some getting used to here and are overall inferior, Kojima’s team has done some much-needed pruning. The lack of buttons eventually stops feeling limited, and I hope that the lessons learnt here are carried over to MGS4.
The 3D camera obviously doesn’t control as smoothly on a D-pad as on an analogue stick, but is still a welcome transplant from the last game. The frustration of unseen enemies is further alleviated by a permanent radar/sound sensor thingy (no worrying about battery levels) and a full map of each area on the pause menu. I still got spotted by an enemy that I missed in the first room but that was my fault for not realising how the radar worked.
The fundamental change to this game comes with the recruitment system, where each mission can be played out with a squad of four allies. Almost any enemy in the game can be recruited into your little rebellion and then their unique skills can be utilised – uniformed enemies are less conspicuous when infiltrating a base, for example – in your efforts to complete the game. It even uses the wi-fi function of the PSP to generate random recruits, meaning that just stopping in a coffee shop can yield an S-class supersoldier. I’ve taken my PSP out with me a couple of times with the sole intention of visiting a known access point to see what I can get. Continue reading Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
I own the Japanese version of Lumines (pictured) which came out in 2004, but since it came out everywhere else and I bought it in 2005 it gets in, and deservedly so. It’s one of the few challengers to the Tetris throne that even comes close, and it’s still the best game on the PSP by some way.
Lumines is essentially your common or garden falling block puzzle in which coloured blocks fall from the top of the screen, and by matching up four or more of a single colour they’ll be removed by a bar that sweeps horizontally across the screen at varying speeds. It’s as simple as all the best puzzle games and is maddeningly addictive (even when matching your high score can take a couple of hours of solid play), which is really all you need to make a good puzzle game for a handheld.
That’s not all you get, though. Like Mizuguchi’s last game, Rez, music plays a central role in the game, and every few levels you’ll come to a new “skin”, changing the backgrounds, block colours, speeds, and the music. It’s the same sort of music that you’ve seen in Rez (good thing) and makes headphones a necessity to fully enjoy the hypnotic beauty of the game. Even if saying that that this is the best game on the PSP isn’t really high praise at the moment, saying that this is one of my favourite puzzle games ever made certainly should be.
It may have died a premature death, but the Dreamcast was kept alive for a long time due to its vibrant homebrew development scene, thanks to its ability to boot unofficial code from CD-R (ironic that the ability that played a major role in its downfall was what kept it going for so long after). Now the x86 PC architecture of the Xbox has proven incredibly hackable due to its familiarity to developers and the console is being used far beyond what it was intended for; from Linux servers to media centers. Modchips are finding uses beyond the traditional import and piracy scenes.
What is perhaps the most unusual candidate for a burgeoning homebrew scene is Sony’s PSP. A closed hardware specification with a closed storage format is about as unlikely as it gets, but barely a week since the release in the US we’ve seen enterprising meddlers coming out with web browsers, IRC chat, and various pieces of software to do things from synching it with your iTunes library to using it as an Xbox memory card. It was even possible to tunnel them online within days of the Japanese release.
Obviously their abilities to make it do cool things are limited when they have no way to run code on it, even if the Memory Stick seems to make the finding of an exploit to run code a matter of time, but Sony have a good history of supporting homebrew development with the PS1’s Net Yaroze and the PS2’s official Linux kit. If they release an official homebrew development kit for the PSP we could have an avalanche of software that makes the system essential – how about some PDA applications? A media player that supports more than just MP4 video? Emulators? Ports of open source software? IM clients? The inevitable PSP Linux?
I can’t really see homebrew software being a mainstream selling point in the way that genuine, UMD-based software and built-in abilities will be, but if Sony can see this community and make moves to court it, they could have a huge underground success on their hands. If people see others on the train to work checking email and surfing the web on a PSP they’re going to see it not only as gaming’s answer to the iPod but also as a PDA and an essential component of a busy lifestyle. Sony could certainly come out with this stuff themselves without having to open up development, but having this software appear with no development costs to them is an astute business move. People like free stuff and not only would Sony get software to sell their console on appearing for no investment, but the ability to drop a program onto your Memory Stick and run it for no cost is very appealing to a potential buyer.