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My PSP Friend: A handheld Fan’s Piece

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psp

The PSP, the portable console that really failed to catch a audience in the west. In this article I come out and defend the poor console which seems to receive a surprising amount of hate in the gaming community. Ok, so the little analogue nub is a bit irritating and the battery life is a bit naff and there are some questionable models of the console that are just flat out awful.

pspModelsA little background on my experience with the console. I avoided this system like some handheld plague mostly due to the horrific world of mouth the console received from my brother who owed the system as well as the gaming media itself. Its not hard to find some entertaining YouTube video that pokes fun at the attempts Sony made to market the system and how it was destroyed by the Nintendo DS in sales. Anyway, one fateful day I was visiting my parents and on clearing some junk from my old bedroom I came across my brothers PSP model 1000 which was so unloved it was shoved behind the radiator and just left there. Since by this stage in my life I was doing incredibly long commutes on the train on a daily basis which would take up to five hours of my day I was desperate to fill the void of boredom. IOS games at this stage were starting to be a big thing but they just didn’t do it for it. Try playing Bejewelled for 5 hours, you will have the most creepy nightmares you never thought possible, or maybe that’s just me. So I refurbished the poor PSP, gave it a new battery, brought a large memory card off ebay at a incredibly cheap price and then proceeded to load the system with PSone nostalgia. I owned a lot of games already as I owned a PS3 by this point. From there the rest is history, my train commutes suddenly flew by as I listened to podcasts and played PSP. Some time later I managed to acquire a red PSP model 3000 which is lighter and just runs better. I also started to enjoy games for the console itself as opposed to just sticking to the oldies. Despite owning a Psvita I still find myself reaching for the console everytime I go away, have work trips or just want to play on the sofa while my partner waches something on telly. So yeah I dig the PSP

Even with more modern handhelds now on the market like IOS and android mobiles, the 3DS and even PSVita, let’s see if I can convince you that the PSP is a console still worth adding to your retro collection.

Number One: It’s very cheap right now

dollar-bills1As most collectors know the consoles go through their traditional pricing cycle. They start expense and with time slowly get cheaper, then once the console and games start to become uncommon the price begins to rise. Well collectors the prime time is now to nab the PSP deals at most retailers are selling the consoles and even the games for a very cheap price to make room for the new consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One. Car boots, charity shops, Craigs list are more stocked with the system and games because for similar reasons people are getting rid of stuff to make room for the new. This is especially the prime time to pick up those rarer games like RPGs before they spike in price.

Number Two: Games for every gamer type

Something that really stands out on the PSP over other platforms is just how unique a lot of the games are and how wide spread the genres are. There really is something for every gamer here, you won’t see tons of FPS here flooding the catalogue. Yes, a lot of the games are dumbed down ports available on better systems at the time but believe it or not some PS2 games were ports of PSP games.

psp_stackHere’s a quick rundown of some of the systems great games just to name a few:

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 – action RPG
Disgaea series -JRPG
Silent Hill Origins –survival horror
Lumines – Music Puzzler
Motorstorm: Artic Edge – Racing
Daxter – Platformer
Resistance: Retribution – Third person shooter
Patapon – Rhythm Strategy
Half Minute Hero – Awesome speedy RPG (probably my favourite game on the console)

There are a surprising amount of hidden gems on the consoles too. There are many experimental games on the consoles that developers took a chance on before deciding whether they were worth releasing on other consoles. Since the console obviously didn’t do that well most these games never saw a console release leaving a huge catalogue of hidden gems you can only find on this device.

Number Three: Its like a portable PSone

psone_port_main

Though I understand graphics are not everything especially when it comes to retro gaming. My nostalgia for this system reminds me very much of the launch of the PSone. Yes I am aware the PSone slim had a LCD attachment turning the system into a kinda portable device. Here in the UK I have never seem anyone lug around a Psone. The PSP was one of the first handhelds to do 3D gaming well and it looked amazing on a portable device. Of course compared to consoles they did not look amazing. But it was different and stood out as something a bit different especially when compared to the handhelds main competition the Nintendo DS. It really felt like you were playing a more refined PSone in your hand. Some will debate the graphics at times are on par with even the PS2 but that is very much up for debate.

Number Four: Load up on those games for on the go.  Good times!

memoryThis probably speaks more to those who travel a lot like myself. One of my favourite things about the PSP is you can shove a massive memory card in it for a small price (I go for the 32Gb) and then you can just download literally tons of games onto it. Yes the Playstation store is now dead on the PSP and you no longer go to the store to buy games but if you own a PS3 or PSVita and buy any PSP compatible game through the store you can still download it to the PSP. For reasons unknown there is still some PSone titles that are compatible with the PSP and not the PSVita. I have over thirty PSone games that are ready to play all loaded on the PSP so if I have a long journey, or I am going away on holiday I know I will unlikely be bored as I have plenty of choice from the download catalogue. Also if you are good with emulation this system is widely considered one of the best handhelds to play emulated games on having hundreds of games at your disposal. Emulation also allows you to play games from other systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis and the SNES.

Number Five: That cool standby feature

pspsleepThis point is so awesome it deserves its own spot. By far one of my favourite things about this system is how you can literally pause whatever you’re doing in any game at any time by flipping the standby switch on. Say you have to change trains, take a phone call, go to work whatever. You can leave the PSP in your bag for several hours and continue exactly where you left off later. This feature alone has allowed me to replay games like Final Fantasy 7 and other long games which have awkward save features all the way through without having to turn the system off early because something has come up. Imagine you’re on the last boss or watching some stupidly long cutscene but you have to go because something came up this feature saves your bacon. Of course this feature has become more popular in more handheld devices like the 3DS and continues to be a feature on the PSvita but it’s certainly a lesson the modern consoles can learn from.

Conclusion

So there are a few points I missed about the system such as it can play movies and music. To be honest most of that stuff is not what retro gamers look for in a system and a lot of the features such as the Playstation store and viewing comic books have now been shut down on the system.

At the end of the day the system stands out as very unique by itself. If you’re a fan of the PSone era of gaming this system is an absolute must. To most gamers I recommend the system the same why I got into it, find a cheap model, test the water with the games and let the good gaming times roll. Maybe I convinced you, but more likely I probably displayed what a fan boy I am for the forgotten portable.

screw_you_guys

Written by jamalais

December 19, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Blog, PSP

Strife: Veteran Edition Review

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strife_logoThere are a handful of games out there that are almost universally loved by gamers.  Off the top of my head, two of these titles are Deus Ex and Skyrim, and the one thing they have in common is that they successfully blend the first-person perspective and elements from RPGs into a cohesive experience.  Oddly enough, when we look back at the history of gaming you rarely have anyone mention Strife: Quest for Sigil, developed by Rogue Entertainment.  It was one of the earliest games to combine these genres and it differentiated itself from many of its hybrid peers in that the game focused almost exclusively on gameplay and hid items like the map and the character’s inventory from the main HUD.  The end result was a large field of view for the player and it all looked a lot less busy than the games that came before it.  This probably had to do with the use of the Doom engine, but regardless of why this title utilizes the full screen for your adventuring or decided to rely much more heavily on combat than any other aspect is irrelevant.  Strife did it and it did it well.

strife2The basic premise of the game is that you play a mercenary in a time where a religious cult, The Order, has oppressed a society and is converting humans into cyborgs.  Macil, a leader of the rebels combating this takeover, has hired you to seek out pieces of The Sigil, an artifact that can apparently rid the world of The Order.  In the game you move about a central town hub, taking missions as you go, to continue this larger quest by going to branching levels.  It has a surprising commonality to the way open world titles work today, although it of course modern games aren’t as transparent as they were back then.  Each of these levels are diverse in terms of the look and scope of the area, but given that this title is from 1996 and confined to the limitations of the Doom engine, you will find little more than empty areas or a handful of enemies everywhere you quest.  This also creates a more binary system as to how to handle each mission – to get the items that make up each quest requires you to either kill someone or attempt to talk them into giving it over, and then usually kill them when they react by attacking you.   Your ability to speak with everyone in the game, many of them having different dialogue options, is alone a unique factor of any Doom clone of the time and I remember that it was mind blowing back then.  Sure, often times not much comes of it, but I still take solace in a title that is focusing more on the plot and characters in it rather than simply making you a floating gun with killing as your sole purpose.  Strife may not be doing a whole lot more than other shooters of the time, but it’s sure trying to hide that fact behind a lot of intriguing concepts.

strife3That said it is still confined to the limitations and tropes of the time period it released.  You will be exploring areas that have far too much real estate for the task at hand, the game will allow you to go anywhere (which includes backtracking an entire level) and waste hours searching a non-specific objective, and you can get into missions where your resources are too low and unless you have an earlier bailout save you might be stuck indefinitely.  There’s even a red herring in the beginning of the game that if you collect it your progress is halted for the rest of the campaign (see our quick look video on how to avoid that).  Some of these flaws can be a deal breaker if you’re not ready to put up with aspects that were commonplace almost two decades ago, and it’s a far stretch to say the average Skyrim fan will find a connection here.  If you want to see the building blocks of modern titles and you can set your expectations appropriately, you may very well find a gem in Strife, especially if you found the more complex Deus Ex tolerable nowadays.

Publisher Night Dive Studios has updated this title and given it digital distribution on Steam in the new Veteran Edition, but this is an updated version of the original title and not a remaster or remake in any way.  On Steam the game even lists 1996 as its release date, which is a touch that I was thankful to see.  Most of the changes made are to allow you to play Strife on modern systems with little or no issues, and my Windows 7 64-bit modern rig booted it right up without so much as a hiccup.  Now you can play the game in higher resolutions (like 1080p) and with that comes a widescreen format that does a great job of adapting the view without everything looking stretched.  Night Dive didn’t stop there, Strife: Veteran Edition now adds lighting effects, texture options, anti aliasing, a choice between DirectX and OpenGL (and V-Sync), controller support (worked with 360 controller seamlessly), and the completion of a multiplayer mode.  Don’t worry if you want to go all old school and have it look and act like the classic title, there is a classic mode that even re-introduces game bugs, so you too are covered.  For those that have ever tried to screw around with DOSbox and other solutions to play Strife, it’s great to have a version that just works like all your other Steam games, and this is a particular perk for those of us who force gamepads upon all of our PC titles.  It looks great, it runs great, and it feels great.  If you want to play this game today, this is the version to have.

Original Strife with Hi-Res Mod

Original Strife with Hi-Res Mod

Strife: Veteran Edition

Strife: Veteran Edition

Strife did not get its day in the sun and while it was a somewhat innovative product of its time, there’s no incredible reason to pick it up now unless you want to peer into the golden days of modern game design.  That’s not to say it isn’t significant, but that it skates the line of nostalgia and the ability to be appreciated by contemporary audiences.  If you give it a chance, Strife has some fun times and impressive moments both in gameplay and plot that make saving the oppressed from The Order compelling, but if you need it to forget the time it came from and rise above the hassle, this won’t be for you.  Strife: Veteran Edition makes replaying this game about as easy as it’s going to get, provided you remember that this still has the Doom engine as its platform.  I don’t think it will get more appreciation now than it did back then, but hopefully it will find an endearing experience to budding gamers and those that let it pass the first time.

Final Score: 3 out of 5  (review policy)

Strife Veteran Edition was provided to our site via a Steam code from publisher Night Dive Studios.  It was played for approximately twelve hours and the campaign can take as much as 20+ hours to complete depending on the player and whether or not you use a guide.  Strife: Veteran Edition can be purchased on Steam for a current retail price of $9.99.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews

Tagged with , ,

Strife: Veteran Edition Quick Look

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Today we look at the recently released Strife: Veteran Edition from Rogue Software.  This game pre-dates many of the most popular games today that utilize both FPS and RPG elements as well as mild stealth themes.  If you’re a fan of ThiefDeus Ex, or even Skyrim, you might want to check out this archaic but fun title.  This is merely the first 90 minutes or so of gameplay with running commentary from Fred, expect a full review later today.

Viewer Warning: There may be occasional adult language from commentary/gamplay and consistent graphic violence depicted in gameplay.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Ready, Aim, Fire!

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lightgun_post

This week Fred and Jam tackle the wonderful world of light gun shooters.  What started as a mere carnival game evolved into one of the more interactive – and for some of us fun – genres that has not withstood the test of time.  With the advent of newer screens, the technology that made light guns possible is now ruined by delays of no more than a fraction of a second.  In this episode we discuss the history, technology behind, and our fondest memories of the games that utilized the light gun peripheral.


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Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Test Your Might

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90_fight_post

This week Fred and Jam are throwing around fighters of the 90s (that aren’t Street Fighter II or Tekken, we did a show for those already).  In the 1990s, the fighter genre was the most popular type of game available (like First Person Shooters today), and among those that have withstood the test of time there were plenty of others that played the field.  From Mortal Kombat to Soulcalibur you had plenty of arcades (and home ports) to drink your quarters in arcades.


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Retro Game Challenge: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

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Over the Thanksgiving holiday Fred and his brother-in-law Brian sat down and played/streamed 14 glorious hours of the N64 classic Conker’s Bad Fur Day.  It was a grueling battle and the boys vowed to use no faqs/walkthroughs/guides, which accounts for the long play time.  Well now that all is said and done, this is the outcome: a 3 hour video filled with snarky remarks, alcohol use (in game and by the duo players), and some of the most outrageous moments in gaming.  Enjoy!

And for those masochists that just want to watch all 14 hours, we’ve added those too.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 7, 2014 at 10:00 am

Podcast: U R Not [RED] e

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SONY DSC

This week Fred and Jam are joined by Andy from 42 Level One to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Sony Playstation.  This CD based console is responsible for so much ushering into the next iteration of game development, hardware, media, and game libraries.  It touched each host in his own way and deserves to be celebrated on its second decade of existence.


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Written by Fred Rojas

December 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

Resident Evil HD Remaster First Look

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Sorry this is going up on Sunday night.  Normally Retro Game Night is recorded on Friday and goes up Saturday morning, but we had to delay recording a day and these HD videos take a lot longer to render and post to YouTube.  Either way, the video speaks for itself, but Fred got a retail copy of Resident Evil HD Remaster on PS3 that will be coming to the US in “early” 2015 (according to Capcom).  Well since there was another option, we grabbed it early.  Enjoy!

Written by Fred Rojas

November 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Retro game Challenge: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

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cbfd_post

Greetings All:

As you’ve probably heard by now we are going to be playing through the entire campaign of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, live streamed on Twitch.  Later on I’ll edit it together into a fun little highlight video that’s only about an hour long, but the entire 10-12 hour campaign will be streamed with sarcastic commentary.  Here’s the schedule:

  • 11pm – 3am Sunday, November 23rd
  • 9am – 5pm Monday, November 24th

And if Fred doesn’t see the credits by then we will come back Monday night sometime (he has another podcast tomorrow night) and wrap it up.  Stay tuned here for all the info.  You can check out our twitch channel at twitch.tv/gh101.

Please Note: Due to the nature of the content in Conker’s Bad Fur Day and the language potentially used in commentary, you will be required to accept a mature content gate to access the stream.  This is purely to prevent visitors from unwanted vulgarity.  Thank you.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 23, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Retro Game Night: Contra 3, Contra Hard Corps, and Contra Rebirth

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This week Fred goes 16-bit and beyond with his Contra.  Having spent literally decades conquering the first two, it appears he doesn’t fair so well into the next generation.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm

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