10 January 2006
I've been into videogames since I was a kid. I never got into handhelds though. I bought a Gameboy a few years back but that ended up just collecting dust after a few months - For the most part, the problem was that the games just werent anything special. For the most part, they were quite older titles (Stuff you've played on the "old nintendo"), and games that had no real depth to them - they were more repeated levels you'd replay to pass the time.
With the PSP, SONY Has finally shown that portables can be so much more.
I imported my PSP From japan shortly after the release, so any of this can change between now and the official UK/US Releases.
First thing first, the system looks amazing. Its got a huge screen (4.3" widescreen) with a very bright backlight to it (you can change it to 3 or 4 different brightness levels), much brighter (And the screen much clearer) than Nintendos' newly released Nintendo DS. The screen is very scratch resistant - Apparently even steel wool won't scratch it.. It is VERY prone to fingerprints, so you'll be wiping it off after just about every use!
Next up, the graphics. The first game released for it (Ridge Racers) looks absolutely amazing, Definately PS2-Quality, and I can only imagine what types of games will be released years from now when they finally get ahold of the true power.
Onto the system, it has several familiar buttons to anyone who has used a Playstation or Playstation 2 before. The D-Pad and 4 buttons (O, X, Triangle and Square) are back - There are now 2 shoulder buttons, and one analog stick (Which is more of a 'slider' as you place your thumb on it and slide it around much like a movable disc), Start, Select, and a few other system-specific buttons (Brightness, Volume, and Home (Clicking "home" will return you to the main PSP Menu from within a game - its basically a "Quit game" button)
The PSP has 2 speakers on the lower portion of the unit, which do a good job, but adding headphones makes it a much crisper, quality sounding experience.
The PSP Games come on miniature discs (Slightly smaller than the gamecube, but with a larger data capacity (1.8GB)) which come in little protective cases (Much like SONY Mini Discs if you've ever seen or used them).
The games pop into the back of the system - a touch of the eject button up top opens the disc tray which is much like that of a Cassette Tape player on a home stereo.
The PSP has several power options, By flicking the switch upwards, the system is turned on. Flicking it again the PSP is put into sleep mode (So if you want to go somewhere for 10 minutes but not use up the batteries - or quit the game - this is the mode you would use), holding it will turn the PSP off completely, and finally, pushing the button in the down position will put it into "HOLD" Mode, which will deactivate all the buttons (This is most likely for when listening to MP3s so that you're not hitting buttons with it in your pocket).
Speaking of Mp3s, the system is a full fledged Media player on its own!
You do need to purchase memory-stick-duo's to take advantage of these, and they come at a cost. Mine cost me $80 US for 512MB (A 1GB One can be found for a little over $100 US), this is sony's proprietary media format used in their cameras, PDA's, etc.. so if you have one already, you can use that one still.
Besides MP3s, the PSP Also has a photo album and video player (You must convert all videos to MPEG4 format (.mp4) using either sony's encoder ((1000 yen) A little under $10 US) or a free one called 3gpp (The difference being the sony encoder will encode all videos and place them directly on the PSP For you, the other you'll need to manually drag and drop them).
You can adjust the video quality in several ways (Quality level, Stereo/Mono, and 15 or 29 frames per second) depending on how much you want to compress it. From my experience you can compress it to a real low file size (Roughly the same size as a .WMV File) while keeping the same perfect video quality. You can compress a full 90 minute movie to just over 100MB on a low setting, or about 2 or 3 times that for a high quality version.
The video encoding is quite fast - roughly 3x the speed of the video (so a 90 minute movie will take 30 minutes to fully convert) which isnt bad at all if you've ever used video converters in the past which will often take hours for a short clip.
With these features, the PSP Turns into a full blown media player you can take with you just about anywhere.
Additionally, if you have a sony camera, put the Memory Stick Duo in there, snap some pictures, and when you put it back in the PSP, the photos will appear in their own specific folder!
Next up, the system has Wireless capabilities which not only mean you can play with friends (I believe the range is either 100 feet or 300 feet), but you can also connect online with ease (In a matter of seconds I connected online - I simply pressed "Scan", it found a connection, and I was online), this is also used for future system upgrades (Currently, sony is planning a web browser, email, voice chat, text to speech, spreadsheet and word processing program to be updated via this system update!)
Onto the battery life, you've probably heard it doesnt last so long.
I cant comment on the full length since mine hasent run out yet. Sony has estimated a 10 hour time for games (between charges (A charge takes roughly 1 1/2 hours I believe), and from playing Lumines with volume up to the maximum and screen brightness to maximum, 20 minutes of play took the battery life to 96%, and assuming that same ratio keeps up, it will last those 10 hours.
Away from the system and back to the games, they are quite a bit of fun from what I've played! Ridge Racers is a very arcadey racing game (With a lot of car "Drifting"), Lumines is a very addicting puzzle/music game (From the creator of rez), Metal Gear Ac!d is a card game (Which I'm not a fan of, although the game is quite fun I hear. I'll be waiting for a US Release though), Darkstalkers (A collection of all of the previous games), Minna No Golf (Hot shots golf), and several upcoming games including a new Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed, and ports of Midnight Club, Gran Turismo 4, and others (including innovative new games like Mercury!)
The nice thing about the PSP, is its region free. That means my Japanese PSP Will play UK and US Titles without a problem - The only thing is UMD Movies will most likely be region-locked much like DVD Movies, so I will be restricted to Japanese ones - with the ability to transfer movies to a memory stick though, thats not a very big deal.
Another very nice feature is that the game saves are stored on the memory stick, which means you can back them up to your PC and even email them to friends, or modify them (Save icons, etc..)
Overall, I've only had it a few weeks, but its showing a very bright future. SONY has finally proven what a handheld is capable of, and the games have lots of depth to them (About 20 hours into Lumines and I'm barely scratching the surface of it, with roughly 1/3rd completed - In ridge racer after roughly 35 different races, I've only completed the Beginner mode of the World Tour, with the Pro mode (about 40 New races) still untouched.
If you like the PS2's library, you'll love the PSP.