| paleface [sys=PSP; cat=Hardware; loc=JPN] |
|Sony's first run of PSPs were all black, and prone to certain problems such as dead pixels and a wonky Square button (in Japan, at any rate). Game support was also remarkably poor for such a high profile device. Here about ten months after the Japanese launch, though, Sony has released a PSP with a reinforced Square button and "ceramic white" shell. OMG, it's an iPod! Anyway, they're cute, so I bought one. The thing is finally starting to gather an interesting game library too, thank goodness.|
The PSP's main attraction, the screen, looms large, bright, and impressive before you when you turn the system on. It almost doesn't even feel like a handheld, the viewing area is so big. Sony is banking on this with their artificial UMD movie craze, but who cares about those--we're in this for the games. Anyway, the screen puts out so much light on the highest setting that you can nearly use it for a flashlight. It only gets maybe 5-6 hours of charge life cranked up like that, but hey, they're a bright 5-6 hours.
Compared to, say, a Nintendo handheld, the PSP isn't quite as tightly put together; even this newer version has visible gaps behind the buttons and sticks, down into the circuit boards, and the UMD disc holder doesn't clamp all that tightly, and has all kinds of flanges and things sticking out when open. The battery cover on the left end (viewed from rear) isn't very strong, and presses in a bit when you're gripping the system. And what's the idea behind the memory card slot cover: doesn't really stay out of the way when open, and is only held on by a rubber "hinge"? Oh, also, the earbud headphones that come with the thing, while not the worst I've heard, are far from high end.
So much for the bad stuff. (Well, okay, the classic split Sony D-pad still kind of sucks, but that isn't really news to anyone.) Otherwise, I'm rather taken with the thing: its long, slender form factor is elegant and easy to grasp. And that big 16x9 screen, ooh!
And then there's the very slick, lightweight OS that lets you swap game/media files around via USB link cables or WiFi connections with minimal hassle, all through a very attractive, easy interface. The only part of the interface that I'm having trouble with is the text-entry UI, where you press a main key for a group of letters, then press it repeatedly to scroll through the group to the letter you want. I suppose that with practice, since you don't have to move your finger to different buttons so much, this is a very efficient UI, but for a newb like myself, it takes a lot of getting used to.
The text entry comes into play in particular with the web browser that Sony included in their 2.0 firmware update. Pretty neat update for a system, really; it will be interesting to see what they do next. Shoutcast player, please? :) Internet access is all via WiFi, and although I'd never used a WiFi device, I was up and running the internet through WiFi on the PSP in no time flat. Makes it a snap to download firmware and game add-ons thanks to my office's nice WiFi hotspot. You can also play may games via local WiFi connection, but I haven't tried that yet. I suppose it's only a brief matter of time before wide internet WiFi play starts becoming standard on PSP games--or so you would think. That would be kind of keen.
Ooh, I also like how the OS can tell you exactly how much charge is left in your battery. Coo. And it's easy to load up music or movies or whatever on your memory card to play on the go. I like the MP3-player; I'm less sold on the movie playing; I downloaded one movie from the US Sony PSP site (crap), and it was the wrong resolution and aspect ratio, and played back with some annoying artifacting. Bleh! I can only assume that playback from UMDs must be a lot better, or even Sony wouldn't have the stones to market them as aggressively as they are doing.
Certain games have load time problems, but others really don't, so I think it must come down to whether or not the developers take the proper time to optimize their loading. Just loading the main menu or frickin' Space Invaders in Taito's "Space Invaders Pocket," for instance, involves a ridiculously long wait (several 10 second pauses to load Space Invaders? Come on), whereas loading a highly animated Vs stage in Darkstalkers Chronicle goes quite a bit faster. Way to ass things up, Taito.
Speaking of Darkstalkers, the PSP seems to do 2D really, really well, at least when it's done right. I'm less keen on the system's 3D capabilities: more powerful than a PS1, but lacking the PS2's anti-aliasing/blurring/shader/lighting effects, so objects in PSP games look a bit flat by comparison. Fortunately (in my view), a good number of companies have got on board now to port their 32-bit era 2D games to the system. I haven't played most of them yet, so this is pretty cool as far as I am concerned.
Mm one more thing: UMDs are kind of silly, with the big, dust-trapping hole in the backside. They should've just left the entire back open or something, at that rate. It's not like the PSP is really very kid-proof anyway.
|The PSP has a rather spiffy "Sleep" mode, whereby if you toggle the power switch quickly, the system to all appearances shuts down completely, but actually keeps its active RAM state stored, or something, so when you toggle the power switch again, you come right back up in the game you were playing previously, at the exact same spot, and just continue playing like you hadn't been away doing something else for hours; it's like a Quickload/Quicksave for every single game on the system. The only part I don't quite like is that to turn the system off completely, you have to hold the power switch for three or four seconds--and you can't tell any different by looking at the thing whether it's all the way off, or just sleeping.|
It might not even really matter, though, since Sleep mode's power use must be extremely minimal. I'll have to test it sometime.
|Oh! Very important: while UMD movies are region-locked, PSP UMD games are region-free, so you can play Japanese games on a US PSP, and vice-versa. This was sweet because original [speculation] was that PSP games would be region-locked. But they aren't, so import away!|
|It is a shame about the D-pad; the thing is so bad at diagonals, you wonder that Sony has kept it all these years. It's even worse on the PSP, though, because it doesn't protrude as far out of the casing as on a DualShock, so you've really got to lean into the corners to get a diagonal to register. This isn't so bad for a lot of games, but for, say, a fighting game, it doesn't work well at all, because you'll almost inevitably hit one of the four main directions before you get the diagonal to register, so your character will jump straight up or something instead of jumping diagonally. Silly D-pad.|
|Sleep mode appears to be remarkably efficient; after leaving a fully charged system in sleep mode during a game for thirteen hours, it still retained 100% charge.|
|Playing games on local, direct WiFi ("Ad Hoc") has been a breeze in the games I've tried so far, with no lag or disconnection problems at all. Rock solid. Some games have a "game sharing" feature, which lets them broadcast a tiny demo version of the game to another PSP, so that other users can sample the game; in the game shares I've seen, the downloaded demo data is stored in temporary system memory, and is lost when the system is shut down or restarted. Transmitting the game demos via WiFi tends to take a few minutes.|
|My learned fried CorranFox pointed out that the PSP's speaker holes are actually on the metal strip on the button of the system; there are tiny little holes down at the bottom of either side of the face plate, but not much of the sound comes from them. Strange!|
|Whoops, the strip along the bottom isn't metal, just metallic-looking plastic.|
CFox also pointed out that, while it normally has only three brightness levels, while you have the PSP plugged in via the AC adapter, it gains a fourth, brighter screen brightness level.
|Have I mentioned that I really love the PSP's "sleep" mode? It makes every game a pick-up-and-play game.|
Also, if you're playing something that's loaded entirely into memory, like say Ms. Pac-Man in Namco Museum Battle Collection (see entry 872), you can load it up, Sleep mode it, take out the UMD, and play whenever you want without having to take the UMD around with you.
Man, it would be sweet if they put a similar mode in the PS3.