Players: | Release Date: 05/12/17 | Genre: Hardware
At E3 2004, Sony gave attendees to their Press Conference a lucky first view at the latest entry into the PlayStation family. The PSP was showcased in all of its glory and stunned myself and everyone else in attendance. After months and months of waiting, the device has finally made it to US shores. However, the PSP has not been released without a little bit of controversy.
When the PSP launched in Japan a few months ago, many reports sprung up all over the Internet regarding dead pixels and that the Square Button would occasionally get stuck during gameplay. After digging a bit deeper, it was discovered that Sony had built the PSP where the screen was so wide that it overlapped part of the square button. This caused the problem where the button would stick. Initially, Sony came out and claimed that nothing was wrong with the PSP and it was "as they intended." However, in the months since they announced this, they have resolved any issues with the Square button sticking. I have yet to have it happen to me at all during gameplay.
The issue with the dead pixels is a bit more complicated though. Any LCD screen can have issues with dead pixels at the manufacturing level. While steps can be taken to ensure the number of dead pixels is kept down to a bare minimum, it can and probably will still happen for any device that has a LCD screen. And because the PSP has so many more pixels than the Nintendo DS, users may find that their brand new shiny PSP has one. Work with your local retailer if that happens or call up Sony consumer support. They should be able to assist you if you do happen to get a PSP with dead pixels in it.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, it is time to discuss the PSP in more detail. Your PSP box will come with the PSP console, an UMD Demo Disk with movie previews, music reviews, and gameplay movies for launch titles, Spider-Man 2 UMD (the movie, not the game), a soft carrying case, 32 MB Memory Stick PRO Duo, screen cloth, AC Adapter, battery, head phones and wired controller, wrist strap, and a user manual. The outside packaging beautifully showcases the PSP and some of the games. Inside you will find all of your accessories neatly tucked away and the PSP unit is gently wrapped to keep it safe.
One of the first things I did with the PSP is plug it in and turn it on. The first moment you gaze upon the screen, you will finally understand why everyone who talks about the PSP says it is one of the most beautiful handheld devices they have ever seen. The screen looks so good that my words cannot describe it in enough detail. To help adjust to different lighting conditions, Sony provides players with a screen button at the bottom of the PSP. Hitting it will change the brightness level. The brightest level is only available when plugged in with the AC Adapter because it would eat up the battery very fast. The three brightness modes available with the battery are all viewable and I have found that the lowest brightness setting still looked just as good and provided me with plenty of enjoyment. The reason I bring up the brightness setting is that the PSP can eat up your battery life pretty fast. While the GBA SP and DS will see well over 8 hours of battery life on a single charge, the PSP isn't quite that lucky. Depending on your use, the individual games you play, the volume level, and the brightness level, you will find that PSP games will play anywhere form 3 to 5 hours. Movies will also clock in around the same time frame. While I still hope Sony will improve the battery in the future, this is no excuse not to buy a PSP. The battery is easily replaceable and to show you how easy it is, Sony requires that you connect your battery to the PSP yourself. I do not know how much additional battery units will cost, but I am assuming a Third Party company will release a device to charge an extra battery outside the system.
The navigation system to the PSP can seem a little confusing at first until you get used to it. However, once you see how it operates you will appreciate it. On the far left are the system options. Here you can set a variety of options for the system, configure your SSID's for playing online games, get the remaining battery life, etc. If you move the D-Pad over to the Right, you will come across pictures, then movies, and then games. Each of these menus can then be navigated up and down. The X button will navigate into them. The really interesting part of this is that all categories have the option of getting data from the Memory Stick PRO Duo card. While this is primarily used to save games, you can listen to your music off of it, play movies that you encode on your computer, and even possibly play homemade games in the future. While I don't find that the current PSP model is anywhere as good for music as the iPod, if Sony ever added a Hard Drive to it or provided a low cost high capacity memory card, things could get interesting.
When inserting an UMD into the PSP, you slide a button at the top of the PSP. This opens up the UMD drive similar to the clam shell Mini Disc players you may have seen before. After inserting a game, it will briefly read the disk and then you will see a Preview of the game or movie with the title and some sort of movie clip playing beside the title. This is so much more satisfying than just seeing the name of the game like what you get on the Nintendo DS.
One thing that I was worried with was that the UMD drive would be noisy. However, unless I stick my ear right next to the device, I could not hear the PSP reading the UMD. So my fears were quickly put to rest. While we have only tested the device on 7 different UMD titles at the time of this review, they all were very quiet when playing. I don't anticipate drive noise becoming an issue in the future. However, if it does, we will let you know.
Since we are on the subject of the UMD drive, I would like to raise a complaint about the design of the UMD. While I feel that the UMD is a great new product and it seems to resolve the issue of a high capacity portable format, part of the disk is exposed on the bottom. This can very easily lead to scratching and cause players to keep their disks in their boxes, or immediately rush out to purchase a third party accessory to keep their games scratch free when kept outside the box. I am assuming that most owners of the PSP will want to take their system outside the house and carry more than one game with them. Instead of leaving part of the disk exposed, I wish Sony would have made the UMD more like the MiniDisc. Part of the disk could have slid open when placed inside the PSP.
Sony built the PSP to have a proprietary headphone jack. However, they supplied a wired controller to plug into that jack. From the wired controller, you can then plug in any standard set of headphones. Playing with the headphones is a much better option and provides you with much better sound quality. We will be doing an article on the best earphones you can buy for your PSP to improve the sound over the set Sony provides for you in the box. Look for this article in the second week of April, 2005.
While the Zodiac Tapwave was the first handheld device to provide players with an analog controller, Sony has delivered an analog option that will work well for anyone used to the PS2 controller. Because of space constraints, Sony was forced to use what I refer to as the "Analog nub" instead of using a full sized analog stick like on the Tapwave or what you would find on a home console. At first this seems like a horrible design flaw. It will take you some time to get used to the little Analog nub. However, once you get used to it, you will realize that it is much better than just the D-Pad. In fact, if you own a Nintendo DS, you will probably get upset that some device like it is not present on the system. Just imagine if you could take Mario 64 DS and play it on the PSP with an analog stick. The game could actually be enjoyed as it was originally intended!
Overall, the PSP is the ultimate handheld gaming system ever made. While I think there is a market for both the PSP and the Nintendo DS, in three years, I believe, we will look back and see that Sony has taken over the handheld market just like they did with the larger-screened consoles. Nintendo will still exist but unless they seriously ramp up the software available on the Nintendo DS or release a more powerful handheld, they will become a shadow of their former selves.
The final question that poses itself is not quite the elephant in the room that Sony likely wishes it was: Is the PSP worth $250? If you are the kind of person that has to have the latest systems and gadgets when they come out, then yes. However, because we have only played five of the game titles so far, Wipeout Pure, Twisted Metal, NBA, World Tour Soccer, and Gretzky NHL, I can't recommend the system based on those titles alone. Titles like Metal Gear Acid, Lumines, Mercury, Brotherhood of the Blade, and others may quickly change my mind. Eventually the system will go down in price but just make sure that there is a game you absolutely must have before throwing your hard earned cash down. However, from what I have seen, incredible gaming experiences are on their way to the PSP and if you can afford the $250 price point, by all means rush out on launch day to buy this incredible piece of hardware. Trust me, it will be love at first sight.