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Thursday, December 23, 2004

To PSP or Not to PSP

This past week I got to actually play a Sony PSP that a friend brought over from Japan. After reading the early reviews, I was fully prepared to dislike it.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.

The unit feels solid and substantial. Yes, the front panel could be a fingerprint magnet, but at least during normal play it's not difficult to avoid smudging the screen. The disk and battery covers didn't look or feel like they were on the verge of popping open. It also easily survived a 3 foot drop onto a hardwood floor, albeit inside the padded case.

Here's the key to the PSP: it is designed to be a no-compromise game console, and it very nearly succeeds. All the Gameboys are great portable systems, but few people would seriously compare the game experiences to console games. There are just some genres that haven't translated well to small screens. Based on my experience, the PSP transcends that and provides a genuine console-quality experience. Ridge Racer is somewhere between PS1 and PS2 quality, and much closer to the latter.

It's a far different experience from the DS. We may very well see some new touch-based game experiences on the DS, but they will still be handheld-oriented games. On the PSP we can expect to see essentially the same experiences we have on consoles.

Which is better? I really can't say, since it will probably depend on personal preference. I can say this, though: my prediction is that the PSP is what you'll see NBA players and rap stars playing on TV. It's the Cadillac Escalade of handhelds. Take that for what it's worth.

There's always been something slightly uncool about handheld gaming. Try to imagine 50 Cent relaxing on his tour bus with a Gameboy SP. Doesn't quite work, does it? It'll work with a PSP.

On another note, here is my brain-bending item of the day.


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