Game profile Star Ocean: First Departure
Given the current glut of interesting new software coming to dedicated handhelds lately I thought itíd be a good idea to revisit Sonyís PSP. Or, rather, the games I missed out on back when new releases for both handhelds of the era werenít hard to come by in the slightest. So I managed to pick up a brand new PSP-3000 to replace my aging 1000 model, and ordered a bunch of UMDs to go with it.
The PSP-3000 is a lot nicer than the pundits may have you believe. Its step down in build complexity is noticeable but itís still a sturdy piece of kit, and the screen is more than acceptable by todayís standards, producing colours that are a close match for the sRGB standard for consumer content. Boring hardware chatter aside though, hereís what Iíve been playing in drips and drabs over the past few weeks:
OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast
As an adaptation of OutRun 2 SP this was always going to be good, but the PSP version is plagued with a framerate that always feels like itís on the brink of disaster. This naturally makes it a lot harder to play once youíre past the earlier challenges. Still, it looks great, and in the moments where the action is smooth and stable your Ferrari just drives like a dream. Arcade racing at its very best.
Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure
Going off the blurbs on the back of the box, European publisher 505 Games wrongly oversell this as the next Zelda epic.
But really, Gurumin is more Zelda-lite with a much, much larger emphasis on platforming than puzzle solving.
What puzzles it does have aren't as clever as Zelda, and its combat can feel a bit rote at times, but Gurumin holds a lot of charm and more surprisingly, has its own unique identity too. Even the music is wholly unique for a Falcom-developed title, and the quirky voice acting and vivid localisation both go hand-in-hand with its purposely simplistic visuals.
It's a game that's hard not to appreciate or fall in love with, and one that doesn't necessarily need to ask a lot from its players to create some enjoyment - you enter its dungeons, smash things up and push through to the end.
Star Ocean: First Departure
This remake of Tri-Aceís first RPG is interesting, but perhaps not for the reasons that would keep you playing until the end. Whatís impressive is the lengths TOSE went into to recreate what was originally a Super Famicom game in the same style as its PlayStation-bound sequel. So thereís 90ís-era CGI backdrops everywhere, the battles now take place in simplistic 3D environments and even the item icons look like they were lifted from the PS1 sequel.
But really, the first Star Ocean isnít a particularly interesting game to play today. It gives the illusion of complexity through its speciality system, which lets you teach specific skills to your party members, but fails to make this system feel like a worthwhile investment. Itís mostly due to the way the game plays out Ė battles are largely automated affairs, and difficulty is weighed too far towards character levels than actual skill and execution.
A remake of Hudson Softís signature 2D shmup series, you play this entirely in vertical orientation, or TATE mode. After a few minutes of wriggling your fingers about and getting accustomed to the layout Ė itís a bit like gripping a baseball bat and having to wriggle your thumbs around Ė it plays surprisingly well, letting you see far further up the playing field than you could on the console versions.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd
One of the best titles on the PSP. Everything about it has been built for the system, from Hideki Nakamuraís interface design Ė he also worked his magic on Ridge Racer: Type 4, Ridge Racers and Ridge Racer 6 Ė to the rhythm mechanics and note charts, which complement the PSPís symmetrical button and D-Pad layout nicely. It also looks the part too, featuring none of the dithering that plagued many other PSP games. Itís a great example of a time when publishers started investing in the platform after Monster Hunter lifted sales in Japan.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Extend
More of the same as above, really, but with a weaker song list. I donít think Iím going to be as compelled to master every song in Extreme difficulty like I normally do in the series because of it.
Everybodyís Golf 2
Iíve only played a couple of holes on the first course, so I shouldnít even be listing this. But judging from those ten or so minutes Iíve spent with it, combined with the dozens of hours I poured in to Everybodyís Golf on Vita years back, I can say that this is going to be another feel-good golf game with solid mechanics and a chilled-out atmosphere.
It also helps that the Vita version even shares its physics engine with the PSP titles, so this game isnít actually all that different, visuals notwithstanding.