This Week’s Purchase: PSP Go
When the PSP Go first came out in 2009 a lot of people (myself included) didn’t take the console too seriously. In fact, its lack of UMD tray and reliance on the PSN meant I had little interest in what is now dark horse of the PSP family. But a few years later I’ve decided to give it a go (awesome pun intended), and for £50 picked one up, boxed in good condition. Today I’m going to look at the pros and cons of the system, and ask if in 2013 this shiny misfit of a PSP is now an underrated classic?
The PSP go is actually a really good looking system. The build is high quality, the screen is nice and the sliding mechanism is smooth. Whilst the silver circles around the buttons and D-Pad look a bit too prominent on the black version of the console, there’s not much I can fault about the look of the “pearl white” system I purchased. And that’s not just a buzzword, the outside of the console has a serious sparkle to it that looks great, especially when the light reflects off it.
I was also surprised by the quality of the buttons, which feel almost like those on a PS Vita, only flatter so they can slide under this system. The analogue stick is a mini version of that found on a regular PSP, and whilst it might be too small for some I personally found it fine. In fact the only real issue I have is with the shoulder buttons, which are slightly out the way much like on a Nintendo DS. But even then they’re perfectly usable and not too uncomfortable. This is made up for by the addition of a built in hard drive, which gives you an additional 16GB on top of whatever you stick in the memory card slot. Can’t really complain about that, whatever you’re using the console for.
Games wise the PSP library needs a bit of filtering before you get to the stuff worth playing, but there’s still some real classics to be found (I’ve wrote a list of these classics, you can find it here). Of course it’s difficult to talk about the pros of a PSP without mentioning homebrew, and since the PSP Go was hacked within an inch of its life back in 2012 it’s now a really good device when it comes to emulators. Combine this with superb PS1 support and you’ve got a console with a varied library of games that is in no way limited to the handful of great PSP titles.
If you’re not prepared to install custom firmware, the PSP Go is a very expensive way to play games. The physical copies of almost all PSP and PS1 games can be found for significantly cheaper their digital counterparts on the PSN Store. Then if you are going to hack the PSP Go the POPS loader plugin has significantly less functionality than it does on a regular PSP. What this means is that if you’re converting your own PS1 games to work on the console (doing so gives you access to the full PS1 library, not just the selection of games on the PSN) then you’ll have less compatibility success than you would on a normal PSP. Granted this isn’t a problem for everyone, but for me personally it gets in the way of me playing some of my favourite PS1 games incuding Wipeout 2098 and Wipeout 3. These games still work, but without the audio tracks. This isn’t a problem on my PSP 1000.
The necessity to own a PSP has arguably been reduced by Sony’s newer handheld, but playing the two side by side yielded some interesting results. Since I got the Vita I’ve been a bit put off by the oversaturated colours that appear when playing either PSP or PS1 titles. Pretty much all games I tested were much easier on the eye when viewed on the PSP Go.
Then there’s the screen size. Games designed for the Vita’s screen can be truly stunning, and something like Wipeout 2048 looks incredible. But PSP content was never made for such a large screen, and when upscaled it can look pretty nasty. Looking at the same game side by side there really is no contest (and the picture above doesn’t do this justice so you’ll have to either trust me or do this experiment yourself), the image is far superior on the PSP Go’s smaller screen.
Once you get into homebrew the PS Vita has a lot of well known problems that make it far inferior to any model PSP. Installing anything is a real bitch, and getting an exploited game alone can be challenging. Then it also struggles performance wise, and for something like the Super Nintendo emulator this is the difference between Super Mario World and Donkey Kong: Country being playable and not playable. And no PS1 games have sound, which is a bit rubbish really.
I don’t mean to complain too much about the Vita (and in all honesty Persona 4: Golden is a better game than most of the PSP library combined) but at the same time feel it necessary to justify something like the PSP Go as a console also necessary to own. Whilst in theory the Vita can play most of the same content, it doesn’t do your PSP or PS1 games justice. So if you’re looking for a cheap console with a tonne of great games, I’d certainly recommend the PSP Go.