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Home / Holiday Gaming Guide: What to Buy for the Discriminating Gamer – Part 4: PSP
A look at THE games to buy on the PlayStation Portable for the discriminating gamer this holiday season.

Holiday Gaming Guide: What to Buy for the Discriminating Gamer – Part 4: PSP

The Holiday season is fast approaching and we all need to start thinking about what to get as gifts for those we care about (or for ourselves as personal presents). For those of us who are gamers we know that this is shaping up to be a crowded marketplace for new games on all the major platforms.

With all of these choices, deciding what to buy someone can be a very daunting task. Being faced with these decisions as well, we decided to research all the upcoming and recently released games for all platforms and come up with a definitive list of must have games in each major genre (Action, First Person Shooter, Fighting, RPG, Sports, Strategy and Other) for all the platforms. We will look at not just what games to buy, but why they should be bought! Please note all release dates are based on North American street dates.

So without further ado, let’s get to the Guide!

Part 1 – Xbox 360
Part 2 – PlayStation 3
Part 3 – Wii

Part 4 – PlayStation Portable (PSP)

click to view larger imageThe Sony PlayStation Portable continues to impress all who own it, in the last two years they have sold nearly 26 million units, have had an incredibly successful launch of their new PSP slim and have a huge, quality lineup of games. While they trail the Nintendo DS in total sales, the PSP is targeted at a different market and has come into its own as a media and games machine. New innovations such as better integration with the PlayStation 3, longer battery life and improved load times with the new PSP slim are sure to introduce many new users to the system. With games coming out every day that show the graphical and aural prowess of Sony's killer handheld, the PSP is sure to have a great Holiday season.

ACTION

Silent Hill Origins
click to view larger imageThis will be the first appearance of the Silent Hill franchise on the PSP (we are not counting the Silent Hill Experience that was basically a graphic novel) and it looks to live up to the frightening reputation established on consoles. This version will attempt to fill in the gaps as to how Silent Hill became the demented place it is. The story revolves around a trucker names Travis who crashes near Silent Hill while avoiding hitting a young girl, when he wakes up he is in the town and tries to find his way out. Travis is a different kind of visitor to the town; he is quite capable with his fists and the weapons he finds, adding a more actiony feel to this version. Silent Hill: Origins is sure to scare and please any fans of quality survival horror games and is available right now.

Why Buy it? Konami and developer Climax took their time making the first handheld version of the classic series, as a result Silent Hill: Origins is a quality title that nails the atmosphere and feel of the series. This title could have been a port of any of the previous games but the developer stepped up and gave us a new tale that fleshes out the history of the creepy town. As soon as you first wake up in Silent Hill the game just feels right and all the signature cues are here, dense fog, eerie sounds, flashlight generating a precious pool of light and of course all the demented creatures and sights we love to hate. The new protagonist, Travis, has a muddled past and martial skill that adds a new feel to the series. All together this is a great title and a worthy addition to the series. This is a must have for any fan.

Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron
Lucasarts and developer Rebellion took a chance and made the newest installment of the Star Wars Battlefront an exclusive title for the PSP. As a result the game play is tighter, the engine is more robust and the story is, well actually there is a story this time. This title focuses on a squad called Renegade Squadron that was formed by the famed Han Solo; this group is tasked with missions that normal squads could not (or would not) handle. Throughout the game you will travel to familiar locales such as Endor, Hoth and Kashyyyk as well as new areas as the leader of the squadron Col Serra recounts the adventures of his team. The game play has not changed much; it is a third person action game (with a first person view with some weapons) that has you running around battling hordes of Imperial scum and their allies. The big change is how you create your character, you start with 100 points that you can spend anyway you want; want to be a tank, add shields and armour, want to be a sniper, add a speed boost and a sniper gun, the choice is yours. Add to the mix space battles, massive multiplayer and ground vehicles and this is a great game that is available right now.

Why Buy it? This being an exclusive PSP title gives it a lot of polish that previous ports of the series lacked, the graphics, audio and controls have all benefited from this choice. But the real feather in this game's cap is the creation system for your character, not only can you heavily customize your look, uniform and insignias, but you can make any character type you want. The point system lets you tailor the character to suit the situation or your play style, in multiplayer you are apply to switch at reload stations so you are not locked into one style. This system lends the title a strategic feel that has you scouting objectives and planning your character accordingly. This title also has a truly amazing space engine for battles in the deep black, you pilot a variety of ships in a truly fun way as a way to spice up the game, and it works. Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron is a blast to play on or offline and one any action fan should check out.

FIRST PERSON SHOOTER

Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow
click to view larger imageThe second original Syphon Filter game for the PSP follows in it's predecessors footsteps as an outstanding experience on the PSP. This title follows Gabe Logan and his team as they try to intercept some dangerous technology that could threaten world peace. The story expands from there (as an good spy title should) with twists, double crosses and some of Gabe's past catching up to him. Game play is very tight and a great system for the PSP, the analog stick is used to move and the face buttons are used to aim (square is left, circle is right, triangle is up and x is down) the shoulder buttons fire and the d-pad is used to quick switch items/weapons. On paper the system may seem awkward but in game it works like a dream. Add to the mix new game modes, new combat abilities, fast paced multiplayer, the great story and you have a killer game for the PSP that is available right now.

Why Buy it? This game is better in almost every way then Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and that is saying a lot. New moves such as blind-fire, quick action sequences, new types of stealth kills and a complete underwater system makes this a fast paced dynamic game that can be played hard and heavy or silent an deadly. The graphics have been amped up to be sharper and it is really noticeable at times, the audio is also topnotch with a great soundtrack, good voice acting and excellent sound effects. All of these features together with the great, console quality multiplayer make this a must have title for the PSP.

Medal of Honor Heroes 2
The original Medal of Honor Heroes was a great game but suffered from some issues in the graphics and campaign modes, the developer took these concerns in stride and came back with this sequel looking better then ever with a single player campaign that would rival any console title. The game is set in WWII and you are an allied soldier taking part in some of the historic battles, the gameplay is event based, meaning you will be dodging mortar fire, sniping soldiers and generally taking part in mini-game style events throughout the game. The system works very well and you get a feeling of accomplishment as you complete each 'section.' This game is available right now and is a great shooter for the PSP.

Why Buy it? Unlike the consoles, there are not many quality WWII shooters for the PSP, luckily this is a quality shooter that any fan of the genre can enjoy. The game play is solid, with stellar audio and graphics to back it up, this game is a sight to see and a treat to hear and very close to on par with similar titles on the PS2. Control on the PSP can be difficult, but Medal of Honor Heroes 2 handles it well, with a great control scheme that doesn't pull you out of the action. To round out the goodness developer Team Fusion managed to almost entirely eliminate load times in this title and squeeze 32-player multiplayer into the mix with very little slowdown or graphical compromises. A great title and a worthy addition to any library.

FIGHTING

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes
click to view larger imageTo me a portable device would be a great venue for a fighting game, matches tend to be 60 seconds, you can pause, shut of and resume any time you want, but for some reason the PSP has not had many fighting games released for it. Luckily one of the more recent is also a very solid game that is a lot of fun. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes is the PSP version of the fighting series based on the hit Naruto animated show, it is one-on-one fighting that has some team based attacks thrown in. There is a story of sorts, but as in most fighting games it is just there to give you an excuse to beat down on other people. The fighting system is relatively simple, one attack button, one projectile, a jump and a special attack button. Switching up attack types and moving around add a fun dynamic to the game that adds depth that isn't apparent right away, you can also choose a mode (Heroes) that allows you to choose power-ups to use in-game, this adds a strategic element to the battles. The graphics are crisp, colorful and live up to the anime series, audio also shines in this game. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes is available right now.

Why Buy it? As mentioned there are not many fighting games for the PSP and luckily this one has a lot of personality and game modes to keep you happy for a long time. The big draw in this version of the game is the Heroes mode, which pits you in team battles versus increasingly difficult enemies. You choose power-ups to take into the battles and this can turn the tide as you play. The game is a lot of fun and the graphically representation really sets the tone as you battle all the other ninjas on your way to becoming an Ultimate Ninja Master.

ROLE PLAYING GAME

Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness
click to view larger imageWhile this iteration of the beloved Disgaea: Hour of Darkness could have been a quick slap up port for the PSP, developer NIS decided to make this a fully enhanced version of the original title instead of an easy port. Essential the story in this strategy RPG focuses around the Demon Lord Laharl who is awakened after a two year 'nap' and discovers that his Netherworld has fallen into chaos since his Demon father died. Determined to claim his rightful throne from all the other demons and devils trying to steal it Laharl embarks on a strange and amazing adventure and meets a hilarious and diverse cast of allies and enemies on the way. This is a strategy RPG, but an incredibly deep one with tactics and forethought needed to ensure battles are won and how you advance. There is an amazing amount of depth that doesn't even need to be accessed if you don't want to, but if you do this game can provide hundreds of hours of gameplay.

Why Buy it? The original title was an instant classic on the PS2, this one lives up to that promise and more. The great colorful graphics and character design transitions perfectly to the PSP and as we know by the high volume of strategy RPG's for the PSP the gameplay is perfectly suited to quick bursts of play and pause action. What is even better for PSP owners is that the slowdowns that sometimes occurred in big battles or large effects scenes have been eliminated and load times are very quick. The key features of this game are the almost limitless gameplay elements at your fingertips from creating your own characters and customization with merchants and the hospital to a item world that lets you level up as you progress this is a game that can keep you hooked for a very long time. Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness is a must have title for Strategy RPG fans and is available right now.

Jeanne D'arc
Developer Level-5 (Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy) surprised a lot of people when the announce the release of the strategy RPG Jeanne D'arc, it was to feature the story of Joan of Arc and her quest to free France, not they typical fare for Japanese themed RPGs. But of course seeing is believing, this alternate version of the immortal story has Joan (or Jeanne) battling not only the English invaders, but the demonic allies of the possessed King of England. The story quickly introduces us to Jeanne as she accidentally discovers a magical armlet that gives her amazing martial prowess and thrusts her to the front of the armies of France. On the way she meets allies and enemies both grounded in reality and fiction. While the gameplay mechanics are not groundbreaking, they are solid and features such as equipping items and abilities as well as combining items to make new ones adds an additional strategic layer to the. This is a deep, long and fantastic game, which is available right now.

Why Buy it? This game came out of no where with very little marketing but it is a title that is not to be missed. There are so many great things to enjoy in the game, the amazing anime cut scenes with full, high quality voice acting, the vibrant strong visuals, amazing character design and wonderful sound. But the real key is the gameplay, without it the best looking games are still junk, but this one nails the genre and keeps you wanting to play turn after turn. The historically inspired fictional story pushes you along from battle to battle with just the right challenge level, I have never been forced to power level to beat the next level (but do so to afford better gear and new items), the pacing is top notch and characters are introduced gradually and you never feel overwhelmed. Jeanne D'arc is one of the best games on the PSP and a true classic in the genre, if you don't have this game, ask for it or get it right now!

SPORTS

FIFA Soccer 08
click to view larger imageThis years FIFA game was a hit on the mainstream consoles, luckily EA gave as much care to the portable version producing a great looking game with a large variety of play modes. This version features manager mode, challenges for specific teams, interactive online leagues, as well as the ability to create your own tournament plus the new soccer IQ mode and a dribbling mini-game. The dribbling game allows you to turn your PSP vertically and play a DDR style game that has you keeping the ball in the air by pushing in the proper direction as cued by onscreen prompts. The Soccer IQ challenge is a fun way to test your knowledge of the sport and the FIFA league in general, the screen has the question and four answers and a diagram of a soccer pitch, every right question advances the ball towards the oppositions net, wrong answers push it towards yours. Both are fun distractions and add some nice variety from the standard game. This version also introduces an online mode that allows you to take an actual FIFA team and play against online opponents following their normal schedule for the year. The online isn't perfect but it is playable and a lot of fun, FIFA Soccer 08 is available right now.

Why Buy it? A great amount of care was given to the PSP version of the game, the controls were adjusted to compensate to the single analog stick in a natural way and tricks, shots and dekes are intuitive and well executed. The graphics are very comparable to the PS2 version (a very good thing) and the developer was able to put all the squads, all the players, all the modes and all the fields that are featured in the console versions. All together the game is very solid and a must have for any soccer fan who wants play on the go.

NBA 08
This follow-up to the amazing NBA 07 takes the successes from that version and builds upon it to make one of the best NBA experiences on a handheld (and some consoles). Featuring a number of modes for regular play such as Season, Exhibition, All Star Game, Pickup, Free Throw and Playoffs. The big draw though for the PSP version is the incredibly fun mini games and the Conquest mode. The mini games are spread out in an individual section where you can play different forms of basketball in Fastbreak, Own the Court, Elimination, Horse and Dodgeball, there are also basketball themed mini games in the Carnival mode such as Hot Shot!, Pinball, and Big Shooter, playing these games awards tickets that can be used to unlock extras. The basketball in this game is a solid play, with great graphics that make players recognizable, definitely one of the best sports games on the PSP and it is available right now.

Why Buy it? It is very rare to see a portable game with this many features and mini-games and that most of them are a blast to play, especially the pinball, with an included three tables and free new tables every week the game is a blast to play. With all of these mini games you almost forget there is a basketball game in here, luckily when you play the basketball portion of this title it is top notch. Between the core basketball modes and the mini-games we also have the amazingly fun and deep Conquest mode, this mode has you choosing a team and attempting to take over NBA cities by 'attacking' the cities and playing their resident team. You can then add players, strengthen your cities and eventually take over the world of NBAnia (I made that name up), it is a great mode and a lot of fun. The title is further boosted by an almost completely consistent 60fps while you play and a great control scheme. If you are a fan of basketball and have a PSP you need to have this game.

OTHER

Crush
click to view larger image Possibly one of the strangest games to debut on the PSP, Crush is a puzzle/platformer that is based in the hero's mind. Danny is an insomniac who is being given treatment that allows him to traverse his mind to try and solve the problems that cause his sleepless nights. The result is a surreal looking game that melds 2-D and 3-D elements, as you progress you 'Crush' the level which changes the 2-D platformer into a 3-D world. By changing the view type different paths, challenges and fixtures change which in turn allows you to pass impassable sections, you then switch back to 2-D and keep going. It is a completely original concept and a great implementation that is a joy to play, Crush is available right now.

Why Buy it? This is a surreal game that hooks you from the start with the original and entertaining story of a young man trying to find a way to stop his insomnia by entering his own mind. The gameplay is introduced gradually and never overwhelms despite the seemingly complex idea of switching from 2-D to 3-D as you progress through the levels. The graphic presentation is amazing and really makes you feeling like you are in an Escher style world and the amazingly designed puzzles will keep you playing on and on, this is a one of a kind game for any platform and is a must have!

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
This original puzzle game is available right now and it is a must have for any puzzle fan. The game places an RPG style story and instead of turn based or real-time gameplay you are playing a fun and addictive puzzle game against vicious monsters and nights. The puzzle system is fresh with power-ups, abilities and items modifying the rules of play as well as a host of missions, bonus tasks and interesting characters you meet throughout the campaign. The game features bright dynamic graphics as well as a great score and sound effects to give the game an epic feel (for a puzzle game) and make this a great game for any fan.

Why Buy it? This is one of the most unique games on the PSP and it’s fun, engaging game play will keep you playing hour after hour. The story and varied RPG elements like leveling up, adding powers that affect the puzzles and finding/making items give this puzzle game a hook that doesn’t let you go. The inexpensive price and amazing, original game play make Puzzle Quest a game you must try, it is available right now.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on. Follow me on twitter @Jer1ch0 or check out my youtube channel - https://www.youtube.com/user/Jerichox11

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