by Michael Moore
The Sony PSP has been the big release so far of 2005, and it manages to live up to the hype. It's a very unique machine that, unlike the Nintendo DS, has more functions then merely being a portable game console, and its those extra features that really make it great.
Aside from being able to play games, the PSP can also play MP3s, play movies (both from the UMD and the memory card,) display pictures, as well as surf the internet (thanks to a flaw in one of the games.) It's these features that make it unique, and in my opinion, better then the DS.
It seemed originally like Sony was just packing on tons of extras onto the PSP, but in practice it's actually very convenient. It's very handy for traveling somewhere and wanting to listen to MP3s, but then also want to play a game or watch a movie when you get where you are going. It's a lot more convenient, and a lot less clutter then having to carry an MP3 player around and a portable console just to do both.
Unfortunately this leads to one of the few complaints I have about the PSP, it is rather long in length, which can make it tricky finding a pocket for it. Also the lack of any sort of screen protection from Sony is disappointing, since the majority of the face of the machine is the screen. So without purchasing a case from a third party manufacturer and using that, its hard to take the PSP with you since you end up worrying about scrapping the screen, which you really don't want to do.
As I said the screen is the majority of the face of the PSP and I was surprised to see how crisp and clear it was. You really don't get a good grasp of it until you see a UMD movie on it. Luckily I Spider-man 2 with it, and it looked identical to the DVD version in clearity.
The graphics of the system itself so far seem to resemble the look of some of the earlier PS2 games. It's not Metal Gear Solid 2 level of graphics, but its definitely better then PS1 level. I'm sure as developer's get a better understanding of what exactly they are able to do on the PSP things will start to look better.
The sound is comparable to anything you'd hear on a DVD or normally on your PS2. The speakers on the front of the PSP do an ok job, but not really a great one, which is a little disappointing. In my experience the sound can be heard better from the back of the PSP then the front. Not sure why that is.
The sounds from the PSP is much better when you listen with headphones. Although it would have been nice to have a good set of speakers on the PSP, its not that big of a deal since most likely you'll be using it with your headphones in it or with no sound at all.
The controls for the most part are good, just as responsive as the PS2 controller. But there are two problems. The sometimes feel a little too close together, which is something I've noticed while playing Tony Hawk Underground 2. You will sometimes catch yourself hitting more then one button as you go from one to the other. Also because the square and right directional button are so close to the screen you tend to smudge the sides of the screen, its not something you tend to notice while playing, but you tend to notice it afterwards.
The analog stick was a nice touch, and I like the design of it, but its hard to use precisely like you can with the PS2's analog sticks. The R and L buttons, although nicely designed on the PSP, can seem a little awkward if you are used to a PS2 controller.
The PSP is great portable game system, with a lot of untapped potential right now. It's definitely worth the money in my opinion. I just wish Sony had included more with the it. Like a case, black headphones not white ones, and a bigger memory card. But its hard to complain since the PSP is so good and useful. I highly recommend it if you can spare the money, otherwise you can probably wait until the fall when it's rumored to drop in price.