*which are not named Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
The fancy, new PlayStation Vita might be launching this week, but we’re still looking back at a few of our favorite PlayStation Portable games, as we got into in Episode 41. Here’s my list!
From Korean developer Pentavision, the DJMAX Portable series brings the gameplay of arcade rhythm games like Beatmania to the portable format, and it works surprisingly well. All you do is hit buttons in time with the music as a flurry of notes drop from the top of the screen. It sounds simple, but if you’ve ever seen an expert playing the toughest Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero tracks, you know it can get pretty harrowing. After getting over the admittedly steep learning curve (I had to practice on low, low level songs for a while until the controls became second nature), I’d play this continuously for hours, despite most of the songs coming in under a bite-sized two minutes. On top of the addictive gameplay, the flashy visuals and animated backgrounds look fantastic on the PSP’s screen, and each song delivers thumping beats on a nice pair of headphones.
Although the original Korean (or Japanese) versions of DJMAX Portable 1 and 2 had the best gameplay and track lists, you can get DJMAX Fever for cheap either on Amazon or the PlayStation Store and it has most of the tracks from both games.
My favorite, lesser-known PSP game to recommend to new players. In Every Extend Extra, your only move is to blow up your own ship to destroy the waves of enemies that surround you. Naturally, you’ll quickly run out of lives doing this, but EEE builds on the “extend” mechanic of many arcade games—chain enough enemy kills together and you’ll earn extra lives to continue playing. The game offers an excellent balance of risk and reward—do you go for riskier chains and a higher score, or do you play it safe and focus on just clearing the level? It’s easy to pick up and learn but quickly becomes challenging if you want to reach the game’s later levels. As you would expect from a Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Child of Eden) game, EEE features trippy visuals that pulse in time to an upbeat, electronic soundtrack.
One of the highlights of the PSP is that it was region-free, which let me try a handful of foreign games (including the aforementioned DJMAX Portable). One of those—Salamander Portable—is a collection of Konami’s old Salamander shooting games (known as Life Force in the U.S.). I hadn’t played most of these for one reason or another, so I had a great time catching up with this series, which was something of a sister series to the Gradius games.
Unfortunately, Salamander Portable was import-only and now hard to find, but you can still scratch your shooter itch with Gradius Collection, which has the first four Gradius games, plus the North American debut of the excellent Gradius Gaiden.
In case you missed it when I named this my 2011 game of the year, Tactics Ogre is one of the best tactical RPGs that I’ve played and a must-have for RPG fans with a PSP. Being the predecessor to Final Fantasy Tactics, you’ll experience familiar strategic gameplay but with an Ogre series flavor. There’s also one of Yasumi Matsuno’s signature political plotlines filled with ambiguous morality, doublecrosses, and, obviously, badass holy knights. We can only hope that one day, all of our favorite RPGs receive a remake of this quality. Until then, you should play Tactics Ogre.
And finally, my top PSP game that is named Monster Hunter Freedom Unite:
I don’t know how much more I can say at this point, but after 500+ hours I’m still discovering exciting new ways to play Capcom’s action/pseudo-RPG juggernaut and there’s no end in sight. (OK, there actually is an end in sight, it’s just surrounded by lots of giant, menacing dragons.) Although the game’s steep difficulty and unwillingness to teach you the ropes can be a turnoff (and is actually a serious factor in the game’s lackluster adoption outside of Japan), my absolute favorite thing to do on the PSP is round up some friends and go monster hunting.
Check back during the rest of the week for more of our favorite PSP games. Until then, let me know if you’ve got some unknown favorites in the comments!