In this issue, I try to figure out if you need a PSP as a JRPG fan in 2019 if you didn’t have one when it was released. Join me on this journey!
The Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita are dead. That makes Nintendo’s Switch the only handheld still alive. JRPG fans who own the hybrid console really don’t need to complain about supplies at the moment. In September came with Dragon Quest XI S a real heavyweight on the console and even though Little Town Hero in October couldn’t really convince most of the people, so it came out with Atelier Ryza, Disgaea 4 Complete+ and many more Japanese tidbits enough alternatives in the last weeks (Note. d. Red.: by chance I have tested all four games just mentioned for NplusX).
But since I’m "relatively new" to the JRPG fan club, and I’m also curious about the stories of the most well-known and interesting franchises and developers, I can’t help but want to catch up on one or two older games, including from the SNES, PlayStation 1, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation Portable ludotheques. I do own a SNES, but a lot of the interesting JRPGs for the console never came out in Europe and a PlayStation 1 is rather out of the question for me, since I’m really tired of 360p on the TV and wired controllers.
I did get a PSP, though, and I already regret not owning the cool handheld when it was released – the JRPG selection on the little device is just amazing! But is this thing also something for you? Let’s go step by step through all the pros and cons I can think of for Sony’s first pocket console:
Pro #1: The console!
The PSP (at least the 2004 model I own) feels great in the hand, which is a big plus especially during longer grinding sessions. Along with the Vita, I’d actually rate the PSP’s form factor the highest of any handheld I’ve seen. The Switch, which I praised highly, is not quite as comfortable in the hand with its size and shape. Features like screen illumination, a standby mode that can be activated at any time and the possibility to connect the console to the internet via wifi may be standard nowadays, but in PSP times it wasn’t even common to go online with home consoles.
I’m more than satisfied with the device itself, which makes me sad that Sony is no longer interested in the handheld business, because I also think the Vita is great (I’m sure there will be a Grinder’s Guide edition for the Vita in the future)!).
Con #1: The age of the console..
However, as cool as the console itself is, it does have some problems and most of them can be attributed to its age. The PSP, which was released in this country in 2005, is no longer produced and so only used devices can be bought, obviously with a fluctuating degree of wear and tear. The PSP’s biggest weakness seems to be its battery, which over time swells due to wear and tear until it no longer fits in the battery compartment (and then should not be used anymore, because there is a danger of explosion!). Getting new batteries is difficult and mostly only cheap imitations from China can be found, which also have considerable fluctuations in their capacity and workmanship. I also had to replace the battery on my PSP and my 5€ NoName replacement works fine, but only lasts about 2 hours.
Going online with the PSP is not as easy nowadays as it was when it was released. Unfortunately, the device doesn’t get along with the routers’ newer encryption standards, so that accessing the PSN store via the PSP can only be done via major detours.
Pro #2: The Games!
Okay, the PSP has a lot of JRPGs, that’s no secret (and the reason why the handheld became the subject of a Grinder’s Guide issue in the first place.). But which ones are really ONLY available on it, and which ones can be comfortably picked up for a newer console or PC?
To be honest, there aren’t that many JRPGs exclusively available on PSP anymore. A considerable part of the games, first and foremost the many titles of Nihon Falcom’s Ys– and The–Legend-of-Heroes-series, are now available on Steam. In addition, some PSP titles can be purchased digitally from the PSN store and played on the Vita. But the latter is not really an option, because nobody has a Vita and even those who do, are usually not wealthy enough to afford an overpriced Vita memory card.
This leaves exclusives such as the quest-based action RPGs Phantasy Star Portable 1 and 2, the Final Fantasy VII prequel Crisis Core and some rather unknown games like the tactical role playing game Joan of Arc and the fantasy RPG Brave Story (both of which were not released in Europe and had to be imported from the USA…).
But just Collectors and retail friends can’t get around a PSP even for many non-exclusive games. Many of the Ys and Legends of Heroes titles are physically available only on PSP, as is the version of Final Fantasy IV, that the sequel The After Years contains. The remake of the first title in the Star Ocean series, coming out in a few days for PS4 and Switch, Star Ocean: First Departure R, is largely identical in content to the PSP version already released in 2008, which unlike the latest spin-offs also got a physical edition. In short, if you have the patience and budget, you can pick up a pretty epic JRPG collection for your pocket PlayStation!
Con #2: The availability/prices!
But there’s a small catch for collectors… A considerable part of the PSP JRPGs is quite rare outside of Japan and therefore also exorbitantly expensive. The Monster Hunter installments on the PlayStation Portable, Breath of Fire 3, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII may not cost that much right now, but for quite a few games, if you’re lucky enough to find them at all, you’ll have to pay the retail price at the time or more. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is for example extremely rare to find on ebay and mostly at prices beyond 50€. For Ys Seven you can pay at least as much again.
This is also the reason why none of these games are currently in my PSP collection: I haven’t had any luck yet. At least I could play Phantasy Star Portable can be bought for a whole Euro on ebay! However, since I haven’t gotten around to playing PSP for PSP yet, I’m afraid I can’t tell you if it’s worth the euro yet. 20 euros for the PSP remake of the first Final Fantasy I think is a bit much after playing through, but as a JRPG fanatic I was happy to invest in this important piece of genre history. I had to pay another 20 for the second part, which is above the average price of the GBA module that combines both parts, but so I have at least two games with packaging and nice game manual and just on the PSP with better graphics and better sound chip.
Tales of Eternia, which is now and then available for 15 Euro or less, I can highly recommend on the other hand. I’m not through here yet, but so far I’ve had a lot of fun with the fantasy action RPG, as I have with every Tales of spin-off.
Pro #3: The Dark Side of the Force..
So, let’s slowly come to the last and maybe most important point of this list for a decision for or against the PSP. Sony’s handheld is an emulator paradise for many reasons. Hacking the device is child’s play and with custom firmware and a ca. With a 2 euro adapter, a micro SD card can be used as storage medium instead of Sony’s own memory sticks, which are much too expensive. You can then fill the SD card with all sorts of shenanigans… So NES, SNES and GBA emulators run smoothly on the handheld and since this is technically a portable PS1, ROMs of Play Station 1 games can also be made playable directly on the PSP by certain modifications. Also, fan translation patches of PSP games released exclusively in Japan (such as the tactical role-playing game Valkyria Chronicles 3 by Sega) are a feature that is gladly used. I don’t want to encourage anyone here to hack their PSP, much less engage in video game piracy, and merely point out that a great deal is possible with this little jack-of-all-trades. But I also wouldn’t condemn anyone who played the Squaresoft JRPG that was never released in Europe Xenogears playing on his PSP… (by the way a wonderful PS1 game and one of the most brilliant stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience in a video game!)
Granted, my adventure with the Play Station Portable has only just begun, and perhaps it’s too early for me to really pass judgment on whether or not the console is worth it for JRPG fans. Regardless, I’ve grown quite fond of my pink one from the flea market and look forward to the many more games I’ll play on it. After Tales of Eternia I still have Breath of Fire 3, Crisis Core, Final Fantasy II, Phantasy Star Portable and Ys The Ark of Napishtim to play. Whether I’ll ever get my hands on affordable copies of Trails in the Sky, Ys Seven, and the two Star Ocean remakes, though, is still up in the stars…
How does it look for you? Do you have or did you have a PSP? What have you played on it? Are you guys going to get another one and if so, for which games? Feel free to let me know in the comments!
The next issue of the Grinder’s Guide will be more about the games themselves and less about a player, because 2019 will be over soon and so it’s time for a JRPG year in review again! The term "once again" implies some regularity, although so far I’ve only written a review like this in 2016… But in the future I’ll try not to skip any more years!
Also check out my older Grinder’s Guides here at!