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Defunct Games Vs.
Defunct Games vs. Sony PSP Launch
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 23, 2011   |   Episode 8 (Show Archive)  

   

Sony isn't the first company to go after Nintendo's handheld juggernaut. Over the past two decades we've seen some of the strongest game companies in the world go toe-to-toe with the Game Boy, including the

I don't think that's how you're supposed to use the PSP!
likes of Sega, Atari, Bandai, SNK and NEC. But they all failed. Some were more successful than others, but none were able to last long enough to see their sixth anniversary.

Tomorrow marks the PSP's sixth birthday, a staggering accomplishment given the history of portable game systems. In that time Sony has managed to sell close to 70 million units and become the dominant force in Japanese role-playing games. It may not have beaten its competition, but it also wasn't pushed off the market. That's more than I can say about the Lynx, Game Gear, TurboExpress, WonderSwan or Neo Geo Pocket Color.

Defunct Games is ready to celebrate the sixth anniversary by going back in time and reviewing all 17 launch titles. Do any of these games still hold up? What do they say about the early days of the PSP? And seriously, who let the apes loose? Join us as we get to the bottom of these questions and more in the match up you've been waiting for: Defunct Games vs. The PSP's Launch!

Ape Escape: On the Loose
[ Release: 2005 - Company: Sony - Genre: Action ]




When it was first released, Ape Escape was the showpiece for Sony's DualShock controller. The idea was to teach gamers how to use both analog sticks at once, something that was uncharted territory in the mid-1990s. Using Ape Escape to introduce the PSP is a smart move, but all it did was remind me that I'm using a handheld with only one analog stick. It would be one thing if this was a completely different Ape Escape, a new title that takes advantage of the PSP's limited hardware. But it's not. This is an updated port of the original Ape Escape, the game that required a dual analog stick control. The game is playable with the new control scheme, but it's not the same. Thankfully the ape's charm shines through; however it wasn't enough to make me recommend this disappointing port. This is a system launch, a time to put your best foot forward. Reminding your customers that your brand new hardware has limitations is not the way to do that.

Darkstalkers Chronicles: The Chaos Tower
[ Release: 2005 - Company: Capcom - Genre: Fighting ]




Darkstalkers may not be Capcom's highest profile franchise, but it holds its own as the lone fighting game at the PSP's launch. The Chaos Tower is a UMD compilation of the first three Darkstalkers games -- including The Night Warriors, Vampire Hunter and Vampire Savior. The game's stylish artwork and animation shines on here the PSP's screen, making this the must-own collection for Darkstalker fans. As a longtime fan of the series, I was happy that Capcom finally gave this somewhat obscure franchise some love. It's a shame it didn't lead to something bigger and better (like Darkstalkers 4), but I'm happy to have all three of these games in one cohesive package. If there's anything to complain about, it's the PSP's inadequate D-pad. The solution came with an aftermarket part that you glued to the D-pad, but most gamers were able to get used to the pad without having to buy anything extra. Perhaps one day Capcom will finally get around to making another chapter, until then we have Darkstalkers Chronicles: The Chaos Tower.

Dynasty Warriors
[ Release: 2005 - Company: Koei - Genre: Action ]




Koei is definitely reliable. When it comes to their large stable of games, this Japanese company opted for the predictable -- Dynasty Warriors. In news that won't surprise you in the least, Dynasty Warriors on the PSP is exactly like its console counterparts. The game is set in ancient China and involves a whole lot of hacking and slashing. This PSP version opts for bite-size levels, effectively breaking up the action for on-the-go play. That's not a bad idea, but the end result is a lot of annoying load screens and a few pacing issues. Even with the smaller stages, Dynasty Warriors manages to duplicate the feel of a large battle, which is the whole point of this series. Still, I found the game's repetitive gameplay to grate on my nerves after a while. It's fun to smack down a dozen enemies in one combo, but once you've done that a few hundred times it starts to feel more like work. Fans of the series will get exactly what they expect out of Dynasty Warriors, everybody else should play something better.

Gretzky NHL
[ Release: 2005 - Company: Sony - Genre: Sports ]


And so it begins. As if to sabotage an otherwise solid launch line-up, Sony brings us three of their very worst sports games. In all fairness, I've never been a big fan of sports games. But even though I may not play every hockey game, I know the fundamentals of a good game. Gretzky NHL does not have those fundamentals. The gameplay is sloppy, the graphics are sub-par and there aren't enough modes to keep a single-player's interest. And we haven't even gotten into the unacceptable frame rate, which often dips into single digits. The PSP's screen makes it difficult to find and keep track of the puck, plus it's much too difficult to penetrate the goalie. The whole thing is a frustrating mess of a game, the type of thing you should avoid at all cost. Gretzky NHL is easily the PSP's launch line-up.

Metal Gear Ac!d
[ Release: 2005 - Company: Konami - Genre: Strategy ]




Of the launch line-up, Metal Gear Ac!d is certainly the most controversial. It's not the bizarre storyline (which involves evil puppets) or the lack of mastermind Hideo Kojima. Instead it's the caustic change in gameplay. We've gone from playing a third-person stealth action game to learning the rules of ... a card battling strategy game? It turns out that Konami had a thing or two up its sleeves. Metal Gear Ac!d attempts to combine the world of card battling with stealth action. The result is mixed, ultimately creating a Final Fantasy Tactics-style action game with oddly familiar characters. Even though the game is radically different from Snake's past outings, Konami has done an excellent job recreating the look and feel of Metal Gear. It's easy to get sucked into the Metal Gear fiction and completely forget that you're using cards to move key characters. All told, this is probably the last Metal Gear game you should buy on the PSP (after Peace Walker, Portable Ops and Ac!d 2), but it's still worth recommending. It's a game that delights in being a niche title, and for that I love it even more!

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