Not so long ago many within the industry were sharpening their quills to pen the demise of Sony’s Playstation Portable console.
What a different a few months – and one E3 – can make.
This year’s show might go down in history as the one where Microsoft dazzled everyone with its ‘virtual child’ Milo or where Nintendo put Mario’s name back in the public consciousness, but for portable gamers it will be remembered for the greatest comeback since Lazarus – the PSP has returned from the brink of collapse to assert itself as one of the formats to watch over the next 12 months.
As well as the promise of new hardware in the form of the PSPgo, Sony’s mobile marvel has received a life-saving transfusion of triple-A games that arguably overshadow anything that Nintendo has in store for its DS platform.
Gran Turismo PSP – largely considered to be vapourware thanks to its withdrawal from public view since it was announced (alongside the PSP itself) way back in 2005 – is now back with a vengeance and looking impressively good. Due for release at the same time as the shiny new PSPgo, it may well be the killer app that sells the (arguably overpriced) hardware to speed-hungry gamers the world over.
Granted, the DS may have the ever-popular Mario Kart DS but as any fans of the series will tell you, Gran Turismo is an entirely different proposition. If Polyphony Digital can create a respectable portable facsimile of the ridiculously in-depth home console versions then this could end up being the most advanced driving title ever to be released on a mobile format.
But we’ve had years to get excited about the potential of Gran Turismo PSP. Konami’s freshly-announced Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, on the other hand, is an entirely new concept to get all giddy over. This truly remarkable PSP release has done the unthinkable by effectively stealing the thunder of the next home console outing (entitled Metal Gear Solid: Rising) which was also confirmed at E3.
MGS: Rising made the headlines thanks to the fact that it’s the first time that Konami’s premier franchise has made the jump to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console, but series creator Hideo Kojima revealed that he’s having little input into its creation. He feels that Peace Walker is the next ‘true’ game in the long-running franchise and will be personally overseeing its development, which means that true Solid Snake fans will be focusing their attention on the PSP instalment as opposed to its next-gen big brother.
Elsewhere, Capcom announced its ‘surprise’ game in the form of Resident Evil Portable for the PSP. In a feature we ran recently, Resident Evil was one of ten titles Pocket Gamer wants to see on the PSP. It’s nice to know that someone, somewhere is listening.
Such a move marks a significant change of heart for the Japanese veteran. Recently, the firm seemed to have lost faith in the platform (despite the huge sacks of gold generated by the PSP iterations of the Monster Hunter series), with development on Devil May Cry PSP having been abandoned.
Clearly, Sony’s newfound commitment to the platform was enough to convince Capcom to pour a little more of its resources into PSP development. And just in case the notion of being chased by ravenous zombies and chomping down herbs in order to rejuvenate yourself doesn’t enthuse, bear in mind that this is being pitched as an all-new Resi adventure (rather than one of those tiresome remakes that that Capcom is so fond of producing these days).
Finally, we have Ubisoft’s ambitious Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, which isn’t going to leap off the development spire and touch down until later this year but has us shuffling around in expectation as we type.
True, the home console original had its issues, but is likely to be fondly remembered as something of a flawed masterpiece. For the PSP iteration, connectivity with the PS3 version is promised, although we hope that the developer can cook up something a little more imaginative than unlockable extras between now and November.
Add these E3 announcements to the likes of LittleBigPlanet, Tekken 6, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, F1 2009 and Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, and suddenly the PSP looks like a rock-solid contender for the handheld crown.
And who would have thought that a scant few months ago?