Sony's NGP Reveal - Weekly Recommendations 31/01 – 06/02
Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
From what we saw last week, The NGP (New Generation Portable), the successor to the PSP, is far more impressive than its unimaginative, and hopefully temporary, name would suggest.
At its Tokyo event last week, Sony finally presented their new portable to the press. Larger than its predecessors, it boasts a high resolution, touch sensitive screen, dual analogue sticks, tilt controls and a touch sensitive back panel. As expected, Sony has done away with the UMD format and will use a new digital storage device. WiFi is built in, and some models will include 3G connectivity.
Sony has claimed that the NGP is as powerful as the PS3, though journalists who played the new device reported that the games don’t quite stack up to the home console in the visual department.
There is already an impressive line-up of games, including Uncharted, a small portion of which was available to play. However, it is not clear if this is to be a port or an original adventure. Screen shots of the portable’s dashboard suggest the inclusion of trophies, so my trophy addiction will be able to follow me outside of the living room.
The NGP is due this Christmas in Japan. As of yet Sony has given no indication of price.
With the PSP2 now very much real, let’s take a look at the best of the PSP. Here are my three recommendations for the best games on Sony’s original portable.
1. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – PSP (2008)
Headlined by Dirge of Cerberus and Final Fantasy Advent Children, and including Before Crisis and Last Order, the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII was rather underwhelming. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy was the notable exception.
Crisis Core is a prequel to FFVII, telling the story of Zack, the spiky haired solider whose life Cloud subconsciously appropriates in FFVII. It features a number of familiar faces from Square’s classic, including Cloud, Aeris, Sephiroth and Tseng, shedding light on their motivations and relationships. However, Crisis Core is more than just fan service, being an action packed and visually arresting title that is easy to recommend to FF veterans and newcomers alike.
More action orientated than its name-sake, the player assumes control of Zack alone, guiding him through open areas, towns and dungeons, interacting with NPCs, undertaking side missions and battling through a varied bestiary in real-time combat. The story is typical Final Fantasy, with a real tear-jerker of an ending that leads straight into FFVII. There was only one way the story could end, as Zack’s fate was predetermined by the events of VII, but your journey towards that final moment is full of twists and turns that will delight any RPG enthusiast.
2. Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops – PSP (2006)
One of the first PSP games to demonstrate the breadth and ambition of a home console AAA title, Portable Ops sits comfortably alongside its big brothers. The first canonical MGS game on the PSP, it picks up the story of Big Boss six years after the events of MGS3: Snake Eater and successfully replicates, with a few tweaks, the stealth based gameplay of its predecessors. Quite an achievement for a portable title developed rather early in the PSP’s life cycle. Along with a convoluted storyline, a series staple, it successfully transfers the MGS experience from the living room to the palm of your hand.
Featuring the standard colourful cast of soldiers and freaks, faces old and new, what most sets it apart from its brethren is the Comrade System, a squad based approach that sees Big Boss use his charisma, and a tranquilizer gun, to head-hunt specialists to join the ever expanding ranks of his private army. These additions can be deployed mid-level as and when their unique skills are needed, and WiFi hotspots can be tapped to randomly generate new recruits. This becomes a game in itself and you will soon find yourself scouring areas for potential recruits, and pulling out your PSP at regular intervals when out and about to check for new WiFi hotspots. You gotta catch them all!
The success of Portable Ops paved the way for MGS Peace Walker (which I’m currently working my way through), and proved to developers that the PSP could play host to big budget franchises, usually the reserve of home consoles.
3. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions – PSP (2007)
I try to abstain from repetition in my Weekly Recommendations, but in this case it is unavoidable. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of The Lions is my favourite PSP game, an updated and polished port of the PlayStation original, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave it off this list, despite having recommended it earlier this year in its original PS form. I toyed with including God of War: Chains of Olympus in its place, but for now Kratos will have to take a backseat to Ramza and Delita.
The War of the Lions features new characters, including Balthier from FFXII, two extra classes, a handful of new episodes, a wireless multiplayer component, and eye-catching cel-shaded cut scenes that remain the most appealing visuals I have seen on the PSP. For a breakdown of the history and charms of the original Tactics, see my 03/01 Weekly Recommendations.