Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December PSP Game AVALANCHE!

Look out, here they coooome!!

Capcom Classic Collection Reloaded

This looks incredible on a PSP-3000.
Seriously, you have no idea. 
Looking back, 2006 was a damn fine year for retro gamers. It was the exact moment in gaming history when home systems were capable of perfect emulation of more advanced arcade hardware, yet just before the rise of online game marketplaces and the nickel and diming that quickly followed. This resulted in incredibly generous game compilations like Capcom Classic Collection Reloaded. This disc features two dozen arcade hits for around thirty bucks, the sale of the century when you consider that games like this are often sold on Xbox Live for five dollars a pop.

Compared to its predecessor Capcom Classics Collection Remixed, the games in Reloaded are more predictable and less eclectic. There are no underground hits like Black Tiger; just iconic Capcom series like 194x, Ghosts 'n Goblins, and Street Fighter II, all presented exactly as you remember them and looking gorgeous on the PSP-3000's dazzling display. Reloaded has a more sterile interface than its predecessor which further detracts from its personality, but that will hardly matter to you if you're just here for the games... and boy does Reloaded deliver in that department. This is an absolute must for anyone who set foot in an arcade back in the 1990s. 


EA Replay

Ricky Coogin is... Ghost Dude!
"Boo, dude!"
Everyone was making classic collections in 2006, so why not Electronic Arts? HERE'S why not. EA pioneered the concept of the disposable video game with the John Madden Football series and had earned a reputation as a maker of precisely two things in the 1990s... sports games and kusoge. Half their games were obsolete in a year and the other half had no business existing at all. If any publisher SHOULDN'T be making a classic collection, it's Electronic flippin' Arts. 

Yet here it is anyway, full of forgettable originals and ill-conceived console adaptations of PC titles like Wing Commander and Ultima (the Super NES port by Pony Canyon, no less. You monsters!). Each game has the original credits hastily replaced with a generic copyright notice, and several have other weird alterations, like the soundtracks in all three Road Rash games being swapped for some royalty-free heavy metal EA must have found in a quick Google search. EA Replay is worth the price of admission just for the Road Rash trilogy and the hard-as-nails Strike series, but everything else will leave you as cold as the heart of the EA exec who greenlit it.


Activision Hits

Can't... stop... playing!
Don't... know... why! 
There's nothing thrilling about this collection, really. I mean, you get about thirty games from the classic Activision library, but they're all very old games for the Atari 2600, and they're not exactly packed with depth. However, throw in some chart-topping, toe-tapping hits from the 1980s, and the experience turns into a compulsion, like digging to the bottom of a bag of potato chips. You're not really aware of what you're doing, and fifteen minutes later, you're left with greasy hands and a nagging sense of shame. You'll find yourself playing Activision Hits (most likely the better games in the collection like Megamania, HERO, and Beamrider) without even understanding why, nodding your head to Nobody Walks in L. A. while picking off UFOs, spare tires, tarantulas, or whatever silly thing the programmers throw at you. There's no real point beyond unlocking badges by earning seemingly impossible high scores, but it's a good way to burn away a few spare minutes you'd otherwise spend wiping sour cream and chives out of your mustache. 


Resistance: Retribution 

Horrifying abominations await in every
corner of Resistance: Retribution. 
The PSP honestly isn't cut out for first and third person shooters... it's got too few buttons and too many hardware limitations to get the job done. Having said that, Bend Studio (they of Uncharted: Golden Abyss fame) has done a tremendous job of squeezing the Playstation 3 favorite Resistance onto the PSP. The game, best described as a head-on collision between World War 2 and an H. R. Giger nightmare, is one of the best looking titles on the system, approaching Vita quality with its detailed character models and ravaged battlefields. But that ain't all, folks! You get satisfying shoot 'em up action to go with your window dressing. The control is contextualized to make up for the PSP's lack of buttons and the way your crosshairs are magnetized to each enemy takes some of the challenge out of the otherwise enjoyable gameplay. Nevertheless, Resistance is one of the high points of the PSP library, impressively stretching the boundaries of its host system. 


Namco Museum Battle Collection

Don't play this one. Seriously. 
Ms. Pac-Man. Galaga. Dig Dug. Is there anything else you need to know? 

Well, there are a few other details worth pointing out. The emulation of these games and a dozen others is much better than it had been in previous Namco Museum releases, without the shrunken sprites that made the Pac-Man games such a bummer on the Playstation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast. Each game looks kingly on the PSP-3000, even titles like The Tower of Druaga which kept Japan spellbound for decades but will be lucky to hold your attention for more than a few minutes. Then there are the arrangements, modern sequels to Namco's arcade hits that don't hold a candle to their thirty year old ancestors. Frankly, they're not even as good as the arrangements that appeared in Namco Museum for the Playstation 2 and XBox, but look on the bright side! At least the time you won't be spending with them can be better invested in trying to kill that blasted Andro Angenesis in Xevious! 


Burnout Legends 

This is the one game no PSP fan should be without,
Feel the burn, baby! 
racing fan or no. It's not quite up to speed with its console counterpart Burnout 3: Takedown thanks to less impressive graphics and stages from the first two games that aren't a good fit for Legends' more aggressive, less technical play style. However, start a "quick" Road Rage match and it'll take the jaws of life to rip that PSP out of your hands. Nothing is more intense than shoving your rivals into guardrails, off bridges, and into medians, hoping to heaven that they won't come back to return the favor. The lush colors leap off the screen (in sharp contrast with the grittier sequel Burnout Dominator) and the sense of speed is utterly mesmerizing. Pop this game into your system and leave the real world in the dust! 


Motorstorm: Arctic Edge

Motorstorm's brand of over the top and slightly
Jeeps versus rally cars? Oooohkay... 
slippery racing action comes to the PSP, looking as beautiful as ever but lacking the consistency or the compulsive gameplay that makes Burnout Legends the king of handheld driving titles. Rather than a single class of vehicle, competitors bring anything they can find to each race, from compact snowmobiles and motorcycles to mammoth snowplows. You could argue that this gives Motorstorm variety, but some of the vehicle types are excessively bulky and don't handle as well as others, leaving the player at a disadvantage. 

Another issue is the computer opponents' tendency to start out strong but lose interest in the race halfway through. In the beginning, you'll struggle to keep up with the rest of the pack, but by the second lap, you'll be well ahead of the other racers. Motorstorm is fun in its own quirky way, with lots of dips and hills in each track to keep the action unpredictable. Nevertheless, there's no shortage of great racing games on the PSP, and Arctic Edge struggles to compete in a very crowded field. 



One reviewer dismissed Dariusburst as "forgettably
Here, fishie fishie! 
competant," but that's selling the game short. While it may not measure up to the best games in the series like Sagaia and G-Darius, it's a strong shooter in its own right, demonstrating a great deal more care and craftsmanship than Taito's other PSP sequel Bust A Move Deluxe. 

For the most part, Dariusburst is familiar territory. Steel-plated sealife pours out from the edges of the screen, and you blast it, collecting the power up orbs left in its wake. The polygon-powered graphics are better than ever and the Zuntata soundtrack is even stranger than ever (no small feat), but what distinguishes Dariusburst from its predecessors is that you're armed with the kind of all-consuming laser blast that bosses have vaporized you with for decades. Just blast a few dozen enemies to charge it up, then let 'er rip, clearing a path through minor foes and putting the hurt on the larger ones. 

As mentioned earlier, Dariusburst isn't the best game in the series. Surprises are in limited supply and the game is a little on the easy side, letting you keep your power ups once you've been destroyed and even topping off your Burst meter as a bonus. Having said that, Dariusburst is a perfectly entertaining shmup, and you'll have a hell of a time finding a better one designed especially for the PSP. "Forgettably competent," my foot. 


Bust A Move Deluxe

I had an adverse reaction to this game when I first
Blah. Blah! Bleech. 
played it, but after a few hours, I can see what the developers were trying to accomplish with it. It's a Halloween-themed Puzzle Bobble game, with spooky backgrounds and theme music. The theme isn't expressed particularly well, but it's as good a setting as any after more than a decade of Bust A Move titles. 

That's the problem with this game, though... after ten years, there's really no place to take Bub and Bob, and the developers are scared to try. When Taito changes the art style, the fans violently reject the new look (as well they should, in the case of the rubbery Super Bust A Move). When they experiment with the gameplay, it's no longer as fun as the original. So Taito took the straight and narrow with Deluxe, adding a dozen completely optional (and mostly obnoxious) play styles, but keeping everything else familiar. And predictable. And boring. It's Bust A Move at its most timid. 

If you're looking for a quick and dirty bubble popping fix, BAM Deluxe will do the job, but the discriminating puzzle addict should stick with the exceptional Bust A Move 2 or the touch-enhanced Bust A Move DS instead. 


(Images culled from multiple online sources.)


  1. Wow, you weren't kidding when you recently said that you bought a ton of PSP games! Sadly, I'd only be interested in two of the ones you talk about here: Namco Museum and Dariusburst. Didn't you also get the Darkstalkers compilation?

    1. Sure did! I bought that from the PSN store several months earlier, and covered it in detail for Oktober-Fist, so I didn't feel it was necessary to cover it again. Good game, though! Nice to have it on UMD (with the case and instructions!) just in case.

    2. Ah, yes, I remember your Oktober-Fist post(s). What a great name, BTW :)