New life for the PSP

Quite a long time ago, close to when we decided I would stay home, my wife gifted me a PSP. Sony’s first mainstream handheld, it was a technological marvel. It had a screen larger than some current smartphones, a disc-loader reminiscent of a minidisc and all the goodness of the Playstation brand. Eight years later or so I still find it to be a wonderful piece of technology, but the gaming world has left it behind for the most part. Two revisions would follow, and the platform replaced with Vita in 2012.

There is still a massive library of UMD-based PSP games to choose from though, and I was trying to figure out how to best play them. You see, my first model PSP didn’t get the improvements of the 2000 and 3000 series, such as a thinner body and most importantly more memory. More RAM leads to faster loading times, and less time spinning that disc. I can certainly buy digital versions from the Playstation Store, however not all games are there and they are generally more expensive. I was faced with possibly upgrading to a newer model and losing what made my PSP special – it’s status as a gift.

I was re-introduced to the idea of custom firmware the other day. I know all about hacking and modding consoles, and had heard about the concept on the PSP as well. CFW is often associated with pirating games, unfortunately, and carries a bit of a stigma. In my case though, I could use it to my advantage – bypassing the disc drive. By loading the games on a memory stick, I reduce noise and battery use while speeding load times by using flash memory instead of the optical drive. In my case, I am using the games I own instead of trying to download them illegally. The process was extremely easy, something you can find online with a search. I loaded the CFW, and then hooked the PSP up to my computer to copy the disc images. Once a large memory card comes in, I can then load all those games onto one memory stick: an added bonus of not having to keep up with the discs. As I add additional games that aren’t available digitally or are cheaper on disc, I’ll rip them to my computer as well. The UMD file sizes are at most around 1GB or so, that’s at least 30 games I can fit on this memory I have ordered – more than I currently have. My PSP should be very useful well into the second decade of ownership, and much more used than it has been previously. Something I was considering selling has now been seriously upgraded for free, thanks to custom firmware.

Long live the PSP!

Wii U – The U stands for Underrated

I bought a Wii a few years ago (2007?) and while it had some initial appeal it was quickly relegated to third-tier status behind my PS3 and the workhorse, the Xbox 360. All of my multi-platform games went on the 360 and exclusives went to the other two. The Wii though was hardly played. That started changing a bit when my kids learned how to play, and now it gets regular use.

I had only paid lip service to the next generation of consoles, mostly because I have a huge backlog of games still to get through. The Xbox One and PS4 as of this time do not offer backward compatibility, so there is no point in buying them right now. Perhaps at time of the first price cut or a really good sale. The Wii U didn’t really interest me due to the lack of playing time I gave the Wii. However with the way my kids and I have been enjoying Mario Kart Wii, and Mario Kart 8 coming out, I was starting to get interested. A good price presented itself one day and I picked up a Deluxe version (black, more memory, game included).

What pushed me initially to the Wii U was the backward compatibility along with MK8. After I got it home I discovered some pretty cool things about it. I thought the tablet controller was a dumb idea until I realized I could play certain games solely on it and not the TV screen. I utilized this yesterday playing Super Mario while the kids played Kinect on the TV. I like that all the Wii accessories I have work with it.

I’m a bit disappointed that really one one pad works with the console. It would have been cool to have a couple. Very disappointed that the Wii games, particularly the Virtual Console older games won’t work without paying an upgrade fee. Really? Also disappointed that MK8 apparently won’t work with five players. You’ve got that second screen, why not? I wish there was an attachment to play 3DS/DS games like the Gamecube had. They’ve missed a nice tie-in and install base with their strong handhelds.

You’d want this for what Nintendo does best – Nintendo IPs. Mario. Kirby. Yoshi. For those, this console has it’s place. It’s not going to be a strong contender for multi-platform titles. It’s still going to be a bit gimmicky, but at least some of the motion controls are being put to the background.

Now Playing – 05.21.14

Might try to do this once a week or twice a month, depending on how often things change.

Music: The Black Keys, Minus the Bear, The Crystal Method

Games: Mario Kart DS, Splinter Cell Blacklist

Books: Timebound (The Chronos Files, Book One), Casino Royale

Last movie: X2