I have been playing PSP games a lot these days. The cold Winter weather forces me to stay inside with a warm blanket, so I've been catching up on niche releases such as Ragnarok Tactics and Elminage in between work, social calls, and naps. Sadly, I have been underwhelmed by these two digital releases so far. The beautiful artwork in both games convinced me I must play them, but I should have researched the titles a bit more before my purchase.
Elminage is an oldschool dungeon crawler. While I don't have any real objections to that, I wish UFO Interactive (the publisher) would have spent more time with the translation. It is half ass beyond belief. Races of characters are mixed up, some explanations for quests make no sense, and the digital instruction manual is almost worthless. The game is fun, but it needs more polish. I also bought the game for play on Vita, however beware: YOU CANNOT IMPORT FACES INTO THIS VERSION. The game reads face data from the PSP picture folder, but due to Sony's memory card lockout, you cannot access this directory on your Vita. I wish I would have known this before I bought it since this customization feature was important to me. Also, I am curious why a later Elminage game was not localized since apparently everything was vastly improved in the sequels.
Ragnarok Tactics is a cool looking strategy RPG spawned as offshoot to the popular MMORPG. The game has nice art and music, but overall there is a strong sense of blandness in the battle system and narrative as all of the characters tend to talk way too long. I prefer a more concise story with an emphasis on tactical strategy. I need a new Ogre Tactics, but in the mean time I will be playing Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time not this $24.99 dud. (On the bright side, the Western UMD release has a really pretty cover.)
Things are not all grim. Since my PSP has custom firmware, I can play some cool stuff that was not localized. One Japanese series that I have been to curious to try is the Idolmaster series. The games look interesting, and have a huge following overseas. Luckily, a translation group has made an English patch for Idolmaster SP.
Idolmaster SP is a "raising sim" where the player manages a young pop star's journey toward super stardom. The story mode is where I have spent most of my time, and it feels fairly robust with three potential characters to choose from. The game is pretty fun if you like Visual Novels or music games, because it feels like a mix of both. My only gripe thus far is that the requirements for ranking up seem too demanding sometimes, as managing her schedule and finding time to audition are quite difficult. Overall, I think this is an interesting game that should appeal to anyone that likes J-pop or unusual games. I think this game could have found an audience in the US if marketed properly, but Japanese game developers don't like to do that these days...
PSP releases in the US are coming to an end as only a rumored Generation of Chaos game and possibly Black Rock Shooter remain on the TBA calendar for 2014.
I think the PSP will be remembered as a nice alternative to the Nintendo DS with a very niche library of games that was ultimately overlooked by most gamers. Japan still has plenty of PSP games waiting for release, but I am sure they will not be localized as the Vita is gaining ground in the West while the PSP is regulated to forgotten hardware status. I wish the PSP was more successful yet many gems were left in Japan much to the chagrin of Western gamers. Here are ten games that should have been localized:
1. Yakuza Portable
2. Final Fantasy Type 0
3. 7th Dragon 2020
4. Valkyrie Chronicles 3
5. Bleach Heat the Soul series
6. Initial D
7. Steins ; Gate
9. Akiba's Trip
10. Hatsune Miku series
Come on fan translators, get to work on Final Fantasy Type 0 at least. Square Enix is far too busy releasing shit no one asked for to actually localize a great game and make tons of money.