Parallel Universe Gaming: The 7th-Gen PSP Ports We Never Got

Parallel Universe Gaming: The 7th-Gen PSP Ports We Never Got

The PSP was a weird console. Underappreciated in its time, it bridged the gap between Sony’s goliath PS2 and its infamously late-blooming PS3. This meant that not only did some of the games from the PS2 era get translated to the handheld, we also saw some of the games from the PS3 get a port, or a different handheld version. This meant that games made for much beefier hardware were being retrofitted to work on Sony’s lightweight system. Assassin’s Creed, LittleBigPlanet and Dante’s Inferno, to name a small few, all received charmingly faithful handheld adaptations on the PSP, and it’s interesting to see what concessions were made to make those games work on the more limited hardware. 

But, what about the ones that didn’t? How would some of the most beloved games from the early 7th Generation fare when squeezed on a handheld from 2004? I’ve picked out six games from 2007-2009 which never got a PSP port, and I’ll be reaching into some alternate dimensions to see how those ports would look. 

 

Dead Space

An image depicting the cover and gameplay of a PSP Version of Dead Space

If you’ve been keeping an eye on gaming news as of late, you’ll no doubt have seen the name Dead Space knocking around a lot more than usual. That’s because a new entry in the once-dormant sci-fi horror franchise is the latest product out of the Internet’s rumour mill. But, what about the franchise’s early days? Dead Space, evidently not based on the 1991 movie of the same name, released in 2008 to rapturous applause from the gaming community. However, despite EA making Dead Space a multimedia franchise with comics, movies, countless franchise crossovers and a Wii spinoff, it never came to PSP.

That’s not, however, to say that we never got a handheld reimagining of EA’s spooky space adventure. Dead Space received a mobile title in 2011 after support for the PSP had largely waned. While Dead Space Mobile served largely as a side game to Dead Space 2, we can use it to make an educated guess as to what a PSP Dead Space might’ve looked like: a third-person affair with the series’ iconic atmosphere still mostly intact. Like the mobile game, this version would probably seek to tell a side-story within the Dead Space universe as opposed to directly adapting Isaac Clarke’s splice-y shenanigans. Dead Space: Descent, as I’ve called it in my mock-up, would’ve likely pinched a leaf from the Resistance: Retribution tree and used the face buttons to aim in lieu of a second control stick. 

Devil May Cry 4

An image depicting the cover and gameplay of a PSP Version of Devil May Cry 4

Blast off! Capcom’s big, bombastic hack n’ slash series has been going strong on consoles for years, but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to play the games on a portable console until the original trilogy was ported to the Switch. This is despite a strong handful of genre peers, such as God of War and Dante’s Inferno, proving that hack n’ slash can be done on PSP with flying colours. 

DMC4 released in 2008, prime time for a port – so what might that have looked like? Like Dead Space, it’s likely that not much would be lost in the translation to PSP.  Especially since camera control in these games isn’t as important, so the PSP’s single stick wouldn’t be much of an issue here. The room-clearing, ranked gameplay almost seems perfectly suited to the quick gameplay bursts encouraged by the PSP’s form factor. Capcom didn’t seem to have much interest in bringing their AAA heavy-hitters to the PSP, opting instead to represent their more retro franchises, like Mega Man and Street Fighter.

Burnout: Paradise

An image depicting the cover and gameplay of a PSP Version of Burnout Paradise

Racing games were one of the genres in which the PSP really excelled. So many great racers came out from the most iconic racing game series. This included Burnout, which got two games on the PSP. Both of these, Legends and Dominator, stuck to the series’ comfort zone perfected in the wonderful Burnout 3: Takedown. However, in 2008 the final proper game in the crash-tastic racing franchise gave the series a new lease on life by placing it in an open world setting. Paradise had non-linear races that took advantage of the titular Paradise City – this proved massively successful, but unfortunately this success was never brought to the PSP. 

While EA were still supporting the PSP with their Need For Speed franchise right up until 2009, Burnout seemed to have been left by the roadside. If Paradise did get a PSP version, it might be easy to assume that the less powerful hardware would limit the game to linear races like the older games in the series. However, this wouldn’t have to be the case. If we look at the likes of Midnight Club 3 and Test Drive: Unlimited, those games had fully-realised versions of the original open worlds playable in the PSP version. It’d likely have been developed by the now-defunct EA Bright Light, devs of Dominator before it, and could’ve even used the engine from that game modified to support open-world play. The huge original map might’ve needed to be shrunk down a little, and the graphics would’ve certainly taken a hit. Overall, however, the potential was there for a near console-perfect handheld port of Burnout Paradise years before the Switch was a glimmer in Yoshiaki Koizumi’s eye. 

Mirror’s Edge

An image depicting the cover and gameplay of a PSP Version of Mirror's Edge

Another 2008 EA title, Mirror’s Edge took the FPS formula, landing-rolled it on its head, and threw a bunch of red and white paint at it. Focusing more on sleek parkour movement and less on combat, Mirror’s Edge was a breath of fresh air in a sea of muddy, brown shooters. The PSP did not really do first-person games. There are a few on the system, but the controls generally don’t work as well as they do on a standard controller, mostly due to the PSP’s lack of a second analog stick. It makes sense, then, that EA/Dice didn’t attempt to squeeze this game, which requires skilful movement in an FPS environment, onto Sony’s handheld. A page on Unseen64 does seem to indicate that a PSP Mirror’s Edge was considered at one point, but this must not have ever left the concept phase.

However, there are ways it could have happened. Firstly, Mirror’s Edge did actually get a handheld version; not for the PSP, but for iOS devices, much like the aforementioned Dead Space iOS port. Mirror’s Edge for iOS did a valiant job of translating Mirror’s Edge’s movement into a side-scrolling affair that took advantage of the touch screen. The swipe controls could translate well into the PSP’s limited button layout, and the quick, short levels would lend themselves brilliantly to the PSP’s pick-up-and-play nature. So, maybe an expanded version of the iOS game with more levels, a richer story and deeper progression would’ve been what we saw. 

Skate

An image depicting the cover and gameplay of a PSP Version of Skate

EA were really busy during this time period, huh? The first entry into EA’s Skate series was a little rough in comparison to its more polished sequels. Despite this, Skate injected new life into the stagnating extreme sports genre by introducing a more grounded, realistic gameplay style. The FlickIt system, which saw players utilising both analog sticks to perform tricks, made players feel, more than ever, like they were actually skating and was essential to the Skate experience. So, how could this possibly translate to the one-sticked PSP? Even the infamous “nub” stick probably wouldn’t be capable of capturing the precision of a fully-fledged analog stick. So, how would a Skate game on the PSP work?

My suggestion? Buttons! Glorious, good old-fashioned buttons. The PSP has at least six of those! Perhaps the PSP version could take influence from the Thrasher: Skate & Destroy playbook, employing a grounded and complex button control system which maintains Skate’s immersive realism while still remaining intuitive on the PSP console. The spin-off Skate It makes use of various benefits of the Wii, DS and iOS, but the PSP’s comparatively barebones control functionality mean that buttons would probably be the way to go. Maybe a PSP Skate would also share the Skate It branding, or perhaps it’d be pegged as a more straight port of the original game. 

Resident Evil 5

An image depicting the cover and gameplay of a PSP Version of Resident Evil 5

The Resident Evil series has been a PlayStation staple since the first game released for the original PlayStation in 1996. Not only that, but the classic survival horror franchise has received an entry on most major gaming systems including the DS, Wii, and the obviously-popular Zeebo. So, what the hell happened with the PSP?! In spite of Capcom’s lasting support for the PSP system, the Resident Evil games were woefully underrepresented on Sony’s little machine, save for some digital-only emulations of the PS1 games. There was a PSP RE game announced at a 2009 press conference, confirmed to be a whole new game designed for that system, but that obviously never happened. 

I’ve gone for the divisive Resident Evil 5 here, since it fits in with the time period of my other game choices, but that game honestly might not be the best choice. Maybe a smaller, more classic-influenced spin-off akin to RE5’s Lost In Nightmares DLC would be a better choice for the more intimate experience offered by the PSP. A RE5 PSP spin-off could’ve ditched the co-op action and zoned in on the series’ horror roots, and might’ve even potentially ended up with a better reception than its big console brother. No right analog stick for camera controls? No problem – just get those classic fixed camera angles, or a half-decent lock-on system would do as well. 

 

Those were six PSP ports from a parallel dimension – should I have left them there or do you wish you could play them? What other games might’ve been cool to see on the PSP? Leave your thoughts in the comments! Also, why not check out our YouTube channel?

Also, if you like the PSP, you probably like shorter games – we did a list of the best ones here!

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