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Roleplaying Games for Handhelds - PSP
Mike 'txa1265' Anderson, 2006-01-18

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When Sony launched the Playstation Portable, many assumed that Nintendo was doomed. Here was a system with better-than-Playstation graphics compared to the DS 'almost-N64' capabilities. Add to that the UMD-based movie player and other multimedia features, it seemed like an easy assumption that Sony would dominate the handheld market just as they did the console market. Of course, what has ensued is a much more interesting competition between the handhelds, with Nintendo releasing unique and interesting games and sequels to other handheld games, while the PSP has largely seen console ports. Since there are lots of RPG's on the PS2, it seems an easy bet the PSP will get a good amount of RPG's as well. To date the results have not been stellar, but there have been some decent games worth checking out.

In this article I will go through the titles that have been released for the PSP to date. I'll indicate the average review score and discuss a little bit about the game. I'll also include a few upcoming releases.

Single Player Action-RPG

Untold Legends (My Score 3/5, Rated T) Untold Legends is a pretty good game for what it does provide an action-packed hack-and-slash diversion in a handheld setting. It isn't remarkable in any way except for the graphics and controls, but it is enjoyable while fighting and leveling. If you are a fan of games like Sacred or Diablo, and already have a PSP, this is definitely worth checking out. Read my full review at GamerDad.

Kingdom of Paradise (My Score 3.5/5, Rated T) Kingdom of Paradise is a great looking game with an excellent combat system but not much else. It is a game that starts strong and immerses the player in the mythology and settings, but quickly fades into a series of combat encounters in various settings with little other impetus to keep the player motivated. This is made worse by generic sounds and an overpowered Chi Arts system. It is never bad, but never great. When taken as an action-combat game it is a solid effort; but as a role-playing game it is lackluster. Read my full review at GamerDad.

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Party Based Action-RPG's

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (My Score 4/5, Rated T) X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is a team-based action role playing game that doesn't just address the common complaint of PSP games being stripped down ports of console games, it actually delivers more in the PSP version than either of the PC or console versions do. Unfortunately, there are slowdowns and long loads and system freezes that bring down this solid action game. Putting the load times and issues aside, you are left with a compelling and interesting story-based action game that constantly drives you to play just a little more. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is lengthy and with tons of replayability based on twenty-four different playable characters and fun unlockable content.Read my full review at GamerDad.

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Party Based RPG's with Turn-Based Combat

Legend of Heroes (My Score 4/5, Rated T) This is a classic 'old school' console-style RPG with obvious roots in early Final Fantasy games. But it has loads of charm, tons of characters and dialogue, and is more than fifty hours long! The entire experience is positive - the settings are appropriate, but never scary; combat is challenging but never impossible; dialogue is plentiful but never laborious. But there is nothing really new or innovative about the game, and it is never stunning or amazing in any way. It is just a solid, fun game with obvious roots in the console role-playing genre that offers loads of playability and only minor flaws.

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PoPoLoCrois (Avg 69, Rated E) Another 'old school' RPG, this has a bland story but some very interesting and innovative combat options. You get special skills and attacks that involve more than one player, but the game also has long load times and a relatively low-resolution presentation. In many ways this looks and feels like a GBA game - the graphics and sound are certainly not what you would expect from the PSP.

Turn Based Strategy RPG's

Lord of the Rings: Tactics (My Score 3.5/5, Rated T) This is billed as a strategy RPG, but is really more of a pure strategy game. Lord of the Rings Tactics is the first PSP game based on the Tolkein franchise, and it's an interesting take on fantasy turn-based strategy. The game is more for turn-based strategy fans than Lord of the Rings fans due to the mediocre use of the license. The joy in this game comes from working through the combat system, leveling up the heroes, and trying out different skills and strategies in the various battle settings. Read my full review at GamerDad.

Upcoming RPG Games - There are lots of interesting RPG's planned for the PSP in 2006, including a Final Fantasy VII game called Crisis Core, a sequel to Untold Legends, Tales of Eternia, and a Y's game among many others I was not familiar with enough to mention.

As we head forward into 2006, the next generation handheld of choice for the RPG Gamer is pretty clearly the PSP. There are games to satisfy fans of classic console RPG's, western Diablo-clone action-RPG's, and strategy-RPG combos. Fans of traditional 'western' cRPG's should not expect anything to satisfy that hunger, which is not surprising considering the Playstation roots. That aside, the PSP is delivering a breadth of RPG games to satisfying most RPG gamers' tastes - and hopefully next year developers will improve the quality of games and deliver some truly excellent RPG experiences.

Our thanks to Mike and GamerDad for this series.

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