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 PSP FEATURE

Pocket Gamer's Top 10 Games of the Year 2011 - PSP Edition

Swan song
Product: Top 10 PSP charts
 
Top 10 PSP charts PSP, thumbnail 1
That plucky old PSP, eh? Everyone predicted it would meet its demise in 2011, and yet it's seen some truly astounding releases this year, even if the quantity of titles coming out on the platform has significantly diminished.

With the PSP's successor, the PS Vita, looming on the horizon - touching down on February 22nd in Europe and the US - Sony's first stab at a handheld isn't going down without an excellent send-off.

This is especially true if you're a JRPG fan, as the genre has flourished on the system over the past 12 months, making up over half of the picks in this Top 10. Independent titles, made available through the Minis range, are also going from strength to strength, proving that the portable offers far more than just reworked home console ports.

So, read on for the definitive guide to the last 365 days of PSP gaming: full of love, quarter turns, penguins, grinding, and demons. Though not all in the same game, because that'd be totally weird.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
By Atlus

goty-2011-psp-persona

An expanded re-release of the PS2 outing, Persona 3 steers clear of RPG conventions to create a genre title that's truly different.

There are no Orcs, no far-flung future, minimal spiky hair, and hardly a whiff of emo cry babies with destinies to fulfil. Set in a Japanese high school, it explores the emotional and societal pressures of modern students through the lens of a macabre world where demons are summoned by shooting yourself in the head.

Oh, and the game's damn good, too: a multi-levelled dungeon-crawler with excellent visuals and fast enemy encounters; and a deep relationship-management sim when you're not fighting evil. Best JRPG of the year?

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
By Nihom Falcom

goty-2011-psp-trails

Not quite.

Trails in The Sky is awarded that lofty honour, in what was truly a bountiful year for the category. Falcom's first in this particular Legend of Heroes trilogy is much like Dragon Quest in that it's happy to go along with convention, while refining it for a new audience.

No random battles, fights you can back away from should your party wipe out, natural dialogue with likeable characters, side-quests that go beyond simple item retrieval, a distinctive weapon upgrade system, and a gentle difficulty curve make this an inviting, warm experience with long-lasting appeal.

This is an invigorating trek through a pastel-hewn landscape that every PSP owner should witness at first hand.

Where is my Heart?
By Die Gute Fabrik

goty-2011-psp-heart

Indie puzzle-platformers are nothing new, but Bernhard Schulenburg and the small team behind Minis darling Where is my Heart? has created something truly special here.

The PSP's screen is shattered into randomly placed windows. Observing the action of this fractured space, i.e. knowing where you are in the level, is just as important as working out how to combine your trio of Monsters' powers to reach the end goal.

A jumping-based analogy of how families cope with stressful situations, this 8-bit stylised downloadable is a true gem.

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
By Square Enix

goty-2011-psp-ogre

This year marked the first time European gamers could get their hands on this legendary JRPG that started out on the Super Nintendo. Updated and refined, it's been worth the wait to go through its tale of tyranny and rebellion.

The sophisticated branching story deftly complements the incredible amount of options for tactics and play styles, while the game throws loads of variables into the mix during battle, too.

With a painterly, almost Vagrant Story look and old skool mentality, a lengthy campaign, replayable missions, and multiplayer, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is unlikely to leave your UMD drive in a hurry.

Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood!
By NIS America

goty-2011-psp-prinny

How can something that looks so sweet and unassuming be so teeth-gnashingly difficult? Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood! will punish you at every opportunity it gets, demanding that you not just play it, but learn it.

It does so by making each leap you take definitive and committed. There's no aftertouch control, meaning you damn well better look before you leap.

Combat is equally tough, with judgements needing to be made on enemy proximity and effectiveness of attack against them. Yet, it's more than fair in its grand play design, and more than rewarding when you finally beat a particularly tricky level. This is a title masochists will return to time and again just to say they finished it.

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection
By Square Enix

goty-2011-psp-final

There's been a lot of Final Fantasy love for the PSP, though this is the biggest offering in terms of sheer size.

The amount of content here can only be described as "mighty": the package comprises a redrawn 2D version of Final Fantasy IV, the After Years follow-up, and a specially created interquel set slap-bang in the middle.

It's definitely still very Final Fantasy, mind - Active Time Battles are used in combat, grinding remains the best way to progress, and a handful of crystals of power must be found. Final Fantasy fans owe it to themselves to check it out.

Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy
By Square Enix

goty-2011-psp-dissida

While Dissidia 012 isn't technically a Final Fantasy title, it's never more exciting than when paying fan service to aficionados of those games.

Assembling the most beloved characters of each Final Fantasy epic for one arena-based 3D fighter / RPG crossbreed would have been enough, just so we could answer all those "who would win in a fight" questions we've had since Final Fantasy 7.

However, Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy's fighting engine makes for surprisingly flexible and dramatic battles, like hard-won scraps fought while running up vertical walls and dashing through the air. Being able to customise your abilities and repertoire of moves adds an intriguing level of complexity to boot.

Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death
By Laughing Jackal

goty-2011-psp-fighting

This is a stunning conversion of the Choose Your Own Adventure book from 1984. Far more than a page-for-page recreation of the text with some hyperlinks to move to the next scene, Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death makes good use of the PSP screen's width to provide you with text and character stats at the same time as you power through the quest.

A guide on every section encountered also gradually fills to reveal just how vast the world created is, and filling it becomes a compulsive objective all of its own.

The story is just as mystical as it always was, and the battles and chance encounters continue to hold tension over the player. This is a pen-and-paper RPG in digital form at its finest.

The 2D Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character
By Dakko Dakko

goty-2011-psp-octopus

The sense of momentum in Dakko Dakko's twitchy platformer is profound. The game's eight-legged cephalopod star is unable to remain still, constantly suckering his way around the edges of levels, launching himself huge distances when he spies an opposing wall, and forever collecting baby Octopi.

It's a highly kinetic spatial puzzler with a bounce in its step. The Challenge mode is where things get even faster, as you compete against the clock to finish sections of the game as quickly as possible.

Bright and cheery throughout, this meagre-sized Minis release is perfect for bite-sized on-the-go gaming.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II
By Arc System Works

goty-2011-psp-blazblue

As fighters begin to sink back into the attitude that almost killed the genre in the late '90s - catering almost exclusively to the hardest of hardcore - BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II's emergence is a reassuring pat on the back for those that like to just dabble in this genre.

It's got all the frame counting, ridiculous combos, and over-the-top special moves that fighting enthusiasts want, combined with a rigorous and deep training mode that actively teaches new players everything on offer (from basic movement to high-level strategies).

Featuring a full-fledged story mode, robust local multiplayer, gorgeous 2D visuals, and a rocking soundtrack, this is one of the best brawlers of the year, regardless of format.
 

Reviewer photo
Peter Willington 19 December 2011
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