Our recent farewell to the PSP sparked a desire to start a collection of the format’s finest, and while snapping up titles for literally pocket change it dawned on me that the PSP had a very similar life to the Sega Game Gear.
The aesthetic similarities are as clear as day but there are also similarities not quite so obvious.
Just as the Game Gear lived off a diet of Master System conversions during the start of its life, the PSP was fed a diet of PlayStation 2 games. As the Master System and PlayStation 2 respectively died out, developers attempted to bring more ambitious games originally designed for more powerful systems to them. The GameGear had conversions of Ristar, Earthworm Jim, Mortal Kombat 3 and Primal Rage, while the PSP saw Dante’s Inferno, Army of Two: The 40th Day, Tekken 6 and Need for Speed: Shift. All of the aforementioned were not quite as good as the original versions.
You can also argue that Columns and Lumines – their premier puzzlers – couldn’t touch Tetris.
Then there are the spin-offs. Sony brought most of their biggest franchises to PSP in scaled-down forms, such as Killzone: Liberation, Motor Storm: Arctic Edge and Resistance: Retribution. The Game Gear? That had Tails’ Adventure, Panzer Dragoon Mini and Virtua Fighter Animation.
Even with familiar franchises as the above, the PSP and Game Gear were both technically superior to Nintendo’s handhelds at the time (the DS and Game Boy) but couldn’t outsell them.
Eastern support was stronger than Western for both systems too. Both have numerous RPGs not released outside of Japan and countless niche titles. Japanese developers were responsible for each system’s most memorable titles: Monster Hunter, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Lumines and LocoRoco on PSP; Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Shinobi and Mickey Mouse on Game Gear. Both had a shelf life of around seven years but neither grew old gracefully, with the final years seeing little more than budget re-releases and annual sporting titles.
Piracy harmed Sega and Sony, but Sony more so. Bootleg Game Gear cartridges are hard to find but a quick look on eBay reveals many PSP systems with “custom firmware” and “loads of games on a memory stick”.
Perhaps the most amusing similarity is the battery life – between 3 to 4 hours at the very most for both, depending on battery quality and screen brightness. That’s progress for you.