The PSP continues to be the little handheld that could. Though this system's release list was dwarfed by the DS, that doesn't take away from the quality of the releases that landed on the PSP in 2009. Though we have the expected remake, we also have two games that are not typical RPGs topping this year's best.
Half-Minute Hero kind of came out of left field, but it turned out to be one of the quirkiest and most enjoyable RPGs this year. Making use of the simple yet completely original concept of a thirty-second RPG, the game features one-hundred and forty-two mini-RPGs that can be completed in anywhere from thirty seconds to five minutes at a time. With four distinct game modes along with two special, single-map challenge modes, the fast and varied gameplay ensures that the game is not only consistently enjoyable, but also extraordinarily portable, moreso than any other handheld RPG on the market.
Thanks to the terrific, witty script filled with pop-culture, fantasy, and gaming jokes, and 8-bit visuals that harken back to the good old days, Half-Minute Hero manages to deliver on the artistic front as well. It's charming, extremely-blown-up sprite close-ups and silly two-frame animations are great fun to watch, especially when they represent characters as ridiculous as the ones found in this game. Half-Minute Hero is a complete package, with every element of the game standing firm on its own, easily making it the best game for the PSP this year. If you own a PSP, it's definitely a game you don't want to miss.
Persona: Revelations for the PSX was a love it or hate it game that had many unique ideas, but failed in their implementation. In remaking it for the PSP, Atlus fixed the interaction issues, provided a new translation, and rescored it with a fantastic soundtrack, and the result is one of the best games on the PSP in 2009. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona lets the creative gameplay mechanics in the poorly-executed original shine, and still stands as a singular experience unlike anything else on the handheld despite its age. Built into a first-person dungeon crawler, the battle system lets the party converse with demons to recruit them, or in a dangerous spot scare them away. Attack options utilize a grid with the range and target area differing between skills and characters. This keeps combat constantly fresh, something dungeon crawlers rarely provide, and the personas fused and equipped over the course of the game mean characters' abilities can change vastly from hour to hour. While not nearly as addicting as the award winner in this category, Persona appeals to a niche fanbase and does a great job of satifying that dungeon crawler itch while being neither repetitive nor boring.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a Final Fantasy fan's wet dream. Pit your favourite Final Fantasy hero against his corresponding villain, and you've created a showdown of epic proportions. What makes Dissidia such a fun experience is the different combination of battles that can be created throughout the game, and the amount of space that players can inhabit as they take on their foes. The wide variety of fighting styles across the many combatants gives you a lot of freedom in how to play the game and encourages you to try out all of the characters. Fun and fast-paced, though light on story, Dissidia was made for the hardcore Final Fantasy fans and it shows.
by Adriann den Ouden, Glenn Wilson, Sam Marchello, Michael Cunningham