It almost seems like 2010 was the year the PSP really got started. We had some great releases this year, all three of which are sequels to series currently existing on other platforms. These titles were shining examples of RPGs and really made the PSP a system to own in 2010.
The first Ys title built from the ground up for the PlayStation Portable, Ys Seven is a fast, action-paced ride throughout. This title features many firsts for the series including the first time series hero Adol has had a playable party. Having party members to swap between blends the fast and furious nature of the combat in Ys Seven into a hectic and fun system. The biggest plus the game has going for it is its accessibility. The ability to save anywhere, having a mini-map available, being able to teleport anywhere, swapping characters on the fly, and not being confined to using the analog nub of the PSP only are just a few of the features that make Ys Seven a great PSP RPG. Along with fast combat and high accessibility are the colorful visuals, the quaint story, and a hard-hitting rock soundtrack that fits the pace of the game wonderfully. Ys Seven is not just the best PSP RPG of the year, it's an RPG that should serve as a gateway for new fans of the series. Most everything about the game is fun and easy to jump into, so even if players have tried and not liked other series entries, this might just be the game that changes their minds about the series.
The Kingdom Hearts series has had its ups and downs, and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is definitely one of the ups. It focuses strongly on its central theme of friendship and sacrifice rather than getting overly bogged down in pseudo-philosophical nonsense. The platforming and exploration found in the first Kingdom Hearts game are back, rewarding the player with special attacks and collectable stickers. It's one of the best-looking games on the PSP, and most of the voice acting is pretty decent. Above all that, however, is the fabulous battle and character customization system. Special attacks are collected, mastered, and combined with each other to create new attacks. As the characters are built up, each takes on a distinctive flavour and has access to a powerful arsenal of attacks that are a joy to execute. With Birth By Sleep, the Kingdom Hearts series has finally hit the sweet spot where the game is easy to pick up, yet complex and satisfying for the advanced gamer, not to mention just plain fun to play.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 had some big shoes to fill. The original Valkyria Chronicles was highly praised, even winning the RPG of the Year award here at RPGamer in 2008. So how would this series take to the PSP? Well, it didn't work as well as the original, but it was still a nice fit for the PSP. Taking a more segmented, mission-based approach, this title was better in short bursts. While it might not have had the strong narrative that the first title had, VC2 enhanced the combat system by adding new units and greater upgrade options. It was enough to keep the addictive gameplay, so with just the combat system alone Valkyria Chronicles 2 is one of the best PSP RPGs of the year.
by Michael Cunningham, Becky Cunningham