5 great PSP games to nab before “commerce retires” on Friday

A couple of months ago, Sony made the distressing announcement that they were going to close the PSP, PS3 and PlayStation Vita digital storefronts. After a considerable amount of backlash from gaming enthusiasts — particularly those concerned with game preservation — Sony relented… to a degree.

They offered — or, more accurately, told us we were going to have to deal with — a compromise. The PS3 and Vita storefronts would remain active, said Sony bossman Jim Ryan, but, in his words, “PSP commerce functionality will retire on July 2, 2021 as planned”.

The trouble with this statement is that its use of weasel words doesn’t make it clear if the store is closing down completely, if you just won’t be able to buy PSP games any more or something else altogether. Notably, the statement “PSP commerce functionality will retire” doesn’t make it at all clear if you’ll still be able to purchase PSP games on PlayStation Vita or through the PlayStation 3 storefront — the latter option allows you to download PSP games to your PS3, then transfer them to a PSP via USB — or if it simply means PSP games will stop being available altogether.

Assuming the worst — that PSP games will no longer be available for download at all on any platform whatsoever — there are a whole bunch of games that didn’t get physical releases (or for which physical releases are prohibitively rare or expensive) which will no longer be accessible after July 2, 2021 — this coming Friday. So here’s five of the best that you might want to pick up before Friday, just in case the very worst happens!

ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman

PSP game ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman

One of Nippon Ichi Software’s most frequently overlooked games, ZHP (as we shall refer to it for short) is a wonderful take on the roguelike, combining turn-based dungeon exploration with Disgaea-style progression mechanics.

ZHP provides an interesting take on the roguelike genre’s iconic “permadeath” feature by resetting your character to level 1 every time you start delving into a new dungeon — but between expeditions you can apply various modifications to make your base statistics better than they were at the beginning of the game. At the same time, you’ll have to contend with your character developing phobias of monsters and traps that previously defeated them — life isn’t easy for a superhero in training!

ZHP had a physical release on UMD back in the day, but it’s become very hard to find English copies of this these days. If you want to play this, your best bet is downloading it to a PSP or Vita and enjoying it that way — its quick dungeon-dives are eminently friendly to handheld play, but the game’s overall quest will keep you busy for a very long time indeed!

Ape Quest

PSP game Ape Quest

A digital exclusive everywhere except Japan, Ape Quest is a role-playing game spinoff to Sony Japan Studio’s excellent Ape Escape series. Released as an episodic title with a free Starter Pack and three additional downloadable chapters, Ape Quest tasks you with saving the Toqsica Kingdom from the dreadful Apetron, a group of apes that terrorised the kingdom many years ago.

Ape Quest unfolds in a turn-based fashion, with movement somewhat akin to a board game. In some respects, it has a few things in common with Nintendo’s Miitopia, in that you move along predefined paths in the game world rather than freely through an environment. It features turn-based battles and minigames, with boss fights tending to unfold in the latter form.

Ape Quest isn’t a particularly well-known game thanks to its download exclusivity, but if you’re interested in the Ape Escape series, it’s definitely worth giving a look.

Brandish: The Dark Revenant

PSP game Brandish: The Dark Revenant

Brandish: The Dark Revenant is a PSP remake of the original Brandish, a dungeon-crawling action RPG from Falcom that was originally released on PC-98, FM Towns, Super Famicom and PC Engine CD-ROM. It follows the story of the warrior Ares and his attempts to escape from a labyrinth of more than 40 floors while being pursued by the sorceress Dela.

Brandish: The Dark Revenant completely revamped the look and feel of the game over the original releases of the game, featuring wonderful character art and atmospheric visuals. Notably, it also added Dela as a playable character; after clearing the main game with Ares, you can take on her significantly more difficult but somewhat shorter challenge.

Writing on the Tumblr blog for localiser Xseed in 2014, localisation producer Tom Lipschultz noted that “if you’re a fan of the Etrian Odyssey series, enjoy the tough but fair difficulty of Dark Souls or appreciate any of Falcom’s other action RPG offerings, you need to give this game a shot.” He also drew particular attention to the game’s rotating top-down third-person viewpoint and how it makes the game much more accessible than its original release.

Brandish: The Dark Revenant never got a physical release in the west and it hasn’t been ported to any other platforms — so if PSP games are no longer available after Friday, it’s bye-bye Brandish… at least until someone sorts out a PC port for it.

Black Rock Shooter: The Game

PSP game Black Rock Shooter

Developed by Imageepoch as an adaptation of Black Rock Shooter, a media franchise created by Steins;Gate illustrator Huke, Black Rock Shooter: The Game is an unusual and intriguing action RPG that only ever got a digital release over here in the west.

Throughout the game, you’ll take on the role of Black Rock Shooter in the year 2051 after being awoken by the last twelve humans alive. The aliens have been devastating Earth for the last nineteen years, and Black Rock Shooter remains the final hope of what’s left of humanity. You’ll need to explore areas, search for items and engage in combat with enemies — and discover the truth about Black Rock Shooter and her antagonist White Rock Shooter along the way.

Black Rock Shooter features an interesting real-time combat system in which you can aim and shoot, block attacks and sidestep to avoid incoming assaults. However, you have to take care not to overuse Black Rock Shooter’s abilities, as you can overheat her systems and leave yourself vulnerable.

Black Rock Shooter had a middling critical reception in the west on its original release, but it remains a strong example of what Imageepoch were all about: doing things their own way and presenting creative takes on classic formulae, perhaps by blending genres together. Be sure to check this one out if you like interesting games.

LocoRoco Midnight Carnival

While the first two LocoRoco games received physical releases and ports to other platforms, this follow-up to LocoRoco 2 remains a PSP digital download exclusive, and as such will be going the way of the dodo on Friday.

In LocoRoco Midnight Carnival, the LocoRoco were quietly sleeping, but the mischievous BuiBui dropped them into a chute, shot them out of a cannon and sent them into their secret base, the Midnight Carnival. Thus begins a grand quest for escape — and this time around, the LocoRoco are armed with a new “Boing” ability.

The “Boing” mechanic mostly ties in with the scoring system and encourages you to jump repeatedly throughout the stages. Boing-ing your way from the start of a stage to the very end can net you some significant score bonuses, so you’d better get practising!

What PSP games are you going to miss if the store does go completely kaputt? Tell us all about ’em in a note for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, why don’tcha? Hit up the “Write to Rice” widget over on the right and pen us a note!

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Pete Davison
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