Tag Archive for ‘PSP’

More on the PSP

XMB, Rocket Knight Adventures, Super Mario Bros 3, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped

After writing about the PlayStation Portable earlier this month, I’ve continued tinkering with the system. And for the purposes of documenting my custom firmware setup, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned, discovered, and have been doing with it since then.

I’ve made an adjustment to the structure of my game organization. Rather than filing them into categories for PSP games, PlayStation games, Homebrew, emulators, Minis, and utilities, I’ve whittled it down to something more simple — Playing, Backlog, and Archive. With this, everything I’m actively playing is readily at hand, everything I’ve completed is in the archive, and everything else lives in the backlog.

This new setup is mostly to workaround the PSP’s issues loading directories with a large number of files. To give you an idea of how drastic that can be, the Playing category has just a few games in it and loads in just a second or two. But the Backlog category, which has about 150 games, takes somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve seconds to load.

There’s a bit more upkeep with this, since I have to move games between folders on the system when I complete and start playing a game. And that’s not too convenient since the file management apps for the PSP aren’t really that good. Most of the time I end up connecting it to my Mac, especially when I need to move more than a few things around at a time.

I’ve also added another plugin to my setup — DayViewer. This lets you configure the strings displayed next to the battery icon on the PSP’s XrossMediaBar home screen. I wanted a pretty minimal setup, so I have mine configured to display the current time and the battery percentage with a special character as a separator. It’s odd that this type of functionality wasn’t built-in to the system. You can see the battery percentage on official firmware, but it’s hidden within the Battery Information section of system settings. Thankfully the community has managed to fill that gap.

Shifting to hardware, I picked up a USB to barrel jack cable, which let’s me charge the system with just about any USB charger. It’s much more convenient than having to use a dedicated charger.

I also did some testing with a 256GB microSD card to see if 128GB was really the maximum. I’ve seen some YouTube videos and mentions in various forums of people being able to get larger capacities working. This guide on Wololo seemed like the most promising as it specifically mentioned using a 200GB card, but even after trying all the suggestions, I just couldn’t get the larger card recognized. I suppose it could be the Pro Duo Memory Card adapter I’m using, but I’m unconvinced that anything over 128GB will actually work.

Although 128GB is a lot of storage for the PSP, considering UMD had a maximum capacity of 1.8GB, I still wanted more on my system. Especially if I’m going to use it as my go-to media player on trips. After a bit of research, I discovered the CSO file format. As it turns out, CSO was created as a way to compress the ISO files of PSP game backups. The only downside of the format, as far as I can tell, is that it has an impact on load times and can cause issues with games that frequently load content during gameplay.

I’ve gone ahead and compressed all of the game backups I have to CSO format, though, using PSP CSO Converter. I used a compression level of one for all of them and am seeing around 30% file size reduction on average. My current plan is to store my games in CSO and then convert to ISO when I start playing one regularly. This way I can save on storage size, but still retain the faster load times for the games I’m actively playing.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a good utility for converting between ISO and CSO on the system. At least none that I’ve found yet. That means I’m stuck doing the conversion on my Mac each time I start playing a new PSP game. It’s not too much of a pain at the moment, since this conversion only applies to PSP games and they tend to have a decent amount of play time in them — I’m not switching PSP games too frequently. And of course, I can always run games from CSO until it’s convenient for me to decompress to ISO format.

Tony Hawk’s Underground 2: Remix, Mega Man X2, Felix the Cat, and Crash Bandicoot

The system is a lot of fun. And not just because of the opportunities to tinker with it. Over the past handful of weeks I’ve completed the following games on the system:

I’m still playing through Tony Hawk’s Underground 2: Remix and recently started Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped and A Very Super Mario World, which is a fan-made hack of Super Mario World. There’s just so much that this handheld can do and I’ve been loving every minute of it. Except for that darn red gem in Slippery Climb — I don’t know who thought that was a good idea.

PlayStation Portable

PlayStation Portable Games

After tinkering around with Nintendo DS flash cartridges, I decided to upgrade my handheld gaming setup with a PlayStation Portable (PSP). This is a console that passed me by during its run. It was released at the tail end of high school for me when I had moved on to mostly PC gaming. I had a friend with one, but never spent any time on it myself.

What drew me to the PSP, though, was how easy it is to install custom firmware and readily available, inexpensive microSD to Memory Stick PRO Duo adapters. The PSP isn’t particularly great at dealing with high storage capacities — as far as I can tell, 128GB is the maximum — and it can sometimes take several seconds to load the game, video, or music list when there’s a lot of items on your card. But it’s worth it to have so much content available on the system at any given time.

Once I got the custom firmware installed, which only takes about five or ten minutes, I was able to start loading it up with games, emulators, video, music, and plugins to customize the experience.

I’ve only just scratched the surface of the plugins that are available, but what I have at the moment feels like it fills all the gaps I had with the system. I’m currently using the following:

  • Game Categories Lite — this plug-in allows you to sort your games into categories instead of displaying them in a big long list. I have mine setup with folders (displayed as separate memory cards in the system) for PSP games, PlayStation games, emulators, PSP Minis, homebrew, and utilities.
  • XMB Item Hider — let’s you hide items within the XrossMediaBar. Since the PSP has been discontinued for so long, many of the items in the interface don’t work anymore or are cumbersome to access because the system doesn’t support WAP or WAP2 Wi-Fi networks. Hiding them helps to clean up the interface.
  • PRXShot — adds the ability to take screenshots using the note button or a button combination of your choosing.

As far as video and music is concerned, I mostly added those to test it out. But I’ll probably keep some amount loaded on it. The media doesn’t take up too much storage space and it can be used as a good fallback if there was ever a scenario where I wanted to preserve battery life on my iPhone away from a charger. Or, when paired with an HDMI adapter, the PSP might become my go-to entertainment device in hotel rooms when traveling — rather than tying up my iPhone or iPad for that role.

The PSP supports a pretty good range of audio formats, so you could probably drop whatever you have on it and it’ll work without any trouble. But for the sake of consistency, I converted a handful of albums to 256kbps MP3 using MP3 Encoder.

Video is a bit more tricky. I used Handbrake for the heavy lifting, but the old preset that used to be built-in to the app is no more. I downloaded an older version of Handbrake, which still included it. But after importing that preset into the latest version of Handbrake, the resulting videos wouldn’t play on my PSP. I had to craft my own preset after some research online, which seems to do the trick with everything I’ve thrown at it so far.

Unlike the Nintendo DS, the PSP is actually quite good at emulating older systems. I’ve been playing through Super Mario World over the past few days and played through a bit of Rocket Knight Adventures, too. Aside from a couple of graphical glitches on the Super Nintendo emulator, everything’s run smoothly.

There’s a sea of emulators available, but I have the following installed, which seem to be the best of the bunch and support the systems I’m actually interested in emulating:

The Nintendo 64 emulation is pretty rough — most games don’t seem to work at all. But it does okay with Super Mario 64 and some other popular Nintendo-made games that I plan to play at some point.

I’ve also toyed around with some of the homebrew games available for the system. Celeste, Minecraft, and Cave Story are high on my list of what I’d like to spend a reasonable amount of time with. From what I’ve seen on Reddit and various message boards discussing the system, they are often mentioned as some of the best homebrew games available.

I’ve only found a single homebrew utility that’s worth keeping on my system, though. PSP Filer, which is a file management application. I’ve used it a little bit for moving and deleting files, but it’s primary utility for me is to change the timestamp on games. The PSP doesn’t have any mechanism for sorting games, it simply displays them in the order they were added to the system. With PSP Filer, you can change those timestamps to sort your games however you’d like.

I was initially planning to sort games alphabetically, but that is a lot of work to do by hand. So instead I’ve settled into just keeping the games I’ve been playing recently at the top of their respective category list. That helps keep them easy to find and quick to launch.

One of the greatest features of the PSP is it’s ability to run PlayStation games — as long as it’s packaged as an eboot, the PSP can run it. I’ve already reached 100% in Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and started Crash Team Racing, but I plan to play through Spyro the Dragon next.

The real star of the show, though, is the PSP games. They show what the system is capable of and there’s a huge library of games that I’ve never played before. I’m most excited about these:

  • Tony Hawk’s Underground 2: Remix — I love Tony Hawk games. I’ve played the PlayStation 2 version of this one, but the PSP port might actually be the definitive release. It offers everything the PS2 version has, but also includes some additional levels that weren’t available on other systems.
  • Burnout Legends — I’m not too big on racing games, but despite that, Burnout 3: Takedown was one of my favorite games on the PlayStation 2. Burnout Legends offers all of the best parts of that gameplay on a handheld.
  • LocoRoco — I remember in the late 2000s, whenever someone would discuss the PSP, this was one of the first games they’d mention.

I’ve had a ton of fun on the PSP over the past few weeks and I hope I’m able to enjoy the system for quite some time without losing interest. Between emulation, homebrew, PlayStation, and games developed specifically for the system, there is a massive library available. It feels like a handheld version of one of my favorite consoles of all time — the PlayStation 2 — and that’s high praise.

If you have a PSP bouncing around in a drawer somewhere, it might be worth digging it out, installing custom firmware, and enjoying one of the greatest handheld gaming systems of all time.

Sony Finally Gets Around to Considering a PSP Based Cell Phone ➝

Sony Corp is considering developing a cellphone-game gear hybrid in a bid to better compete with Apple Inc’s highly popular iPod and iPhone, the Nikkei business daily said on Saturday.

It’s pretty amazing that it has taken them nearly two years before they finally got around to doing this. It’s almost as if they completely forgot what the iPod line did to Sony’s Walkman business.

Then again, I have a strange feeling that if Sony attempted a cell phone that was also a handheld game console it would turn out a little bit too much like the orignal Nokia N-Gage, I’m sure most of you remember that piece of crap.