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Learning to love third-person PSP games

Before Sony’s wildly under-appreciated PlayStation Vita hit the market in 2012, its predecessor – the PSP – had already made a fair few waves in the handheld space, duking it out with Nintendo’s original DS. While the PSP had a vast catalogue of console-quality experiences such as Killzone: Liberation, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, and more, the handheld struggled to offer a comparable third-person shooter experience thanks to the lack of right analogue stick. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but it went on to become slightly more than the odd annoyance.

This didn’t stop PlayStation’s suite of first party developers to take a run at overcoming these cumbersome hardware obstacles however, with many finding neat gameplay workarounds which helped give players easy camera control while shooting. Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror is one such example, an espionage spy game developed by Sony Bend, the guys who would eventually step into the sun themselves with the reveal of PS4’s Days Gone. Dark Mirror saw you move Gabe Logan as expected with the left analogue stick, letting you weave and turn with the use of the PSP’s standard face buttons. Ideal? No. Awkward? Definitely. But it overall it worked well enough.

Even a series as storied and celebrated as Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series had a fair old whack at tackling the PSP’s lack of right analogue stick, I would argue much more effectively by having you shoot with the O button as was standard for the action platformer, letting you swerve the camera with the L and R shoulder buttons. Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters was able to stand with its equivalent console cousins as a result. But what if there was an easier way? Thanks to our good old friend the Vita, there is. One which not too many people are aware of.

I bring this up because having no right analogue stick was a problem which plagues many PSP owners, persisting the more games that clearly would benefit by having one were released. By holding down the PlayStation button on the Vita at any point when playing a PSP game reveals a menu, one which allows any button to be re-mapped to another, including control functions previously not available with the PSP. Essentially, you’re fooling the PSP game your playing into thinking your pushing one input, when actually it registers as another.

As you can imagine, this works wonders for games like the aforementioned Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters, being experiences which were previously hindered by the limitations of their hardware. They can now be fully enjoyed as the developers most likely intended, and all because of an unexpected circumstance of hardware backwards compatibility. The PSP’s extensive library of titles is part of the reason my PS Vita always remains to hand and fully charged, so it’s good they’re given a new lease of life in this manner. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll be mowing down hordes of Chimera in Resistance: Retribution.

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