There is always a tool which is the best choice for the job. For enjoying PS1 games, I’d like to argue the best tool is Sony’s PlayStation Portable.

The Sony PlayStation Portable

I do not own an original PlayStation 1 anymore. My current main consoles are the PS3 and the PS Vita. Both having characteristics that make playing PS1 titles on them not as enjoyable as I’d hoped. I find the low resolution 3D graphics haven’t aged gracefully enough for being displayed on that kind of big high resolution display the PS3 usually gets attached to. Sprites and 3D objects are too blocky, often even quite hard to recognise. While the high resolution OLED display of the Vita is a much better fit, it is still a far cry from the original PS1 graphics drawn on a CRT. The much bigger issue however is the extremely small size of the Vita’s buttons. Even though the PSP already came with slightly smaller buttons than the separate PlayStation controllers, Sony decided to decrease their size even more for the Vita. The outcome are buttons with the power to give actual physical pain while playing.

The PSP’s button size is still big enough to allow for comfortable sessions, and it’s old school low resolution LCD screen does actually a pretty good job making those old games still look pretty. These two qualities make the PSP the perfect device for PlayStation retro gaming. Besides an actual PS1 connected to a CRT, of course.

With the Kickstarter announcement of Koji Igarashi’s spiritual successor to the Castlevania series my interest in the series had been resurrected, so to speak. I also found the recent “Dev’s Play” episode featuring Igarashi and Anna Kipnis from Double Fine playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night extremely interesting and I remembered never finishing the game. However, I purchased it a while ago as digital download in the PlayStation Store.

After not being able to get much joy out of playing on PS3 and Vita due to the reasons mentioned above I remembered that I still have a PSP lying around. It surprises me how I could forget this, repeatedly unhappily trying to play a couple of PS1 games over the past couple years. Always unsatisfied because they didn’t age well. Right after purchasing the PS Vita on release here in Japan the PSP went into a drawer to be forgotten. The PSP is also much easier to bring along than the Vita. I’m actually able to bring it with me anywhere I go due to it’s much more compact dimensions. Unlike the Vita, it actually fits into the wider pockets of some of my pants.

Even putting games on the console feels quite retro since it can’t connect to my home’s WiFi network anymore. It requires stuff like cables:

  1. Download the PS1 game to the PS3 (do not install it!).
  2. Connect the PSP to the PS3 using a USB cable.
  3. Enable the PSP’s USB mode.
  4. Select the game bundle on the PS3, press triangle and chose “copy”.
  5. Wait a long time.
  6. Disconnect the PSP and enjoy the game.

Filling my PSP’s 3 GB Memory Card took about an hour from PlayStation Store to playable game on the PSP.

If you don’t have an actual PS1 attached to a cathode ray tube monitor, want to play on the go, or, like me, need the ability to quickly interrupt a play session because the baby is crying for attention, the PSP is the best choice available. After unconsciously abandoning it for so long I fell in love with it again as soon as I loaded the first game. I am looking forward to many hours of gameplay, finally catching up on all those PS1 classics I always wanted to play but never have.