Armagideon Time

The whole world in my hands

September 12th, 2019

For all the predicted sacrifices I’d been told parenting would bring, the only major casualty has been my relationship with the PlayStation 4 in the living room. Prior to move-in day, the console was a near-constant free time companion. We get home from work, feed the animals and ourselves, then Maura would decamp upstairs to watch her shows while I blasted extraterrestrial monsters in glorious HD.

Those days have ended. The only times the system gets booted up now are to stream some family entertainment or for one of the Kid’s Skyrim adventures. It has been over a month since I last logged into Destiny 2and I don’t miss it at all. There have been some periodic phantom pains, but hardly what I expected from going cold turkey off a franchise that had been my timewaster of choice for half a decade. Grind fatigue and Dan Butler’s departure from the game set the stage for the break, but they weren’t the decisive reasons behind it. The truth is that Destiny‘s always-live multiplayer model was impossible to reconcile with a world in which an urgent “HEY, POP! WE NEED YOUR HELP!” is hollered in my direction multiple times an hour. (Late-night “dad gamer” antics weren’t an option, because I tend to nod off before the kid does.)

The experience has led me to reconnected with my trusty ol’ Playstation Portable handheld with its, well, portability and extremely handy “sleep” feature. Did the Kid somehow manage to spill a thousand craft beads into the bathtub drain while I’m middle of a tough Valkyria Chronicles 3 battle? No, worries, I can suspend the game and resume it after clearing the clog with a wet vac and reassuring the Kid that no, I’m not mad but extremely baffled how it happened in the first place.

Shit battery life aside, the PSP is the ideal gaming device for my current circumstances. Besides the handheld’s ability to stop and resume on the fly, most of the offerings in its library were designed to be tackled in reasonably-sized chunks with few long cutscenes or extended sequences. Games like MGS: Peace Walker or Phantasy Star Portable or Persona 3 FES managed to distill all the best parts of their more stationary console counterparts into a satisfying experience for folks who lack an excess of uninterrupted free time.

My rekindled relationship with the PSP also spurred me to explore its potential a bit further than previous go-rounds. Its digital-delivery compatibility with the original Playstation had been one of its selling features back in late Aughts, and still retained a decent roster of PS1 ports purchased through Sony’s online storefront. Most of the beloved big-sellers and cult classics were represented but many of my old favorites hadn’t made the cut — games like the gorgeous sprite-based Tatsunoko Fighters or Tobal 2 or Speed Power Gunbike or a dozen other artifacts from that serendipitous alignment between “discovering a reliable game importer” and “landing my first grown-up job” in the back half of the 1990s.

Realistically, I could spend a lifetime working my way through the shit I’d already picked up via PSN, but the Suikoden games and Misadventures of Tron Bonne only whetted my appetite for the full flashback experience — especially considering the number of old PS1 games packed away in my attic without the means to play them. (Theoretically, my old mod-chipped console should be up there, too, but I’m not going to hold out hope of it working after all these years, even if I still had a VGA monitor to hook it up to.)

I’d heard of folks who’d managed to dump PS1 games onto their PSPs and get them running, so I decided run a few internet searches for further detail. What came up was a somewhat roundabout and frequently confusing method of creating PSP compatible eboot files from the original discs.

Did I succeed in my attempt? Well….

…let’s just say I’m really, really glad I didn’t give in to the temptation to sell my PS1 games collection when I was strapped for cash a while back. And I’m glad the price of 128GB memory cards has dropped over the past decade.

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