With the release of the PSPgo and a move away from the UMD format in favor of digital distribution, 2009 was a transitional year for the PSP platform. Still, amidst all the growing pains, Sony still managed to get some very high-quality games on their evolving portable platform. Here is our favorite!
Best PSP Game
No game better sums up the year that the PSP has had, as well as an ideal future for the platform, than Japan Studio's own Patapon 2. This is a game that gleefully defies simple description, with gameplay that is some mysterious ratio of side-scroller, real-time strategy, and rhythmic action, and a presentational style that is abstract and playful, but without completely whitewashing the tribal combat that is at the core of Patapon 2. It's a very particular combination that might not initially sound appealing, but once you submit yourself to the rhythms of its simple, thoughtful, strategic gameplay, it is downright hypnotic. Patapon 2 was building from a strong base, as the original Patapon offered a very similar experience, but its sequel fleshes out existing concepts and adds new ones, such as the hero class, that make you wonder how you lived them before. That it makes its predecessor wholly obsolete is about one of the best things you can say about a video-game sequel.
Patapon 2 served as a case study for SCEA, which released the game in North America exclusively as a digital download, ahead of the pending release of the PSPgo. Digital downloads of PSP games have since become far more ubiquitous, and while we've still got a long way to go before we reach a download-only future, but Patapon 2 was a significant step for the platform. Add a $20 price tag to all of this and you've got a real attractive package in Patapon 2. It's cheap, it's charming, it's challenging, and it's the type of game you can play for stretches ranging for five minutes to hours. These are all exactly the qualities we hope for from the platform, and it's why we're happy to name Patapon 2 our 2009 PSP game of the year.
Runners-Up: Half-Minute Hero, Resistance Retribution