Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 is the Year of the--- PSP?!

On the unofficial side of gaming, at least.

The PSP died a few years back in the U.S., and it died with a rather significant chunk of downright desirable titles locked far, far away in that distant place called Japan. Despite this, gamers have been petitioning, emailing, and forum-shouting at several companies to bring these import-exclusives over, but alas--- very few have answered these cries.

But fans haven't given up these games, and more importantly is that fans with programming skills and translation capabilities haven't. There have been quite a few fan-translations for the PSP in the past, such as Way of the Samurai Portable and the Project Diva games, but for whatever reason 2014 has simply been loaded with excellent fan-translations of much desired titles, and there's plenty more planned for the future.

So which have been released so far this year, and has it been worth the wait? Scroll on down for links and my own 2-cents on these sincerely appreciated fan-translations.

[Click Titles for Links to Download Patches]

Final Fantasy: Type-0
Released the day before Square-Enix announced Type-0 would be upgraded and localized for the PS4/XOne, this fan-translation keeps portable gamers happy, and especially those portable gamers who've been dying to play Type-0 in their own native language for nearly three years now.
I've put a little more than 15 hours into this game so far, and it's everything I'd hoped it would be. The translation is simply excellent, and the actual game of Type-0 is a remarkably darker Final Fantasy that is a very fast, exciting, and challenging action-rpg. The story appears to be heavily focused on political philosophy a'la Final Fantasy 12 (my favorite of the series), and I am as addicted to the story as I am the satiating gameplay.
I don't think anyone doubted that Type-0 would be anything less than stellar, especially since the two Japanese demos were great fun on their own, but if you're a loon then let me assure you that the game is simply aces, and to go download the terrific fan-translation from team SkyBladeCloud right this instant!

Valkyria Chronicles 3
Valkyria Chronicles 3 is the game I've wanted to see get an English release, and I actually shouted 'Oh my god!' when I'd found out the patch was finished. Valkyria Chronicles 2 was, without contest, my favorite PSP game, and now that I've put some 20 hours into Valkyria Chronicles 3 I'm happy to report it's equally as solid as VC2.
I won't spoil a thing about VC3's story, but I will say that it's not quite the 'darker' tale so many expected. While the characters are more adult than usual, the crew of VC3 is as unique and characteristic as in prior games, and their personal tales are addictively approachable as before. There's no real 'departure' from the formula in VC3, but personally I don't mind one bit; the writing and character development is as thoughtful as ever, and a downright treat once again.
Gameplay is likewise similar to past entries. In fact, much of VC2 is reused and/or reskinned in Valkyria Chronicles 3, but again; this is a series that has a rather cemented and terrific gameplay style already, and a series that succeeds mostly from storytelling.
There are some slight issues with the patch currently in the form of text spilling out of bubbles occassionally. The patch is 100%, but the VC3-English team are still fixing some of those slight hiccups here and there.
If you've played and enjoyed a Valkryia Chronicles title before, then you're certain to enjoy VC3 also.

Grand Knights History
I imported Grand Knights History a while back and was a bit lost with the language barrier, but what most put me off was that I wasn't sure what the 'point' was. You'd start a quest, complete it for a small reward, and then earn more quests that had small rewards. I wasn't sure what I was missing, as I'd always thought GKH had a more scripted focus.
Now with the English patch, I finally understand what GKH is all about, and unfortunately it's not for me. If you've ever played games that are infinite, such as Mana Khemia or Adventures to Go, GKH is also one of those games you can literally play for the rest of your life and never completely finish. What seperates GKH from those others is that it has a Final Fantasy-style turn-based combat and class-system, which is unique for an infinity game in that they're normally dungeon crawlers or strategy RPGs. There was also a very unique competitive multiplayer mode that looks like it could have been killer, but unfortunately the servers for GKH are shut down for good.
Either way, with the single-player, GKH is a rather simple title that is all about grinding. Outside of the story quests there is an infinite number of side-quests to help gather money and experience points, but while they have a different rationale for each, such as guiding a merchant across the map or setting out to search for a material, they're all ultimately the same; a high-level enemy pops up, and you kill it to finish the quest.
For a while I was addicted to the repetitive nature of the game, as the ease of completing basic quests and strengthening my team was invigorating. But after about 10 hours a sudden revelation came up; I didn't feel like I was 'doing' anything. It's just very, very repetitive, and GKH is not the experience I am either looking for, or was hoping for.
But the art-direction is immaculate as always from developers Vanillaware, and there's a lot of game here for those who want to take the time and explore the world. I wouldn't write GKH off, but just note whether or not a game whose focus is the player sinking hundreds of hours into is what you're looking for.

So these three are the 100% translations, but there's still plenty more fan-translations in the works for PSP. Recently there was released the translated first chapter of  Sol Trigger, a highly stylish anime-RPG from ImageEpoch, and about half of the excellent Digimon Adventure can be played in English right now, with the remainder of the game speculated to be finished around August. Also from the Digimon world,Digimon World Re:Digitize has full menu translations, with dialogue/story well underway on the programming side of things.

So it's not official, and maybe it's all even a bit illegal, but it's great that not only is the PSP being kept alive by so many talented fans, but also that it's even possible for fan-translations to come about. While being able to so easily mod the PSP may have been what crippled its Western success, at least now we can see the sincere positivity that modding can bring about, and it's something that, at least for me, I'm truly thankful for.

Keep it up, translation groups! You all rock!

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