I'm happy to announce that this year's winner of the prestigious Best System I Don't Play Games On is...the Sony PSP.
It was a tough one this year, as the perennial favorite, the Nintento GameCube held in there as long as it could, but in the end, Sony's little handheld won out. Let's take a look at the other contenders before we see what made the PSP this year's winner.
Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP
Ah, the GBA SP, last in a long line of Nintendo portable gaming machines. As a high schooler I fondly remember playing Castlevania on the original Game Boy. Many, many years later as a young lad of close to 30, I got sucked into the joy of Pokemon and bought a Gameboy Color with Pokemon Yellow. A year or so later, I sold said GBC on eBay and used the proceeds towards the brand spankin' new Gameboy Advance. It was a joy to play except for the fact that you couldn't see a blasted thing on it. When the Gameboy Advance SP came out, with its well lit screen and cool-ass clamshell design, back to the Best Buy I went and portable gaming nirvana was mine. Many the car ride home from work was spent annoying the piss out of Linda as I ignored her in favor of Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2. Eventually, the graphics whore in me surfaced though, and my need for constant 3D gaming made me put the GBA SP aside. Sad, I know, but at least I can admit my faults. I had been playing Mario Golf Advance on it prior to my purchasing the PSP, and I submit that this is one of the greatest golf games of all time, however not good enough for me to play more.
The GameCube was the device that turned me forever away from PC gaming. When the Xbox and GameCube launched, I was drawn, inexorably, to the idea of Super Smash Brothers Melee. The ability to play as Kirby or Pikachu and put the ever lovin' smackdown on someone filled me with glee. The Xbox seemed to cold and mechanical, Halo so much like any other shooter, while in comparison, the GameCube was so bubbly and full of vigor. Plus, it had a handle, which, for some reason, meant something to me. My wife, ever tolerant of my gaming needs, bought me one for Christmas and that was, as the kids say, all she wrote. I played the shit out of SSMB, felling many a foe with Pikachu's thunderous pleas for lightning, until the day of the Dark Visit, a story for another time. Once I started playing GameCube games, I tried, really, really tried to go back to PC gaming, but how can a 15 inch monitor compare with a 50 inch TV? Simply put, it can't. I played a whole mess of games on the GameCube, but eventually Nintendo's piss-poor release schedule caught up with me, and aside from the big Nintendo properties, Metroid and Zelda, my 'Cube sits on the shelf, fondly thinking of our heady days of yore. Whereas the GBA SP has tons of games, but none that I want to play, the GCN has no games period.
Which brings us to this year's winner, the PSP. When the PSP was announced, I was pretty dead-set against the device, thinking instead I'd continue my long, proud tradition of buying the latest Nintendo handheld. Then, the DS launched and it's launch games were pretty much crap. The PSP, on the other hand, had what seemed to be an impressive list of launch titles, an amazing screen and the ability to play movies, show pictures, etc. When it launched, I bought 4 games with it, Lumines, Untold Legends, Ridge Racer and Tiger Woods 2005. Lumines I still have and enjoy playing, even if I have hit a plateau that makes it impossible to beat my high score by more than 100 points or less. Untold Legends was fun for about 3 hours before the skull-crushing boredom of doing the same thing in the same place set in. Tiger Woods was fun, however I don't have time to play 18 holes of actual, real life golf, which is only slightly less than the time it spent this game to load up each hole. Nothing says fun like waiting 5 minutes for the hole to load only to spend 1 minute playing it. Wahey! Ridge Racers was the most impressive racing game where you don't actually race against anyone I've ever played. Oh sure, there'd be a pocket of people when you started, and occasionally, you'd pass other pockets of cars, but for the most part, you were all alone. Compare that to Forza and Burnout where you're constantly getting bumped around by other racers, and the experience falls short. Since my PSP came out, I bought (well, I took advantage of a green Gametop clerk to get it free) Hot Shots Open Tee, and have been enjoying it, however every time I play it, I'm reminded that I have the best golf game ever sitting unplayed in my GBA SP.
By now, I would have thought that the PSP would have a bunch of great titles for it, however every title that has come out since launch, has been hyped to the heavens but ends up sucking big time. So, what has Sony done to fix this? Well, they've release a whole bunch of movies on UMD, and they've given the PSP a web browers. Yay-wait, what? The sad part, is that I'm so desperate to use the fucking thing, and get back the money I put into it, that I've actually spent more money on it, buying a 1GB memory card, so that I can watch episodes of Cheers on my lunchtime. Cause when I decided to buy this, what I really wanted was the ability to watch reruns that I've already seen 8 billion times. Fun. I refuse to buy movies on UMD, as they have zero use outside of the PSP, plus, I already have a bunch of them on DVD. In short, I have a portable device that has no good games, but can look at pictures, play movies and browse the web, but does none of these things nearly as well as my laptop which, were I into PC gaming, has a hojillion games available for it. It is this delightful mix of having no games, but having half-assed attempts at doing everything else but play games, that makes the PSP this year's winner of the Best System I Don't Play Games On. The GBA SP I don't play games on by choice. The 'Cube doesn't have a lot of games, but is content to be a gaming machine and wait patiently until the next Zelda. The PSP is the only one that combines a lack of gaming with completely useless features best done on other platforms. Way to go Sony!
You'll notice that I didn't mention the Xbox. Accept for a small drought at the moment due to the annual summer doldroms of gaming, I play my Xbox nearly nonstop, and have since I bought it, breaking only to play Metroid Prime: Echoes and Resident Evil 4 on the 'Cube.
Now that the DS has been out a while, it's starting to hit it's stride with games, offering up a bunch of games that take advantage of it's unique touch-screen abilities. Kirby: Canvas Curse looks like it would be a ton of fun, although not without it's risks. Meteos also looks like a blast, and is done by the folks who did Lumines, so quality is all but assured. More importantly, Advance Wars Dual Strike is set to drop soon and appears to be yet another stellar game in the series. I don't know why I'm drawn to the Advance Wars games, as I am, quite possibly, the worst strategist of all time. Imagine Sun Tzu born into a Bizzaro world where he orders his troops into battle with nothing but garbage bags and sticks of butter and you have a fair impression of my unique tactical brilliance. Despite my shortcomings, I have a blast with these games, and the way this new one will make use of the dual screens looks to be more fun than a storage facility of simians. I'm also really looking forward to Trauma Center: Under the Knife, because I want nothing more than to pound on my DS, screaming "Don't you die on me Timmy!"
I'll still keep my PSP, waiting for the day when something that isn't a sports game or a half-assed port comes out on it, but I feel that I need to give the DS a chance, if anything, so that next year it can contend for this award as I do nothing but play Xbox 360 games.