The Best to Own Forever series isn’t about what’s great right now. It’s about what will be great in 10 years, even though there will be better-looking games and later sequels, and what will keep you pulling that dusty old console out of the closet every once in a while. In this installment, we look at the PlayStation Portable.
Patapon 2 combines all of the basics from the original with a new layer of complexity that is deep enough for veterans of the series, but is still very welcoming to new players as well. The combination of a simple strategy game and the catchy rhythmic beats of the Patapon as they charge through enemies feels absolutely perfect on a handheld. There isn’t anything else like it on the system and the chances of seeing another game in the series (despite how much I would love a fourth game for the Vita) is unlikely. – Andrew Passafiume
Today the Harmonix name is synonymous with Rock Band, but they released two music games on the PlayStation2 before their guitar-game breakthrough, Frequency and Amplitude. When EA wanted to put out a Rock Band entry on the PSP, the team looked back and put a Rock Band coat of paint on the Frequency gameplay. Rock Band Unplugged has you juggling four tracks, which sounds overly difficult until you sit down to play and see that Harmonix’s smart design choices are present here, too. Do well enough on a single instrument, and it will play itself for a bit while you get the others up to par. Rock Band Unplugged is a great transition of the Rock Band formula from peripheral-based play to the PSP’s controls, and the number of songs available means that you won’t be tired of the soundtrack when it’s time to raise the difficulty and go again. – Justin Last
Almost as much of a puzzle game as it is an RPG, Half-Minute Hero boils down basic RPG concepts into “thirty second” chunks of gameplay. You have thirty seconds to attempt to stop a villain from destroying the world, so you must grind to the appropriate level, buy new equipment, and get ready for the final battle in less than thirty seconds. You can refill your time, but it still moves at a breakneck speed regardless. The game is surprisingly addictive and finishing each level gives you a nice feeling of satisfaction, especially if you finish it just before the timer runs out. This is a unique game that is perfect for a portable system. – Andrew Passafiume
On a system largely known for borrowing a few game concepts and exploiting the heck out of them, Dead Head Fred is an anomaly. The Vicious Cycle-developed puzzle-action-adventure has offbeat humor, great voice acting from the likes of John C. McGinley and Kari Wahlgren and… well, there’s just nothing like this game. You’re a brain in a jar with a body. Yeah. – Graham Russell
Final Fantasy IV is my favorite game in the entire series. Everybody has their own personal favorite, and IV is mine. I played it for the first time when I was given a hand-me-down PS1 and picked up Final Fantasy Origins and Final Fantasy Tactics. FFIV got thrown in first, and while I like Tactics, I think that I made the right choice. FFIV transitions to the PSP wonderfully. The 16-bit graphics look beautiful on the PSP screen, and Square was right to port them as-is instead of wasting money making the game 3D (Final Fantasy III DS, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions). What really makes this UMD shine though is its completeness. On one disc you’ve got Final Fantasy IV along with Final Fantasy IV: The After Years and Final Fantasy IV: Interlude. The After Years tells the story of Cecil’s son and was previously only available on Wii in the US, and Interlude bridges the two stories together and is only available as a part of Complete Collection. If you want to experience everything Final Fantasy IV, then Complete Collection is the only edition that makes sense to own. – Justin Last
There is a good reason why this game is still cherished by many, even if it was outclassed in a few ways by Persona 4. It stands out enough in terms of its design and story, and has plenty of content to keep you busy for a long time. The cast of characters is lively well-written, and the gameplay’s mix of social sim and traditional RPG is timeless. And thanks to full-party control, this is probably the best version of Persona 3 around and a game that is easily worth cherishing forever. – Andrew Passafiume
While it doesn’t quite live up to its PS3 predecessor, Valkyria Chronicles II manages to fit a lot of the first game’s charm and mechanics into the PSP, and it compensates for the technical limitations of battle scope by using a piecemeal map system that gets shuffled around to create lots of challenges. The first game ends, but this one really doesn’t. If you can get over the let’s-copy-Persona nature of the school setting, it’ll be one of your favorites. – Graham Russell