Around this time last year I set out on a ‘quest’ to find a way to revisit my passion for retro gaming that was easy and unobtrusive to family life.
Though watching some great YouTube tutorials, I became hooked on the ‘Raspberry Pi,’ a small kit computer, and the ‘Retropi’ software that allowed you to emulate many different classic consoles (like the Megadrive, NES, SNES, Gameboy etc).
I can’t recommend this project enough for fans of retro gaming. Although it’ll never beat the ‘real thing,’ it takes up no space, is cheap and can be picked up and put down at the drop of a hat – perfect when time, space and money are at a premium with a family.
A year later and although there have been a few issues along the way with it, it’s been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on and is still giving me hours of retro goodness a year on. As a bonus, it’s also led me to discover some consoles and gaming history I knew very little about that I now love, such as the Famicom the SG-1000, the TRS-80 and many more.
You can read about my process with the Raspberry Pi (so far) in the following blog posts!
The Next Step:
This year, I’ve decided to try and make the retro gaming experience even easier by looking into modding a handheld system to play retro games ‘on the fly,’ so I can easily take my favourite old games with me.
Now I realise the Raspberry Pie is already kind of portable; after all it’s only the size of a debit card. But you still need a tv, keyboard, controller etc.. which make it more difficult if you say..wanted to take it on holiday, on the bus etc..
So I I started looking at different options for handheld devices; including an original modded Gameboy Advance which looked pretty cool, but didn’t seem to have many options.
In the end, the consensus amongst most articles/videos seemed to be that the PSP (PlayStation Portable) was the best one to go for.
The PSP is Lightweight, well build, has a good screen and controls and seems fairly easy to modify with a memory stick and some software.
I started my search on Facebook marketplace; a dangerously easy method of finding things at both a reasonable cost and within driving distance.
After looking into the 4 different models of PSP (1000,2000,3000 and ‘Go’), some scanning of prices and options to see what constitutes a ‘good bargain,’ I found a well priced 3000 model for £50, including some preloaded games, the all important memory stick, a case and charger/usb wires.
So off I drove to Wigan on Friday night to pick it up from a nice young lad called Andy (once I’d got past some confusion in knocking on the wrong door to find another very perplexed Andy!)
It all works great as a handheld and is in great condition, apart from a little crack on one of the buttons which doesn’t effect gameplay at all. The screen is clear and it’s easy to use. The speakers aren’t great, but what can you expect from a handheld really?! Overall I’m really happy with my find and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it!
Let the Games Begin!:
I looked around on YouTube again, and found a couple of options, the best of which (to me at least) involved downloading a piece of software called ‘EmuPack,’ which had a range of emulators that could be packed with your roms.
Here is the tutorial if you want to try this yourself –
The tutorial was easy and quick to use and it all seemed to fit on the memory stick without any problem.
Next up was to transfer the roms. I’d already amassed a years worth of roms from my Retropi, so it was just a matter of remotely linking my Raspberry Pi to my PC, connecting my PSP over usb and copying the roms over!
There was a bit of a difficulty with this at first however as many of the emulators don’t overtly name the console that they are emulating. So it took a bit of guess work and perseverance, but I worked them all out and transferred the roms.
As the memory card is only 8gb I had to be fairly frugal with my choice of favourite games for each system, but I chose a good range to test the PSP’s capabilities.
….And…do they work on the PSP?
The answer is … ‘mostly.’
Each emulator is quite different and has its own quirks. Some go straight into the game selection, others you have to find through menus. Some have full screen display, others need configuring.
It certainly won’t be ‘replacing’ my Raspberry Pi, but it’s given me an easy portable version to take with me when out and about, and overall, for a first attempt I am really impressed with how easy and effective that was. I’m looking forward to playing some classic games on it!
If I work out some more tips and tricks, I’ll write a follow up to this. But for now I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.