Sony's Next Generation Portable has a lot of fancy, no doubt expensive new equipment inside it. And you know what? None of it matters. Why? Because the thing has two thumbsticks.
People — and we are among those people — have been crying out for a portable with two thumbsticks ever since the release of the original PSP. Now that our cries have been answered (and they really have, these are true "sticks", not analog nubs like on the PSP), we can hopefully look forward to a far superior games library on Sony's new portable than on its last one.
See, having two thumbsticks lets the NGP do what the PSP promised, but never actually delivered: serve as a true portable console. By that I mean it is able to replicate the gameplay experience you get on a PS2 or PS3, only in your hands. And on the train. Or a bus. Or the can.
The PSP — and Sony, and other publishers — thought the first PSP could do this. It may not have had the horsepower of the PS2, but it was deemed close enough, and the rapid-fire release of PS2 "ports" like Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories was proof of this.
Only, it wasn't. Without a second thumbstick to control the camera, it quickly became apparent that playing similar games on the PSP as you'd played on the PS2 was in many cases a lesser experience. Some titles, like LocoRoco, were designed with the PSP in mind and were amazing. Others, like God of War, could get by. Yet many others, based on genres that people had grown accustomed to playing with dual sticks, felt difficult to control.
This was especially the case with first-person shooters. Those that tried to replicate a console experience without the ability for players to smoothly move the camera with a second thumbstick failed miserably, while in other cases, some of Sony's most important franchises on the PS2 and PS3, like Killzone and Resistance, arrived on the PSP not as first-person shooters, but as "simplified" third-person action titles.
And first-person shooters are only, you know, one of the most popular and biggest-selling genres on the planet, particularly for the kind of "serious" gamer Sony is courting with this handheld.
The NGP, however, changes this. You can now take a game that runs on the PS2 or PS3 and just...bring it to the handheld. Just like we saw yesterday with Uncharted, a game that had it been released on the PSP, would have likely been re-imagined as an isometric platformer.
Sure, a few concessions will have to be made if it's a particularly large or technically demanding PS3 game, or if it needs all four trigger buttons all the time (the NGP only has two, though the rear touch panel may be able to deputise) but by and large, if a game is a shooter on the PS3, then it can come to the NGP as a shooter.
So the Killzone game on the NGP can be a proper Killzone game. Any Zelda clones will give you proper camera control. Sports games can play just like they do on your PS3.
Those are the kind of possibilities that have us truly excited about the NGP. Not for ports of console games, but ports of console experiences. Which is why, despite the OLED screens and rear touch panels and 3G connectivity present in the handheld, the biggest, most important inclusion is that second little plastic stick on the right of the front panel.