The list of original games for the PSP isn't a long one, but now that developers have had some time to develop for the system, things are looking up. One original game that Sony is looking towards to turn things around is The Con, a fighting game from SCEA's Santa Monica team.
The Con chooses to focus on several aspects of underground fighting, and the fighting lifestyle. You play the role of an ex-con who uses their fighting skills as well as their criminal knowledge to win underground tournaments and earn cash. There are five fighting disciplines represented, Street boxing, Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do, Jeet Kune Do and Wrestling. Winning fights yields experience points which you can use to increase your character's skills in whatever area you choose. Along the way, you'll team up with two other characters and take on other crews in three on three matchups.
So where does the "con" aspect of all this come into play? Well, your primary objective is to win fights and make it to the final tournament, but the buy-in for the final tourney costs quite a bit of cash, so winning lots of money is also a huge part of what you'll be doing. Before a fight, you'll be able to place a bet for or against yourself, and even what time in the round the fight will end, via a runner who will place the bet on your behalf. Since maxing out your take, win or lose is the goal, you'll have to put on a show to convince the crowd to throw down cash opposite of what you're trying to do. If you're going to take a dive, you don't want them to see you tanking it, so you'll throw "fake" punches by holding down the L button when delivering a blow. This causes your fighter to pull their punches, which don't do much damage, but fool the crowd into thinking you're winning the fight. When the time is right, you'll take a flurry of punches, lose the fight, and hopefully earn a big pay day. Of course, you don't want to lose every fight, so you'll have to take punches from lesser opponents to get the crowd interested before you knock your counterpart's lights out.
The fighting action takes place from an over the shoulder perspective, which works well on the PSP, since it allows you to clearly see what is happening on screen. Each character has their own moves and combo strings, but the controls are simple, so you don't have to worry about memorizing long lists of button presses to perform powerful moves.
The graphics were sharp, and even looked good when shown on a high-def television via a PSP development unit. Using the game's "Image Import" system, you'll be able to import a picture of your noggin and add it into the game – a feature that will be great when fighting friends. Speaking of friends, The Con supports head-to-head wireless play, sharing one disc. The developers wouldn't expand on it, but they did hint that there would be some way to make fighting friends "worthwhile," which might be a hint that you'll be able to wager some of your hard-earned cash.
The developers are banking heavily on the addictive lure of earning as much money as possible during a single fight. As they tell it, trying to squeeze the last few dollars out of the crowd as the clock ticks down is incredibly addicting. If you've got some buddies that are also into playing the game, this is certainly likely, but it will be interesting to see how people that are playing alone take to it, when earning money doesn't do much more than unlock items in the game's shop. The Con has a lot of potential, and Sony seems to be really excited about the game, so you might want to give it a look when it comes out this October.