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PSP: I'm not dead yet

Sony's E3 press conference spent some time reassuring the public that the PSP platform was still very much alive, with new games and an enthusiastic mascot announced in lieu of price drops or new hardware.

It was hard not to be reminded of Monty Python's famous sketch when Sony took the stage Tuesday during its E3 press conference, assuring the public that the PSP platform was still alive, kicking, and very much a viable platform. The company is right, to a degree: millions still play PSP games and own systems, and the platform is far from a failure. On the other hand, the PSP has still never materialized into the superior do-everything portable Sony once dreamed of it becoming.

Marcus Rivers: Can he convince you to get a PSP? Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Though at last year's E3 Sony focused on the expensive and disc-free PSP Go as a means of revamping the PSP, this year Sony took a defensive strategy, emphasizing quality of games. Sony announced that 70 new games would be available by year's end, some of which look extremely well-made.

Among the highlights were God of War: Ghosts of Sparta, the sequel to the surprisingly great Chains of Olympus game, and a console-quality version of Kingdom Hearts. Invizimals, an augmented-reality game we were bullish about last year, was reintroduced, along with the PSP camera accessory we still haven't seen. The technology, involving hunting rendered creatures superimposed over a player's actual surroundings seen by the camera, is still compelling, though slightly less fresh than it was in 2009.

Persona 3, Valkyria II, Patapon 3, Hot Shots Tennis, Ace Combat Joint Assault, and a PSP version of EyePet were among the many titles name-dropped.

Of perhaps equal interest, however, was Sony's new "PSP mascot" revealed at E3 to be a counterpoint to the PS3's Kevin Butler. The fictional 12-year-old Marcus Rivers is a tough-talking PSP fanboy who focuses on the hardcore and long-lasting gameplay value of PSP games--a clear attempt to drive home the value in games like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Dollar for dollar, hour for hour, Sony and the PSP's new mascot might be right. But is that argument enough to save the PSP in a landscape of cheaper, quick-fix, casual gaming? Right now, it looks like Sony merely applied a bandage to the PSP's open chest wound.