I already covered how to get started on the 3DS. Let’s take a look at another handheld. It may not be as modern, but it’s still a viable option for modern handheld emulation, especially on a budget. Let’s take a look at the PSP and how to install Custom Firmware (CFW) on it.
First, a bit of history. Early in the PSP’s commercial life vulnerabilities were quickly found, but, unlike earlier consoles and handhelds, Sony had a way to patch that out. The PSP wasn’t the first with upgradeable firmware, but it was one of the first to really utilize it. So, to combat this, a coder by the username of “Dark Alex” started working at modifying the firmware. Eventually he, with the help of others, created Custom Firmware, a first on video game systems. Even to this day, various forms of CFWs are used to benefit from what newer firmware offers while still being able to run homebrew.
Now, for the purposes of getting started, we’ll focus on the two recent CFWs. They both use signed installers, so you won’t need anything beyond your PSP, your memory stick, and a way to copy files to it. Here are your choices:
Pro CFW: This hasn’t been updated for 6.61 and is a bit barebones compared to LME/ME. However, there has been feedback that some game mods/hacks have troubles with LME/ME so this is a safe fallback if you run into issues.
LME CFW: This is the most up-to-date, has some unique features, and had all of Pro’s features integrated into it. Unless you’re one of the unlucky few who run into compatibility issues with LME, there’s no reason to use Pro over this.
Let’s get started. I will write the instructions for LME/ME but Pro, while using slightly different terms and names, follows the same steps.
1: Download LME for your respective firmware. You can find the firmware installed on your PSP in the XMB by navigating to “Settings” → “System Settings” → “System Information”. If you have 6.61 then you’ll want the package named “release_661lme2.3.zip”. If you can’t find yours, simply update your firmware following your PSP’s instruction for updating.
2: Inside the zip file you’ll find a “PSP” folder. Just copy the folder and its contents to the root of your PSP’s memory stick.
3: Navigate to the “GAME” menu on your PSP and go down to “Memory Stick”. There you will find “LME Installer”. Launch it and follow its instructions. Now you have CFW installed. To start it up, just run “LME Launcher”, which came with the installer. Now you can delete the “LME Installer”. You will have to run the launcher again every time you restart your PSP to start up your CFW.
Note: 2.3 is the current version as of writing.
Note 2: There are ways to autoboot into CFW or even use “Permanent” CFW, but I will not cover those here due to a small possibility of bricking. If you want to find out more about those options, Wololo.net is a good resource.
WARNING!!! Never muck with your NAND (divided up and labeled “Flash 0”, “Flash 1”, “Flash 2”, and “Flash 3”). You could end up bricking your PSP if you do.
Now that you have CFW, let’s see what you can do with it. When you install software, there is a “EBOOT.PBP”. It and the files included with it should be in a folder. That folder needs to be placed in /PSP/GAME/ on your memory stick, then it’ll be good to go. Here’s a few emulators and choice homebrew games/applications I picked out:
RetroArch: While support for it is slim and development moving away from it, there’s still some good games and emulators covered with this. Most notably: Cave Story, NES, Game Boy, Doom, and GBA. Some cores may require BIOSs for the system you want to emulate.
TempGBA4PSP: Besides being a mouthful, this emulator runs well and is still seeing development attention to this day. It performs slightly better than RetroArch’s core. It does require a GBA BIOS. This emulator is a fork of Exophase’s and Nebuleon’s work. The creator of this fork is unknown.
NOTE: Updates for TempGBA4PSP can be found here, but the site is foreign and has NSFW ads.
PicoDrive: This will play most Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega CD, and 32x games. For CD games, you will need the BIOS. Most games run great on it. This is work of notaz, Chui, and many others.
MasterBoy: This is an older emulator and pales in comparison to RetroArch’s Gambatte for GBC emulation, but in terms of SMS and GG emulation, it’s still the best on the system. Plenty of people have gone in with a hex editor and tried to steal credit, but this is the last version to receive a real update.
Snes9xTYL: If you dabble in emulation at all, I’m sure you’ve heard of Snes9x. Here’s an amazing fork for the PSP. With plenty of options, great compatibility, and amazing performance, it’s one of the higher quality emulators on the system.
NOTE: As of writing Revision 28 is broken, use Revision 27 instead.
Cave Story PSP: Does this need an introduction? One of the first Indie hits, Cave Story is still a fun Action Platformer. Now you can play it on your PSP. Sure, RetroArch includes the NXEngine, but this version is better tailored to the PSP and its wider screen.
PSP Filer: This is simply a nice tool for managing your memory stick without having to plug it into your PC.
FuSa GamePad: Have a USB cable for your PSP? Ever wanted to use it as a gamepad? Well, now you can. Just install it and fire it up, it’s that simple. It acts as a DirectInput gamepad, so make sure your game supports DirectInput first. It will also work with consoles that support DirectInput, like the PS3.
Congratulations, now you’re ready to get started with homebrew on the PSP. There’s plenty more I can go on about, everything from plugins to packaging PS1 games into EBOOTs for the PSP’s POPS emulator, but I’ll save those for another article. Enjoy your PSP.
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