According to Sony sales figures, more than 70 million people own a PlayStation Portable. That's reasonably impressive, but when you consider that there are 7 billion people in the world, that means only a small fraction have had the opportunity to play two of the five chapters in the bloody -- and bloody good -- God of War series.
At least until now. First came PlayStation 3-adapted versions of God of War and God of War II,, originally for PlayStation 2. And on Sept. 13 comes God of War: Origins Collection, a two-pack for PlayStation 3 that upgrades Kratos' two PSP adventures -- Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta -- onto a single Blu-Ray disc. For gamers willing to spend 20-30 hours with a ghost-skinned dude with massive anger management issues, it represents the rare opportunity to play through the series in chronological order.
And doing so changes your perspective on both the storyline and its complicated/tortured hero. Chains of Olympus assumes its place as the first entry in the series, an adventure that introduces us to Kratos early in his career as gofer for the Gods. He's still a man tormented by the fact that he slaughtered his wife and young daughter in a murderous rage provoked by the gods, but he's a long way from the sociopathic bastard he'll become. As he bashes Persian kings, loosens the chains of the Titan Hyperion and has an ill-fated throwdown with the wife of Hades (a battle that has sizable ramifications for the story trajectory of God of War III), some of the reasons for his vendetta become clearer.
Ghost of Sparta was one of the PSP's best and most graphically accomplished games, but when it was released late last year, it came drenched in a strong whiff of soap opera -- um, wait, Kratos has a brother? A brother who never even gets referenced in God of War II? Played at the proper place in the sequence (between God of War and God of War II), the heart-wrenching ending makes Kratos' Olympian vendetta even more poignant. Not even Oedipus had a righteous grudge this massive.
The graphics have made a surprisingly graceful transition to the big screen, far better than the PS3 ports of God of War and God of War II. Little touches that got lost on the PSP's teeny screen -- like Hyperion's fingers clenching in the background as you slowly approach, or the rage and pain in Deimos' eyes -- are suddenly front and center. Neither game can touch the slick beauty of the PS3-designed series finale, God of War III, but then again, were you really expecting them to?
The best upgrade is a control scheme that finally allows us to trade the PSP's shoulder buttons for a second analog stick. That's a pretty critical upgrade when it comes to dodge-rolling away from the raging fists of an angry Cyclops or the green fireballs of the Queen of the Underworld. The future god of war needs to be able to bust a move properly, after all.