The rest of the DS content also makes the transition intact, with minimal changes to key gameplay elements. The driving model is less slidey and more snappy than in the big-console games, and the cops still need to be batted away car by car rather than evaded wholesale, and both changes feed into the game's sense of identity.
Some things work better than others, however. One of the DS games' cute little quirks was the microgames used to bring things like hotwiring, arming bombs and cracking locks to life, each of which brought the stylus to hand for a few seconds. The same activities are still included on PSP, but now rely on button presses. None is difficult, but that's not the issue. On the DS they bore novelty and amusement value into mundane concepts, but on the PSP they come across as filler.
Huang's PDA also suffers here in comparison to its home. Without the stylus, navigation is fiddly, while the PDA itself - home to Huang's vital GPS, drug trade information and email applications - takes a second or two to load on our UMD version every time you hit the Start button (the digital version wasn't available at the time of writing). It's not the end of the world, but it's an unnecessary pause in it.
There's also the sense that while this is a good port in some ways, it could have gone further. There's more music on the radio stations, but no obvious custom soundtrack option. There's multiplayer via PlayStation Network, but it's only for two players and relies on the Rockstar Social Club friends list (and was unavailable to test for this review). There are new rampages and other side missions, but nothing to really mark the game out on PSP besides its graphics. Without a crib sheet, you could be forgiven for overlooking the differences in evaluating it.
With that said, you can't fail to notice the graphical update. Not only are the textures much higher-resolution throughout the world, but the once-squashed comic cells used for the text-based story sequences look beautiful spread across the PSP screen, and almost everything in the world benefits from the addition of dynamic real-time lighting, and tweaks and additions to the FX roster. Driving around at night in shiny, beautifully shaded cars as your headlights cut the gloom, you'd never mistake it for a game that began life on the wristwatch-powered Nintendo DS.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars isn't quite so stunning second time around, then, but of course for PSP owners it won't be second time around - and while some of the original's slickness has been lost in translation, the quality is still overwhelming. Between the clever mission design, comedy storyline and imaginative drug-dealing angle, it represents many hours of play, all of which live up to its legacy.