The most beautiful shell for PSP (and why nobody's using it)

The ‘shells’ mentioned here have nothing to do with sea shores, oil companies or tax dodging. Shells are apps for PSP that seek to replace the XrossMediaBar - the GUI that is at the heart of the system. These applications generally try to mimic a well known interface, and may try to market themselves as OS - operating systems.

This is nonsense obviously, it takes more than a pretty UI to run Windows executables on a PSP. But some shells really do something beyond taking up Memory Stick space. They add features that are missing from the XMB, or hide others that are not perceived as useful.

Creating a mock Windows desktop on a PSP screen doesn’t work too well for one self-evident reason - no mouse. And without it, you’ll be left moving a screen cursor with an analog nub. Not the greatest user experience.

MoonShell best shell

MoonShell does better than that. The shell is the work of a Japanese developer who goes by the name of Moonlight. Notionally a port of MoonShell for the Nintendo DS, this release looks quite different from its dual-scren counterpart. Every asset has been reworked to take advantage of the higher specs of the PSP display.

The UI is clearly meant for a portable console, not a computer. Though it does have some inbuilt applications to expand its capabilities.

The music player can handle not only MP3 files, but AAC as well - a feat most other PSP homebrews cannot match.


And like with other homebrew music players, it is possible to underclock the CPU to extend battery life.


The app has some limited multitasking abilities as well - while listening to music, we can also look at our images, and read (but not edit) text files.



What sets MoonShell apart from the countless other homebrew shells is not any of its features, but rather the care that was taken while designing its interface. It clearly wasn’t just a case of copying assets from screenshots of Windows or some other bigger project. Every element looks like it belongs in its place.

Ultimately, the biggest limit of MoonShell is its inability to launch other PSP apps. Without this feature, it can never fully replace the XMB. But it still can boast of providing the best PSP experience when it comes to playing music.

So why did it never get popular? Two reasons. First, the app starts up in Japanese by default. With no language settings in the menu, the only way to get some English out of it is to edit an .ini file.


Secondly, it came out pretty late in the PSP’s lifespan - its first public release only coming in 2011. And yet, precisely because it was a late comer, all of its functions still work on the latest PSP firmware. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of many other PSP shells.