The Vita – Sony’s love letter to the games of yesteryear and the hidden gems you’re missing

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Note: This article was originally published November 10th 2015 over at Playstation Enthusiast

I’ve always been a bit of a Nintendo devotee when it comes to handheld gaming. There’s something about Nintendo that just nails the handheld experience every time. Not only is the price point typically pretty good but you are generally offered a different experience than what you’re presented with on the big N’s home console counterparts.

Although I’ve owned every PlayStation home console I’d skipped right past the PSP because I found nothing about the system appealing. After all, what did I want with a multimedia device with big clunky mini-disc inspired game discs? Sure the PSP looked great but it didn’t really speak to me, it didn’t offer the experiences I was looking for. After all the PSP was well known for trying to replicate the PS2 experience on the move, I was interested in new experiences like using the touch screen on my newly acquired Nintendo DS. Eventually during the dying days of the PSP I decided to borrow one and I bought a couple of essential games to play on it (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII).

Not long after my hands on time with a PSP the Vita was announced. Unfortunately it didn’t ignite my interest; I did however keep a close eye on its catalogue of games. So what changed? Why did I feel the need to dive in and finally buy a Vita? Certainly one of the more common complaints is the lack of AAA games on the device, what could I possibly want with it?

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Here’s the reality, the Vita will never please the gamer looking for the latest blockbuster. What it will absolutely do is please the gamer looking for the curve ball, the unique, crazy Japanese experience, the niche visual novel that nobody has heard of. There is a treasure trove of gold if you’re willing to take the time to look because unfortunately, Sony does a bad job of advertising not only the system but its unique collection of games. The Vita doesn’t have to be about Call of Duty, Mass Effect or Bioshock; the Vita is about Danganronpa, Tearaway and Freedom Wars. Indeed it was upon hearing about the imminent release of Danganronpa that ultimately convinced me that the Vita was worth buying, that and the recent announcement that the original 1000 series (with the OLED screen) was about to be discontinued. I had recently played through and enjoyed 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors on my DS and upon hearing about the visual novel-esq Danganronpa I started looking at other games that I might be interested in if I owned a Vita. I gathered a small list of games that I either wanted (but were not system sellers alone) and games that looked interesting but had previously passed me by because I didn’t own a Vita. The time felt right to grab a Vita, after all even if no other games would be released that interested me at least I’d got together a handful of games that I was happy buying a system for. And so my journey began.

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Here’s where it gets interesting, originally I didn’t want a Vita because much touted features such as cross-buy to me felt like a nice extra but not a reason to own a device. I’d rather have a great library of games exclusive to a system rather than the ability to play many of my PSN and PS3 games on the move. Over the next few months I started to notice sales crop up on the digital store for PS1 classics and I found myself grabbing bargains here and there for many classic games that had passed me by. You see I’d owned a PS1 but I primarily did my gaming on my N64 so I’d played Final Fantasy VII yet I’d missed out on Grandia, Wild Arms and the Suikoden games to name but a few. Rather than paying the outlandish prices some of these games now fetch on disc I grabbed them for £2 or £3 per game! I then started searching for great PSP games I’d also missed out on and I discovered delights such as the Patapon series and added Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, LocoRoco and Lunar: Silver Star Harmony to my backlog. Suddenly I found myself in a position where I couldn’t keep up with all the gems available to me and to top it off another Danganronpa released, I caught up with Persona 4 Golden and grabbed Steins;Gate. The vita really was turning into a love letter to the PlayStation legacy, offering not only some unique hidden gems but a library full of classic games from yesteryear. As for the “nice extra” in cross-buy I found myself downloading previous games I’d purchased for my PS3. Some of which were games I’d purchased several years ago, yet as soon as the Vita version was released it was available to me for free. What more could I ask for?

This sleek, small device has proved to be my go-to console of choice. I found myself disregarding my 3DS and spending many hours while in bed, commuting on the train or simply taking a breather from house renovation to play on my Vita. I could happily leave the Vita in my work bag, still in sleep mode from the previous nights Persona session and resume during my lunch break at work. It’s luscious OLED screen, its dual analogue sticks, the fully encased screen flush with the chassis and multi-touch screen. The Vita feels like a serious bit of kit, the total opposite of a Nintendo handheld. Don’t get me wrong, I still find myself sucked into a good 3DS game every now and then but my preference is generally with Sony’s handheld masterpiece.

Surely there are downsides though right? As previously touched upon, many gamers feel the absence of AAA games has left the Vita gasping its last breaths and yes, I’ll admit this is a deal breaker for many but it’s not the only problem the Vita suffers from. One of my biggest complaints is with the memory, unlike the PS3 and PS4 which both have the ability to easily replace the internal hard drive with any 3rd party 2.5” drive, the Vita uses proprietary memory – and it’s not cheap! You’re looking at approximately £1 per 1GB if you go all out and buy a 64GB card; go for something smaller and you’re going to get significantly less bang for your buck, somewhere in the region of £20 for an 8GB card. Keep in mind that many Vita games and all PS1 and PSP games must be downloaded and you quickly chomp through your GB’s! As the Vita isn’t exactly the must have gadget it doesn’t seem that 3rd party companies are even interested in trying to create their own memory cards for the system either so Sony have the monopoly on this purchase. For this very reason I find myself looking out for bargain Vita games on physical media, I have both a 16 and 32GB card so if I see a game cheaper in its digital form I’ll normally grab that over a physical copy.

The future looks pretty bleak for the Vita, with Sony exec Andrew House referring to both the Vita and PlayStation TV as “Legacy Systems”1. It’s also a pretty fair assumption that the handheld won’t see any big hitters so you can forget another Uncharted, God of War or Killzone. Likewise you can kiss goodbye to the once, much anticipated Bioshock game and don’t expect any sign of infamous. What I can promise you though is that even if the Vita were discontinued tomorrow and development on all titles was halted there would still be enough content on the device to satisfy even the most hardcore PlayStation fan.

A few Vita facts for you to digest:

  • PlayStation TV can be used with a selection of Vita cartridges or downloads to continue playing on a TV using a controller
  • You can stream many of your old PSN games from your PS3 and any PS4 game to continue playing over Wi-Fi via the Vita
  • Vita was originally codenamed “NGP” which stood for “Next Generation Portable”2
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss is Vitas best selling game with around 1.46 million units sold3
  • Lifetime sales of the PSP far exceed that of the Vita with an estimated 80+ million4 units shifted, compared with the Vitas estimated 4 million5 or so units revealed during 2013

1 http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-05-27-sony-admits-first-party-lineup-a-little-sparse
2 http://uk.ign.com/articles/2011/01/27/psp2-announced-codenamed-ngp
3 http://www.vgchartz.com/platform/43/playstation-vita/
4 http://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/06/03/sony-discontinuing-psp
5 http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/04/playstation-2-manufacture-ends-years

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