PlayStation Vita – Paying Homage to the Underdog



I owned many gaming consoles and handhelds over the course of my lifetime. From the Game Boy Color to the Lunchbox that was the GameCube, I loved Nintendo systems. But I also greatly enjoyed my PlayStation One, PS2 and PS3. Gaming is really important to me but one of my favorite consoles has to the PlayStation Vita. This handheld offers so much to gaming with its varied library, great hardware and a community that pushed me to be more active both online & in social media.

Today, I want to pay homage to the handheld with a name literally meaning ‘life’ and I hope you enjoy my thoughts and some history on the PlayStation Vita. This is an opinion piece, so I have a bit of a bias when talking about the Vita. Now that is out of the way, lets see what makes the Vita such an interesting piece of gaming history.


Origins

Sony has a long history of producing hardware, with them entering the console market in the late 90’s after a deal with Nintendo going sour regarding the ‘Nintendo PlayStation’. With the PlayStation One being a great success and the PlayStation 2 taking the world by storm, the company set there eyes on the next logical field of gaming to venture into; the handheld market.

It is a place Nintendo has dominated for decades and rightly so; the Game Boy, Game Boy Color & Game Boy Advance are some of the company’s most impressive platforms each having a great library of enjoyable titles. Sony wanted to try venturing into this field of gaming and released The PlayStation Portable. This would be a pocket PS2, having visuals far beyond Nintendo’s DS platform of that generation. It had some issues, with scratch-able disks (UMD’s) and rampant piracy late in the platforms life cycle but overall it was a success.

Being the home to many great titles like Persona 3 Portable, Gurimun, & Daxter, the PSP is a platform many hold strong memories for. It was a success for Sony too, with it selling over 50 million over the course of its life cycle. The system still sees release of new games in Japan & even in western markets via digital releases on Sony’s PlayStation Network Platform.

With the PSP’s success in the face of the Nintendo DS outselling it, they pushed ahead with production on a next generation handheld; The PlayStation Vita. Prototypes originally supported SD Cards and a PSP Go-like design but the final release had many features. Touch screen, rear touch pad, analog sticks, mic, gyroscope, front & rear camera and even a 3G release of the Vita at its launch; it was a jack-of-all-trades platform utility wise.

At launch, it released at expensive price point and over the next two years of its life cycle, Sony made moves that prevented the system from reaching further success. Between the high price point & memory card issues (very expensive to buy and limited space) alongside the threat of mobile gaming, the system lost Sony’s first party support by early 2016.

But the titles Sony did release on the Vita was quite strong, with key games like Tearaway & Soul Sacrifice Delta springing to mind. Both games are some of my favorite games on Vita due to not only making great use of the hardware but telling amazing stories I will never forget. Other noteworthy mentions from Sony’s studios work on Vita include the well-done super hero game Gravity Rush, the graphically intensive Killzone Mercenary and expansive JRPG Oreshika. 


My Introduction to the Vita

Back in 2013, I heard about this little handheld called PS Vita while I was lurking on the gaming forums of NeoGaf. At that time, I really wanted to become a member of those forums due to the great community that was part of the main Vita Monthy Threads. People were so friendly, gave great recommendations and just seemed like such great people.

I heard about the Vita from this place and how they were talking about it, made me want one. Badly. So between birthday money I recently got and some money my family was nice enough to offer me, I got my Vita at Best Buy. In addition to the Vita I got a lot; three games, three months of PlayStation Plus & an 8 GB memory card. I fell in love with the hardware, with everything popping off the system’s OLED screen and the hardware feeling really great to hold in my hand.

Over time, I built up my library from my original 9-13 games too as of this writing over 300 games. I played games of all kinds and the Vita is the system that made appreciate genre’s I normally never really touched in the past. From Japanese role playing games with grand stories too games I wouldn’t even give the time of day, I was introduced to many franchises I know avidly follow.

But the one thing I will always respect about the Vita, is how it connected me to the internet. I meet so many great people that are now good friends on social media. Talking to my friend @names2hard4you about the Trails of Cold Steel series, sharing my thoughts on the Vita at the Vita Lounge forums, having great conversations with people like @hunterslasher13…..it has been wonderful being part of the Vita community.


Facing the Toxic Issues Against the Vita

Its no secret that the Vita is faced with a bleak future on some occasions. Its a poor selling platform that many general gamers just see as that ‘strange’ handheld with the anime games. Recently, I had the personally annoyance of reporting on the whole Digimon: Next Order situation, where a publisher known for supporting the Vita was having issue clarifying if the game was releasing on the platform. That reminded me of very sour memories of a specific blunder from 2014; Final Fantasy: Type 0.

This JRPG was a game so many wanted to play and was excited about finally releasing in the west on Vita & PS4…..but we got a little typo. See, while a post on the PlayStation Blog stated it was coming to PS4 and Vita, it was a mistake. This blunder was so loud and toxic I remember just sitting back and seeing post after post appear on the NeoGaf forums about this issue. 

While Type 0 got modest success on PS4, it was still a sour seeing a game that in some ways was ‘promised’ to Vita owners, not come to the console. Issues like this pop up sometimes, like Sony ignoring the Vita during most press conferences or the system getting games canceled time to time.


Powerful Community for the Handheld of ‘Life’

While those issues happen, the Vita has such a powerful community that works hard to support it, both from the gamers and the publishers/indie studios. One major outlet that covers the Vita in great detail is The Vita Lounge. This place works hard on reviewing every Vita game on the market all the while being on top of things regarding Vita news & coverage.

In addition many great content creators like Latest Vita Games, Gadget Girl Kylie, and Blue Maxima release great video content for many Vita games & news coverage. I watch many videos on there channels and its great seeing a lot of Vita-related content being produced online.

If you read some of my reviews here on 3wirel, a lot of them cover Vita titles. Great publishers like NIS America, Idea Factory, Aksys Games, Bandai-Namco Games & more support the Vita with yearly releases & localization’s. Some of my favorite games this year come from Vita releases like Grand Kingdom and Psycho-Pass, and with more releases planed in the future by these and other publishers like Atlus & Tecmo-Koei, the Vita has a lot of life left in it.

But its not just Japanese studios making Vita content. Indie studios have been making amazing Vita games for years now and they stand tall. One of the first indie games I played on Vita was DrinkBox’s Guacamelee and it is to this day one of my favorite games on the console. It felt like a Metroidvanna but had really great combat mechanics with clever usage of platforming mechanics. Another indie highlight for me was Image and Form Games’ Steamworld Dig. Dig was a game that is simple on the surface and doesn’t take long to beat but I really enjoyed my time with the game. The great music and fun gameplay sucked me into the games world.


The Future of the PS Vita

While the system might not appear to have a long time left, the Vita has ‘life’ in its name. Many games have been announced the past few months indicating that 2017 will be packed with great titles and software for the console. With more Japanese & Indie titles awaiting announcement & localization, I feel the Vita will have a great 2017. 

The Vita is a big reason why I love Video Games so much. It offers such a varied library across native and emulated (PSP & PS1) titles, has great hardware and the community for the console is really great to be a part of.

Between my backlog of Vita games to playthrough & plenty of new releases on the way, I can say with confidence many Vita owners will have a lot to play in the distant future. If you are reading this and are thinking ‘Mmm…..I might want a Vita now” then I recommend getting the Vita 2000 model. It is not only the newest one and has some better features (better battery) but also supports Micro USB cords (something the original Vita does not).

Special Thanks/Sources

@names2hard4you for the subtitle of the article, Fady K for making Upcoming Vita Games thread on NeoGaf, Kotaku

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