Underrated, Thy Name is Vita

The Vita's reputation of having no games couldn't be farther from the truth.
In many circles, the PlayStation Vita bears a dark reputation as “the handheld with no games.”
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Don’t get me wrong, the amount of blockbuster first and third party exclusives on the system is definitely lacking compared to the much more popular Nintendo 3DS. However, when one takes a look at the entire library on the Vita, its “gameless” reputation simply doesn’t hold water.

I will preface the rest of this opinion piece by flat out saying:

The PlayStation Vita is a failure compared to the 3DS in terms of sales figures.

As of February 22nd, 2014, the Vita sold 7 million units worldwide (according to vgchartz) compared to 43.2 million 3DS units. That is not a typo folks, the Vita has sold less than 1/6 the units the 3DS has sold (the 3DS has almost a year of market-time more than the Vita, but just by looking at the numbers that’s irrelevant). Sony definitely has some serious work to do if they hope to sell even 20 million units by the end of the Vita’s cycle.

While the numbers paint a heinously hideous picture, one simply has to spend a few hours with the Vita to fall in love with the quirky device.

I often find myself playing a major console title and a smaller Vita title concurrently, and I find myself enjoying each game more when I do this. I love AAA console titles for their narratives, scale, graphics, and gameplay; I love Vita titles for their quirkiness, challenge, stress on gameplay over cinematic experience, and portability. I don’t feel the need to play mobile games, as the mobile experiences on Vita are greater than any mobile game I’ve experienced. I am able to satisfy any touchscreen gaming urge I may have (which is maybe once every, I don’t know, millennium), and have the tight, button-based, precision controls I demand from skill based gameplay.

While I feel that everyone who is serious about gaming should have either a console or a gaming PC (don’t worry Master Race, I have your back), a handheld can greatly compliment the games you play on your main system. In terms of accessing the type of handheld content I personally enjoy (opinion alert!), the Vita is the ideal handheld system.

It has fantastic games.

One of the five greatest games I have ever played (Persona 4: Golden) is a Vita exclusive

One of the five greatest games I have ever played (Persona 4: Golden) is a Vita exclusive. I love a well-designed JRPG (as my undying love of the Pokémon series can attest to), so this urge was satisfied by the eighty plus hours I spent with Persona 4: Golden.

If a platformer isn’t going to be ultra-challenging, then I feel it needs to be super charming and quirky. Both Tearaway and Little Big Planet: Vita satisfy this bizarre personal requirement of mine. I am in the camp that firmly believes Tearaway should be packaged with every Vita, as no other title has perfectly demonstrated every feature of the system without feeling gimmicky.

What really stood out about Tearaway, and made it one of my favorite handheld titles of all timewas the way the player was incorporated into the beautiful paper-craft universe. The front camera is used to place the face of the player, charmingly known as “The You,” into the paper world’s sun. If something “scary” (placed in quotations because no sane human will be scared by Tearaway) was happening, I made a scared face. If something joyous was happening, I smiled. This level of emotional interaction added a depth to the game that could not be accomplished without the Vita hardware. 

Little Big Planet: Vita is the definitive entry in the aforementioned series. The precision platforming, combined with the touch and gyro controls, makes the gameplay a joy. If you are a fan of Little Big Planet and haven’t played the Vita version, you are doing yourself a great injustice.

The excellent content on the PlayStation Vita certainly doesn’t come close to ending here.

Want a cinematic, console-esque experience on a handheld? Uncharted: Golden Abyss should be right up your alley (it was the closest thing to a “console game” I’ve ever played on a handheld).

Want to play a sports game? (I sure don’t, but that’s a conversation for a different day.) One can find the acclaimed FIFA and Madden titles in the PlayStation Store.

Want a solid shooter? The grossly underrated Unit 13 will satisfy both first and third person shooting needs, and Killzone: Mercenary will allow players to play a quality first person shooter title online.

Bizarre Japanese visual novels that consistently make you question your sanity more your thing? Look no further than the truly strange Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

All of these games can be great fun, but where I find the greatest enjoyment is in the wealth of quality indie titles available for download (which is definitely the ideal way to get your games on the system).

I could begin naming them, but I’ll be here until I’m 40.

The Vita has had a small revolution as the “indie-system,” and this could not be more true. As I have previously written, indie games are the best place to go if you are looking for developers that take risks in their games.

All of the quirky things you love about indies are beyond present on the Vita, and the tight controls and gorgeous screen allow you to experience them at their best. With PlayStation Plus, one will get a couple of excellent games every month for free, and tons of discounts of the extensive indies available. Because of this, PlayStation makes it affordable to access the incredible lineup on the Vita (once the still annoyingly high cost of entry is paid, mind you).

Obviously this article is completely opinion-based, one could absolutely detest indies and non-Nintendo handhelds.

All I can say is that if you get the chance to fool around with a few quirky games on the PlayStation Vita, I’d be surprised if you didn’t find at least a little joy.


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Matt Whittaker
@MattTwittaker www.MillennialBuddha.com - full portfolio www.BigRedBarrel.com Writer