The Life and Death of Vita

Earlier this month, news broke that Sony was finally discontinuing production of the Vita.  This got me thinking a lot about the machine. Considering my enthusiasm for handheld gaming, I’ve always viewed the Vita a bit regretfully.  As a platform, it never really sparked much passion in me. It’s an amazing piece of hardware: a big colorful screen, a nice d-pad and buttons, very ergonomic compared to other handhelds, and, of course, it has two analog sticks, an addition that its predecessor sorely needed.  As a machine, it’s also just very slick looking from an aesthetic standpoint. In comparison, I’ve always thought the various versions of the 3DS looked very toy-like, especially considering the classy, minimalist shapes of the DS Lite and DSi. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I always feel a bit more self-conscious when other adults see me playing a 3DS than I do when I’m playing a Vita.

Severed was an incredibly unique dungeon crawler designed specifically for the Vita.

The problem that I’ve always had with the Vita is the games.  On the one hand, it’s unfair and inaccurate to say that the Vita doesn’t have a decently-sized library of games.  The problem is it doesn’t have a lot of games unique to the system. Sony put a lot of effort into supporting the PSP with great games.  They developed new series like LocoRoco and Patapon, and they had great entries of their other big series on the machine, like Killzone, Syphon Filter, Resistance, MotorStorm, and Little Big Planet.  The big video game publishers in Japan were also big supporters of the PSP, but that support didn’t materialize the same way for the Vita. Square-Enix, for instance, launched huge titles for the PSP like Final Fantasy Type-0, The Third Birthday, and Crisis Core, but the only major game for the Vita from them that I can think of was the FFX/FFX-2 collection.  

It seems like most of these publishers very early on decided that mobile and 3DS were simply better investments.  The worst loss for the Vita was when Capcom decided to move the Monster Hunter series from PSP to 3DS, instead of Vita.  Monster Hunter was a hugely successful series in Japan and was the driving force behind the PSP’s long-tail popularity over there.  Worst of all, Sony, themselves, gave up on making games for the Vita pretty quickly. Going by Wikipedia, the last major release from them seems to have come out and 2013.

Yomawari Night Alone was a surprisingly unusual horror game for Vita.

Regardless, the Vita still managed to cultivate a fair number of games for itself.  The Vita library was heavily filled out with indie games. I like indie games, and I play a ton of them, but I was never really drawn to play these games on the Vita.  This was mainly, I think, for two reasons. First, these games often released long after their original release on either Steam or PS4, and I had often already played them on these other platforms by the time they came to Vita.  There were a few times when I made a conscious effort to wait for the Vita release of a specific game, but this frequently ended in the Vita version being cancelled or the wait ending up being so long that I just lost interest. The second issue I had with these games was that they were often markedly inferior versions, either running poorly on the Vita or simply not being scaled correctly to the handheld’s screen size and resolution.  Stuff like uncomfortably tiny text or fuzzy image quality were recurring flaws in these ports.

Gravity Rush was an original title created for Vita. Unfortunately, the sequel was PS4-only.

I know that in addition to indie games, there was also a large contingent of Japanese visual novels released for the system.  And while I recognize there is a niche for these sorts of games, the genre doesn’t really appeal to me outside of a few of the higher profile games like Danganronpa or Steins;Gate.

I know that I’m not alone in feeling, simply but sadly, that the glory days of handheld gaming are long behind us.  The Vita didn’t really come close to living up to the PSP, and while the 3DS faired better, it’s library wasn’t quite as expansive and vibrant as the DS before it.  Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of great games for the 3DS, but they were mostly from Nintendo, while other game makers provided much less support. Almost certainly, a combination of mobile phone gaming and the extensive piracy on both the PSP and DS has lured support away from dedicated handhelds.  From that perspective, I think the Switch is probably a very smartly formulated device, as it keeps Nintendo’s handheld legacy alive, while also being a platform that attracts console game makers.

All of this said, I’m not really in a rush to bury my Vita in a drawer and forget about it.  The recent production news has really been a reminder to me that there’s still a handful of games that I want to go back and play.  Particularly, the higher profile visual novels, namely Danganronpa, Steins;Gate, and Virtue’s Last Reward. I also recently became interested in playing Death Mark, a more obscure title from last fall.  Perhaps it will be a Halloween game this year. Beyond that, I think the machine is still the best way of playing PS1 and PSP games. It’s too bad that most of my PSP collection is on UMD and not PSN, or else I could probably permanently retire my PSP.

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Posted on March 31, 2019, in Essays and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. That’s weird because I thought the Vita was considered better than the PSP. There were a few Vita games I was interested in, but a majority of them seemed to jump ship and get releases on the PC as well. I would actually have to say that the 3DS had an overall better library than its predecessor, though. Yes, many of the best games were from Nintendo, but I’d say what the 3DS lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality. Meanwhile, the Switch was an ingenious move. Nintendo took their handheld dominance and made the other two consoles directly compete against it, so now it can’t be ignored so easily. Coupled with its indie support, and you’ve got yourself one stellar console.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a matter of taste and perspective, of course, but I completely see where you’re coming from on the 3DS. For me, I think Nintendo’s first party output on the 3DS has been better than their output on DS, but when I start to think about the third party games on the DS, I think it wins. From around 2005-2008, the DS just felt like it was in a golden age. So many amazing and inventive DS games came out during this time. It felt like the touchscreen and dual displays really empowered and inspired game makers in ways that Nintendo’s other “gimmicks” never quite did. As for Vita, I know it has a very strong cult-following who may disagree with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I still play my Vita. The visual novels you mentioned are all excellent and worth checking out. Sadly most of them are available on other systems too. When companies started to release the Vita crown jewels on other systems it became less of a must buy item.

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  3. I don’t blame you for being self-conscious about your 3DS. I prefer classy sleek looking device myself. But sometimes I just don’t care what people think. Then again, I am from Seattle, we are not so uptight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are a lot of times I want to bring a handheld to work so that I can play on my lunch break. I work around a lot of STEM people, and the younger ones are all very cool with video games. It’s the older staff that I’m self-conscious around. Honestly, it’s a lack of maturity on my part, and I should be more confident in my hobbies and stop caring what others think so much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Think of it this way, your handheld game system is a digital version of a soduku book or a crossword puzzle book. I always see a lot of intelligent looking older men with them. It’s kind of the same concept. You play game to pasttime. Personally for me, I like to stare outside the window or go for a walk during lunch break. I do most of my gaming at home where it feels more relaxed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey there. I deleted my old blog. Recently I played Death Mark. I really like it. If you are interested you can review on my new blog.

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      • Hi! Thanks for reaching out to me. I would be interested in reading your thoughts, but I’m not sure how to find your new blog.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Happy you are interested! Here is the link: https://timeoutfromreality.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/death-mark-review/. You can also click on my gravatar, which will also take you to my profile. There is a link there to the blog as well.
        My apologies for deleting my old blog without warning. There were many reasons why I deleted it, but still I should have been mindful of readers.

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  4. theimpassionedcynic

    Does this mean we’re not getting P5 on the PSV?

    But yeah, it’s such a great machine but Sony didn’t support it out of the gate. It didn’t help that it used proprietary memory cards.

    Sony also focused on games/franchises that were better on the big screen. Uncharted and Killzone come to mind.

    Such potential wasted away. At least it has a decent library in spite of everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had originally had absolutely no interest in the PSP. Then I got it as a Christmas present, and it turned out to have a really great library and I was really happy with it.

    So, when I started looking at the PS Vita, I was really interested in it. Figured it’d be a repeat of the PSP experience. And…. I never really got interested enough in the library to get in there. Danganronpa and Persona 4 Dancing got me close. But now I have them on other consoles. And all the other cool games on there I got interested in ended up being released on other consoles about the time I found out about them. In the end, really the only game I want in that library is a remake of a game I already own, so…

    Poor Vita. It could have been something, but it just didn’t have the foundation to stand on.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have not played the Vita. I do find something interesting about handheld games consoles, I like the way the games are made to compensate for the smaller machine and are more designed to be played for short amounts of time. I also find that games released on handheld consoles are a little different to games released on bigger consoles (such as the difference between the Wario Land series compared to the Mario games and the Donkey Kong Country games compared to the Donkey Kong Land series). This console seems to have a lot of good technical aspects and I remember the sleek looking design. It also seems unusual for a console to feature so many visual novels, considering that they seem more like an innovative idea for a game, rather than the main library for a console.
    What particular games are highlights of this console? Is it enjoyable to play games using this console? This article seemed very well researched and I found the details quite interesting.

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  7. It’s so strange to me that the Vita didn’t catch on more when it’s in essence a Sony version of the Switch. It’s does most of the same things as a handheld that the Switch does, and years before Switch’s release, but the Switch was and is wildly more popular. Was it the Nintendo exclusives? The console options? No, the Vita could port to console too. The price point? Maybe. If I recall the Vita was around 400 at launch. With similar graphics capabilities and a similar shape, resolutions, and screen size… IMO the launch titles killed the Vita. It didn’t have much good on it for ages. I was working video game retail at the time so I remember. Meanwhile Switch opens with Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. What do you think? Just a combo of the above?

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