The Playstation Vita is a pretty incredible device. The games that have been released on the platform have looked spectacular and the button + analog sticks layout of the Vita is ideal, especially for Playstation enthusiasts who are familiar with Dualshock controllers.
However, the Vita, which is more than a year old, has suffered from a large and very publicized problem: it just doesn’t have that many games. Worse, it has even less games that are absolute, must-have purchases—even for someone who already owns the freaking thing. And to break it down even further, those games are mostly ports: Persona 4: Golden, Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD, Mortal Kombat.
With the exception of Virtue’s Last Reward, Soul Sacrifice, and Guacamelee; critics have pointed out that the Vita is being pidgeonholed by both Sony and developers who see the device as a way to rerelease older games rather than develop new, exciting IPs.
And I’m absolutely okay with that.
It’s understandable to complain about not having “new” games for a device you just dropped 250 dollars on, but I think that’s more of a symptom of gaming culture’s grappling with the rapidly changing scape of mobile gaming. Back in the mid-90s, the idea that we could carry about these little devices—okay, they were actually kind of big and blocky—and play Pokemon on the go was amazing. The gaming function of smartphones, however limited that function may be, has removed a lot of the WOW factor that portable game devices inspired; it’s also pushed away potential customers. (If you’re not really into games and are only looking for games to play on the subway to and from your job, why buy a DS or Vita when you can just buy Angry Birds and Tetris for your phone?)
The Vita is for a particular sort of gamer, I think. The sort of person who, back in 2005, hungered to play Metal Gear Solid 3 whenever they were parted from their Playstation 2; the sort of person who had to traverse the awful pathways of life, Solid Snake-less, while his beloved console sat at home dutifully waiting his return. If the Vita is going to specialize in ports, I couldn’t be happier for that fact, especially since Sony is reaching out to independent developers in an effort to get indie games ported to the device. This is a great move because it simultaneously brings more content to the Vita owners while giving these games more exposure. And these are more than worthy of your attention if you haven’t played them yet (or even if you have!): Spelunky, Limbo, Hotline Miami, Lone Survivor, Terraria, Thomas Was Alone. I reviewed Thomas Was Aloneand was pleased to discover that the game felt right at home on the Vita. I’m intrigued to see how Dennanton Games is going to pull off Hotline Miami’s control scheme on the Vita.
With all the indie rereleases set for this year—and some new indie titles like Hohokum—The Vita’s future looks at least a little brighter than it did a couple of months ago. It’ll be interesting to see if the device can recover from its stumbles and live up to its potential.
When he isn’t teaching or cobbling together a novel, Javy devotes his time to writing about these video game things. He's a contributor and the former game editor at CultureMass. You can follow the trail of pizza crumbs to his Twitter feed @JavyIV.