Arriving late to #VitaIsland

Outside of the original Game Boy, I actually haven’t been very engrossed in the lineup of portable gaming systems that have launched over the years. I’m guessing it’s mostly because the majority of the systems released after I started driving around and having jobs, but it actually wasn’t until the mid- to late-2000s that I started paying any real attention to the portable market.

THE EARLY YEARS WITH GAME BOY
I loved playing my Game Boy, as it came very much in handy during the trips we would take to see extended family members. Not only did the Game Boy make the 3-4 hour car trips more manageable, but my grandparents didn’t exactly have Nintendos or a SEGA Genesis plugged in at their homes. Although, in fairness, my maternal grandfather had a Commodore 64 that he held onto FOREVER, but that’s a story for a different time.

I did eventually latch onto the Game Boy Color, picking up Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Pokemon Pinball with my system, but my interest waned when the Playstation took over all of my gaming time and I started being able to drive myself to arcades. By the time Nintendo moved on with the Game Boy Advance, I had zero interest in the system and bought in extremely late when I wanted to own the original WarioWare game and use the eReader in tandem with Animal Crossing for GameCube.

What likely finally struck my interest was the increased accessibility of import games and the knowledge of how many of these games never made it to the United States. My gateway back into portable games was the Nintendo DS, which, in a backward move connected me with all of the Game Boy Advance games I had largely ignored over a good three years of that system’s life.

SONY STEPS IN
Even though Nintendo had portable competition throughout the years, no competitor ever received the buzz that Sony did when the PlayStation Portable splashed onto the scene. The PlayStation 2 had gaming firmly in its grip, and the majority of people at the time seemed to have the opinion that the PSP would be another nail in the coffin of Nintendo – the popular internet opinion at the time was that the latter half of the Nintendo 64 and the way the Nintendo Gamecube were handled was going to put the company out of the video gaming hardware business.

Coincidentally, I was in retail for both instances when Sony launched its portable systems. In both cases, support was fairly hot out of the gate, but then fizzled over time.

This was a stark contrast to the DS and 3DS in my area – no one seemed to care about the Nintendo DS until it revised the system with the Nintendo DS Lite at the release of New Super Mario Bros. Support for the Nintendo 3DS was ice cold until it really backed off the 3D features of the system. In conversations with some customers, similarly to what Nintendo saw with its disastrous Wii U launch, people believed the 3DS was merely a DS that offered 3D features and there was no reason for them to slap money down on a “3D version” of what they already had.

When the PSP released, people lauded the fact it was essentially a portable PS2 and the UMD video and mp3 features, and it did seem like Nintendo had finally met its portable match. This was before a time where the common cell phone could feasibly handle these features, and people gravitated toward a more “mature” system on the go. However, through the years of the Nintendo DS and Wii, it seems the crowd of more causal players kept these systems in the limelight over Sony’s offerings.

But it seemed like the PSP still had a very healthy life, going out with less of a whimper compared to the Playstation Vita. While we quickly sold through our initial allotments of the Vita, sales cooled down almost immediately as we found people weren’t too thrilled with the games available for the system.

A LULL IN INTEREST
I think the system really hit its stride in offering niche titles from publishers such as NIS, but, over time, as people lost interest in the system, a good portion of those got ported over to formats such as the PC. We didn’t end up with a Vita until the release of the Borderlands 2 bundle about two years later, which gave us access to 8GB of memory. That was largely my biggest sticking point with the system – you had beefy game downloads that could only be stored on expensive proprietary cards. Our interest with the system dipped quickly as Sony gradually dropped its support for the Vita, the common meme at the time being “Vita means life” to poke fun at Sony tugging at the system’s “life support.”

Even at this point in 2014, it was evident many stores wanted to part ways with its Vita stock, as I discovered a number of our Vita games new at prices between $5-10, such as Lumines, Katamari and Freedom Wars. The most time I had put into playing the Vita prior to this year was when PM Studios allowed us to review its game SuperBeat Xonic for Bemanistyle, and then we pretty much shelved the system.

GETTING DRAWN BACK IN
Through the years, my wife’s interest in the Silent Hill series has grown, and, notably, there is a Silent Hill game that released at launch with the Playstation Vita: Book of Memories. This entry takes a dungeon crawler-style attempt at the genre, and was likely done in an attempt to leverage the multiplayer capabilities of the system.

IMG_6711

This interest put our attention back on the Playstation Vita this year, and we came across the opportunity to purchase a Playstation TV at a very reasonable price. We made the purchase to essentially have a Playstation Vita that did not depend on battery life and had an HDMI hookup for capture. Now, in 2021, a handful of years too late, we’ve been dragged down the Playstation Vita rabbit hole. There are still staunch supporters of the system online, and I see the term #VitaIsland on Twitter as a badge for those who still pledge loyalty to the handheld system.

FIRING UP THE PS TV
So … where do you start when the best years of the system are far behind it?

For me, personally, I took note of the changes being made to Sony’s online storefronts and made as many digital purchases as I could before they could no longer be done through the system itself. Once digging into the library, I found a bevy of PlayStation One classics that come at a sliver of the price of buying them physically. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne and Tomba were instant downloads for me, and then there were downloads for imported titles such as the home port of the fantastic 1995 Double Dragon fighting game and the Playstation re-release of Mega Man 2. There were still PSP games to grab on the storefront, and I made sure to download games such as the Power Stone Collection and Mega Man X Maverick Hunter.

The fighting games were a huge perk for me, as being able to easily hook in a Playstation 3 controller was a great feature. The classic games on the storefront really bring out the potential of Sony’s backward compatibility features, especially since it seemingly isn’t cost effective for Sony to work it into its hardware anymore … and I still can’t get over how cheap the downloads ultimately were.

To make the best out of the situation, I actually invested in a $100 Playstation wallet card and meticulously plotted out how I could stretch those dollars as far as I could. Funny enough, I had started some downloads the week before, opting to purchase a handful of our highest-priority games as individual transactions. The six or so transactions actually flagged our debit card’s security measures and we got a call from the bank, which prompted me to go the route of the Playstation wallet.

As I said, I really don’t get to play video games “on the road,” so portability isn’t a draw for me and I rarely lay down with video games anymore. So being able to hook the Playstation TV up to a monitor feels really good to me. I was never a fan of the Playstation 3 system, so the PS TV let me pull the PS3 controllers out for the first time in forever. Hooking up the controller with a cable syncs the controller to the system, making the process very simple and intuitive. I haven’t tried hooking up multiple controllers yet, but, at some point I’m hoping to get some two-player mileage out of the fighting games I now have installed on the system.

I also very much enjoyed that the service allowed for limited availablility of Playstation games that only released in Japan. While the US marketplace doesn’t have the vast selection the Japanese marketplace has (I really need to find a way to get that “Little Ralph” download), it still has a fairly robust selection of obscure titles to grab for only a few bucks. The aforementioned Double Dragon title was only released on home systems in Japan, but it adds new features such as a “rebalanced” version of the game plus an interesting 3D mode that allows you to control a camera to rotate and zoom into any view of the fight you would like to see.

It was also impressive to see how many RPGs were included on the digital storefront. There were games I haven’t seen in years such as Saiyuki: Journey West as well as others such as Breath of Fire IV.
Breaking down the collection, here is what we have at this point:

Digital games
Tekken 2
Rapid Angel
Saiyuki: Journey West
Cho Aniki
GaiaSeed
Dragoneer’s Aria
Echo Night
Lucifer Ring
Breath of Fire IV
Tomba
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
Mega Man 2 (PSOne version)
Alundra
Double Dragon
Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness
Towerfall Ascension
Hotline Miami
Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
Threads of Fate
Power Stone Collection
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
Superbeat: XONiC

Physical games
Freedom Wars
Sly Cooper Collection
Danganropa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Limines Electronic Symphony
Touch My Katamari
Persona 4 Golden
Dungeon Hunter Alliance

TRYING TO MAKE UP LOST TIME
The digital content is nice and all, but my wife and I always like having physical games on hand to play. Unfortunately, finding Playstation Vita games in a store these days is quite a task unless you are looking for sports games. I lucked out and was able to purchase a physical copy and case of Persona 4 Golden for my wife’s birthday, which set me back about $60. That’s all fine and dandy because it was something toward the top of her wish list to play in the Playstation TV.

We were also able to stumble upon a complete copy of Corpse Party at a swap meet this year for $50, so we’ve been able to gain a little bit of ground in finding games my wife has been looking for. Since it is so rare to come across Vita games in our local shops, I made a blind buy of a copy of Dungeon Hunter Alliance for $10. I know nothing about this game, but I took advantage of the rare chance to buy a cheaper Vita game to add to the collection.

I very recently started making “short lists” of games I’m looking for when I go to shops or swap meets, and it’s really helped me focus on finding games that interest me as opposed to merely picking something up because I don’t own it. Checking over a list of Playstation Vita releases, I think the following games will make my short list for the system:
DJ Max Technica Tune
Deception IV
Deemo: The Last Recital
Gravity Rush
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X/F 2nd
Rabi Ribi
Ridge Racer
Soldner-X 2
Spelunky
Stranger of Sword City
Street Fighter X Tekken
Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Ys Origin/VIII/Memories of Celceta

And that’s how we’ve reached this point where I am now a proud Playstation TV owner and building interest in collecting some games for the Playstation Vita – years too late! If you have any advice or recommendations, feel free to comment and let me know.

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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