By Paolo Succi on February 26, 2014 at 9:00am
I won't lie to you. Financially speaking, it's been a rough year for the PS Vita. The platform has been struggling to make any dent in the handheld market dominated by mobile games and Nintendo's massive 3DS sales. That being said, it doesn't speak to the system's incredible gaming capabilities or potential, I'd contend the Vita is a must-have system for gamers on the go. It certainly caters to a different gaming niche than the 3DS, and the recent buzz over the new 2000-model and "Borderlands 2" pack-in deal indicates it may hold a brighter future for 2014 and beyond. Here's a few things new owners (or those still on the fence) should consider after taking the plunge.
Get ready, because this is a big one; PlayStation Plus means you already have a library of games to play completely free. As of publication, the Vita PS Plus library provides players access to six games in addition to their membership. "Uncharted: Golden Abyss", "Gravity Rush," and "Wipeout: 2048" have been around for several months, and the three remaining titles are cycled out every month. "Uncharted", "Gravity Rush", and "Wipeout" are some of the best experiences the console has to offer, and Sony has generally kept the threetitles in a cycle worth playing.
When I first got my Vita, I picked it up knowing it would basically be a "Hotline Miami"-machine for when I'm on the go. After a little more investigation however, I was shocked to see how many gems were hidden in the Vita's library, now over 480 games deep. Here's a small snippet of the titles that are worth checking out at the very least. Granted, not all of these are Vita exclusives, but if you have a lot of time away from home or difficulty securing household TV time, then they are worth grabbing.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
A distinctly charming platformer that places emphasis on creation and sharing really finds its home on the Vita. The unique touchscreen and backpad capabilities arguably make this version the most interesting addition to the "LBP" series.
Persona 4: Golden
Not only is this one of the best Vita games, but many cite this as the best JRPG of all time. "P4G" is a game that thrives on developing bonds with the other characters and has a surprisingly deep combat system.
The "Killzone" series has had a tough run the last few years on PS3. For a game that started with a lot of potential on PS2, it has fizzled out since its second installment. It's surprising then to see the series' strongest addition in years on the Vita. The graphics are almost on par with the PS3 releases, and the Vita's dual-analog sticks means it makes a smooth transition to the Sony handheld.
Masochists looking for a roguelike platformer on the Vita look no further. This game is hard, no doubt about it. But slogging through and getting a feel for the basics rewards the player with a deep experience unlike any other release in recent years.
Rayman Origins/Rayman Legends
Either of the "Rayman" games currently available for Vita offer fantastic platformer experiences. The touchscreen input on "Legends" especially makes the Vita version an essential play-through.
This was Media Molecule's IP made specifically with the Vita in mind. This is the game you show your friends when you want to show off the Vita's range of input and visualization capabilities. It makes fantastic use of the backpad, touchscreen, and cameras to almost liput the player inside the game. As a result, it is one of few games where you experience an adventure alongside the game's protagonist instead of just controlling them.
Finally, a beat 'em up metroidvania platformer featuring a Mexican wrestler set to save the world! Jump between the living and undead worlds while piledriving evil Mexican-themed armadillos. This zany platformer even allows you to change to a chicken with the simple swipe of the touchscreen. What's not to love?
In the flurry of Sony's PS4 marketing campaign, I felt a key feature that was criminally underplayed was its dedicated streaming hardware. Sure, they spent a great deal discussing the Twitch and Ustream capabilities, but didn't stress how great the Vita's remote-play abilities were.
Users who were excited about the PS3's remote play features - only to be burned to realize a slim collection of the PS3 library actually supported the feature - will be pleasantly surprised. The streaming and functionality is handled natively by the PS4, meaning every PlayStation 4 game will support remote play.
It's worth noting that some games handle the transition better than others. "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" has taken the extra step to map the L3 and R3 buttons to the left and right touchscreen respectively, but most games currently stick with the default. This means they'll opt to map L1, R1, L3, and R3 to a four-quadrant setup on the rear touchpad, so playing twitch-shooters or anything else that requires quick responses takes a bit of practice.
Invest in a Memory Card
As of last year, 60 percent of all Vita purchases were made digitally. This dominance exists for a reason; a portable console means players don't want to haul around cartridges to swap games on the go, and digital sales are quickly becoming ubiquitous across all platforms including PlayStation Network. Unfortunately, this is an area that Sony has not yet adapted to the market.
For whatever reason, Sony decided to forgo the industry standard of SD cards in favour of the proprietary memory format. While the games are nowhere near as large as their console counterparts, I'd recommend nothing smaller than an 8 GB card, meaning you're looking at a minimum $20 investment in digital storage space. Look for pack-in deals that include a memory card with them. The coming "Borderlands 2" pack will include an 8GB stick, which is a fantastic deal.
Games can range from 100 MB to several GB, but the average is generally around 1 GB. While 8 GB allows you to keep several games on the console at all times, it's more than worth it to invest in a 32 or 64 GB card if you have the extra cash. The 64 GB cards are not currently available in western markets but can be imported online through sites like Amazon or Nippon-Yasan.
Handheld Greatness Awaits
For gamers on the fence, maybe this guide swayed you into finally picking up a Vita. For those who have recently purchased one, perhaps it's given you a starting point to leap from. Considering the device's potential, hopefully 2014 is a year that brings more developer support and quality experiences. Fortunately, the tie-in to the tremendously successful PS4 via remote play, and release of the Vita's 2000 generation means we may have a lot to look forward to this year.
Gamespot: 60% of All PS Vita Purchases are Made Digitally