The Vita is like a talented celebrity with a drug problem. One day it's winning awards, the next day it's checking into rehab. Another day, its publicist announces a big comeback, and a few hours later it's drunkenly assaulting the paparazzi. Simply put, Sony’s handheld is making a comeback today, but it might be in its deathbed tomorrow. Day-to-day, the consensus on what its strengths and weaknesses are changes, and Sony seems to take notice in fits and starts. Is it a welcome home for indie games, or a powerhouse for big budget games on the go? The bigger question: What will it be this week, when Sony shows off their wares at E3 2014?
The Line-up we already know
When I started brainstorming this article, I made the classic mistake that so many make when they go into doomsday mode with the Vita — I looked ahead and saw no “big” games in the pipeline. With Borderlands 2 out (and not lighting the world on fire), Bioshock almost certainly in the can, and no other big names on the horizon, I started to worry that the Vita was winding down. I certainly wasn’t taking my own advice.
Then I started browsing the Playstation Blog and other sites to get a real sense of what’s actually coming to the Vita. A retail release list doesn’t do it justice, as most of the upcoming boxed releases are obscure Japanese games. But when you start looking at the digital releases the story changes. Make a list of everything still upcoming on the Vita, digital or otherwise, and you start seeing a platform that’s far from dead.
You’ve got big-deal indie games like…
Hotline Miami 2, Nuclear Throne, Murasaki Baby, Hohokum, Metrico, Helldivers, Hyper Light Drifter, Mighty No. 9, and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.
Offbeat Japanese RPGs, Visual Novels, and hunting games like…
Dangan Ronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Tales of Hearts R, Toukiden Extreme, Natural Doctrine, Freedom Wars, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited, Samurai Warriors 4, and some other games featuring colorful, big-eyed anime girls on the covers.
Welcome remakes and re-releases like…
Minecraft, Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, The Swapper, Rogue Legacy, Mercenary Kings, Frozen Synapse Tactics, Foul Play, Futuridium EP Deluxe, Joe Danger, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, Child of Light, The Wolf Among Us, VVVVVV, and Ratchet & Clank Collection.
More obscure/weird/unexpected games like…
Galak-Z, Dragon Fin Soup, Race the Sun, Jet Car Stunts, MouseCraft, Son of Scoregasm, Axiom Verge, Drifter, Switch Galaxy Ultra, Teslagrad, Road Not Taken, The Hero Trap, or the really, really weird-looking One Way Trip.
…and then there’s EarthNight, revealed just this week. It looks awesome.
That's not even everything, and while I'll admit that there's a lack of huge, attention grabbing games, it's still in Sony's best interest to try and sell them at E3. Even if nothing new was announced for Vita at E3, Sony needs to plant a firm foot down and make it well known that there is a big lineup out there. The platform isn't on life support, it just needs an on-stage push at E3 to let everyone know the games are coming.
The Vita already has a solid lineup of indie and niche games. It's a great portable for smaller genres, and aside from a few exceptions that's what it does best. That said, I think there are some big names that could excite people if they were announced at E3.
Gravity Rush 2 – It's already been teased, but this is a Vita original that deserves a proper unveiling. The first game had great ideas and used the device in interesting ways, a sequel could really bring it home.
Phantasy Star Online 2 – Sega should be ashamed of themselves for sitting on PSO2 for so long. The game just needs a localization and it's good to go. A rabid fanbase in the West has already done everything they can to play it, why not open it to a larger audience?
Ico/Shadow of the Colossus Collection – I know some people bash the Vita for all the remakes it gets, and it doesn't help that a lot of Sony's big HD collections have had issues, but why not round out the list at this point? You can play most of the biggest PS2 classics on Vita now, and this one deserves to be on that list.
Journey – The Vita already has Flower, and Journey is an even better game that more people should get to experience.
Anything from Guerilla Cambridge – I'm wary of anyone claiming to bring the console-quality experience to portables, unless they're Guerrilla Cambridge. Killzone Mercenary was an astounding game on Vita and I'd trust them to do it again.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Within – It's already on iOS and Android, it's a fantastic game, and there's nothing like it on Vita. Need I say more?
Phoenix Wright & Monster Hunter – Two series that are like portable gaming crack, yet have not made their mark on Sony's handheld. Capcom opted to bring most of their fighting games to the platform instead, and while they're fun, they don't fit nearly as well.
At the end of the day it's impossible to write what I truly want in a Vita wishlist at E3, because I want to be surprised. I want to see something I never thought of, something wholly original, exciting, and made for the platform. Hopefully, somewhere between hyping up their PS4 lineup, Sony finds the time to make that happen.
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