Sony's new portable, the PlayStation Vita hasn't exactly been selling like hotcakes. Well, maybe it's been selling like hotcakes that are covered in periodical cicadas. In any event, this week Sony announced it would no longer be focusing on the device, meaning no more AAA first party titles. They are instead relying on third parties and indies to carry the gadget through its lifespan.
Many people are crying this is, informally, the death of the system. Maybe this is true. Maybe it's not. I can say with some sort of pseudo-authority that it certainly deserves to live. After all, its very name means "life." Etymology aside, there are plenty of other reasons. Here they are:
Indies on the go: Indies have undergone something of a renaissance in the last few years. They are everywhere, clogging up Steam, PSN, Xbox Live and even the garden variety Internet. Why? To be blunt, the big blockbusters have begun to bore the pants off of a growing segment of the gaming population. Another muscular space marine wandering a brown landscape causing massive bloodshed? Great. That's not at all embarrassing to enjoy as a grownup. (It actually is. I was using reverse psychology.)
In any event, it seems only the indie titles continue to embrace gaming as an evolving and experimental art form. To that point, the Vita has access to a great number of these games and more all of the time: "Terraria," "Fez," "Limbo." All of the most recognizable titles and dozens of less recognizable titles all ready to play on the go, or even on the toilet. It's a veritable indie machine.
PlayStation Plus:The PlayStation Plus service is an absolutely fantastic deal. Remember all of those years you paid for Xbox Live, just to be given the privilege to play something else you also paid for? Sony blew the lid off of that idea and started giving away gads of free games to consumers who plunked down that $8 a month. It's sort of a Netflix for games, as PS4 and PS3 owners know.
However, it's also greatly supported on the Vita. Remember that list of indie titles in the paragraph before them? You can play most of them for free, in addition to some of the system's earlier bigwig games like "Uncharted" and "Gravity Rush." Also, look for insane discounts on other games every once in a while. I recently snagged a bunch of old RPGs for around two bucks a pop.
OG PlayStation Games:There was once a system simply called PlayStation. This ancient and beloved console housed gobs of classic games, including fantastic installments in the "Final Fantasy," "Suikoden," "Persona," "Spyro" and, of course, "Resident Evil." You can download them all right on to your Vita, giving yourself a ridiculous case of the nostalgies. Be careful, however. Games were tougher back then.
From Japan With Love:The Vita is region free, meaning with a little settings rejiggering, you can download any Japanese game you want. Even if you don't want to mess with that, the American PSN still houses tons of quirky Japanese titles, not to mention all kinds of great RPGs. "Persona 4 Golden" is a particular delight.
PS4 + Vita=K.I.S.S.I.N.G.:The PS4 and the Vita are made to work together side by side like Mario and Luigi, Jobs and Wozniak or, uh, Hall and Oates. Not only can the Vita be used as an extra controller for PS4 games, but the Vita can actually be used to play PS4 games (provided you have a decent web connection). I've recently been fooling around with this feature and it works pretty well. There is a slight lag but its nothing to complain about. So if you've ever wanted to play the new Infamous game while laying in bed, this is probably your only chance, unless you install a television on your ceiling.
The Future?:Sure, there might not be any portable versions of "Ratchet and Clank"or "The Last of Us" coming to the Vita anytime soon, but that doesn't mean there will be a dearth of games. As I stated earlier, the indies keep flowing, as do the quirky Japanese titles and other third party oddities. Also, Sony has announced that the PlayStation Now service (which streams games) will be available for the system, making it a possible contender to play all of those old PS2 and PS3 games. The future is bright — well, bright-ish.
Is this enough?: Well, it's for you to decide. It is for me, but then again I'm a games reviewer who spends most of his time talking to a stray cat named Sharky. Of course, no amount of plusses can erase some of the negatives that are built right into the system, the proprietary and expensive memory cards being a particularly tough one to swallow. At the end of the day, however, it's a fine little system that certainly deserves another look. Maybe the success of the PS4 will be kind to it.
Follow Lawrence Bonk on Twitter @sidescrollers