Tag Archives: PlayStation Vita

The Nintendo Switch And The Future Of The Handheld Market


Many people are positioning the Nintendo Switch as the big winner in gaming this year. I think it’s already passed or is nearing the Wii U’s lifetime sales with less than a year on the market, and it already has a thick lineup of games. On my last post though I linked an article from Gamesindustry.biz taking a slightly alternate look at the Switch’s success. Basically, it asks if the Switch can ever live up to the 3DS. Continue reading

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Did Multiplatform Releases Hurt Handhelds?


Photo credit nintendolife.com

Whenever the conversation about traditional handheld game systems comes up these days you seem to either have a lifestyle that suits handhelds or you don’t. It’s driven a rift between people who miss the days of the Game Boy Advance or the original DS and those who could care less about them and would always rather play on a console or PC. The funny thing with me is, I’m probably in the latter camp right now but used to spend much more time with handheld games. Just what is it that makes (or made) traditional handhelds appealing anyway?

The easy answer is portability, and for a lot of people it’s probably the best answer. Some people might commute a lot (in vehicles they themselves don’t drive) or spend a lot of free time away from a console or PC. However, looking back makes me think games that were exclusive to handhelds were just as important as their defining portability. Continue reading

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The Game Gear’s Lessons After 25 Years


There sure are some anniversaries going down in October 2015, so it might look like I’m putting these kinds of posts out in rapid fire. Maybe it’s gonna be like this every fall since that’s usually the biggest season for game releases. Today’s post is about a platform though, and a Japanese release from the early 90’s at that. Continue reading

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My Endorsement Of Mega Man Legends


Mega Man Legends has just received probably the closest thing it will ever get to a second chance — a re-release of the original game on the North American PlayStation Store this week. Even today, with all the outpour from fans, it seems like a relatively underrated game, and I’m here to help make the case for it.

I actually wrote the following back in December 2009 and thought I should freshen this old post up a bit:

The reason Mega Man Legends deserves at least a mention alongside my favorite games of all time is simply because it contains pretty much everything I could ask for in a video game.  If you asked me for a vision of my “perfect game,” it would probably just be a more modern version of this game, which is why the sting of Mega Man Legends 3’s cancellation hurts so bad. Continue reading

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I Need Some New 2D Handheld Action Games


Indies are just getting better and better every time I look at Kickstarter or even Steam Greenlight. I’m starting to get a strange urge with these games though. I’m wondering if anyone else is feeling a desire to play games like Rogue Legacy or La-Mulana on handhelds. It’s bringing up a whole mess of technical issues though.

I suspect this desire in me is coming from nostalgia for the Game Boy Advance.  A while ago I set up all my old game boxes on a shelf, including my old Game Boy games. Now, whenever I look the boxes for Metroid Fusion, Castlevania Aria of Sorrow, or Mega Man Zero, I start wanting to play new games like those on a handheld, specifically 2D action games. I see all the new indies coming out and think those would be great to play on handhelds, but there aren’t that many options.

A lot of these games are eventually gonna be out for Vita. Even if I bought one though, I’d just have to end up re-buying some games I already own like Rayman Legends or Rogue Legacy. The other problem is that the dominant platform for these games still seems to be Windows.

Many of these fresh indie games like Frogatto, Oniken, The Swapper, Valdis Story: Abyssal City, or Chasm, don’t even have console versions, much less Vita or 3DS versions. I’m pretty much forced to just play them on my PC.

Valve’s Steam Machine initiative is a nice thing for bringing this kid of gaming to the television in an easy way, but I keep wondering if some kind of handheld Steam Machine would even be possible. Maybe the Nvidia Shield is what I need to take a look at.

I’m thinking this theoretical handheld Steam Machine would stream Windows games (like Vita remote play). Hopefully it could be just beefy enough to play some indie games natively — many of them don’t take a lot of horsepower to run. Basically it’d be a portable Linux machine and Linux is getting extremely popular with indies.

That’s just fantasy land thinking at this point though. I should probably just start looking at existing handheld action games I haven’t played yet. I think there are still a few.

I’ve got a handful of unplayed games installed on my PSP like Maverick Hunter X, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?, and Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness. On the DS I still haven’t played Castlevania Order of Ecclessia, or finished a bunch of the RPGs on that system. SteamWorld Dig for the 3DS looks pretty good.

Maybe I’m just mad Nintendo never made another 2D Metroid for the DS or 3DS.


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How Will Vita TV Affect Developers?


A lot of people agree that the Vita TV is a good move for the platform. Another big question that has popped up or is bound to pop up though is how the shift will affect developers.

If Vita TV sells it’ll make the overall platform a lot more appealing to developers, but its hardware also essentially splits the market without any kind of touch interface. More importantly, will Vita developers begin to make games for the platform with the home console experience in-mind?

If Vita TV takes off and attracts developers it’ll be more or less the first time people will be developing games that will simultaneously be console and portable games. I mean, people have already been doing Vita versions of recent games, and we have cross-play, but that still requires the deliberate development of distinct SKUs. Now, anyone developing a Vita game can’t avoid the event of people playing it in a home console setting.

Let’s take something like local multiplayer for instance. There are already fighting games on Vita, but when you play local multiplayer you play by linking up to another Vita. Theoretically Vita TV should be able to do that, but any existing game won’t let you just hook up another controller, which is just odd for a console game. A big recent example that might theoretically be hit by this problem is the Vita version of Dragon’s Crown. Will future Vita games like this include both local and WLAN play, differentiating between a Vita and Vita TV? Will existing games be patched? At least Vita TV will make online play more reasonable.

Overall this might also affect the kinds of experiences developers try to present on Vita. Portable platforms are still more suited to bite-sized experiences than immersive games encouraging long sessions. Part of the reason the PSP and Vita failed at first was because Sony tried to push the console experience on handhelds. Now the Vita is essentially a console, possibly further enabling that angle.

And of course you’ve got the discouragement of leveraging touch controls. I really did think touch controls would make the Vita a piece of hardware with a lot of potential — console-quality game design with an intuitive touch interface. Now most games might not leverage it, or always present an option to ignore it. Hopefully the Dual Shock 4’s touch pad will present some kind of equivalent for Vita games.

I guess when Nintendo released the Game Boy Player attachment for the Gamecube I felt just fine playing all my GBA games on the TV, despite them being designed for the portable setting. What really matters here is the convenience of being able to play a game on your TV, and then seamlessly take it with you. Basically every other medium: from music to movies to literature, has achieved this dynamic of home consumption and portability. Console games are just now getting to a point where they can do this because handheld tech is now finally able provide high-quality 3D games.


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Next-Gen: The Japanese Vanguard


From Sony’s initial announcement of the PS4 in February up until now, its upcoming console pretty much seemed like an almost purely-American operation. The conference it held in Japan this morning — a warm-up to the Tokyo Game Show later this month, was the opportunity I hoped Sony would take to show its commitment to its home market going into next-gen.

Why does this matter to western consumers? Flavor mostly. In the end being western or Japanese doesn’t affect my purchasing decisions nearly as much as it did 15 years ago, but the Japanese still design games you’ll just never see spring from an American or European mind. It’s all about the variety of the PS4’s game library which should make the console more appealing. I also want to see the Japanese development community really step up t0 next-gen after it had so much trouble acclimating to the PS3 and Xbox 360, though I don’t actually expect a whole lot. The reason I got worried over the course of this year is because until this conference, Knack was basically the only Japanese launch game for the PS4, and even that’s helmed by Mark Cerny. Yeah you’ve got the big boys like Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III, and Metal Gear Solid V, but those games are much further off.

For most of the console gaming presentation here I was pretty afraid Sony was just gonna sit there and pray Japanese gamers would accept all these western shooters and sandbox games, but I’m slightly impressed at what was eventually shown. For starters I can’t wait until a higher quality version of that Yakuza Ishin trailer shows up because it looked like a significant visual improvement over the PS3 games. Strangely, the one game I think epitomizes what I wanted to see at this conference and at TGS is Level-5’s Wonder Flick. If the next-gen version actually takes advantage of that hardware it’ll be exactly what I’ve wanted: classic Japanese gameplay with next-gen graphics.

At first I was surprised at how much turned out to be cross-generation (Ishin, Dynasty Warriors 8, Guilty  Gear, etc.), but I guess it’s only to be expected since most western developers are doing it too. Really, almost everything big coming out on consoles over the next 12 months will probably be cross-gen.

And of course Sony pulled the “And one more thing…” move with the Vita TV. I’ve posted more than one blog here about why I personally find it hard to see the value in a Vita, but this is definitely the closest Sony has gotten to selling me one. They basically just slashed the price of entry of the Vita’s software library down to $100. This has potentially big implications.

The Vita itself is in trouble, and even if the Vita TV cannibalizes sales of the standard Vita, one most remember Sony doesn’t really care about selling Vita consoles so much as it cares about selling Vita software. This is a great way to lower the price of entry to all that software. I think this is also the lowest official price there’s ever been for a device that plays PSP games. Indie developers who have games on the Vita should also be really happy about this, because now there exists a $100 device that plays games like Spelunky and Hotline Miami. The Vita TV is probably now the cheapest piece of hardware that plays a lot of indie games.

If you already own a console however, I still don’t think the Vita TV actually guarantees must-buy status. In my eyes the Vita still has relatively few appealing exclusives, and all these ports of console games just truly redundant if you already have a console on which to play them. I still don’t know what games I would buy if I got a Vita TV. Still, if you don’t own any modern game console right now, the Vita TV just became the cheapest way to access a lot of today’s games. It is essentially an Apple TV-style set-top box that plays today’s and yesterday’s hardcore games for the same price.

And we have to remember that this is still really just the prologue to TGS. I’m hoping for a few more next-gen console game announcements even though I know it’s probably going to be mostly handheld and mobile gaming. I’m hoping that more powerful hardware still matters to Japanese developers.


  • A huge update just got released for Hotline Miami: Linux version, controller support for Mac, new engine, etc. http://t.co/aF8KMCKMA0
  • Writer appreciates copy editor. Film at 11. http://t.co/S4V4brMpem
  • Seeing all that Phantasy Star stuff from Sega just reminds me a bout the English version of PSO2 they said they were gonna release in 2013 but haven’t yet.
  • Idris Elba Reveals the Barriers He Faced to Make Mandela on.wsj.com/1fNsDWa
  • So we got the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as Akira predicted 30 years ago, and Wrestling’s been reinstated.
  • I’m still getting emails from Audiosurf telling me I’ve been dethroned on the obscure songs I played. This time it was the boss rush theme from Rez.
  • This is why I don’t see a problem with a console developer focusing a lot on media apps: http://t.co/mvmG1CNnu8
  • And happy Dreamcast day!
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Gamescom’s Vita Announcements: Still Not Enough?

Sony straight-up dropped bombs at its Gamescom conference. A lot of those bombs were apparently in an effort to resurrect the Vita, but in my opinion they still don’t solve fundamental problems with the platform’s software library.

Sony announced a Vita price drop and Vita versions of a lot of prominent games — games I like: Borderlands 2, Rogue Legacy, Wasteland Kings, Minecraft, etc. Last year I posted about how I wasn’t interested in buying a Vita for a bunch of ports, and these announcements don’t change that. I already own or can get these games on other platforms I own. I see what Sony’s trying to do, but I think it could go a little further.

The Vita has always been positioned as a portable PlayStation, and if anything these announcements along with near-universal remote play and cross-buy with PS4 cement that purpose for the Vita.  Put together with the PS4, the whole system is a pretty hard drive to convince people to buy the PlayStation versions of games. Sony is trying to create its own Apple-style ecosystem.

The reason why I’m stuck on iOS devices is because I’ve bought content I’m confident will run on any iOS device I buy. I have to admit Sony makes a good case for buying a game like Wasteland Kings on PlayStation so I can play it on a console as well as on the go, as opposed to buying it on Steam. If you don’t already own any of these games then buying them on PSN is probably a good choice. My problem is that I already bought Borderlands 2 and Rogue Legacy on Steam.

I know this is a long-shot, but man it would be cool if there was some way I could transfer my progress between the PC and PlayStation versions of games. I think it’s technically feasible, if extremely unlikely.

Valve already basically made the PS3 version of Portal 2 cross-buy with the PC version, allowing cross-platform co-op and other features. What if Valve made that Steam/PlayStation bridge a standard Steamworks feature for third party developers to use if they were interested in Vita ports of their games?

Another possibility comes through digital game codes. Retailers are allowed to sell digital keys for Steam and Nintendo eShop games, I think Sony and Microsoft should do the same with digital PlayStation and Xbox games in the future. All kinds of deals have been made possible by the availability of these keys. In most cases buying a game through Humble Bundle nets you a DRM-free copy as well as a Steam key. What about the possibility of throwing a PSN key in there?

All this is just wishful speculation of course. Sony’s obviously trying to attract people into its PlayStation environment, and some outreach onto other platforms would be a good way to expose more people to it. Of course another great way would be exclusive games.

Exclusives are still in the minority when you look at Vita and the upcoming consoles. On the one hand I’m fine with competing consoles basically being competing operating systems that sell you the same content with different services, but on the other hand my portable gaming is done on the 3DS right now because I can’t get Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei IV anywhere else.

It’d be great if Sony actually put some of its top first party studios on pure Vita games like Nintendo does for the 3DS. The best I’m expecting though is for some Japanese developers to step up to the plate for Vita like they did for PSP.

When you think about it, the PSP became what it was — the quirky JRPG machine, basically by accident. Like the Vita now, Sony positioned that system as a portable PS2, but the initiative failed while Monster Hunter came out of nowhere and pulled the PSP out of the fire, eventually bringing a whole mess of JRPGs with it. So far Sony’s only effort to honor that on Vita has been Soul Sacrifice. I’m interested in seeing if the PSP’s unique Japanese support can cross over to the Vita.

We might see this start to happen at the Tokyo Game Show in September. The system really has a lot of potential if developers design specifically for it. I just haven’t seen enough of that for me to jump on yet. The prospect of having the Vita act like and iPhone to the PS4’s iPad is a nice sales proposition if Sony can get it to work though.


  • Can EA just let us have the full Battlefield 4 main theme already?
  • So that Rapture game. The Chinese Room? CryEngine? Alright Sony you have my attention.
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The Ancestry of Dragon’s Crown

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The reviews are showing up for Dragon’s Crown and descriptions of its old school nature to me feel sort of ironic given Vanillaware’s and director George Kamitani’s previous work. I’ve already said all I mean to say about the character designs in a previous post. I’m here now to talk about the gameplay heritage that seems to be converging in Dragon’s Crown.

Just recently I did a quick first-time run through Dungeons & Dragons Chronicles of Mystara — the collection of two Capcom arcade brawlers, at least one of which Kamitani worked on. For those that don’t know, Dragon’s Crown is basically an attempt at a spiritual successor to those games.

For those that haven’t tried them out already, they immediately felt to me like Final Fight but with swords. Actually the core combat is a little bit more complex than that, giving special moves to each character class which made both games really feel like skill-based brawlers. With changeable equipment, experience points, shops, treasures, secrets, and branching paths, these games also contain the heaviest RPG elements I’ve ever seen in an arcade brawler. According to Wikipedia the second game, Shadow over Mystara, was the second-to-last arcade sidescrolling bralwer Capcom ever made, so I guess it makes sense for it to feel like probably one of the most advanced games in the genre. Dragon’s Crown has been Kamitani’s 15-year dream of perfecting that design.

Those who’ve played Vanillaware’s other games like Odin Sphere and Muramasa the Demon Blade would probably also describe them as sidescrolling beat-em-ups with heavy RPG elements. For some reason though I actually consider those games to be the opposite. In my opinion the RPG elements in those games take prominence over their brawler aspects.

Odin Sphere in particular is a game that asks you to spend 60 hours engaging in what is a relatively simplistic combat system compared to the likes of Street Fighter, on top of an item and equipment system more byzantine than most pure RPGs. You have to craft and plant seeds that then grow livestock for you to kill in the middle of battle. Stats are also extremely important in that game, whereas in Mystara they felt sort of like window dressing.

Muramasa is a bit more of a compromise. It eases up on the deep leveling mechanics but also sort of lets you choose what kind of game you want to play based on the difficulty level. The easier mode lets you gain dominance by leveling up and forging new swords, while the harder mode is an action game where new swords just fall into your lap but every enemy is a serious threat whether you’re level four or level 40. Despite all that, Muramasa’s base controls were sort of awkward in the context of action games and still felt like a game from an RPG house.

That’s why the concept Dragon’s Crown as a return to brawlers from Vanillaware seems odd to me. Maybe the last two games were intentional in their direction, and Dragon’s Crown is a deliberate turn back to the 90’s arcade games with new elements. I’m essentially wondering if it’s a brawler with RPG elements or an RPG with brawler elements. It seems like an unnecessary distinction to make but I think a balance does exist there.


  • Amazon is still offering Ni no Kuni at a low price, at $20.25 j.mp/15090no
  • Haven’t really started playing DOTA 2 yet, but this must be the realest post I’ve seen yet regarding the game. http://t.co/pUtn1Lezuf
  • Entering my last month of Live Gold. What horde modes that aren’t 360-exclusive do people think are as good as Gears 3? Didn’t expect so many positive words on Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Is the community still strong on PC?
  • La-Mulana is $6 on GOG right now. http://t.co/HMVnHCsweO
  • F2P Ace Combat? I don’t mind as long as it doesn’t play like Assault Horizon. http://t.co/Z8jTR03aiM
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What Would Make You Buy a PlayStation Vita?


The last time I talked about the PlayStation Vita’s problems I basically continued to reserve final judgment of the platform’s first year until the holiday season. We’re mid-way into that now and it doesn’t seem to be doing all that much better. When thinking about what would actually make me want to buy one, I realize how much potential the Vita really has, but might not ever see.

Like I’ve said more than once, what would basically make me want a Vita are more exclusive games instead of straight ports of console games. More importantly, it needs exclusive games that actually feel like they had work put into them, and for the most part that’s just not what we’ve seen this year.

Almost all the news about Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified since its release has hinted at it being one of the most overpriced rush jobs of all time. This is especially damning for a game that was supposed to save the platform’s holiday season. If I acquired a Vita now, the only games I’d play on it (that aren’t PSP games) are probably Lumines: Electronic Symphony, Gravity Rush, and maybe Uncharted: Golden Abyss.

When it comes to games like this, the problem Sony faces is getting western developers to actually give a crap about a dedicated handheld, at least enough to make games on it as fun as console games. A lot of people are talking about games they’d want ported to the Vita like Borderlands 2, or existing ports that work rather well like Need for Speed Most Wanted. I think it would be better if they cared enough to design exclusive games for the handheld environment.

Maybe a lot of people who own Vitas are fine just buying the Vita versions of those multiplatform games, but those ports aren’t going to convince me to buy one for the simple fact that I already own other platforms on which they appear. The only way things like cross-play and cross-buy will become a really big incentive for me, is if they became much more widespread.

If I could buy a Vita and reasonably expect a sizable chunk of my existing software library and save files to carry over, that might be something. That’s why I buy new iOS devices. That’s probably not going to happen with the Vita though. Even then, I think that kind of support is going to drop like a stone once the PS4 comes out and widens the horsepower gap between handheld and console gaming once again.

Let’s say they did release a Vita version of Borderlands 2 that somehow synced with the save file for my PC copy of the game (by allowing Steamworks on PSN or something I dunno). Maybe I could even redeem a Vita copy by already owning the game on another platform. That might be nice if enough games did this, but if Gearbox actually cared enough to put their full effort behind a wholly original Borderlands game with new areas and quests exclusive to the Vita, that would be a much stronger incentive to buy the system. What if EA tried to make a Vita exclusive Need for Speed game that leveraged the touch screen and mobile aspects?

Certain iOS games I’ve seen have me convinced that if Bethesda actually tried, they could make a great handheld-specific Elder Scrolls game, and the Vita would be an excellent platform for it. Actually, I think the Vita is excellently suited to RPGs in general, whether they be dungeon crawlers or isometric, since someone did get Baldur’s Gate working on an iPad.

Strategy games are a genre in which I think the Vita could out-do consoles. The GBA, DS, and PSP proved that strategy games can do well on handhelds, and the Vita’s touch screen looks well-suited to a game like XCOM. They’d just have to make sure it extolled the virtues of the console and PC game but adapted them to a mobile device.

The reason Nintendo’s handheld games work so well is because the teams that make them are the same teams that make Nintendo’s console games. They put the same effort into making the games just as fun, but specifically fitted to the handheld environment. That’s how you get hits like Wario Land, Pokémon, and Link’s Awakening.

I think that if Sony really cares about the future of the Vita, they need to invest in first party software specifically for the system. They need to somehow convince their first party development houses to put real effort behind the platform. It would be great if Sony came up with a successful IP that could do for the handheld what Pokémon did for Nintendo handhelds.

The PSP got lucky and got that game from a third party — Capcom’s Monster Hunter. I don’t think Sony ever really learned a lesson or figured out what they needed to do with the PSP though. Monster Hunter simply saved the platform’s ass by drawing the Japanese market towards handhelds, and a-list Japanese developer support with it. That’s how so many great third party games eventually showed up on the PSP — pretty much all of them Japanese.

Sony has had to learn once again though how fickle third party can be. Just like so many of the Japanese third parties who developed exclusively on PlayStation and PlayStation 2 have to make their games multiplatform now, Nintendo managed to snatch Monster Hunter away from Sony, and they don’t have much to fill in for it. Sony ended up having to beef up their first party support of the PS3, and may have to do the same on the Vita in order to produce their own killer app.

Actually, I think that support for exclusive Vita games might tick up once the PS4 comes out and developers stop trying to port the latest console games to the Vita. Like what happened with the PSP after the PS3 came out, the hardware gap will force them to make games specifically for the Vita. I think most of them will, like with the PSP, be Japanese.

At this point Sony probably can’t get western developers to care enough to put serious effort into a handheld that doesn’t run either iOS or Android. Japanese developers on the other hand have already announced Vita projects like Tales of Hearts R and Sei Madou Monogatari… many of which probably won’t release outside of Japan. They’re even starting to develop them on both PS3 and Vita, which points to what some hoped they’d do — use the Vita hardware’s closeness to that of the PS3 as a bridge into PS3 development that they otherwise wouldn’t undertake. I’m gonna go ahead and predict that Persona 5 is going to at least be on the PS3 and Vita.

I don’t hate the PlayStation Vita itself. I think it’s a great piece of hardware for its price and I even like the feel of its software service. I just don’t believe in buying hardware for hardware’s sake because I know that after the novelty wears off you’re typically left with a shiny-but-useless appliance.


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