It’s not been the best first year for the PlayStation Vita. Shunned in its home territory and disregarded overseas, the powerful portable has struggled to secure a foothold in the brutal video game market. But there have been signs this week that the system is not dead and buried yet, and while there’s still a long road ahead for the machine, at least it’s starting to form the foundations of an impressive library.
The console started the year with very few titles in its immediate release schedule, but that’s gradually started to change over the past seven days. Dead or Alive 5 Plus and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus both received firm launch dates from publisher Tecmo Koei, while Aksys revealed that it would release Muramasa Rebirth overseas. The platform holder saved the biggest until last, though, confirming Soul Sacrifice for late April and the stunning Killzone: Mercenary for mid-September. Both titles are a way away, but it finally gives fans something to look forward to.
However, what’s most important is that the growing line-up looks packed with quality. Dead or Alive 5 Plus, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, and Muramasa Rebirth may all be ports, but they’re based on titles that have received an average rating of 80 on Metacritic. And they’re not the only games in the pipeline, either: Europe still hasn’t got its hands on the sensational Persona 4 Golden, and there are also the likes of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Urban Trial Freestyle, and Velocity: Ultra on the horizon in the short term.
But it’s the recently re-revealed first-party titles that are understandably drawing the most eyes. Sony appears to have learned from its mishandling of Demon’s Souls, and it’s making a big deal out of Soul Sacrifice overseas as a result. Not only is the demon slayer making its way to western shores in a timely manner, but the platform holder is also putting some serious weight behind the game. There are various pre-order bonuses on offer to encourage you to register your interest early, and the title has had a decent presence on official channels such as the PlayStation Blog over the past few months. For a game that could have been shrugged aside as a niche Japanese release, the publisher is betting big on the action RPG.
And bet big it should, because the Vita needs unique games like the Keiji Inafune creation. Monster Hunter has never really taken off overseas, but there’s nothing to say that the first-party alternative can’t steal its thunder. Boasting a bold, attractive art style and a gruesome gameplay hook – which sees you forgoing body parts in exchange for attacks – it may just be the shot in the arm that the primarily co-op focused genre needs.
But while Soul Sacrifice is more of a gamble, Killzone: Mercenary looks set to become the poster child for the platform in 2013. Just like Uncharted: Golden Abyss at launch, the Guerrilla Games developed first-person shooter appears equipped to defy the expectations of the handheld machine all over again, boasting a visual style almost on par with its PlayStation 3 counterparts. The developer claims that the title is built upon the same engine as the home console release Killzone 3, and judging by this morning’s debut trailer, it’s easy to believe.
But it’s not just the appearance of the game that’s so enticing, as the developer seems to understand the format too. Indeed, the upcoming exclusive may be a fully featured first-person shooter, but it’s grounded in portable sensibilities. Missions are relatively brief and segmented, with lashings of replay value embedded into their structure. Furthermore, the whole game is designed around a constant reward loop which allows you to improve your abilities irrespective of mode. That makes it the perfect option regardless of whether you’re secluded in the countryside without a Wi-Fi connection, or blasting your buddies online in bed on a lazy Sunday morning. It’s all rather exciting.
And that sentiment sums up the week in general. None of these announcements are going to suddenly turn the Vita around; it still faces an uphill struggle to appeal in all territories around the globe. But for early adopters – or those on the verge of splashing out on the system – it shows that there’s at least an immediate future for the machine. And if you hadn’t already guessed, we’re quite looking forward to watching it unfold.
What do you make of the PlayStation Vita’s recent announcements? Which handheld titles are you most looking forward to in 2013? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.