When the PlayStation 3 was at its lowest, you couldn’t move for criticism. Every announcement, news story, and trailer was accompanied by a heated discussion; each unfortunate exclusive was forced to carry the weight of the entire machine. As the flagship format settled – its commercial fortunes reversed and operating system improved – the incessant analysis died down, and it allowed us to concentrate on the most important thing: the games. The software was always there, of course, but as opposed to the core of the plot, it was the subtext that filtered into a much larger – and often tedious – narrative. And the same is starting to occur with the PlayStation Vita.
Sales for the system are poor – we know. While its position has steadied a little in its native Japan – a well-timed price-drop and a slew of Monster Hunter-esque titles its saviour – the console’s position continues to dwindle overseas. And as a consequence, that’s the topic that’s on everyone’s lips. But the focus on the system’s retail failings seems to have overshadowed the more interesting story: the console's getting a lot of great games. And yet, as we navel-gaze over the shortcomings, are we losing focus of the platform’s real triumphs?
The truth is that beneath the pent-up demand for a so-called killer-app, the Vita has blossomed into a compelling piece of machinery. It may not be the gadget that we originally envisioned, but it’s grown into something even more exciting. It certainly feels niche – no doubt a reason for those lagging sales numbers – but the dedicated handheld market is changing, and, if we’re honest, the portable was never going to be anything other than that. But that shouldn’t detract from the console’s strengths: the dream of playing Call of Duty on a country garden bench may have been pushed to the side, but its absence has created an opportunity for a wealth of infinitely more interesting software to shine.
Take the recently released Hotline Miami. The dark, occassionally disgusting indie murder-‘em-up is nuttier than a fruitcake and more addictive than nicotine – but it’s brilliant on Sony’s slick little machine. The game plays like an absolute (fever) dream, takes advantage of the console’s unique inputs in intelligent ways, and fits the modern philosophy of portable gaming more snugly than a Rooster-style raid mask. It’s arguably the ideal Vita release, and it’s accompanied by dozens more of its kind, including – and by no means limited to – Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark, Thomas Was Alone, and Guacamelee. These games may also be playable on the PS3, but why would you want to enjoy them anywhere else when they suit the Vita better than drainpipe jeans?
Sadly, it feels like the quality of these games has been mitigated while we all long for the celestial software on the non-existent horizon. Rejected like a reformulated recipe of Coca-Cola, it’s as if the current lineup is worthless because the console needs “big” titles to sell. But we’d take Velocity Ultra over pretty much anything else, and while your collection of blue cases may have trickled to a standstill, that doesn’t mean that the system is not securing some incredible games.
We’re not saying that the lust for blockbuster titles needs to go away – we’re looking forward to Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway, too. But if you’re letting your desire for big-budget games detract from your appreciation of the system’s overall offering, then you’re not getting the most out of the handheld at all. And while the abundance of underground indie hits may do little to elevate the hardware out of the retail ghetto that it currently resides, it shouldn’t take anything away from the quality of the software.
Are you satisfied with your Vita, or have you stashed it away until the next big game? Has the stream of indie software kept you glued to your console, or are you seeking your portable entertainment from elsewhere? Let us know in the comments section below.
How satisfied are you with the Vita’s lineup right now? (40 votes)
Very, the console’s securing some stellar games
I like the indie titles, but wish there was more to look forward to
Meh, I’m neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
I play what’s available, but I’m pretty disappointed to be honest
It sucks, I did not buy the system for minor releases
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