as a gamer and technophile, I absolutely want a Playstation Vita the
day it makes its way to North America. Speaking as a person with bills,
who needs to set aside money and make plans for unnecessary purchases
like entertainment and media, I’m not certain if the right kinds of
games are coming to make it worth my $250.
start by taking a look back at its predecessor, the Playstation
Portable. I was not an early adopter, as six years ago I was living
with my mother and unemployed, but I saved what money I could and got
one pretty early in its lifespan. The sheer
power the PSP offered was exciting. Games as robust as any on a console with
graphics to match? Sign me up! As I, and many others, quickly learned
though, I didn’t want to play my favorite shooters, sandbox, and action
games on a handheld gaming device. Several games in the PSP library
came and, while fun, would often make me want to play it on a television
with a controller in my hands. The combination of a standard
controller’s button scheme squished into the minimalist layout of a handheld
device, and game designs better suited for a long block of time on a
couch than bite-sized chunks on the go could make what
was clearly a great game a downright chore to play at times.
A short anecdote: recently, I was trying to play Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep,
a PSP game, for those who don’t know. It was a prequel with an
interesting setup, some new characters, and the gameplay I enjoyed in Kingdom Hearts II
for the Playstation 2. But I couldn’t get myself to play the game. I
was invested in the story and interested in the game, but I would
instead gravitate toward my consoles and play a game on my television or
look longingly at Half-Minute Hero, a game much better suited for the handheld format. Instead of enjoying Birth by Sleep, I found myself thinking, I sure wish this game was on the PS2 or PS3.
whatever balance is necessary for an action game to be great on a
handheld is found. A clear example of this for me was God of War: Chains of Olympus.
It was fun and engaging and I really didn’t mind that it was on a
portable system. Except for the controls. Taking a game designed for a
controller with two analog sticks, trying to adapt it for a system with
only one, and making it comfortable seems downright impossible. Pressing
both shoulder buttons to dodge is functional, but feels far less natural
than just flicking the right analog stick. This is a problem
first-person shooters run into as well, compounded with the lower
precision offered by the analog “nub”.
this problem in mind, it only makes sense to take a peek at what’s
already in the works for the Playstation Vita. For this gamer
personally, the number of home console franchises making Vita game
debuts is unnerving. Uncharted, Call of Duty, Resistance, Killzone...
these are the same kinds of games that I didn’t want to play on the
PSP. The problem with controls will likely be mostly solved by the
change to double analog sticks on the Playstation Vita, but
it’s a smaller problem compared to the issue of handheld pacing not
being a good match for certain game genres.
not all gloom for the Vita, though. Platformers, racers,
fighters, things that are more pick-up-and-play, or roleplaying
games, which are less action-oriented and better for sleep mode pausing, are great for portable gaming. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, LittleBigPlanet, Persona 4: The Golden, and Wipeout 2048 could be great games.
Do not underestimate the power of Persona to sway my purchase.
I am completely open to the prospect of being wrong. Perhaps it’s less
the portability and more the lack of a comparable control scheme that
was holding the PSP back. Maybe the second analog input and the back
touchpads on the Vita will
make playing action games on a handheld less cumbersome. But I think
the video game industry does handheld gaming a disservice, particularly
the Playstation devices, by trying to cram more power and a home console
gaming experience into a portable gaming device. Leave the huge budget,
beautiful action games for the home consoles and develop appropriate
games for portable devices. I think quality would be higher all around.
course, this is all a moot point, as I’m pretty sure the era of
handheld dedicated gaming devices is headed the way of the dodo, but that’s for
another article another time.