Turn off the Lights

I Sure Wish I Could Play This on My Television

Speaking 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.

Let’s 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.

Sometimes, 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”.

With 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.

It’s 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.  

Persona 4: The Golden screenshot
Do not underestimate the power of Persona to sway my purchase.

And 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.

Of 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.


Meet the Author

User not found.

Follow Us