There are two things that are certain in this world, Rick Grimes having things and stuff to do and someone yelling about how the PlayStation Vita is dead. While Lori just does not get it, the people bemoaning the PS Vita seem to be hopping on a fun little band wagon. Admittedly, the launch of the PS Vita was a bit bundled. Two axioms to live by are never attack Russia in the winter and do not launch an expensive new console a few months after Christmas in a troubled economy. Despite lackluster sales, the launch lineup for the Vita was solid or at least no worse than any previous launch lineup. It recovered quite a bit from its less than stellar beginning going on to release some amazing games in 2012 with Gravity Rush (a game that was chosen as the best mobile game in 2012 here at Gaming Illustrated), Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Persona 4: Golden. These titles showed off the power and scope of the handheld, more than that they showed a promise of what it could do.
The biggest news came out of the recent PAX East convention with Square-Enix finally announcing that Final Fantasy X HD Remaster will see a release this year. This project has been long in gestation. Announced back in Sept. 2011, the title was meant to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Final Fantasy X, but more than that with a PS3 and PS Vita version in the works, it helped add some excitement to the launch of Sony’s fledgling handheld. However, over a year from the announcement there had been no news whatsoever about the title. Until this Feb. 18, nearly a year since the North American launch of the Vita, Square finally showed off some footage of the new HD models. Finally, Square has given fans something to chew on by not only announcing the HD Remaster of Final Fantasy X for 2013, but also a HD Remaster of Final Fantasy X-2, its fabulous sequel. Not only will Vita owners be able to relive riding a Shopuff, but now they can also get their dress sphere on with both HD Remasters sometime this year. While PS3 owners will get both games on a single disc, Vita owners will have to buy them separately, but that is probably as much about the size of the games as Square trying to get some paper.
Square-Enix bringing two big HD remasters to the PS Vita will only benefit the system, much in the same way Persona 4: Golden did last year. Sure, some would cry, “But that is a PS2 game, I already bought that!” For those people buying a new system just to play an old game or re-buying an old game does not make any sense. Although, it does have reworked models and graphics meant to take advantage of HD screens. Besides, replaying older games on an HDTV is rough going. That is if people still have a working PS2 or a PS3 that supports backward compatibility, but likely most people do not. This is not necessarily for those that hate double dipping, but more to help push people on the fence about buying a Vita to pick one up. Plus, this gives younger gamers who completely missed the PS2 (they exist) a way to enjoy and appreciate an older classic without the baggage of graphically fidelity, much in the same way The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D did for the 3DS. In a way, these older remasters are perfect for a handheld experience, especially an RPG because it gives gamers a chance to grind on the go. With the PS Vita’s sleep function, gamers can level up and fill out the sphere grid between classes or on work breaks seamlessly from where they left off.
That is not the only software news that has been coming out about the PS Vita lately. Recently, Don Mesa, PlayStation’s Director of Product Planning and Platform Software Innovation stated to IGN that more than 100 games will come out for the PS Vita in 2013. So far, less than a quarter of that 100 have seen release. In his conversation with IGN, Mesa said a heavy amount of support will come from the indie community with upcoming Vita versions of Thomas Was Alone, Machinarium, Lone Survivor, Hotline Miami and Frozen Synapse.
Those are in addition to the recently announced indie PS Vita titles, Divekick and Metrico. Divekick is a PS3/PS Vita fighter that sees competitors racing to use the signature divekick fighting move to win a match, while Metrico is an innovative Vita exclusive that will utilize the properties of the system in a unique way. Other recently announced indie games coming to the Vita are Spelunky and Limbo. All of these titles will join Guacamelee! (coming out on Apr. 9, be excited!), Dragon Fantasy Book Two, Sportsfriends, Ibb & Obb, Luftrasers, Velocity Ultra and Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge.
It is not only indies that will support the system as indicated by some bigger titles like the aforementioned Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD Remasters, Soul Sacrifice, Dragon’s Crown and Killzone: Mercenary coming out for the system in 2013. There is more up Sony’s sleeves with first-party titles but like most of the gaming industry, they are keeping them under wraps. Someone strike the “Wait for E3″ gong!
The avalanche of indie titles coming out for the PS Vita in 2013 shows Sony’s commitment to supporting the indie community going forward into the launch of the PS4. In addition to announcing some new indie titles for their systems, Sony recently partnered up with Unity to give any developers with a PlayStation license an easy way to port their games to the PS3, PS4, PS Vita and PS Mobile without having to go through the difficult process of re-writing code. The partnership will allow developers to build in trophy support easily and sell their games on the PlayStation Network. This will make it easier for developers to bring their games over to Sony systems and hugely benefit the indie community. Sony has also shown huge support to the indie community with its recent PlayStation Mobile NYC Game Jam of which they announced the winner of the competition at GDC. With plenty of ease and options for indie developers to port and develop for Sony consoles, it can only benefit the PS Vita going forward.
The shifting nature of the console market and Sony’s support of smaller developers certainly has some studios taking notice. The newly announced Transistor from SuperGiant Games has been given an early 2014 release date but without saying what platforms it will be available for. When asked about it, SuperGiant Games’ Greg Kasavin told Polygon that they are waiting to see what platform would best suit the game. This could possibly mean a PS4 release or even a cross-buy with the PS Vita, and this stance might be a result of the way Sony has been courting and talking to indie talent. While that is the future and speculation, there is something here with how Sony has been focusing on supporting indie studios, but more than that they have been increasingly developer oriented. The big word of the PS4 announcement was about how the company wanted to work with developers to make releasing games easier. That philosophy does not stand only with the PS4, but also with the PS Vita as the perfect companion for the upcoming system. It means that Sony is committed to supporting the beleaguered handheld.
In a Sony lead survey, they found the Vita has a high 86% user satisfaction rate with owners playing around 18.6 hours a week on their handheld. That means that the majority that bought a PS Vita are satisfied with the purchase and that most owners spend the equivalent of a part-time job tinkering around with the device. That is unlikely to change as the PS Vita’s library is looking to take off this year. With E3 coming up, the public can expect to see plenty of new Vita titles get announced and more of those 100 plus games see release in the coming months. While everyone wants to believe the worst about the state of the PS Vita, it seems that the future is bright. Right now is the perfect time to pick up a Vita before the storm of titles hits players like hail the size of well, PS Vitas.