Here's the Thing

I Still Love My Stupid PS Vita

A monthly glimpse into whatever gaming bugaboo Rob’s got on his mind.

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This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #95. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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I remember being excited when the Playstation Vita first came out. Here was a handheld system that touted graphical abilities somewhere between a PSP and a Playstation 2 (at the time, that was pretty sweet) and it had two analog sticks instead of one little nubbin! I got mine sometime within the first year it was out and, even then, part of me knew it was doomed to fail. The rear touchpad was clumsy and entirely unnecessary. It required overpriced proprietary memory sticks (i.e. you pay way more to increase storage space). And, of course, Sony did a terrible job supporting it. But here’s the thing: despite its myriad flaws, I still absolutely adore this stupid waste of luggage space.

Despite Sony’s apparent shame in the thing, some of its ambitious features are actually pretty neat despite not always working as well as intended. Remote play, even in a world where the Switch exists, has been great. I can buy stuff for my Playstation 4 without fighting over who gets to use the TV, for one thing. Of course, I can also play PS4 games on it, though some are better suited to not relying on using that awful rear touchpad as the second set of shoulder buttons than others. Still, I love being able to curl up in bed and wander around in No Man’s Sky or chip away at my progress in Persona 5.

I hate that Sony abandoned the system so soon after its release.

The Vita’s library is solid all on its own, too, though it’s definitely sparse when compared to other platforms. Persona 4 Golden is fantastic, Spelunky feels tailor-made for handheld play, Dragon’s Crown and the re-release of Odin Sphere are treasures and don’t even get me started on how much I love Earth Defense Force and its stupid B movie-ness. Some of these games are exclusive, others aren’t, but regardless there are some great titles available. Some of them also feature cross-buy/play functionality, so you can play the portable version on the go and carry your progress over to the console version. It’s basically the somewhat awkward precursor to the Switch, but it’s a great feature that I use as often as I can.

I noticed the last and possibly my favorite thing the Vita does after I bit the bullet and spent way too much money on the biggest memory stick I could find. That thing? Being able to use this follow-up to the Playstation Portable as a literal portable Playstation. There are a lot of original Playstation games (never enough, but still a lot) that can be loaded onto the Vita without resorting to dubious practices – plenty more, I’m sure, if you do – and being able to take so many of them on the go has been wonderful. Main Final Fantasy titles, Xenogears, freaking Front Mission 3. Mega. Man. Legends. And The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. My Vita is an oasis from the golden age of CD-based gaming, to say nothing of all the top-tier PSP games I can play on it as well. I am still waiting (fruitlessly, I’m sure) for some version of Valkyrie Profile, though.

I hate that Sony abandoned the system so soon after its release. I hate that the reason it performed so poorly is mostly their fault – a lack of support, some poor design decisions, Sony being Sony, etc. The PS Vita is a failure, there’s no denying that, but I still love this incredibly stupid, wonderful thing.

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Rob Rich has loved videogames since the 80s and has the good fortune to be able to write about them. Catch his rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne

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