When I picked up my PS Vita back in February, I was extremely excited about this powerful handheld's potential. "Console quality, on the go," Sony's slogan claims. This seemed to mean that I could finally take some hardcore games with me wherever I travelled. I was ready. So far, though, my Vita gaming plate isn't piled very high, and several of the touted features are not being utilized to their full capacity.
My biggest disappointment comes from third-party developers who put the Vita in the same category as the 3DS. Granted, they're both portable gaming devices, but the similarities pretty much end there. Now, I continue to receive enjoyment from Nintendo's handheld, but it's common knowledge the Vita has it trumped when it comes to raw power. The Vita is even more powerful than the Wii, which makes my following question all the more baffling.
Why do developers program console games for the PS3 and Xbox 360, then strip them down to accommodate the Wii, yet they’ll make portable versions for the 3DS and try to retroactively upscale the quality for the Vita? The LEGO games are perfect examples. I was tasked with reviewing the Vita version of LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, and I was legitimately excited about playing a PS3-quality version on the go. Instead, I got gameplay that was recycled from the 3DS version. It drove a dagger through my heart, suggesting this was likely the future of multiplatform games on the Vita. If Sony had any pride in their handheld system, they would insist that developers give the Vita the full console treatment.
The more I play the Vita—even with higher-rated games like LittleBigPlanet PS Vita and Assassin's Creed III: Liberation—the more I find the "console quality" label isn't such a good fit. ACIII: Liberation provided a decent enough adventure, but it couldn't hold a candle to its console brother when it comes to content and visual quality, making it a watered-down supplement for handheld owners. Also, it plays like a console game, meaning it's not designed for quick sessions. You really have to dedicate at least an hour to get any satisfaction from your progress. As for LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, it's easily the best entry in the series so far, but aside from some new control features, there's very little in the way of revolutionary new content.
Sony needs to put their slogan under the microscope and find the right direction for game development on the Vita. In my opinion, future software can't be designed with a console mentality and then carelessly slapped onto the portable. The foundation must be conducive to gameplay in transit or during short breaks, while retaining the technical quality we’d expect from the PS3.
Nintendo has an easier time with the 3DS, because their player base neither expects nor wants their 3DS games to be compared to the Wii or the Wii U. They like their portable and home console games to have a clear distinction. What Sony needs is a fresh franchise designed from the ground up for the Vita, one that appeals to both their preinstalled fan base and a broader audience. I have a few IP ideas, and if Sony wants to hire me, I'll gladly share them.
Additionally, Sony needs to step up support for the Vita’s cross-platform and remote play features. I'm still waiting for the patch so I can play Tokyo Jungle from my bed. It's already received the remote play patch in Japan, so what's taking it so long to hit the U.S.? Now that I have my Wii U, I’m loving the fact that games can be streamed onto the GamePad with absolutely no effort. Sony should take note of this and get cracking on building their remote play library, making this type of gameplay a simple process for users. It's likely that Nintendo will embrace cross-platform play between the Wii U and 3DS, so if Sony is smart they will try and tap that functionality and get a leg up before the competition really heats up.
I don't like seeing my Vita sit on the table untouched. The system has everything it needs to be a successful gaming device; it just requires a dedicated helmsman to steer it in the right direction. And it needs it soon, because the current heading has it on a collision course with oblivion.
Date: December 4, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*