PS Vita, We Hardly Knew Ya!

TEARAWAYFor the longest time, I didn’t own Sony’s newest handheld, the PS Vita.  Which may seem strange at first, because I loved the PSP, Sony prior handheld.  In fact, other than the Neo Geo Pocket Color, the PSP was the only other handheld I bought that wasn’t made by Nintendo!  There were lots of PSP games I loved to play: Loco Roco and its sequel, Ys Seven, Half-Minute Hero, Gurumin, Mega Man Powered Up, and many more.  But the Vita just didn’t have as many games that I wanted to play, or at least not enough to warrant purchasing one.  But after a few years they’ve built up enough games that interest me, and since I couldn’t think of anything to ask my family to get me for Christmas, I just threw a Vita on my list and to my surprise I got one late last year as a present!  So here’s my impressions on the Vita and some games I got for it (probably a little too late, but hey, better later than never).

It’s kind of sad that the Vita bombed, because it seems like a pretty decent follow-up to the PSP.  The touch screens on the front and back work great, and I love the big, bright screen.  That’s one cool thing the PSP had over the DS and 3DS was its bright screen, and what I think helped it separate itself from Nintendo’s handheld juggernaut.  And the Vita is very inviting.  They even included some mini-games to help you get used to the system, in the form of the in-game Welcome Park (which also has trophies).  I also think it’s neat how you can see your Vita trophies on the PS3.  Yeah, I know, I’m easily amused.  And ever since I’ve gotten my Vita, I’ve been able to review a good number of games on it, at least five.  That’s pretty good for a system I’ve only had for about six months.  Because of that, in a way I kind of wish I had gotten a Vita earlier!

But like I said, for the longest time there just wasn’t enough games I wanted to play on the Vita.  And for a while it was pretty pricey as a handheld.  Plus, the memory cards you have to use for it are Sony’s brand, and they can be pretty expensive, too.  And the cards were not included with the Vita so you had to buy them separately.  That may be why the Vita ultimately bombed, but I’m not 100 percent sure.  But the Vita isn’t totally dead yet.  Many smaller indie and niche game companies are still making games for the system, which is probably how I’ve been able to review some Vita games still.  Most of the ones I’ve reviewed weren’t worth keeping, but the last two I’ve played were pretty decent.  I recently reviewed Grand Kingdom, which is a strategy action-RPG that turned out better than what I thought it would.  And Adventures of Mana (review up soon) is a nifty little remake of the old Game Boy Final Fantasy Adventure game.

But when I got my Vita, there were five physical copy games I wanted to get.  Luckily since they were older titles, I didn’t have to spend more than 20 bucks for any of them.  I guess that’s one advantage of not being an early adopter of a game system.  Rather than have the games be on those weird UMD discs like the PSP had, Vita games come on a little cartridge.  It’s like half the size of a 3DS card, and you can fit several up your nose (I don’t recommend doing that, by the way).  So here are some quick impressions of the five games I got for my Vita.

Touch My Katamari

I love the games in the Katamari Damacy series, and I hated missing out on this one for the longest time since I didn’t have a Vita at launch.  For those who don’t know, in the Katamari games you play as a tiny alien rolling around a sticky ball, and objects will latch to it and like a snowball, it gets bigger and bigger.  So at the beginning of a stage you may be rolling up bits of trash on the ground, but by the end, you may be rolling up cars and buildings and even continents and planets!  The definition of a quirky, Japanese game.  They added a new feature in this one: using the bottom touch screen, you can stretch and squish your Katamari ball so it can fit through narrower spaces or cover more ground.

But unfortunately, I’d have to say that this game is the worst in the series.  Even more so than the PSP version.  Environments are so barren, the music isn’t as memorable (Katamari games are known for their songs), and I hate how they did extra levels.  There are levels you can download as DLC, and they’re free, which is cool.  But in order to get them, you must roll up special items in the stages, and they are very hard to get.  I beat the whole game and only got two, and the extra stages cost ten to play.  It’s a shame, too, because one of the extra stages was filled with nothing but Namco game references in a Pac-Man maze, which I always wanted to see in a Katamari game. 

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz

I also really like the Monkey Ball games, where you roll around a monkey in a hamster ball trying to navigate mazes without falling off.  Kind of like a 3-D Marble Madness.  This one is just more of the same, although you can design your own levels, but I never tried that part.  Monkey Ball games also include a selection of mini-games, and I even wrote about the Vita ones in a previous blog.  Some are good and some are not so good.  Still a decent game, but not good enough to get a whole Vita for.  I think the last truly good Monkey Ball games were the ones on GameCube.

Gravity Rush

This was one of those games that everyone said was a Vita ‘system seller’ and I had to try it.  So I did!  You play as a young woman who can manipulate gravity, and she uses her powers to fight monsters in a Steampunk world full of floating cities.  You mostly use your gravity powers to fly around, so it’s like you’re Superman (or Superwoman in this case).  While it is a creative game, it does have some problems and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  The storyline is garbage and has a lot of loose ends that they didn’t tie up.  Which isn’t important to me, but what is important is that flying around can be very disorienting, and I even got a little nauseated a couple of times while playing, which rarely happens to me.  I think they could’ve solved this problem by making the game more colorful, as it uses a lot of muted tones.  A lock-on mechanism while attacking in the air would’ve helped, too.  But other than that, the game was fine.  The main character in the game, Kat, is especially cool (and kinda cute, for a video game character anyway).  I think she was a DLC character in the Sony All-Stars Battle Royale game, too.  Gravity Rush is still a good game, but there are others I liked better.  But I certainly liked Gravity Rush more than the first two games I mentioned on this list!

Ys: Memories of Celceta

Ys Seven was one of my favorite games on the PSP.  So I was excited to learn that a new Ys game that played similarly was coming out to the Vita.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as Ys Seven, but I still played it all the way through so I must’ve still enjoyed it enough.  Ys Seven just had slightly better gameplay and level design and characters and story and music.  One thing I didn’t know until recently is that the Vita game is just a remake/reimaging of the fourth game in the Ys series.  It would be interesting to go back and see the original and see how much has changed.  And in case you don’t know about Ys games, they are similar to Zelda titles, but focus more on action rather than puzzles.


Out of all the games I have on my Vita, I think Tearaway is my favorite.  It’s a 3-D platformer that hearkens back to the ones found on the PSOne and PS2, so that was welcome.  The world you play in is made out of paper.  You may be thinking, “Oh, like Paper Mario.”  No, even BETTER than Paper Mario.  And that’s saying a lot, since Paper Mario does that aesthetic very well.  In the game you play as an envelope with arms and legs (you can even pick its gender).  Your job as an envelope is to get a message to you, the player.  Yup, the characters in the game even call you a “You.”  And the game uses all the Vita’s capabilities to try and bring you into the game.

For instance, in nearly every scene in the game, they use the Vita’s camera to have a picture of you peeking in through a hole in the ground or the sun in the sky.  You can also use the camera to take pictures to use as textures for papercrafts in the game, and you can use the tilt functions to take snapshots in the levels as well.  Sometimes you can use the bottom touch screen to ‘poke’ holes in the paper to help the envelope defeat enemies or solve puzzles.  They even show your finger pushing though, which is why they ask your skin color at the beginning of the game!  You can also use the stylus and touch screen to cut out and glue pieces of paper to decorate your envelope character or other objects in the world.  My favorite was when they asked to you design snowflakes for the ice level, I made a Pac-Man shape, so all the snowflakes were little yellow bits of Pac confetti!  The neatest idea was when you take a picture of a colorless object in the game, it’ll gain colors and you can go to a special web site and log in and get instructions to print out and make a real life papercraft based on that object!  The level of user creativity in this game is astounding, but it makes sense when you realize this game was made by the same folks who did LittleBigPlanet.  Tearaway doesn’t have as much customization as LittleBigPlanet titles do, but it does still have a lot and it’s OK because Tearaway is just trying to be its own game.

Tearaway does have a few problems, though.  Like with other 3-D platformers, sometimes camera angles and play control can be a little problematic.  Others may complain about a lack of challenge, since you start where you left off right after you die, and get unlimited lives.  But these little snags didn’t ruin my fun with the game.  It was full of creativity and had such an inspiring ending.  If you have a Vita, THIS is the game I recommend getting the most.  Especially for kids. I’ll end this section with a link to YouTube video with my favorite song from Tearaway.


And that’s my impressions on the Vita!  I tell you one thing, the Vita certainly has helped me make another decision.  If I were in the market for a new console right now, either the PS4 or Xbox One, I know which one I would get: the PS4.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against Microsoft and I loved my Xbox 360.  But there are only 3 games on the Xbox One I’d be interested in playing right now.  One is Rare Replay, which is just a bunch of old games.  Another is Cuphead, a 2-D action game where the graphics look like a 1930’s cartoon.  But I hear it’s really hard and I think I’d be just as happy watching someone else play it.  So that just leaves Ori and the Blind Forest.  Which I hear is really good but I’m not going to buy a whole console just for one game.

But because of my time with the Vita, I already know three games on the PS4 I’d want to play.  Gravity Rush has a remastered version on the PS4, as well as a sequel.  Not to mention a new remake/reimagining of Tearaway, which I bet looks even more amazing on the PS4.  And that’s not including some of the other PS4 games I’ve been eyeing, like Dragon Quest Heroes and the new Kingdom Hearts game that may or may not come out in the next two or three years!

So I’d like to conclude this Vita blog with a call for help.  In the comments section, if you know of any other Vita games that I may like, please let me know!  And tell me your favorite Vita games, too.  Thanks, and later!  –Cary

One Response to “PS Vita, We Hardly Knew Ya!”

  1. I have been playing with the Vita a fair amount, there are really some decent games … I have been LOVING “Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel”, with the sequel coming in September! I tend to like shooters, etc as well and there are ones like Killzone: Mercenary, and I also like the turn-based UFO: Enemy Unknown Plus.

    But overall … yes, when I think of how many PSP games I reviewed for GamerDad and other sites … it is just sad how weak the lineup was for the Vita.

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