Dabe Alan

Sony stayed the Vita’s execution, and turned the portable into a $200, must-have console for indies

Sony stayed the Vita’s execution, and turned the portable into a $200, must-have console for indies

The PlayStation Vita has always been an amazing piece of hardware, but the game support and price of storage has long been an issue. Who cares about the screen size, quality of the controls, or fit and finish when the damned thing doesn’t have anything worth playing? Sony laid down the law at Gamescom, and re-introduced a system that’s much more affordable, and heavy on interesting, independent games.

The Vita is now a system that is much easier to recommend.

What happened

The Vita is now $199.99 for all makes and models. You want the 3G model? $200. You want the bundle with Walking Dead and a 4GB memory stick? $200. The bundle with a 4GB memory stick, a copy of Unit 13, and a full year of PlayStation Plus and all the free games that comes with it? $200. Be sure to shop around, as every bundle is now $200, and there are some crazy values out there.

The price on memory has also gone down, but the price on the proprietary memory sticks is still much higher than the standard SD cards you find in the rest of your electronics, but hey. It’s better than it was before.

The next wave of games is also impressive. Divekick was just released for the Vita, and it’s a fun way to play the super-simple but oddly interesting fighting game with a friend using only one system. Spelunky comes out next week. Rogue Legacy is on the way. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is coming. Volume is coming. Hotline Miami 2. Luftrausers. Wasteland Kings. Velocity2X. Assault Android Cactus. Samurai Gunn. Velocity 2X.

Minecraft is coming to the Vita and, while the game has already been successful on mobile devices, the physical analog sticks and buttons on the Vita and big, beautiful screen will likely make this the best portable version of Minecraft. Borderlands 2 is also getting a port, and that game's mission-based structure and leveling system will work very well on a portable.

This is combined with a bunch of interesting, smaller games that are already out for the system. Rymdkapsel, Muramasa Rebirth, Velocity Ultra, Tokyo Jungle Mobile, Guacamelee, Dragon's Crown, Rayman Origins, and it’s still the best way to play Super Crate Box and Retro City Rampage. Not to mention replaying the Jak and Daxter Collection, or picking up LittleBigPlanet Vita, or Gravity Rush, Super Stardust Delta, or Lumines, Sound Shapes, or get caught up on classics such as Parappa the Rapper or Everyday Shooter.

If you’re new to the console, the list of games that are here, inexpensive, or coming in the future is extensive. The games above? I was reading them off the home screen of my personal system. The Vita library has quietly grown both extensive and excellent, although the majority of these games don’t have huge names or promotional budgets. I have no idea why Velocity Ultra isn't a bigger deal, it's a great 2D shooter.

It’s hard to find any kind of theme here, besides the opportunity to grab known properties from the indie scene to bring to the Vita, a system that many developers have assured me is easy to port existing games to. If you have a smaller game that wants to extend its reach, Sony is more than happy to give you a home on its portable, and this approach works out for both Sony and the developers.

A few months ago most of us were writing the Vita off as an expensive also-ran, but Sony decided to stay and fight, and to do so with idiosyncratic, interesting game selections and a $100 price drop. The new lower price of the hardware, combined with the great variety of bundles, make the system affordable. The game selection that's out now, or will be out soon, is hard to criticize. It's hard to know if the indie-heavy approach will do much to woo the mass market, but we're not shareholders, so who cares?

The reality is that the Vita is now at a better price, and the game library is the antidote for an industry that's often over-reliant on boring, cookie-cutter first-person shooters. Sony is holding up smaller, fun games up and trying to find an audience for them. It's a wonderful approach, and I've never been happier with my Vita.