So, the PS Vita has finally kicked the bucket. It’s been a long time coming, but now the Vita handheld is going out of production.
To be frank, this is probably for the best. Sony is renowned for its unwillingness to support the portable console – which saw a lack of exclusive games, ridiculously expensive proprietary memory cards and a failure to adapt to mobile gaming trends. With the advent of the Nintendo Switch, Sony also has no plans to succeed its best backwards-compatible console, which seems a huge shame.
In the wake of this decision, Sony also announced the incoming release of the pocket-sized PlayStation Classic, a mini console in the same vein as the Nintendo NES Classic & SNES Classic Mini, for December 3 – and just in time for Christmas.
It’s a clever fiscal decision from Sony, but a non-committal solution to a pressing problem. The controller for the PlayStation Classic lacks analogue sticks, there is no online functionality and the console will come with a mostly-undisclosed (at this point at least) 20 games all for the not inconsiderable price of £89 / $149 / AU$149.
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Great if you’re looking for a nostalgic paperweight, but for that price, you could buy a Vita in pretty good condition and open yourself up to a catalogue that boasts hundreds of classic titles, as well as games that you can also (quite crucially) take with you on the go.
Of course, buying a pre-owned console is not for everyone. It’s natural to be worried, especially if you’re picking up one of the original Vita models that came out six years ago – though the LCD screen of its PS Vita Slim successor wasn’t a patch on the earlier model’s superior OLED screen. You’re also definitely not going to be receiving any new games on it anytime soon, beyond a precious few indies.
But besides the Sony PS3, there is nothing comparable for veteran PlayStation gamers looking for a nostalgic fix.
I picked up a Vita in 2018 for this exact reason, in order to play gems from my childhood on my daily commute. I was pleasantly surprised by the entire package, down to the satisfying page-peeling user interface and, most importantly, its catalogue of classics.
From critically acclaimed titles like Spyro the Dragon and Resident Evil 2 to the more obscure but still memorable Disney’s Hercules and 40 Winks, the Vita’s online store is jam-packed with PlayStation games, including the ones you hold fondly for no particular reason. Even if you don’t want the games that are set to get remasters of their own within the year – like the aforementioned Spyro and Resi – there’s still something here for you.
Better than a curated list of 20 crowd-pleasers, you can enjoy the games that will most likely make it on to the Classic and still have room to spare for lesser-known gems.
Trawling through the listings I found countless titles I’d forgotten about since I was a child: instinctive nostalgia purchases like Mickey’s Wild Adventure that don’t boast critical acclaim but certainly have a special place in my heart. I imagine there is something for everyone in that regard, and the lack of a set menu means you can pick and choose whatever games you fancy.
If you’re a gamer looking to catch up with the highlights of a bygone era, many bucket list classics are also present, which you may have missed and want to catch up on. Games like Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII provide a perfect entry point to some of gaming’s most revered series, and they’re all readily available on this forgotten misfit console.
Remappable controls improve the accessibility of old-school gems too, meaning you’re not stuck with a pre-Dualshock dinosaur of a controller and a short wire, something nobody is really used to nowadays. The Vita’s touchpad back panel easily remedies archaic control schemes, breathing life into tank controls, among other unfortunate realities of early PlayStation games.
If you can brave it, you also open yourself up to a few landlocked exclusives that are well worth the price of admission. Atlus dropped a much-loved port of 2009’s Persona 4 on the platform, and Golden is still thought of as one of the finest JRPG’s ever made, with the Vita being the best way to experience it in its finest form.
So even if you are picking it up for nostalgia, that won’t prevent you enjoying forgotten titles like Tearaway and Gravity Rush, as well as indie darlings Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac and Grim Fandango Remastered – all charming titles that don’t suffer from any noticeable downgrades on the handheld console.
To the PS Plus subscribers who instinctively download every free offering each month, I have more good news: you may be surprised at just how many Vita games you own already.
Beyond platform exclusives, many of the titles Sony has offered in its monthly packages are crossplay, meaning you can pick up where you left off from your main system on the go.
This extends to AAA PS4 games too. The immense fidelity of Marvel’s Spider-Man doesn’t exactly go one for one in your hands, but Remote Play has been going from strength to strength in recent years, meaning you’re certainly able to finish off side quests in a tidy fashion as long as you leave your main system running at home.
Ultimately it’s a question of comfort. It’s probably a little easier to wait out the Classic console and get a pristine experience without needing to scratch the surface a little. But if you have the courage and know-how to do so, the PS Vita can still be a worthwhile pickup, even in 2018 with the console going out of production.
Sony’s lacklustre approach to backwards-compatibility means that the value proposition of the console still stands, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to provide an answer for this problem anytime soon. Until they do, long live the classics – and long live the PS Vita.
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