As I type this I’m looking worryingly in the direction of my PS Vita. I’m worried that it may no longer be with us. I’ve been using it a lot over the past couple of years to play through Final Fantasy IX (and tracking my progress here), but the last couple of updates were a struggle as the left thumbstick had developed a problem where it wouldn’t recognise any vertical inputs, sure I could use the d-pad, but I sat there and it was nagging at me so I had to fix it. A friend had a spare thumb stick available and so I ordered the correct sized screwdriver and some spudgers and got to work on cracking it open at the weekend, with the idea that I could get back to FFIX and continue with that long-form playthrough.
Cracking it open and replacing the thumbstick proved to be incredibly simple, though I have encountered further problems.
The system hasn’t been charged since I last played it in September, trying to power it on (once putting it back together) resulted in no response and its currently been on charge for a couple of hours without the orange light turning on. It worked perfectly fine, apart from the thumbstick obviously, but now there’s nothing, and I’m absolutely gutted. I know, I could buy another to replace it, but I’m not really in the financial position to just buy one as they’re still pricier than you’d expect, rest assured, I’m going to do all I can to getting it back up and running again.
It’s honestly been one of my favourite devices since its launch, though I wasn’t there day one and I’ve played so much good stuff on it over that time. So, how about a top five? As ever, this is in no particular order and games aren’t necessarily exclusive to the system.
Persona 4 Golden
No Vita list is complete without Atlus’ hugely popular JRPG, thankfully in 2021, the Vita isn’t the only place you can get to spend your school days with Yosuke, Chie, Kanji and the gang. The blend of social interaction, balancing education and a job with heading into your TV to take on bad guys is a great way to spend dozens of hours and the pay off of the personalities of your friends all growing makes this an essential purchase. It’s not my favourite of the series (that goes to Persona 3) and nor is it the most accessible (Persona 5), but it’s still one of the best JRPG’s ever made.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
Two massive JRPG’s for the price of one? Sure, why not. That’s without taking into account that X is still considered one of the strongest entries in the series. I didn’t get on with the the likes of Tidus and Wakka, to begin with, I’ll admit to finding the vocal performances to be a little too cheesy, but now they have a certain charm to them and the setting and characters are really well tied together. Sure, X is very linear, but then the classics of the original PlayStation (so VII, VIII and IX) were also very linear but Square were able to use a lot of smoke and mirrors to hide that and its a criticism that could be labelled at a game many declared to be the best of 2020: Final Fantasy VII Remake. I’m yet to play X-2 properly, I’ve started it several times both on PS2 and Vita (and have recently repurchased it on PS4), but I’m led to believe its one of those games you either love or hate, however, I’m fully aware X and its sequel are hugely popular in Japan.
A change of pace is needed and this is one that has slipped some people by due to it not getting a physical release. Velocity Ultra is a vertical shmup, but with some puzzle elements thrown in by your ship having the ability to teleport short distances. The presentation and soundtrack are both stunning. This segues nicely into its sequel, Velocity 2X, which offers side-scrolling on foot action alongside the vertical shmup gameplay you will already have grown to love.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
When Danganronpa first fell out of the manilla envelope and into my hands I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t really played a Visual Novel before, though in retrospect it shares more in common with Capcom’s Phoenix Wright than it does something like Doki Doki Literature Club. Danganronpa places you as Makoto Naegi, a student at Hope’s Peak Academy, a school for the best of the best where everyone has a unique ability, your unique ability amongst this lot appears to be that you don’t have one. Anyway, the apocalypse has happened, or something like it anyway, and you are locked inside the school with the rest of the students, from there a crazed plush bear: Monokuma, tells you all that only one of you can get out which leads nicely into an anime take on an Agatha Christie novel, well, if it were actually ghostwritten by Koushun Takami.
Lastly and by no means least is OlliOlli, a sidescrolling, completely addictive, retro-looking skateboarding game. OlliOlli had a few problems at launch, the sheer speed at which you could just pick it up and play, fuck up your run and immediately restart each level led to a gameplay loop that was incredibly difficult to get out of. Though I was never amazing at it I was competent enough to lose hours and hours to try to get the perfect line. Again, this is no longer exclusive to the Vita, in fact, many of its best games have since appeared on other platforms and apparently feel really at home on Nintendo’s Switch, but as the game that introduced me (and most of the rest of the world) to developer Roll7, I’m eternally grateful to this criminally under-appreciated skateboarding game.