Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) launched the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) console throughout Europe and North America this past week, and with it came what is arguably one of the strongest launch line-ups of any console in history. While the PS Vita may not have offered anything as revolutionary as Super Mario 64 or as groundbreaking as Wii Sports, it did offer a line-up of solid, enjoyable videogame experiences. Finding out which ones are the cream of the crop is no easy task: and so Electronic Theatre has taken on that responsibility for you.
In an unusual turn for the Sunday Special feature on Electronic Theatre, this week’s list isn’t limited to retail releases only. With the arrival of the PS Vita, we finally see a console that will promote digital releases alongside retail packaged products from day one, though the pricing strategy for such an activity arguably needs work. Only one title on the list is not available at both retail and digital stores, but it’s such an enjoyable product that it deserves recognition as such. Below follows Electronic Theatre’s picks for the PS Vita launch line-up, and in-depth reviews of each and every title on this list will be available in the near future.
10. Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS
First on the agenda is a remake of a classic adventure. Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS is a perfect example of how far ahead of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) that the PS Vita truly is. On PSP, any Ninja Gaiden videogame would’ve been a watered-down version of the Xbox original. On PS Vita, Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS amps-up that same videogame to an extreme only previously possible on PlayStation 3. At present, Ninja Gaiden Sigma PLUS is the definitive version of the classic Ninja Gaiden.
9. Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is Uncharted in your hands, and that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, it does feel as though certainly elements of the experience have been rushed through design, meaning that it doesn’t quite live-up to the expectation of what fans might think ‘Uncharted in your hands’ should be, but Uncharted: Golden Abyss does deliver the most enjoyable 3D platform experience on PS Vita regardless.
8. Rayman Origins
Just like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Rayman Origins is a fantastic platform videogame – albeit a 2D one in this case – with a major flaw that prevents it from being an equal to its home console siblings. And again, it’s a flaw that could be contributed to a shorter period of development. For all intents and purposes, Rayman Origins was designed as a multiplayer co-operative experience, yet here on PS Vita there’s no multiplayer functionality at all, either online or locally. Rayman Origins is still a fantastic platform challenge, but it’s not quite the star that the home console version is.
7. ModNation Racers
ModNation Racers on PSP and PlayStation 3 was sadly overlooked by many. Here on PS Vita it’s too early to tell whether it will suffer the same fate, but it’s easy to suggest that it doesn’t deserve to. ModNation Racers will always be considered a do-it-yourself Mario Kart, and that the PS Vita managed to present such a title at launch certainly proves SCE’s commitment to taking the Nintendo 3DS head-on.
6. Dynasty Warriors NEXT
“But it’s just another Dynasty Warriors!” We hear you cry. And yes, you are right. Dynasty Warriors NEXT is just another Dynasty Warriors, but with the accuracy of that statement comes another point worthy of note: Dynasty Warriors NEXT is the first time that a handheld version as stood up as an equal to its home console brethren. Dynasty Warriors NEXT is a perfect example of how to adapt established franchises to SCE’s powerful new console, and if you haven’t experienced the drama that is Dynasty Warriors ever before, now is your chance.
5. WipEout 2048
What would a new console from SCE be without a WipEout title in its launch window? A PlayStation2. OK, not every PlayStation console has received a new edition of WipEout early on, but that’s the reputation the series has, and the PS Vita is determined to provide further foundation for that perception. The WipEout series will always be compared to F-Zero for many reasons, but given Nintendo’s apparent lack on interest of investing in a new edition of what is arguably their most core-gamer orientated videogame franchise, at present it’s WipEout 2048 that rules the futuristic racing genre.
4. Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
There are a few titles on PS Vita that are essentially ports of the PlayStation 3 title of the same name. Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is one of them. However, while Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 delivers the same experience on handheld as it does on home console, it also offers it’s own exclusive content in the form of an additional character. If there’s a way to promote this new PS Vita edition above its home console peers, that’s the one Electronic Theatre would bank on.
3. MotorStorm RC
The MotorStorm franchise has become synonymous with PlayStation racing thrills over the past five years. Every PlayStation console in that time has received an edition of the beloved series, and PS Vita is no different. What is different however, is the product itself: while MotorStorm RC is blessed with the ‘MotorStorm’ heading, it’s a very different beast to that which has gone before. And we say ‘beast’, because that’s exactly what it is.
Don’t be fooled by the twee visual quality of MotorStorm RC or its very wallet-friendly price-tag, this is a product that packs one hell of a punch. Essentially a revision of Codemasters 16-bit hero Micro Machines – or even the arcade classic Off-Road 4×4 before that – MotorStorm RC is a top-down racing videogame where players control their vehicle as if it were a remote controlled car. Fair enough; wrap it up with a nice selection of vehicles and tracks, and call it a day. Right? Wrong. MotorStorm RC goes further than this by offering a huge selection of content, leaderboard challenges, hidden items, alternative gameplay modes and, in a move that shocked PlayStation gamers across the globe, a ‘buy-once, play on both’ system for PlayStation 3 gamers also. All this for less than a fiver? MotorStorm RC is possibly one of the most generous launch titles the videogames industry has ever seen.
2. Lumines Electronic Symphony
The PSP received a version of Lumines as a launch title back in 2005, and it shook the system to its core. The series debut found a format that would later be imitated, but never bettered. Lumines was an incredible combination of puzzle gameplay, rhythm affect-response and dazzling visual design. On the surface it’s a simple block-based puzzle videogame, similar to Tetris, but after just one play gamers recognised it was so much more. Now, seven years later, Lumines finally gets a successor to the throne.
Lumines Electronic Symphony is every bit the superior title that gamers had been wishing for. We may have seen PlayStation2 conversions, iOS releases and even an Xbox LIVE Arcade adaptation, but none have come close to that exasperating feeling that Lumines presented in just its aesthetic design. Lumines Electronic Symphony is the same block-based puzzle videogame as its predecessor, but for the first time it’s found a way to harness the power of a more capable system for greater effect. The perfect marriage of visual and aural design, Lumines Electronic Symphony is a must-have title for all PS Vita gamers.
1. Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend
It comes as no surprise that Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend is an engrossing beat-‘em-up experience, but that it is so good that it claims the honour of being the best title in the PS Vita launch line-up? Well, Electronic Theatre is just as surprised as you are. Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend is one of the leading titles in the genre right now, and that the PS Vita version is near-identical to the home console releases is nothing short of daunting.
In the modern industry, beat-‘em-ups tend to come in two flavours: button mashers and technical design. Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend most certainly belongs to the latter field. While it’s learning curve isn’t quite as steep as that of Arcana Heart 3, it quickly becomes apparent that ‘light punch’ can mean something very different from one character to the next, and learning not only your characters offensive and defensive postures, but also those of your opponent, is vital. Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend is one of the most immaculately balanced beat-‘em-up videogames on the current-generation, and managing to deliver such quality of design on a handheld system is not an achievement that should be taken lightly.