A Look Back at SEGA's Support for the PlayStation Vita

A Look Back at SEGA's Support for the PlayStation Vita - Article

by Adam Cartwright , posted on 09 December 2017 / 3,098 Views

This is the ninth entry in a series of articles looking at the output of a number of Vita-supporting companies, from launch through to the present day. I’ll be examining the games they released, how well they sold (if there's sufficient data), how well they ran in the case of ports, and will take a brief look at games which perhaps should have come to the console, either in the west or in general.

Once one of Sony's most bitter rivals in the console manufacturing business during the fifth console generation, SEGA eventually shifted to pure software development and became one of the company's best partners, offering up a variety of quality releases across all Sony hardware from the PS2 onwards. While its PSP support was large and varied, its Vita support was significantly scaled back and a number of key franchises were absent from the company's Vita line-up. With that said, SEGA still fared much better than some of its contemporaries on the hardware and put the effort in to make some solid games, including a couple that are scheduled for 2018, making SEGA one of the stronger Vita supporters.


Launch & 2012 - A Good Start

Like many other publishers, SEGA was present for the Vita's launch with a brilliant port of one of its older titles, and the company continued this momentum throughout 2012 with multiple other releases ranging from ports to brand new games.

The launch game (in both Japan and the west) was Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition, an expanded re-release of the original title from earlier in 2011. World Tour added a number of additional features including touch and gyro controls, two-player local gameplay, as well as additional online stats and modes. The port was also among the best-looking games available on Vita at the time (and still looks brilliant to this day). Opening week sales were weak in Japan at just 3.6k, but it eventually sold more than 28k in the region, and worldwide figures were just shy of half a million according to VGChartz.

It wouldn't be long until SEGA's next title appeared - the free-to-play action game Samurai & Dragons, which was available in Japan from March of 2012. A special physical edition was made available later in the year which eventually sold 12k copies, but no figures were announced for the number of downloads so its success in the round is difficult to measure. The game's servers were eventually shut in July of 2014 as the company shifted its focus to the newly-released Chain Chronicle V.

For the latter half of the year, SEGA released a new entry in its long-running Super Monkey Ball series, entitled Banana Splitz. Using an interesting claymation animation style, alongside the classic gameplay the series was known for, the title received mixed reviews thanks to some sub-par mini-games (which had been a highlight in previous titles), as well as some gimmicky features such as the ability to create levels from pictures taken with the Vita's camera. Sales figures are unknown, but with this being the last traditional Monkey Ball game as of the date of this article, sales performance was likely on the low side.

In Japan, the company launched Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f in August, the latest in its long-running series of rhythm/vocaloid releases that originally appeared (and flourished) on the PSP. It became the first major release for Vita in the region since Persona 4 Golden and thanks to a limited-edition console it provided a substantial boost to hardware sales, on top of shifting 159k copies in its first week (and more than 255k by the end of 2016), making it one of the best-selling Vita games in Japan. A western release came in 2014, but only after petitioning from fans and the successful launch of a PS3 version.

In the west, the company had two more releases lined up to keep Vita gamers busy during the rest of the year. The first was a HD remaster of its seminal Dreamcast game Jet Set Radio, which arrived in November, managing to look beautiful on the Vita's OLED screen while keeping the same addictive gameplay loop in tact. Sadly, the company didn't update any of its other Dreamcast titles for Vita, not even Jet Set Radio Future, the Xbox-only sequel that received an equally positive critical reception.

It was the December release of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed that received the most attention, however. A very high-effort port handled by Sumo Digital that included all of the content of the home console versions with comparable graphics, albeit slightly reduced performance. The game finally provided a competent kart-racer on Sony's handheld in a void that sadly wasn't filled by Modnation Racers: Road Trip. While sales figures are unknown, the game shifted nearly 1 million across all platforms in its first 3 months, which was an impressive result for the genre outside of Nintendo's mega-franchise Mario Kart.

It was a solid first year for SEGA on Vita - a few major games in both the west and east, with hints of good future support. Like so many other companies I've examined in these articles, SEGA would never again have a year this good on the handheld, although unlike companies such as Konami it still managed to bring a number of key titles to the Vita over the course of the rest of its life.


2013 - The Year of Phantasy

Compared to the prior year, 2013 was quiet for SEGA, with just two releases, although one of them happened to be amongst the company's most significant titles in Japan and would end up being supported long beyond the initial release.

That game was Phantasy Star Online 2, the long-awaited sequel to the Dreamcast classic. Arriving in Japan in February of 2013, the title gave players the option of either buying a retail cart with the game loaded onto it or alternatively downloading it for free and buying items in-game with microtransactions. Within a few months, the company announced that Online 2 had reached 500,000 players on the handheld - a figure the company was clearly happy with, showing the release had been a big success for SEGA.

The other title that was made available in 2013 was a Japanese-only release - Soccer Tsuku: Pro Soccer Club!, a football management sim that acted as a reboot of a franchise that had first appeared on the Saturn and eventually made its way to the Dreamcast and PS2. Selling through 63k copies in its home country, the game would be followed in 2014 by a native Football Manager title in English, although sadly it would prove to be the only one.

There were of missed opportunities for SEGA with Vita in 2013, which was surprising seeing as how the company had managed to get plenty of viable games onto the console in 2012. Leading the pack was Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, a remake of the 1990 Mega Drive release starring Disney's mascot. This released in September on PS360 as well as Android/iOS. Sony's handheld was skipped for some unknown reason, and this was particularly surprising given Sony had ported another Mickey game (Epic Mickey 2) to the console just months earlier.

Another surprising skip was The Cave, the puzzle-platformer from legendary LucasArts alumni Ron Gilbert. Developed by Double Fine Productions, a company which would go on to support Sony's handheld with a number of titles ranging from Broken Age to Full Throttle Remastered, the title landed on PS360 as well as Nintendo's WiiU, but again for unexplained reasons SEGA and Double Fine didn't see fit to release it on Vita.

Overseas, SEGA released remastered versions of Yakuza 1 & 2 on WiiU in 2013, where they became amongst the lowest-selling games on the platform. While it was unlikely to be a smash hit on Vita, the PSP had been home to two spin-off games (Black Panther) that had sold reasonably well and, with the Yakuza audience mainly being on Sony home consoles, it would have made sense to have brought them to Vita. Instead, the handheld got free-to-play spinoffs of Ishin and 0 in 2014 and 2015, respectively, but no native Vita game - a crying shame, especially for importers like myself.

A final release which would have been perfect on Vita from SEGA was After Burner Climax, which landed on mobile phones in February after originally being ported from Arcades to PS360 in 2010. The fast-paced flight-shooter franchise had previously graced PSP in 2007 with Black Falcon, which was sadly never made backwards-compatible with Vita, meaning Climax would have been an excellent addition to the console's lineup. Sadly, the release never happened and, worse still, the game is now de-listed from all digital storefronts due to licencing issues.

It's difficult to fault SEGA too much for its actions in 2013 - the company released a very ambitious project in Phantasy Star Online 2 that it would keep updating from years to come, but this obviously wasn't a major selling point for western gamers who are still unable to play it. Aside from that, the decision to ignore porting certain games to Vita at this time was a disappointment, but thankfully things would improve substantially in 2014.


2014 - A Little Bit of Everything

While no year would match up to 2012 in terms of SEGA's support, 2014 came close - very close - thanks to a number of titles across a range of genres landing in both Japan and the west, ensuring gamers had plenty to play on Sony's handheld.

Overseas, the year kicked off with the digital-only release of Hatsune Miku Project Diva f, which had previously released in 2012 in Japan. The company had previously only committed to localizing the PS3 version (which landed in 2013), but after feedback from fans decided to also bring across the Vita version, albeit as a digital-only title. The game took the fast-paced rhythm gameplay the series had been known for and refined it, adding a range of new songs and modes, making it a fan-favourite. Although sales numbers are unknown, a large number of ratings on PSN, alongside solid reviews, likely cemented it as a profitable venture for the company, ensuring the series continued to come to the west going forward.

Meanwhile, domestically, SEGA released Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd in March, again across both PS3 & Vita. It sold 155k on the handheld - significantly down on the previous entry, but not sufficiently to turn it off the platform; SEGA release another Miku game in 2016. This would find its way overseas in November, this time seeing a physical release on Vita, showing the company's commitment to the platform going forward, likely off the back of strong sales of the original.

In April, SEGA had another Vita surprise up its sleeves, in the form of the aforementioned Football Manager Classic 2014, which was based on the popular series of football management sims on PC. While the PSP had been home to previous entries, up to and including 2013, it made the jump to Vita in 2014 and for the first time included the 3D match engine, as well as the ability to transfer your game across from the console version. Sadly, it didn't appear to fare too well in sales terms, as no further entries appeared on Vita (or consoles in general).

In Japan, SEGA had a number of other titles lined up. It kicked off the year with Uta Kumi 575, a new rhythm title which received mixed reviews both in Japan and from importers, and sold rather poorly, clearing just 17k copies in the region. Phantasy Star Online 2 was updated to Episode 2, which included new content and challenges, as well as an additional physical release (which, oddly, sold 40k copies in Japan, despite being F2P). A free-to-play app was released alongside Yakuza Ishin, allowing users to experience their adventures on the go, as well as link up with the main game. And a Vita version of the popular mobile title Chain Chronicle V also landed in July, although it shut down earlier this year after just under three years of service.

SEGA biggest release of the year was undoubtedly Phantasy Star Nova, an offline entry in its storied RPG franchise. Developed by Tri-Ace - the studio behind Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile - the game continued the tradition of bringing local-multiplayer hunting scenarios to Sony's portable platforms, following on from Phantasy Star Portable 1 2. It also delivered a fantastic visual package that pushed what the Vita could do, although this was done at the expense of framerate. Sadly, sales were nowhere near as strong as earlier entries,  both of which cleared over 250k first week; Nova barely managed 100k, likely due to the fact that Phantasy Star Online 2 provided a free-to-play alternative to the game. Low sales surely factored into SEGA's decision not to localize the title, although thankfully it was an easy choice to import thanks to some brilliant guides.

The final titles that were lined up for the rest of the year were the crossover fighter Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax in Japan and the puzzle game Puyo Puyo Tetris. The former hit western shores in 2015 and included fighters from a variety of anime/light novel franchises, as well as Akira from Virtua Fighter and Selvaria from Valkyria Chronicles. The game was a mild sales success in Japan, clearing 50k copies on Vita, and this ensured an expanded re-release the following year that included new characters. The latter title served as a crossover of the popular Puyo Puyo and Tetris franchises and despite remaining Japan-only was popular among importers. An overseas release finally happened in 2017, but only for PS4 & Switch.

In terms of missed opportunities, the main one that sticks out to me is Shining Resonance - a PS3-only RPG that was part of the long-running franchise developed by Media Vision. Previous entries had appeared exclusively on PSP, so it seemed a perfect fit for the Vita on paper, especially since Media Vision already had experience developing for the platform with Chaos Rings III. Instead, it opened to a lukewarm 67k on Sony's home console and no more Shining RPGs have released since, despite it previously being a yearly franchise, suggesting it massively under-performed relative to expectations. A recent PS4 remaster was announced, but sadly SEGA chose to skip Vita yet again (this time perhaps more understandably).

Overall, 2014 was a great year for SEGA on Vita. The company brought some key franchises to Japan and the west and supported the console about as well as it could. Unfortunately, this momentum wouldn't carry on into future years, although like many other Japanese companies the publisher didn't completely give up on the global market in the handheld's twilight years.


2015 - A Mixed Year

2015 for SEGA was focused mainly on Japan. The publisher released precious few of its titles overseas, making it a somewhat quiet year for western gamers, unless you were an importer.

The sole western game for the year was Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, the previously-released fighting game featuring a crossover of LN and SEGA characters. The launch was overshadowed by the announcement of Ignition - an expanded re-release featuring additional characters and balance changes. For whatever reason, the company decided only to bring the vanilla version of the game to the west, where it received a positive reception, although it's easy to imagine that sales were hurt by the reveal of a better Japanese release.

In Japan, SEGA's releases were more by-the-numbers. The newest expansion for Phantasy Star Online 2Episode 3 - hit in March and oddly sold more than the previous entry for the retail version (41k), showing a serious level of dedication amongst the game's fanbase, rewarding SEGA for its long-term support for the game and the platform in Japan.

SEGA also loaned its 'SEGA Hard Girls' mascots to Compile Heart for the crossover title Hyperdimension Neptunia vs. SEGA Hard Girls, which released late 2015 in Japan and hit western shores in 2016. 

This wouldn't be the only crossover title the company had lined up for the year either. In December, it released yet another Vita rhythm game - Miracle Girls Festival - which featured a number of idols from various anime series in one place. While less successful than SEGA's own Hatsune Miku series, it still managed to clear 48k copies in Japan, making it a somewhat successful venture for the company.

Finally, SEGA released a free-to-play companion app for its PS4 release Yakuza 0, but sadly this didn't come west with the game in 2017.

There were also a number of games I feel should have made it to Vita in 2015 from SEGA but didn't. Chief among these is 7th Dragon III, the sequel to two PSP-only dungeon crawlers which released at the latter end of its life. The franchise made the jump to 3DS for the final entry (which is amusing, as it originally began life on the DS before switching to PSP), but skipped Vita altogether despite being a prime candidate for a multi-platform release.

Continuing the theme of making odd decisions with Shining titles, SEGA committed to the crossover title Blade Arcus from Shining EX on PS3 and PS4 (as a port from arcades), but oddly skipped Vita in the process. The game included a number of characters from the last few titles in the series, ranging from Shining Tears to Shining Resonance, making it a purely fan-service title - one that wasn't the best received by critics. Bizarrely, the game only came to the west on Steam, skipping PS3 & PS4 altogether, but the lack of a Vita version meant even importers couldn't give it a try.


2016 - Phoned-in Support

By 2016, SEGA's support was very much predictable - sequels to franchises already on the console and nothing new or surprising. You could be forgiven for thinking this would be it from the company - that SEGA would drop the console entirely in the near future - but amazingly the publisher actually had far more planned for beyond 2016, it's just a shame that 2016 itself was disappointing.

The company's main release for the year on Vita, as with every other year in the console's life, was a new Hatsune Miku game subtitled X. This made it the third in the series on Vita, although a home console version was also promised later, this time on PS4. Clearly, consumers were beginning to get tired of SEGA's practices with the franchise, as it saw yet another drop in sales, only clearing 100k copies by the end of 2016. A western release followed later in the year and Vita yet again managed to swing a physical version. Reviews were less kind on X than its predecessors, though, noting the lack of content and songs.

Of course, it wouldn't be a new year without a new update of Phantasy Star Online 2, with Episode 4 arriving in April. With the addition of a PS4 version, alongside the ever-increasing memory card requirements of the game (32GB minimum with the latest updates), sales of the physical version saw a downturn to just 15k, although presumably the free-to-play userbase is still solid on the platform as the game continues to get updates. Compile Heart's Hyperdimension Neptunia vs. SEGA Hard Girls also arrived during 2016, exposing the west to the company's mascot characters.

For games which perhaps should have landed on Vita, we've still yet to see a proper native Sonic platformer, and Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice could have possibly filled this gap, particularly as it was developed by Sanzaru Games, which had handled Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. This was the second Sonic title the team developed for 3DS, following Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal in 2014, although both received fairly muted reviews and remained exclusive to Nintendo hardware. Speaking of, the company also released Puyo Puyo Chronicle in Japan in December, although despite Puyo Puyo Tetris being on multiple platforms Chronicle wasn't given this benefit.


2017 & 2018 - To be Continued!

Despite the fact that 2016 seemingly signalled the beginning of the end for SEGA on Vita, it appears the company is determined to go out with a bang on the platform with two surprise games - one for 2017 and one for 2018 - ensuring the handheld sails into the sunset in style.

Originally announced as a PS4-exclusive in November of 2015, by August of 2016 the company revealed that the Media Vision-developed Valkyria Revolution would be coming to Sony's handheld in addition to the home console. This marked the first appearance for the series on the Vita, despite it previously featuring on PSP with two exclusive entries. Sadly fans were less than thrilled about the shift in direction with Revolution and sales suffered, with the title shifting just 23k copies in Japan. Thankfully, the development team did a solid porting job - while graphical fidelity was reduced, the title ran well and looked comparatively impressive based on the hardware it was running on.

Unfortunately, this was all SEGA had lined up for the console in 2017, with the company choosing to skip over Sonic Mania, despite it making a lot of sense for the platforms.

However, that isn't the end of the story of SEGA on Vita. Aside from its Atlus output (SEGA purchased the rival Japanese publisher in 2014 and I detailed its output in a separate article), the company also made a surprise announcement for 2018 in the form of A Certain Magical Virtual On, adding SEGA to the list of companies continuing to commit to Vita in its 7th year on the market.

Acting as a crossover between the arcade-born Virtual On series, which was eventually ported to Saturn, and the popular light novel/anime series A Certain Magical Index, the title serves as the first new entry in the franchise since 2003's Virtual On Marz, as well as acting as a sequel to the PSP's 2011 fighting game Toaru Majutsu no Index. Although Virtual On has always been a minor seller, it maintains a dedicated fanbase and it's fantastic to see the series making a debut on the Vita.

It's unlikely that SEGA will have more games revealed for Vita at this point, given the console is winding down in both Japan and the west, but if the announcement of Virtual On is anything to go by then it's certainly not impossible (I'm always hopeful for the rumoured Media Vision Shining game). Either way, the company is one of many helping to ensure the console goes out with a bang.



From a busy 2012 on the handheld right through to a surprising release planned for 2018, it's undeniable that SEGA has been a great supporter of the Vita. Aside from the first 12 months, the publisher has never released a large number of games each year, but it has always been there in the background, providing key titles along with some more unexpected announcements.

Its output was unfortunately down from the PSP days, when it provided a range of titles including exclusive entries in the Sonic, Valkyria, and Yakuza franchises, as well lots of genre variety with flight shooters like After Burner, action-adventure games like Iron Man, and arcade racers like Outrun. Still, this is in line with almost every Japanese third-party's transition between Sony's handhelds, and SEGA fared far better than some of its rivals, with a surprisingly a large amount of franchises making the jump across, from Football Manager to Phantasy Star to Virtua Tennis.

It's almost strange to see a company that was previously one of Sony's biggest hardware rivals support the manufacturer's under-appreciated handheld better than Sony itself, but that's what happened with SEGA and Vita. And, thanks to fun games like Phantasy Star Nova and Sonic & All-Stars, I'm very happy it did - SEGA enhanced the handheld's library in great ways and helped shape it into the brilliant machine it is today.

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Ka-pi96 (on 09 December 2017)

Woo Sega! Best publisher! :)

COKTOE (on 15 December 2017)

I'm lucky to have found a physical copy of Virtua Tennis 4, especially since it's been removed from the PS store over a year ago already. At least in NA. Great game. I don't have too many Sega games, aside from Virtua Tennis 4, the only others I can remember is Hatsune Miku X, as well as the Sega-ish Hyperdimension Neptunia vs SEGA Hard Girls.

sethnintendo (on 10 December 2017)

Virtua Tennis looking pretty damn nice for Vita game. Wouldn't be a bad game for the Switch to have just as long as motion controls are optional.