10 Classic PlayStation-Centric Franchises That Should Have Come to Vita

10 Classic PlayStation-Centric Franchises That Should Have Come to Vita - Article

by Adam Cartwright , posted on 07 October 2018 / 1,981 Views

PlayStation as a brand has defined itself in so many ways over the years, whether it be the slew of mascot platformers like Crash and Spyro, through to escapist adventures like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid, and finally to realistic worlds like Grand Theft Auto and Uncharted, PlayStation platforms always look to reach a broad and varied audience. Along the way, both first and third parties have worked together to create an outstanding library on each and every console to ensure gamers always had something brilliant to play.

Along with this, there have always been franchises which are heavily associated with PlayStation, whether it be helping to shape the console’s demographic (such as Tomb Raider), or simply appearing on every piece of Sony hardware available (WipEout). These tend to be the system sellers that people look for when investing in a platform, even if the specific series have shifted and rarely stayed consistent like Halo or Mario.

Vita is unfortunately the first Sony system which never really took off and its tepid hardware sales meant that multiple franchises which would have been a shoe-in for any other piece of PlayStation hardware haven’t appeared – it’s these series that I’m going to look at in this article (what they were; where they originally appeared; how well they’d have worked on the console; and potential alternatives which are available on the platform). They’ve been part of a vicious circle – not appearing on Vita because of weak sales, but stalling the handheld even further by not showing up.

I’ve had to set some boundaries with writing this though. If a series had a Vita-native entry, whether it be remake, port, or spin-off, I’ve disregarded it because at least there has been some representation on the handheld. That means series like God of War and Jak & Daxter don’t count (both had HD ports on Vita), nor do franchises like Final Fantasy or Tomb Raider (both received Vita-native spinoffs in World of Final Fantasy and Lara Croft Go). I have included series whose only entries on Vita have been free-to-play apps (which I wouldn’t really count as proper games), or only appeared as part of a crossover, with the other franchise being the main focus of the title.

 

Devil May Cry

In the first year of the PS2’s life, Capcom birthed a new franchise that would ultimately go on to become one of its mainstays across multiple generations of Sony consoles. That franchise was Devil May Cry – a pseudo-evolution of the Resident Evil IP that switched things up with much faster paced combat and hack ‘n’ slash elements, alongside a brilliant gothic story that followed demon-hunter Dante through the underworld. Two further sequels landed on the PS2, then a fourth entry launched on the PS3, followed by a reboot entitled DMC (a fifth mainline entry is scheduled for a PS4 release next year).

The series has as of yet never ventured onto handhelds, probably due to the fact it relies on rapid combat at high framerates, which is always more difficult to pull off on weaker hardware. Although its popularity seems to have waned somewhat in recent years (although Devil May Cry 5 seems to be generating a lot of hype), I have no doubt that a Vita version would have helped the console out – even if it was just a port of the HD Collection that the PS3 got.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Thankfully, Koei-Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden franchise did manage to make the handheld jump and Vita owners have access to both the first and second entries in the rebooted series. The first in particular is the one to get, with the second being a slightly inferior game and a vastly inferior port. If you don’t mind dodgy ports, you may also wish to consider the God of War Collection (the first game is particularly good). If you just fancy playing as Dante, bear in mind that he’s playable in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, although his design is based on the largely disliked DMC.

 

Gran Turismo

If there’s one series which has been synonymous with PlayStation over multiple generations, it’s Gran Turismo. Billed as the ‘Real Driving Simulator’, its releases have remained the highest selling games on the PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP respectively. It’s a brand with massive selling power and global recognition, known for being top of its class in providing simulation track racing even against tough competition like Forza and various imitators ranging from Need for Speed to Project Cars.

So it was surprising then that the franchise completely swerved Vita, especially seeing as it was one of the few first-party franchises that have with this kind of potential. A Vita version could’ve fixed many of the issues that gamers had with the disappointing PSP release – assets could have been upgraded, a proper career mode included, as well as better online connectivity (and a more timely release). It seems like Yamauchi’s stranglehold on the series has continued to hold it back, especially judging by the tepid reception to the most recent entry, Sport.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Interestingly, there are very few sim-racers available on Vita, likely due to the fact that the genre just doesn’t work as well on handhelds due to relying on console power to create the most realistic experience possible. MotoGP ’13 and ’14 provide a decent approximation, except with bikes instead of cars, but if you’re looking for the best portable Gran Turismo then the PSP entry (backwards compatible with Vita) is still the best option, even if it’s far from perfect.

 

Grand Theft Auto

An absolute behemoth in terms of selling power, Grand Theft Auto wasn’t always as big as it is today. Starting life as a 2D crime sim on PS1 and PC, it was the shift to 3D (which came with the PS2) that really exploded the franchise. From there, each new entry appeared to break sales records for publisher Rockstar Games, culminating in GTAV, which has sold more than 80m across seventh and eighth generation consoles, led by strong sales on PS3 and PS4.

The series was key to establishing the Vita’s predecessor, the PSP, in the west, with two bespoke entries in Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories being among the handheld’s best selling games. The Vita only managed to land the bizarre free-to-play app iFruit throughout its life. Even the mobile ports of the PS2 entries didn’t manage to make the jump across. It’s undeniable that any form of portable GTA would have helped the console’s fate in the west, something Sony clearly didn’t realise due to its lack of work helping Rockstar to develop for the handheld, which is a real shame given how enjoyable the PSP entries were.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Despite the genre of open-world action-adventure games flourishing in recent years, with series such as Just Cause and Watch Dogs being born, there’s nothing massively similar on Vita. Retro City Rampage provides a nice dose of 2D GTA-lite (and hopefully its sequel Shakedown Hawaii will expand on this even more), but for now you’re best off with the PSP Grand Theft Auto entries still (of which Vice City Stories is the stand-out game). Chinatown Wars is also very much worth your time if you’re after a retro-styled adventure.

 

InFAMOUS

When Sucker Punch moved away from its beloved Sly Cooper franchise, fans were worried – luckily, in its place came one of the most enjoyable open-world superhero games I’ve ever played in InFAMOUS for PS3. A sequel and spin-off later, the franchise took the jump to PS4 with Second Son, which made the most of the console’s early graphical power (despite being somewhat lacking as a game; something that was corrected with 2015’s First Light which, although brief, was beautiful and memorable).

As such, the series entered the upper echelons of modern-day Sony IPs, alongside series like God of War, Resistance, and Uncharted, all of which received representation on Vita. Yet somehow InFAMOUS never did, despite producer Nate Fox openly hinting at plans for the console. While the franchise has never been a massive seller, a well-made entry that took advantage of the console’s unique inputs would have been a boon to the handheld, especially if it opted to revisit the story of original protagonist Cole McGrath.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Thankfully, unlike the PSP, the Vita managed to be home to a few open-world superhero games, the main one being Gravity Rush, possibly the poster child of the Vita’s first year. While Kat’s powers were noticeably different to Cole’s or Delsin’s, the game had that same sense of thrilling adventure where a brand new character is growing to understand their abilities (it’s just a shame we never saw the sequel on Vita – I could’ve lived with Gravity Rush being portable-only and InFAMOUS being home console-only, but we didn’t even get that). There’s also Amazing Spider-man, which isn’t Spidey’s greatest adventure but still has some great open-world freedom. And for a final suggestion, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers isn’t a bad pick either (reviewed here).

 

Kingdom Hearts

Bursting onto the PS2 in 2002, Kingdom Hearts was an interesting proposition – a crossover between Disney and Final Fantasy (as well as featuring a fully original storyline), the series flourished into one of Square-Enix’s mainstays, selling consistently well across a number of sequels and spinoffs on DS, 3DS, and even PSP. A third mainline entry is due at some point on PS4 and XB1 for the first time in more than a decade, preceded by a number of HD Collections, which suggests things are well on track for the franchise going forward.

Honestly, the erratic nature of the series following its initial PS2 entries is probably the main reason Vita never saw a release – it flitted from console to console, never really finding a home, before Square finally decided to get things into order. It’s a shame, though, because the Vita has been a great home to action RPGs, and Birth by Sleep did very well on the PSP, particularly in Japan. The lack of 1.5 and 2.5 HD Collections on Sony’s newest handheld was a letdown, particularly considering how well they would have fit in with other HD ports on the platform.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Sadly, Kingdom Hearts is fairly unique in its approach to storytelling and combat, meaning there’s precious little else like it out there. The Ys series provides a similar dose of fast-paced action, as does Falcom’s other release Tokyo Xanadu, although it’s not quite the same. You could also try Tales of Hearts R, but again, the experience isn’t quite close enough (and, frustratingly, Birth by Sleep was never put up on PSN, likely due to licencing issues with Disney).

 

Medal of Honor

A staple on PlayStation hardware dating right back to the PS1, where the first release was exclusive to the console, Medal of Honor has always delivered a satisfying dose of military shooting on Sony’s machines. After blossoming into a big seller on the PS2, the franchise eventually made the shift to PS3 (where it was finally killed after a poorly-received entry, but not before two enjoyable PSP spin-offs set during WWII were made). In today’s market it suffers with competition from series like Battlefield and Call of Duty, but there’s still an argument for its place in contemporary games.

Yet Vita never saw an entry – not helped by the fact the franchise was on shaky ground in the west when the console released, but still. Being the first dual-analogue handheld on the market, it would have been the perfect time for first-person shooters to grab this market and since competitors like Call of Duty were stalling, it presented a great opportunity for EA. News surfaced in 2013 that Slant Six Games was working on a spin-off to the series at one point, which was presumably killed due to the handheld’s low hardware sales. Since it's been on hiatus thereafter, the Vita never got any Medal of Honor representation.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

In military first-person shooters, Call of Duty pretty much has the market cornered with the abysmal Black Ops Declassified. Thanks to backwards-compatibility, it is at least possible to get the first two entries (which have aged rather poorly), alongside the PSP releases Heroes 1 & 2 (which have held up much better). The latter is the best way to play the series on Vita (at least if you live in the USA – the games aren’t compatible on the EU store).

 

Monster Hunter

Any Vita fan out there probably knows about Monster Hunter, the massive-in-Japan local multiplayer franchise that managed to give the PSP a new lease of life after making the jump across from PS2. It finally settled on the 3DS in recent years, much to the chagrin of Vita fans who were hoping for a new entry to make the most of the handheld’s dual sticks and increased power. Instead, the Vita got the poorly-received online-only Frontier (which I’ve not counted for this article, due to it being online-only and Japan-only), with the latest new entry World heading to PS4, XB1, and PC.

It’s somewhat of an open secret that Nintendo offered incentives (such as helping with advertising) to ensure the series stayed on its handheld in the eighth generation, and this helped the company lock down the Japanese market, while also being a fairly savvy business move. But it was a real shame given the franchise’s long history with Sony hardware – it was born on PS2 and flourished on PSP, so the Vita seemed the next logical step. It would also definitely have helped to boost sales in Japan. At least fans were well served with a sea of alternatives, but I’m sure many wished for the original (and best) series.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

As previously mentioned, the Vita isn’t exactly short on hunting games, making its absence slightly less disappointing. From Ragnarok Odyssey through to God Eater 2, there are a lot of options available. Toukiden appears to be the series which closest resembles the Monster Hunter experience. Of course, you can also just grab Freedom Unite from PSN, which is compatible with Vita and is still a brilliant game even today.

 

Tekken

If there’s one fighting series which is synonymous with the PlayStation brand, it’s Tekken. While Street Fighter established itself on the SNES and Dead or Alive moved over to Xbox, Tekken has seen nearly every entry land on Sony hardware, from the original arcade conversion on PS1 through to the latest release (Tekken 7) arriving on PS4. So it seems a shoe-in that there would be a Tekken game on Vita, especially as the handheld came out a few months prior to Tekken Tag Tournament 2, right?

Sadly, wrong. Despite the fact that the series had done well on PSP (Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection was also one of the platform’s top selling titles), and a 3DS entry was made, the Vita managed to completely avoid the franchise – unless you count Street Fighter x Tekken, which I don’t as that game was designed heavily around the Street Fighter side. It’s especially disappointing given the handheld became such a good home for fighting games, with brilliant titles like Dead or Alive 5 PlusGarou: Mark of the Wolves, and Mortal Kombat. A port of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 surely wouldn’t have been too much of an undertaking, but it seems Namco didn’t see it that way.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

As previously mentioned, Vita is home to a great number of fighting games, so it’s easy to get your fill elsewhere. Although nothing quite scratches the Tekken itch, things like Dead or Alive or Injustice come close. Luckily, Tekken 6 (PSP) is available through PSN, and is a fantastic port and a great approximation of modern Tekken. Alternatively, you can grab the first and second games, although these feel much more dated these days.

 

Twisted Metal

Back when the PS1 was around, car combat games were a big deal. Things like Carmageddon and Rollcage were selling well, while Destruction Derby was going from strength to strength. Enter Twisted Metal, which took a group of psychopaths drawn together in the streets of Los Angeles to blow each other’s vehicles up, with the winner being granted any wish their heart desired by maniac Calypso. It became a major hit in North America, where three sequels and a spin-off released, followed by further reboots on both PS2 and PSP.

The most recent entry in the series – entitled Twisted Metal – released for PS3 in 2012, but sadly managed to skip Vita altogether, leaving the handheld without a version throughout its life. While the 2012 game was panned for its brief story mode and lack of playable characters, it still provided the same over-the-top carnage fans had come to expect and would have made a great addition to the handheld’s lineup as a port, especially since a few quick matches could've been played while on the go.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

The closest experience that’s available on Vita is probably Cel Damage HD. Although it goes for a more cartoony look, it still retains the same arena-weapons-combat mixed in with races structure that made Twisted Metal so popular (you can check my review of it here). The original Twisted Metal games are available from the PlayStation Network (2 is only available in NA), but these are slightly dated now (review of the first here). Amusingly, Twisted Metal: Head On is also on the PlayStation Store but is not compatible with Vita. Alternatives such as Street Riders are available but scratch a different itch. Sadly, the most relevant PSP game would be Full Auto 2: Battlelines, which was yanked from PSN some time ago.

 

Yakuza

Like Devil May Cry, Kingdom Hearts, and Monster HunterYakuza was a series born on the PS2 and it hooked gamers with its sweeping crime story and beautiful fictional rendition of Tokyo. Offering open-world exploration with enjoyable brawling, it would go on to see multiple sequels, prequels, and spin-offs across PS3, PS4, & PSP (as well as an ill-fated remaster on WiiU, which would be the only time the series strayed outside of Sony hardware).

Given the relative success of the Black Panther spin-offs on the PSP and continued devotion to Sony consoles, it seemed likely we’d get Yakuza representation on the Vita – and we did, sort of, with two free-to-play app spin-offs based on Yakuza Ishin and Yakuza 0. While these made a nice distraction, as with Grand Theft Auto I’m not counting them for this article (and matters aren’t helped by the fact that both stayed Japan-only, in spite of Yakuza 0 being localized). A native Vita release would’ve helped Vita sales in Japan – where the series is most popular – and it surely wouldn’t have been too much trouble to add the platform in during the team's work on the 1 & 2 HD Collection, or even the Kiwami remakes.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

This probably depends on what you’re seeking from the franchise. Akiba’s Trip offers a somewhat open world with street brawling, while Uppers provides closer combat at the expense of exploration. Your best bet – at least if you live in North America – is to grab the PSP title Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble from the PlayStation Network. It features delinquents brawling on a school trip in one of the handheld’s most under-rated games.

 

Conclusion

The Vita has always been hamstrung by the ‘no games’ narrative (if you read any of my other content, you’ll know this is far from the truth) and that in turn has led to tepid hardware sales and its eventual fate as a niche piece of hardware in the west. Despite the fact that it has had representation from major PlayStation-focused franchises, ranging from Assassin’s Creed to Final Fantasy to Uncharted, many just refuse to look at the console’s library and find anything of value.

Yet at the same time, a number of key franchises which would have made perfect sense on the Vita never made the jump across. This undoubtedly helped contribute to its lowly perception among the masses. All of the series listed in this article are relevant in today’s gaming market and all of them had a title release during the span of Vita’s life which would’ve made perfect sense for it, likely would’ve been a fairly easy port, and had they released at the right time, would have sold decently too.

Why these didn’t happen is unknown – some of them may have required coaxing from Sony to happen which ultimately wasn’t forthcoming (Monster Hunter), while others were going through a tough time justifying their existence in general (Medal of Honor). But some just make no sense – after the brilliant port of Tekken 6 on PSP I was sure Tekken Tag Tournament 2 for Vita was a lock; as I was that the Yakuza 1 & 2 HD Collection would make an appearance, but neither happened.

It’s difficult not to lament what could have been in these circumstances, but at the end of the day Vita got a great selection of classic franchises over the course of its life – it just would've been nice if we’d seen a few more.


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4 Comments

AngryLittleAlchemist (on 07 October 2018)

"The Vita has always been hamstrung by the ‘no games' narrative (if you read any of my other content, you'll know this is far from the truth)" I hate to be a downer but this is not a good counter argument to there being "no games" for a system. Both from a quality and a quantity perspective, the market determines which system "has the games". When people say Switch or Vita have no games, you can bring up a laundry list of examples of games, heck you can even swear they are the best games ever. That doesn't change the perception of the system though ... because that's not what people mean when they say that. They mean there are a lack of games that they are interested in, and has the market determined that's false? Not really. Anyways, nicely written, as are all your Vita articles that I've read. I really think a port of Gran Turismo 6 and Grand Theft Auto 5 would have made the Vita sell a decent amount more. Monster Hunter is a given in that scenario too, although it would probably have to be exclusive and not multi-platform to have a real impact. A GOW Ascension port might have sold consoles, too, although I'm not sure if that would be as alluring as an original title (unlike Turismo and GTA where you want it to be a perfect port of the console version)


AngryLittleAlchemist (on 07 October 2018)

*The market has determined it to not be false for Vita. For Switch the market has obviously determined it "has the games".


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Kresnik (on 08 October 2018)

I'm not quite sure why you've latched onto that "no games" part of the article - the next sentence confirms what you're saying, which is that I'm accepting that's how the market has seen it (I. E. Leading to tepid hardware sales). But I'm also saying that actually, like with any console's library, just dig a bit under the surface and you'll find plenty to enjoy.


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AngryLittleAlchemist (on 08 October 2018)

Because you addressed it as if it was a literal statement but passingly acknowledge how it affects the market. Anyways didnt really latch onto it, that was only half my comment.


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Kresnik (on 08 October 2018)

Haha, sorry if that came across a little harsher than I intended, I'm typing this on my phone at work and got a little distracted which probably disrupted what I was trying to say. I was just a little surprised that of all the things to pick up on, that line (separated from what followed) was what bothered you!
I mean, 'no games' narrative is always going to be subjective. The market has deemed it to not have enough worthwhile games for mass-market appeal, but that doesn't mean it has no games. Me saying it has tonnes of stuff that's worth a shot if you give it a go doesn't mean it has enough to satisfy a gamer who hasn't given in a second look. Factually, 'no games' is nonsense, but that's about the only conclusion you can draw about it.
Therefore, at least in my writing, me saying my stance on it is about all I can do in a subjectively-written conclusion!


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AngryLittleAlchemist (on 08 October 2018)

I mean i'm not really saying that your subjective conclusion is wrong because that's not what I responded to. I responded to you taking an argument and making it literal to seem like nonsense when the argument is very clearly about how the marketplace *feels*. I'm not responding to your conclusion that people should just try out the game library. Anyways you know, i'm not really trying to make a big deal about it. Kind of obvious though that if we keep replying to each other it will just go on forever : D. Wasn't really a complaint about you or the article's quality, it's just something people say a lot. "This literally has games".


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Kresnik (on 08 October 2018)

It's all good mate. I like discussing things with people, it's why I write. And thank you for reading the article and responding so well in any event - I appreciate it!


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AngryLittleAlchemist (on 08 October 2018)

No problem : ) Again, good article.


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Machina (on 07 October 2018)

Of these Id've bought Tekken, and maybe Gran Turismo, InFAMOUS and Grand Theft Auto, if they'd released early in the Vita's life (before I basically packed it away and moved on). I understand what you're saying in your conclusion, though I think you're a bit too kind on the platform (to be expected given your feelings on the Vita). The lack of mega franchises REALLY hurt its image and sales, especially after the first year (launch was strong, but Sony soon gave up and western support dried up quickly too, in contrast to how Sony responded to the PSP's struggles). No amount of alternatives helps on that front - it needed the real McCoy. If you weren't into indies or Japanese games, after that first year the Vita library was just... yikes. I've noticed reading these articles that you end up drawing a lot of the time on PSP games you could play on the PSV, in order to bolster its library. That's quite damning in and of itself I think.


Kresnik (on 08 October 2018)

Ultimately I don't think having these games would've affected Vita's fate - it had a solid first year as you say (AC/CoD/LBP/NFS/Uncharted is a solid selection of AAA), it just never managed to keep the momentum going from there. But even with that first year lineup is was struggling for sales, so ultimately this article is an "these would've been nice" but I'm not really addressing any of the root problems the console faces at least in this piece.
Re. PSP, depends on perception. XB1 is currently the only other console that offers a somewhat complete backwards-compatible experience and its something I respect about that console too (which is also a machine which lacks in many genres but can fill gaps with older games).


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Rob5VGC (on 09 October 2018)

I just want to say thank you for using Aqua as the image for KH. With that said... "it flitted from console to console, never really finding a home, before Square finally decided to get things into order." That is false. The PS2 (PlayStation) was its home. The whole series was on PS2 when Re: Chain of Memories was released with Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix in 2007 because that is what Tetsuya Nomura wanted. All the Nintendo games ended back on PlayStation when Tetsuya Nomura decided to unite the games to one place. He chose PlayStation. This is the 2nd time he has done this with the most recent being completed on PS4 last year. Actually, Nomura has given a reason why the KH games were on the device they released on. The timing just wasn't perfect for Vita in relation to Nomura's plans for KH, plus Nintendo asked Nomura to make a KH game for 3DS and Nomura liked the 3DS so he did it.


ResilientFighter (on 07 October 2018)

If this all came to fruition, I would have gotten the vita :( also missing is soul calibur, naruto, and socom maybe even syphon filter


ResilientFighter (on 08 October 2018)

forgot god of war too


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