A Look at All of the Fighting Games Available on Vita - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 09 December 2018 / 1,632 Views
This is the fifth entry in a series of articles I’m writing that will look at all of the games available in a particular genre on the Vita. The articles will highlight all Vita-native games, as well as any backwards-compatible PSP and PS1 titles that can be downloaded in English (i.e. from the EU or NA stores), and will include some commentary on how well those games run on Vita and whether they fill any missing gaps in the library.
While fully-fledged fighting games on handhelds have achieved varying levels of success in the past, they weren’t really a thing until the PSP. Prior to this there would always be certain concessions to get them running on weaker hardware. Sony’s powerful portable console, however, allowed developers to experiment with new ways of delivering their titles that would sometimes be hugely successful (e.g. Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection), which in turn meant new games were forthcoming throughout the console’s life. This mantra continued onto the Vita, which received ports of a number of high-profile fighting games, from launch through to the present day.
The ever-expanding industry of eSports has somewhat put a damper on handheld fighting games, as the fanbase moves increasingly towards arcade sticks, perfect latency, and other measures that always ensure a fair fight. That doesn’t mean the Vita doesn’t have access to its fair share of fighting games, though – whether you like 3D arena brawlers, party-friendly multiplayer titles, or pixel-perfect technical 2D fighters, you’re well served by the selection that’s available here, especially when including backwards-compatible PSP & PS1 games.
Since the genre has moved increasingly towards the competitive scene, handheld consoles rarely receive custom-built fighting games designed specifically for the hardware. The Vita was no different, mainly getting down-ports from home console games, aside from the odd anomaly like Reality Fighters that used the AR features to create a shallow gimmick.
Thankfully, the ports Vita got tended to be of incredible quality, holding up very well to the versions on more powerful consoles. Possibly the most notable of these was Dead or Alive 5+, an expanded release including extra content, gorgeous graphics, and smooth 60fps gameplay (making it one of the few 3D titles on the handheld to achieve this; an impressive technical achievement). It also added a fairly awful first-person mode that included touch features, but this didn’t detract from the core title being a lot of fun.
While it didn’t get a mainline Street Fighter or Tekken entry (the latter's omission being particularly disappointing), Vita did receive a crossover in Street Fighter x Tekken, which mashed the two franchises together using the engine from Street Fighter IV. The title received a muted critical reception upon its home console release, thanks to its DLC-heavy gems system, but the Vita version fixed a lot of this by including this content on the cart. It was also another incredibly impressive port, dropping little of the detail of its PS3 counterpart and running smoothly.
While Capcom barely touched Sony’s handheld throughout its life, one of its major releases was another impressive fighting game port – Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which was a 2D crossover title featuring characters from franchises such as Mega Man and Resident Evil alongside a whole host of Marvel heroes. It was met with a large amount of critical acclaim for its skilled technical combat and brilliant transition to Vita, making it one of the console’s most essential titles.
Superheroes from the other end of the spectrum also received representation on Vita, namely through Injustice: Gods Among Us, which mashed together good and bad guys from DC’s universe into an enjoyable fighter. It was developed by NetherRealm Studios, who also created Mortal Kombat and ported it to Sony’s handheld. Both games are content-rich titles that offer unique fighting mechanics while targeting 60fps gameplay, although they’re also both notable for making significant graphical concessions in order to achieve that.
Crossover fighters seemed particularly popular on Vita, as aside from Street Fighter, Marvel, and Injustice, Sony also tried its hand at it with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which mixed a number of characters from PlayStation history. Borrowing mechanics from Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros., it received a significant amount of internet vitriol for being too blatant a clone (even though people also complained that its ‘supers’ system wasn’t fun either), but it’s one I personally really enjoyed and I can definitely recommend checking it out (especially if you have as long a history with Sony’s machines, as I do).
Bandai-Namco also threw its hat into the ring using its veritable stable of anime licences with J-Stars Victory Vs.+. Bringing together heroes such as Dragon Ball’s Goku, One Piece’s Luffy, and Naruto (from, shockingly, Naruto), it brought a different dimension to the combat - namely fully explorable 3D arenas - and added some pretty lengthy RPG modes for the main cast, which mixed fighting with world-map exploration. It was certainly ambitious but suffered from repetitive content and this let the whole package down.
Indeed, the 3D anime arena fighter became something Bandai-Namco would specialise in on Vita, as the company also released games that focused on just one of the J-Stars series. For example, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z was an Artdink-developed take on DBZ’s famous over-the-top combat, while One Piece: Burning Blood featured the straw hat gang brawling it out using the engine from J-Stars. Sadly, the Vita never received a native Naruto title though. Neither of the aforementioned titles were particularly amazing, a sentiment I shared when I reviewed the Japan-only Irregular at Magic High School: Out of Order, which was a short and forgettable title for fans of the series only.
Something else that has become popular in recent years is the 3D mech fighter, and again Vita received representation in this regard with Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs Force. While reviewers lambasted it for lacking content compared to its PS3 counterparts, I thought it was a lot of fun. The Extreme Vs series success likely led to SEGA reviving its Virtual-On franchise too, with 2018’s A Certain Magical Virtual-On, which became one of the most flashy and enjoyable fighters on the handheld (even if you have to import a Japanese copy to play it).
SEGA also tried its hand at a 2D crossover fighter in Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax (and its Japan-only expansion Ignition), which threw together characters from various Dengeki series like Accel World and Sword Art Online. In the arena of 2D fighters it’s difficult not to mention Arc System Works, though, whose flagship franchise Blazblue saw three entries from the console’s launch (Continuum Shift Extend) to 2015 (Chronophantasma Extend), each one fine-tuning the carefully balanced fighting gameplay the series was known for and which never failed to impress reviewers.
This wouldn’t be all that Arc System Works would offer on Vita – the company also published the Examu-developed girls-only title Arcana Heart 3: Love Max, as well as Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R (the most content-complete version of its original fighting game franchise). Even as late as 2018 Arc System Works released Under Night In-birth Exe:Late[st], meaning if you’re a fan of the company’s technical-heavy gameplay you’d be well served on Sony’s handheld.
If you prefer your 2D fighters a bit more retro, you’d do well to check out any of SNK’s titles. The stand-out for me is Garou: Mark of the Wolves, an immensely enjoyable entry in the Fatal Fury series, featuring some of the most gorgeous sprite work I’ve come across. There’s also King of Fighters ’97: Global Match, or if you prefer weapons-based combat you could check out The Last Blade 2 (a long forgotten classic), or Samurai Shodown V Special, which is available on Vita in its full uncensored form.
The majority of the titles in this article so far have been Japanese-developed, but the western indie scene has gotten in on the action too. Most notable is Skullgirls: 2nd Encore, an expansive 2D fighter that even received a physical release through Limited Run Games, owing to its large popularity. There’s also the bonkers Nidhogg, as well as the two-button classic Divekick, and it seems there’s even more to come in future, with Battle Rockets targeting a 2019 release on Sony’s handheld.
As a final note, the Japanese indie scene did also somewhat target the Vita, with games like Touhou Sky Arena coming to the platform in Japan (and others such as Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle even making it to the west). They may not have been the best games, but they’re there if you want them!
Backwards-Compatible PSP Games
The PSP received a similar level of fighting game support as Vita, likely owing to their comparable abilities in emulating a home console just with lower specs. The key difference for me was some of the major franchises that showed their faces on PSP – the main one being Tekken with Tekken 6.
A ‘full fat’ port with all the characters and features in tact, it was an immensely impressive release on PSP that remains just as spectacular on Vita and runs at a fluid 60fps. It’s just a shame Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection is only available on the Japanese PSN, although it is fully playable in English. Namco would also release SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny on PSP - the game condensed the weapons-based fighting down for portable sessions but still remained an enjoyable title, not least thanks to its stunning graphics.
Another game that was successfully transported down to the PSP was Mortal Kombat Unchained, an expanded version of 2004’s Deception, which saw the gameplay shift to a 3D perspective but maintain the ultra-violent fatalities the series was known for. For Vita, it’s sadly only available from the North American PlayStation store, something which also affects street brawlers The Con and Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover, as well as SNK compilation titles The King of Fighters Collection and Samurai Shodown Anthology.
Another compilation that hit PSP (and is only available in the NA store) is Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower, which mixes elements from each of the first three entries in the series (it’s worth noting the first and third entries are also available as PS1 Classics). Aside from this Capcom wasn’t especially forthcoming with its fighters on the PSP, aside from the expanded port Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max, although you can grab Street Fighter II through the Capcom Classics Collection, something SEGA similarly offered with Virtua Fighter 2 on the SEGA Mega Drive Collection.
Probably the biggest fighting game experiment on PSP was Dissidia Final Fantasy from Square-Enix (plus its prequel-sequel Dissidia 012), which mashed together a representative from every mainline Final Fantasy title up until that point into an ambitious 3D brawler. The first was a big success in both sales and critical acclaim (012 less so, although I’d recommend it as the more complete package) and would go on to spawn a PS4 sequel years later, showing it was definitely a successful experiment. If you’re looking for a title with similarly unique gameplay, you could also give the Power Stone Collection a try, a holdover from the ill-fated Dreamcast.
Elsewhere, you can grab the Blazblue prequel Calamity Trigger Portable from the store (and oddly Continuum Shift II too), as well as another of Arc System Works' earlier releases in Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (but why would you, when the Vita version has more content?).
Backwards-Compatible PS1 Games
The PS1 arguably birthed the widespread popularity of the 3D fighting game, so it’s no surprise that a number of these classics made their way to PSN.
The most well-known series of the time was definitely Tekken and both the first game and its sequel Tekken 2 are available through the PlayStation Store. The first has aged pretty poorly but the second remains a classic that’s still fun to this day. It’s a massive shame though that the best of the bunch, Tekken 3, isn’t available (licencing issues with Gon were raised as a potential issue, but that didn’t stop it appearing on the recently-released PS Classic).
Other early trailblazing series such as Battle Arena Toshinden, Bushido Blade and Zero Divide aren’t available on the European and North American stores, but can be grabbed from Japan’s store and be played in English. Still, there are alternatives available through PS1 classics, such as Capcom’s Street Fighter Alpha and its two sequels, which carried on the popular gameplay template of Street Fighter II and made it even better.
A smattering of other offerings are available, from things like King of Fighters ’99 to niche forgotten series like Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness. You can also grab the original Guilty Gear, the PS1 port of Double Dragon (which was a fighting game rather than a side-scrolling brawler). and Koei’s bizarre magic-chucking title Destrega, which is worth playing just because it’s unlike anything else on the market.
While it’s difficult to deny that fighting games are likely better played on home consoles where local multiplayer thrives and wi-fi connections are better, it’s also difficult to deny that the selection of games available on Vita is impressive for anyone who wants to take the fight with them on the go. Fantastic ports of things like Dead or Alive, Injustice, and Street Fighter x Tekken are essential purchases for anyone with a passing interest in the genre and many of the all-time classics are here too such as Garou and King of Fighters.
With the addition of PSP & PS1 titles, the Vita’s library expands even more drastically. Some of the most well-respected series out there – things like SoulCalibur, Street Fighter, and Tekken - have some amazing portable entries, and old favourites like Guilty Gear and Mortal Kombat surface too, all of which play extremely well with Vita’s ergonomic d-pad.
While the selection of games is impressive in itself, when combined with the Vita’s d-pad (which feels custom-built for fighting games) there’s something really special here; something that few other handheld consoles have been able to offer.