11 Upcoming PlayStation Vita Games to Watch Out for in 2018 - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 31 December 2017 / 9,441 Views
No matter how many times I get told "Vita is dead", the handheld manages to keep on chugging on - every week there seems to be a new game tease, announcement, or release to keep the console going. Although Nintendo's Switch has hit the ground running and sadly siphoned off some support in terms of indies and Japanese games, 2018 looks to still be a brilliant year for Sony's handheld hardware, with a number of key titles lined up ranging from big publishers to tiny indies.
I originally aimed to do a top 10 list, but after the surprise announcement of a Japanese-developed game the day before the article was due to be published, I decided to extend this to 11 games, as I couldn't pick one to drop. Bear in mind that this list was incredibly difficult to come up with too - I've got at least another 11 games waiting in the wings that almost made the cut and which I'm still incredibly excited to play (and they'll get an 'honourable mention' at the end!)
In retrospect, I really should have done one of these when I very first started writing in February 2016 and then another one at the end of 2017. It would have been very interesting to see how things have changed over the years, but for now here is my top 11 most anticipated upcoming Vita games for 2018.
A Certain Magical Virtual-On
I'm sure it'll raise some eyebrows that the very first game I'm including on this list is a Japan-only title that hasn't been announced for localization ("see, Vita is dead!", I can already hear the critics yelling), but I've no problem importing games, especially for brilliant-looking title like this (plus there's always a chance SEGA will surprise us all and announce the game is coming west).
It's probably a decade since I last thought of Virtual-On, as I had enjoyed the Dreamcast entry many years ago despite its wonky controls. The fact it's being revived is brilliant in itself, as there's little else on the market that matches its fast-paced, twitch-based mech fighting. One series that does come close is Gundam Versus, and as you may have seen in my review of the Vita entry I loved that game to pieces. Throw in a little A Certain Magical Index for good measure (I've no idea how well the series will mesh, but I'm willing to try it out) and you've got a recipe for what I imagine will be one of the most under-rated yet enjoyable games for the Vita.
Catherine: Full Body
Sneaking its way onto this list at the very last second, thanks to an incredibly surprising late-in-the-day announcement, Atlus' bonkers puzzle and life sim is making its way to Vita in 2018 with an updated port of the original PS3 release. While it remains to be seen whether this game will come west (just like Virtual-On), I suspect it will as the original was pretty popular. Given that it's from Atlus, there's every chance we'll get a physical version on Vita too.
Catherine was a sleeper hit on PS3 and 360 in 2012, mixing challenging block-moving puzzle gameplay with an intricate story following lead character Vincent as he struggles to cope with his own infidelity through increasingly bizarre nightmares. At the time it came out I remember my friends raving to me about it so it's incredibly nice to see it come to Vita, and makes a welcome addition to the console's lineup alongside the slew of Persona games already available (Catherine was developed by P Studio to help the team adapt to HD development). Vita has been a great home for remastered versions of games from other consoles and with Catherine: Full Body it just got a little bit better.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker's Memory
I recently reviewed the original Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth and absolutely loved my time with it. It mixes some linear but enjoyable Persona-esque dungeon-crawling gameplay with an addictive Digimon creation-and-levelling loop to make a brilliant overall package that's teeming with content. It's undoubtedly one of the best Vita games of last year and a truly surprising experience for anyone who played it.
So when a sequel (or more correctly an alternative viewpoint to the events of that game) was announced as coming to Japan in 2017 (and the west in 2018!) I got super excited. It's developed by the same team at Media Vision - the studio behind the brilliant Wild ARMs series as well as Summon Night 6 - and promises more Digimon to raise, more dungeons to crawl through, and a brand new plot following a new protagonist. If it's anything like the first I'm sure it'll be a highlight of 2018 and a game you'll definitely want to check out whether you're a fan of digital monsters or not.
There are plenty of genres that I think need better representation on Vita - there's absolutely no RTS' that I can think of and very little in the way of city-building sims, for example. In general, we've seen plenty of racing games, however, starting with WipEout at the console's launch through to recent simulations like WRC5, but it's never felt like enough, particularly if you're a fan of more arcade-style racing (there's pretty much just Asphalt and Ridge Racer).
Enter Drift Stage, a brilliant looking cel-shaded arcade racer and throw back to classics of the 80s and 90s like Outrun. It was Kickstarted in early 2015 and included Vita as a target platform. Now, admittedly, that doesn't inspire a lot of faith - we've seen a spree of games promise Vita versions when raising money through crowdfunding, only to announce down the line that they hadn't properly looked into the porting process and couldn't actually deliver it. This may well be the case with Drift Stage, as I can't recall seeing any footage of it running on the console, but a Tweet by the developer from 2017 indicates it was still on the cards as of March 2017. Given that development seems to be nearing an end for the PC release, I'm very hopeful we'll see it on the handheld at some point in 2018; it could be just the arcade-y shot in the arm I'm after.
Wayyy back in 2014, a PlayStation Blog post detailed an interesting space exploration sim called Drifter, which looked absolutely gorgeous and promised a whole universe to explore at your leisure alongside ship combat, inter-stellar travel, and trading between nations to earn resources. It seemed inspired by games like Elite and promised to be an incredibly unique experience on Vita as I can't recall anyone attempting something of this scale on handhelds.
Fast forward to today and sadly the game still isn't available (except in early access form on Steam). That's in spite of the developers originally targeting 2016, before that was shifted back to 2017 and beyond. In reality, it might not arrive during the next year (I have no idea) but the developers have both Tweeted and uploaded videos of the game running on Vita since, suggesting they're fully on board with the handheld. Since this has been one of my most anticipated Vita games since 2014 it seemed a prime candidate for this list, I just hope Celsius Game Studios finish it up and it does indeed arrive some time in 2018!
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly
I certainly couldn't leave this off my list when it made one of my earliest articles looking at 10 Vita localizations that should have happened. Given it originally released in Japan in January 2015, I had truly given up hope of this one ever coming across to the west but Aksys managed to surprise me and a legion of otome fans at Anime Expo earlier this year, with a scheduled release date at some point in 2018.
Otome games don't necessarily appeal to me because of the dating aspect, but I am a fan of visual novels in general. Other games from Otomate - such as Code Realize and Collar x Malice - managed to tell intriguing mystery stories alongside interesting character development which made them well-rounded titles on the whole. Psychedelica seems to very much be cut from the same cloth as these, following a group of people with amnesia who get transported to a mansion full of monsters they must escape. Import reviews such as this seem very positive, meaning it's very much a title I'm interested in playing in 2018 (and to top it all off, we're getting the sequel Psychedlica of the Ashen Hawk too).
In 2012, a little-known tactical RPG was published on PS3 by eastasiasoft called Rainbow Moon. Developed by SideQuest Studios (which had previously made a name for itself with the side-scrolling shooter series Soldner), it offered a quirky, colourful artstyle; addictive level-grinding tactical gameplay; and a host of customisation options, ranging from equipment to skills. It wasn't perfect, but found a better home on Vita in 2013 when it was ported across and all that grinding could be done on the go.
So when a sequel was announced (Rainbow Skies) which offered a much expanded version of the systems already in place, alongside a sea of new features (combo attacks, monster breeding, fishing mini-games, etc.) it was easy to get excited about and it seems 2018 is finally the year where it's due to release. Eastasiasoft commented in an interview with me that the game was striving for 60FPS on Vita (quite a rarity in this day and age) and that a physical release will be available through Play-Asia. If it's anything like as good as it promises to be, Vita gamers will be in for a treat.
Rainbite, developer of the action-adventure Zelda-like game Reverie, has been up-front-and-centre about supporting Vita right from the start of the project's development (even agreeing to interviews with sites like VGChartz for one of the first articles I'd written) and as such it's easy to support this title. The handheld has been such a great home to small indie games and a new one like this (especially at this late stage in its life) is really welcomed, especially since it seems to have so much of the developer's heart and soul put into it.
It helps that the game itself looks brilliant - a retro-styled throw-back to the scrolling action-adventure titles of years ago such as Landstalker, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, or Secret of Mana (and honestly, Reverie manages to look better than Square-Enix's own remake of that title, which is also scheduled for 2018). You can get regular updates on its development progress and new features on Rainbite's Twitter, and thanks to a partnership with eastasiasoft, we'll be able to get our hands on a physical copy at some point in 2018.
It's been a few years since we've seen a game truly use the Vita's inputs to their full potential. LittleBigPlanet managed it in 2012 and Tearaway in 2013, but since then only Severed has really made me think of a game designed truly from the ground up for the hardware - which is why Sir Eatsalot seems like such an exciting proposition, as a Vita-exclusive that manages to use all of its unique inputs. The developers have even been taking to Twitter to ask for feedback on what fans feel works on the handheld and what doesn't, showing they've got a keen interest in crafting a great game.
It actually helps that they've been sort of mysterious with it too - they've described it as a more slow-paced "adventure-platformer" when I interviewed them and despite a series of developer diaries, tend to just release screenshots showing the beautiful hand-drawn artstyle while just teasing little snippets of the exploration gameplay. As with Reverie, this one's getting a physical release through eastasiasoft in 2018 and is definitely one to keep an eye on if it turns out as good as it looks!
December has been a surprising month for Vita. We've seen cancelled ports surface from the dead (2064: Read Only Memories), long forgotten ports suddenly release (Papers, Please), Japanese game announcements come out of nowhere (Catherine: Full Body), and - in a shocking turn of events - one of the most popular indie games in recent memory is coming to Vita in 2018.
That game is of course Stardew Valley, the farming-sim heavily inspired by Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons that shifted more than 3m copies on Steam. We'd seen ports on PS4, XB1 & Switch from porting studio masters Sickhead Games (you can read about the developer's storied history on Sony's handheld here) but Vita didn't seem likely - until the team finally revealed that it was working on it this month. There's a reason why Stardew Valley is so popular - a simple but addictive gameplay loop of taking over your grandfather's abandoned farm to turn it into a thriving paradise won over many gamers and it'll be brilliant to have this on the go with Vita, especially since it never got a Story of Seasons game of its own.
Super Robot Wars X
As with Catherine, this one snuck onto my list very late in the day thanks to a surprise announcement in December. The latest in the long-running series of strategy-RPG mech-crossovers that has received multiple entries on Vita (most recently Super Robot Wars V) looks set to arrive in early 2018, with a physical Asian-English release to boot meaning fans no longer have to trawl through menus using translation tools.
The game promises deep tactical gameplay as you command various units on the battlefield, and the gorgeous animations return, showing off the fantastic over-the-top attacks from each unit. The developers promise a "different atmosphere" than previous entries due to the story taking place in another world. If it's as good as the last game on Vita it's very much a title you should check out when it lands in 2018.
As you can see, there truly is a lot to look forward to in 2018 for Vita, and this is just the top 11 that I had to whittle down from a much larger list. For reference, the next 11 games which just missed the cut were Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms, Muv-Luv, Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night, Russian Subway Dogs, Secret of Mana, Seraphim, Shakedown Hawaii, Sharin no Kuni, Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo, Time Recoil, and The Lost Child (I could honestly make another list with just these games in it), plus plenty more I'm sure I've forgotten about.
Also keep in mind that these are just titles that have already been announced for the year - there's every chance that we'll get even more great stuff revealed throughout 2018 and maybe even some surprises, along the same lines as Papers, Please and Romancing SaGa 2, which showed up out of the blue this year. Sure, we're not getting the trickle of western-developed bigger-budget titles any more (and it's questionable whether we'll see any more support from Gio Corsi's Third Party Productions team), but if you're a fan of good handheld games then it's a certainty you'll be well-served by Vita's 2018 lineup.
As a final note, if you are interested in any of the titles on this list then make sure you go and buy them when they release - Vita has survived so long thanks to dedicated fans sticking to the console and purchasing enough games to make the investment worthwhile from developers, but that can only continue for as long as their efforts continue to be profitable. Vita can't live forever, but it sure as hell won't quit as long as games are coming which fans are buying, and there's a sea of potential brilliance just waiting to be played in 2018.