Vita’s Lost Games – A Look at the Digital Future - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 13 April 2019 / 6,247 Views
Ever since the advent of full-game downloads on consoles, it seems the market has slowly been shifting towards a digital future where games are delivered through internet connections rather than physical disks. While the convenience this brings is undeniable, and plenty of gamers have embraced having a stuffed memory card in their Vita, there are major pitfalls that are slowly beginning to show, one of which is that games can be delisted without any prior warning, leaving them lost to time unless you bought them before they disappeared.
It’s these that I’m aiming to examine in this article - games which have been removed from the PlayStation Store, both those that are digital-only (meaning they’re gone forever) and those that have physical releases that you’ll need to hunt down. Why have they been delisted and what does this mean for the Vita’s digital future?
Digital Delisted Games With Physical Releases
Of course, the best case scenario for the games that will be featured in an article like this are those that have had both physical and digital releases, because this means that although they’ve been removed from digital storefronts you can still hunt down a physical copy, so you're not completely out of options.
Sadly, some of these have become hugely pricey as time has gone on, the main offenders being anime licensed titles from Bandai-Namco like A.W. Phoenix Festa and Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth. Both of these received physical English releases in Asia, meaning you can still get them, but prices are insanely high for both – Digimon regularly fetches upwards of $90/£90 on eBay, while Asterisk War is commanding more like $250/£250. Others, like Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, J-Stars Victory Vs+, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, and One Piece Unlimited World Red also received physical releases in Europe, making them slightly easier to hunt down, but even for these titles prices are only going to increase as time goes on.
Given the aforementioned titles' sudden disappearance from digital storefronts, I would also be on alert for other anime games suddenly disappearing from the store without notice. Things like Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory and Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs Force could well be next. Again, Asian-English physical versions are available for both, but with cart production ceasing this year these are only going to get rarer and rarer.
Licensing is a common issue among delisted titles. The Marvel licence in particular seems to be problematic. This means games like The Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are long gone (sadly so too is the DLC for the latter, a problem which has also affected LittleBigPlanet as it offered Marvel-themed DLC), and so too is Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel’s Super Heroes. Speaking of Disney, its Star Wars IP formed part of Angry Birds Star Wars, which is now delisted, but so too is the Angry Birds Trilogy. This is a bit baffling since they were both originally mobile titles. Disney also licensed Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two to Sony and this can only be played via a now-expensive physical release.
A similar thing happened with both LEGO Lord of the Rings and LEGO The Hobbit, with both disappearing mostly overnight from all digital storefronts, not just Vita. Thankfully, pre-owned physical copies can be found at fairly cheap prices; something also true of Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour (although prices are starting to creep up). Speaking of sports titles, all three of the four FIFA games have been delisted, with only FIFA ’15 remaining (surely a ploy to get you to buy the most recent version, although it barely matters since they all play the same). Football Manager Classic 2014 is also gone too, despite some of the PSP Champion Manager games still being up!
The SpongeBob licence also seems to have expired for publisher Activision, meaning SpongeBob Heropants is gone and physical copies are beginning to shoot up in price, despite the game being a bit of a dud. Three more games which can’t be picked up for a reasonable amount anymore are Ben 10: Galactic Racing, Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, and New Little King’s Story, the latter of which only got a physical English release in Europe and Asia, meaning it's pretty rare and getting rarer by the day. WRC3 on the other hand is delisted but easy enough to find. Whether you should or not is another matter, given it’s effectively obsolete with the much better WRC4 having released.
Oddly, despite being produced by mobile gaming giant Gameloft, Asphalt Injection and Dungeon Hunter Alliance have been delisted on Vita. The former sort of makes sense because it includes licensed vehicles, but the latter is baffling considering the PS3 version is still available. Perhaps it has something to do with Ubisoft publishing the Vita ports, which caused some kind of contractual issue (Ubisoft’s licensed rhythm game Michael Jackson: The Experience is also gone).
Digital Delisted Games Without Physical Releases
The other key class of games here is, of course, those that only received digital releases and had no physical counterparts, meaning they’re lost forever if you didn’t grab them while they were up on the store.
The one semi-exception to this rule is Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom, which oddly received a physical release in Japan but not the west. Sadly, this physical version does not include any English text, making it a fairly useless import unless you want to muddle through. Thankfully, the developers warned of the delisting in advance and even sold the game for $0.99 for its final few weeks, meaning it was easy to grab as long as you had a PlayStation Network account.
Other titles weren’t so lucky. For example, games like Sony’s music festival simulation BigFest disappeared once its online servers went down, even though the game is still fully playable without them. Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition is a title that went without much warning too, likely due to an upcoming PS4/XB1 port, which meant that publisher Gearbox didn’t want gamers playing the older version (oddly it contained slightly more content than the newer release).
One of the first games to be delisted that really made headlines was Plants vs. Zombies, one of the console’s western launch titles that was a shining example of digital distribution done right... until it mysteriously vanished from the store without warning (likely to do with the licence given to Sony Online Entertainment expiring). Another game that received a surprising amount of attention for its delisting was The Pinball Arcade, which lost a large number of its tables (offered through DLC) late last year, effectively gutting it in terms of content.
Less fanfare was made about the disappearance of things like Jazz: Trump’s Journey (I didn’t realise it myself until randomly browsing the other day. The loss of this one is a shame as it was highly recommended by a user on a forum I browse) and Superfrog HD, both of which had no real reason for being removed given they’re self-published indie titles. They go to show the volatility of the digital-only future.
The biggest offender in this regard is the whole of PlayStation Mobile, though – a now-defunct service which allowed developers to create small games for a nominal fee and put them up on the cluttered PSM Store. The whole initiative was shut down in 2015 and, worse still, you can’t actually re-download any of these titles anymore, meaning games like Forevolution, Rymdkapsel, Sword of Rapier, and Tokyo Jungle Mobile are potentially lost forever (I have the games on my OLED Vita, which is probably going to die at some point, and then they’ll be gone for good for me).
The final group of games I want to touch on here are free-to-play titles, which rely on micro-transactions to stay viable, meaning that once the servers go down the games go down with them – a terrible result for those of us who want to preserve titles we love into the future.
The main one that stands out for me is Invokers Tournament, Vita’s first and only MOBA. Although it’s not gone yet (server shutdown is the 15th of May), there’s only a month and a half left to play it. It’s not the best game, but I still enjoyed my time with it and would recommend people try it out for something different on the handheld. In fact, Sony-published F2P titles have a habit of disappearing. Destiny of Spirits went down less than a year after being released, Ecolibrium is being shutdown in May alongside Invokers Tournament, and Fat Princess: Piece of Cake was swiftly removed from the store too. I feel like it’s only a matter of time until Run Sackboy! Run! is gone, so if you’ve ever been tempted to try it out the time is now.
A few third-party developers also tried their hands at the F2P market. One of the strangest was Square-Enix’s effort with Deadman’s Cross, a shooter mixed with a card game that seemingly didn’t do very well as it was shut down within a year. Treasures of Montezuma Blitz seemed to last a lot longer, but sadly even that’s gone now too (I don’t even remember hearing about it being removed).
One of my biggest regrets with Vita gaming was not getting a Japanese account sooner, as there were a tonne of fun-looking F2P titles on the Japanese store that are now long gone. Did you know, for example, that there was a crossover card game from Compile Heart named NepNep Connect: Chaos Chanpuru which mixed in characters from a variety of its Vita titles, including Monster Monpiece, Neptunia and Trillion? Well, it’s delisted now, alongside things like Picotto Knights, a side-scrolling brawler from GungHo, Tri-Ace’s cover-shooter card game Judas Code, and both Chain Chronicle V and Samurai & Dragons from SEGA.
Square-Enix also released a new entry in its Mana series, entitled Rise of Mana, which was supposedly pretty well received, but the service was shut down in 2016 (apparently Square-Enix is looking to re-tool the game as something else, but that seems unlikely at this point and it definitely won’t be for Vita). Two Gundam games – Gundam Conquest V and Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Fortress - were also released in the region but went before I had chance to try them out. The fact these titles all disappeared so quickly means I’m probably going to have to hurry up if I want to play things like the Yakuza F2P spin-offs on the Japanese store, before they’re gone for good too.
As you might have gathered from the tone of this article, I’m a massive advocate of physical media, because it gives me the opportunity to preserve my games. I’m still planning on playing my Vita for years to come and having a copy I can put in a drawer to come back to later means I don’t have to rush to grab things before they’re gone. Sure, physical carts won’t last forever either (although they don’t suffer from disc rot, there are other problems with flash memory), but they at least offer a better solution.
The financial advantages of digital distribution mean we’re seeing more and more games opt for this route. Many indie titles wouldn’t be possible if physical production was the only way to release, for example. But it also means we’re at risk of seeing many more games lost to time. My only advice on this matter is to make sure that you don’t wait too long to buy something if you’re interested, especially if there’s some kind of licence involved (the recent news about Driveclub is a fantastic example of that).
Thankfully, there are companies out there like Limited Run Games that are working hard to preserve games (even if they’re not always entirely succeeding, with things like Night Trap being full of bugs and Ys Origin launching without the patch on the cart), so there are more physical options than ever before. Vita’s digital future has offered many advantages, but I'm certainly glad that carts exist and I’ll be playing mine for years to come.