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PS Vita: An Affair to Remember

Nintendo emailed me yesterday with an offer to buy the New 3DS Ambassador Edition in advance of its European launch. And I succumbed all too easily.

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The main reason being Super Smash Bros.

It’s a remarkable version of the game, with surprisingly few corners cut to accommodate the move to a handheld console. I don’t need a new 3DS but the thought of having the new C stick at my disposal was too much to resist. So I went for it.

Super Smash Bros. is yet another game in an overall stellar line-up for Nintendo’s 3DS range of consoles. And with Majora’s Mask and Code Name S.T.E.A.M. on the horizon, there’s some goodness to look forward to too.

With that flurry of excitement over my thoughts then turned to the PlayStation Vita’s 2015 line-up. It’s not so impressive. Go on, Google it.

Depressing.

Only seven months ago I was raving about the virtues of the PlayStation Vita. I praised it for being a smart piece of kit with some stunning games, particularly the wealth of indie titles that fit the platform like a glove. The screen was beautiful, even when, as in Tearaway, my ugly mug was on it. The Vita felt classy in a way that, frankly, the 3DS didn’t.

2014 was a bit of a disappointment for the 3DS. There were a smattering of interesting titles but a reduced number of first-party hits left it wanting. Luckily, the PlayStation Vita stepped in to fill the gap. It was the right machine at the right time. And as someone who had long wondered about the likes of Proteus, Spelunky and Luftrausers it offered a chance to binge on some great titles.

I spent much of 2014 working my way through that pile of long-anticipated indie games. Hotline: Miami, OlliOlli and Guacamelee, also impressive. I even dabbled with ‘bigger’ titles like Need for Speed: Most Wanted and FIFA. These were more of a mixed bag, admittedly, but they were still impressive for being on a handheld console.

But now, the affair is over and my Vita is up for sale.

It was a chance comment from a friend that tipped me over edge. “I think I’m gonna sell my Vita,“ he said casually. And like that, a switch was flicked.

I love handheld gaming, but long-haul flights aside, it’s a predominantly home-based pursuit. A quick game while watching football, or in bed, or on the throne. A journey on the London Underground during rush-hour is not the place to attempt new high scores in Hotline: Miami score or nail an ollie.

I realised in that moment that I don’t need the PS Vita anymore. Firstly, the 3DS has had an autumnal resurgence. Secondly, the games I bought the PS Vita to play are now readily available elsewhere, namely on the PlayStation 4. Many of the larger, triple-B titles are also no longer Vita exclusives. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation have all received home console ports. Even the wonderful Vita flag-bearer, Tearaway, is the subject of a forthcoming PS4 remix/remake. Which leaves…?

In part you can blame Sony’s generosity. Cross-play is great. It’s good value, consumer-friendly and considerate (A cross-platform discount is the best you’ll get from Nintendo), but it also means I no longer need the Vita. Sony would have you think that the PS4 and Vita are harmonious bed-fellows. A complimentary pair. But unless you truly do ‘game on the go’, I don’t think this true.

I also don’t get the sense Sony even cares about the Vita anymore. The Wii U is proof that a console can overcome obstacles and audience perception by gradually building a library of high calibre, exclusive games. That’s what the Vita needs and the lack of support from its own manufacturer is saddening and pretty disgraceful.

I still hold the console in high regard and it remains a recommended purchase, but if you already have a PS4 it’s hard to say it’s an essential one.

So, dear Vita, it was an affair to remember but in the end, just an affair.

And the saddest thing? It’s the money from the sale of the Vita that will pay for the New 3DS.

Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Dragon Quest XI, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Transistor.