With the announcement that Sony will end production of physical Playstation Vita cartridges by the end of March 2019 in North America and Europe, we are now assuredly moving into the final stages of the handheld’s life. We will still get releases beyond that, no doubt. The Playstation Network could keep the system on life support for years to come, as it did with the Playstation Portable.
But, focusing on the here and now, what is even coming out anymore? What’s announced? What’s there to be excited about?
The answer is, truthfully, not much. Today, the localization of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight was announced for an early 2019 release date, as part of Sega and Atlus’ pre-E3 activities. Beyond that, though? I’m not confident much will be announced. Nothing that would match last year’s news that Undertale was getting ported over to the Vita. At most, I would expect release dates for already announced titles to get locked down, and perhaps a new localization or two – but that all remains to be seen next week.
Nevertheless, here are five games that you can still look forward to. Some of them only have vague release windows, and others are multiplatform so it may feel like cheating .However, this is what we have to work with. As the Vita has become known as a destination for obscure and niche Japanese games, expect that trend to continue here and into the future.
(NIS America/Kadokawa Games)
(Coming June 19th)
The Lost Child is coming in a couple of weeks, and even if it is digital only, it promises to be a game reminiscent of Shin Megami Tensei – which is nice for Vita fans, who haven’t had much to scratch that itch aside from Persona 4 Golden. The story follows occult journalist Hayato Ibuki, after a chance encounter with a mysterious girl leaves him with a case that he’s not supposed to open. Opening it anyway, he finds a gun, Gangour, that’s used to capture demons. Gun in hand, he decides to look for the girl that saved him, using those he captures to help him in the process.
This game has an interesting premise, and with a multiplatform release on PS4 and Switch, it’s sure to get some decent exposure. As the most imminent release on this list, it’s a great example of the kinds of games the Vita became a home for – niche, Japanese, but sure to grab your attention. The Switch seems to be the natural place for many of these games, and I hope developers see the value in porting or continuing development on Nintendo’s console when the Vita is gone. It would give these games a better chance to flourish, and that’s what a lot of these games lack on Vita now. A chance to tell people who they are and why they’re worth the time investment.
(Coming June 29th)
Ashen Hawk is the only Vita exclusive on this list, and one of only a couple still on track for a retail release. Coming a couple months after its sister game, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, Ashen Hawk represents the latest efforts of Aksys Games and Otomate (a part of prolific Japanese developer, Idea Factory) to give otome games a proper release in the States. In particular, this is the last of three games Aksys has released recently as a part of their “Summer of Mystery” campaign. This promotion also includes Black Butterfly, which released in April, as well as another Otomate game, 7’scarlet, which released in May. Collecting all three games nets consumers with exclusive enamel pins they can wear, as well as the satisfaction they supported some of the last Vita games to hit shelves.
Beyond their genre conventions (otome games are usually targeted towards women, with the game’s romancing options taking center stage), I am uncertain of what the connection between the two Psychedelica games are. Ashen Hawk is about a girl who lives as a boy outside of her town, because she bears red eyes, the sign of a witch. Black Butterfly is about an amnesiac who is forced to partake in something called “the black butterfly hunt.” That Aksys can keep releasing these kinds of games is impressive, and a definite sign for how gaming has changed in the last ten years. Now that the window is closing on the Vita, one can only hope this trend can survive on PS4 and Switch.
(505 Games/ArtPlay/DICO/Armature Studio)
Here, we begin the vague “2018” release date section of the list. Bloodstained, for those unfamiliar, is a crowdfunded game by Koji Igarashi, the creator of Castlevania. Bloodstained will try to update what fans liked so much about Castlevania, and translate it into today’s world, while still delivering nostalgia-fueled memories. Kind of like what was promised with Mighty No. 9 for the Mega Man games. We can only hope that Bloodstained will turn out much, much better than Mighty, though. It’s a low bar, so hopefully they don’t trip over it.
While the game does not have a release date yet, a sister game, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was released digitally in May with good reviews and impressive sales numbers to back it up. The Bloodstained Twitter page also tweeted when Sony made their announcement regarding Vita cartridges, saying they “…do not believe that [Sony’s announcement] will effect Bloodstained on Vita… We are proceeding as planned with production and do not expect any issues.” With these factors in mind, I’m not worried about Bloodstained’s status on the handheld. It’s coming, but all we need now is a final release date.
Catherine, released in 2011 on Xbox 360 and PS3, is a weird puzzle-platformer about love, relationships, and living life as an adult. The game stars Vincent, a man with huge commitment issues, who disrupts his long-standing relationship with his girlfriend Katherine, for a new girl, named Catherine. New to this version is the addition of a third romantic option, Rin, but her inclusion has already caused controversy among fans. As can be seen from the trailer, there is some implication that Rin is transgender – and people are worried Atlus will go about this storyline the wrong way. The trailer indicates Vincent might have some trans-panic, with the whole scenario up as a sort of shock-gag. Not encouraging, given the incredible opportunity Atlus has to tell this kind of story even in the context of a game as weird as Catherine.
My hope is that Atlus will come out on top of this, and handle the content well. Full Body is due out this winter in Japan on PS4 and Vita, and for the Americas and Europe at an unspecified time. There’s about a 99% chance the Vita release will be digital only, unless Atlus fast-tracks this localization. Given that the Persona dancing games are confirmed already for early 2019, I have some doubts that will happen. But, anything is possible. Expect this to be updated if Atlus announces a release date during E3.
Following the release of Persona 4: Dancing All Night in 2015, it’s not surprising that Atlus decided to follow up and make a sequel. Persona is more popular than ever, after all. What is surprising is that Atlus would attempt a dual release, Pokemon-style, of dancing games based on Persona 3 and Persona 5. Released last month in Japan, the games feature both original and remixed versions of songs from their respective Persona entries, and do away with the visual novel-like storytelling that Dancing All Night featured. Dancing in Moonlight further differentiates itself by using flashy acrobatic moves, while Dancing in Starlight promises to be more realistic.
These games will also release on PS4 – and the Vita versions will be digital only. Both will feature full English and Japanese voice acting, and there will be plenty of costumes to dress up your dancers in, too. As for which may be better – well, that comes down to personal preference. If you like Persona 3 more, you know what your pick is. Same with Persona 5. If you like both equally, or have never played Persona at all and are interested anyway – I can’t help you much there. Pick a name out of a hat. Blind-buy when you get the chance. Better yet – get both. I’m sure Atlus would be grateful, and it would definitely help Vita game sales pick up. The choice is yours.
As always, feel free to email me at dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com or contact me on Twitter to let me know your thoughts!