Stockholm Syndrome: How the PlayStation Vita got me into gaming

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The PlayStation Vita

Very recently ago Sony confirmed that production of the PlayStation Vita was ending in Japan, but its official discontinuation followed swiftly after. Polygon reported this past Saturday that the handheld system had officially ended production. It’s so sad to see Sony’s promising handheld machine phased out in such a pitiful way. Sony may have made some major missteps when it came to handling the system, but those same mistakes made me the gamer that I am today.

Growing up, I was strictly a JRPG fan. I mostly owned Nintendo systems and played Pokemon games, but I also did own a PS2 and PS3. I have fond memories of games like Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Tales of the Abyss. However on very rare occasions, I did branch out to other games, namely Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360 as all of my friends in high school were playing it and just had to get in on the craze. Up until college, the Tales Of series was my favorite game series to play; I played through Tales of Xillia and Graces F on my PS3, as well as Vesperia on my Xbox 360. In April 2014, Bandai Namco’s announcement changed everything for me.

The company had announced that Tales of Hearts R for the PlayStation Vita was getting localized. Being a Tales Of fan, I was super ecstatic and knew I had to get a Vita for this game alone. College was when I actually had my first job as a front desk assistant in front of my dorm; I finally had some disposable income for the first time in my life! With my sophomore year of college done and having my summer internship secured, I bought the Borderlands 2 PlayStation Vita bundle, along with Persona 4 Golden (as while I was doing some quick preliminary research on the system, this came up quite a bit and I was still in my JRPG bubble) days before heading off on a plane to NYC for the next 3 months. When I turned the Vita on for the first time, I was amazed. The initial start up screen was so slick, and it was like nothing I had ever seen from a handheld, especially compared to the Nintendo 3DS.

Over the next few days, I played Borderlands 2 and I was wondering why this version of the game kept crashing on me. Remember, I was a very casual gamer back then, and I had no concept of crappy port jobs and wasn’t even aware that the quality of this port was indicative of Sony’s overall attitude towards the Vita. After what was probably the 8th crash, I was tired of losing my save data in Borderlands 2 so I turned my attention Persona 4 Golden! And oh my god let me tell you, this game changed me. I spent the next 2 months playing nothing but this game and sometimes I elected to stay in my room during the weekends. That’s saying something consider I was in NYC during that time! I fell in love with the characters, the story, and even though the soon to be released Tales of Hearts R was the system seller for me, Persona 4 Golden was worth every single penny. However, my high would eventually peter out.

I frequented GameFAQs quite often as my primary gaming forum. Every day there was a different user posting a topic about how “the Vita has no games”. I was so confused as I was done playing Persona 4 Golden (my first platinum trophy) by the time my junior year of college started. Even though I still had Tales of Hearts R to look forward to, I still only had two games for the system. How could I justify buying a system with only two games? That’s when the Stockholm Syndrome kicked in. I desperately told myself that the Vita had some worthwhile exclusive games, and if you looked deep enough, it really did.

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Killzone: Mercenary

Both Uncharted Golden Abyss and Killzone: Mercenary were my first games in their respective series, and I had an absolute blast with them. I never even heard of them before looking them up in various “Top 10 Vita games” YouTube videos. This even led me to pick up Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End for the PS4 when it released back in 2016. Killzone: Mercenary was just on another level for me. I was getting flashbacks to my Call of Duty days on the 360, but on a handheld?! LittleBigPlanet PS Vita and Wipeout 2048 were also high quality exclusive titles that took up my time.

The PlayStation Vita also introduced me to visual novels. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was the very first one I ever played, and I enjoyed it enough to pick up the sequel, Goodbye Despair, which REALLY got me into the series. As of today, I’m the proud owner of platinum trophies for all four Danganronpa games! Yes, including Ultra Despair Girls and V3 Killing Harmony. I even played the very niche otome genre (where the main character is a girl and you romance men) of visual novels, with the most recent one I played being the fantastic Collar X Malice.

Eventually, Tales of Hearts R released and it was a pretty beefy on content for a JRPG on a handheld. I also picked up Freedom Wars, the Vita’s impressive, yet short lived Monster Hunter-esque title. What really bothered me about the latter two games was the lack of English dub. As someone who mostly grew up with those rather than the Japanese voiceovers in anime, I did much prefer the English voices. At that point, I understood the environment and low unit sales surrounding the PlayStation Vita and why the companies elected to not spend money on an English dub. The PlayStation Vita also still catered to my JRPG sensibilities, with titles such as Exist Archive, Ys Memories of Celceta, and Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I & II.

However, the cracks were starting to show. Sony had already stopped first party support for the Vita just only three years into its lifespan. Third party support followed suit in similar ways. Vita games exclusive to Japan eventually were localized for both the Vita and PS4, with the Vita versions being digital only; Digimon: Cyber Sleuth was one example. Other Vita exclusives like Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines and Soul Sacrifice: Delta were digital only. The low install base on the Vita was not worth it to spend extra money on extra English voice acting or print physical retail copies. Eventually, Sony announced that they would be shutting down the manufacturing of physical Vita cartridges. Additionally, games that had both PS4 and Vita versions had their Vita versions not even release in the west, including Persona 3: Dancing Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing Starlight, as well as the upcoming Catherine: Full Body. As a result of Sony’s indifference to its own handheld, entities such as Limited Run Games appeared. Limited Run Games dedicated itself to printing physical copies of otherwise digital media, including Vita games. I and many other Vita hardcore enthusiasts ended up buying many of their releases.

With the end of the Vita officially here, it’s hard to believe that Sony will try to compete in the handheld space again, as it failed spectacularly against the Nintendo 3DS. Speaking of Nintendo, the Switch managed to successfully blur the line between console and handheld, achieving Sony’s vision for the Vita providing console quality gaming on the go.

Despite Sony’s many mistakes with the Vita, those same mistakes led me to try out more games and genres I never would have given a shot. The Vita is the reason why I studied up on Sony and then eventually the video game industry as a whole. The Vita is now why in 2019, I’m chasing the dream of working in games media. Vita means life.

Writes and talks about video games in his spare time when he’s not playing video games in his spare time!

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