E3 2016 OPINION: Vita’s Decline in the West Has Never Been More Obvious

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

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*This is the opinion of the writer and does not reflect oprainfall as a whole.*

PS Vita | Akiba's Beat

One of the games that got announced at E3. I should probably play Akiba’s Trip.

Now, let’s get something out of the way. I love my PS Vita. I have a little under 50 titles in my collection with several imports and region exclusives, but it’s a pretty well-known fact that the system is struggling outside of Asia. If you’re an importer/collector like me, you will have to import many of your Vita English physical games already (such as Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth, Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires and Moe Chronicle) or partake in limited physical runs (i.e. Ar Nosurge Plus), and that number is likely to increase even more as the PS Vita goes into obscurity. I was hoping that E3 would help show people that the PS Vita is still alive and well with lots of Japanese support, and that publishers are still prepared to localise exclusives for it, even if big sales were not to be expected. I evaluate the PS Vita at E3 with a double-edged sword; as pleased as I am disappointed. Let me explain why.

Let’s start with the obvious. There was no mention of the Vita whatsoever at Sony’s conference this year, instead focusing entirely on PS4 and PSVR. Putting aside my belief that the PSVR will become as neglected a platform as the PS Vita, it was a good showing, and none of the games looked bad; just not my cup of tea. The absense of niche titles let alone Vita titles in the main event was a bit disappointing if predictable. There were also no new AAA titles revealed for the system that could perhaps have revitalised sales with the mainstream, but there were none of those either, just indie games. I was hoping there would be more representation on the E3 show floor, yet only one exclusive for Vita would be on display that I know of, that being Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs-Force by Bandai Namco. Everything else has at least a PS4 version in most cases.

Gundam Extreme Vs-Force | oprainfall

The only Vita exclusive on show. Would buy the localised release if it was physical, alas I will be importing at some point.

Let’s give some examples of some Vita titles that also will be getting PS4 ports at least – Sword Art Online: Hollow Realisation, both God Eater games, Summon Night 6, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X, Fate/Extella, Akiba’s Beat, Exist Archive, Gundam Breaker 3, Rabi-Ribi, Fault Milestone One, and I think you now get my point. It would appear that publishers are wanting to gloss over PS Vita exclusives in favour of giving them PS4 ports in the West. NIS announced Touhou: Genso Wanderer for PS4 and PS Vita in the West, where in Japan it was a Vita exclusive.

Nowhere is this more apparent than XSEED. Firstly, the positive — they are bringing Shantae physical, as well as Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity to PS4 via PSN. While we are getting musou anime spinoff Fate/Extella and otaku RPG Akiba’s Beat so soon after the Japanese release and both of them will be day one purchases for me from a European publisher, they were not on my wishlist. I was wanting Net High and Omega Labyrinth the most. Ya’know, that wacky sci-fi dystopian visual novel with that gorgeous anime style? There are other exclusive VNs on Vita (namely Norn9 and Code:Realize), so a third one wouldn’t hurt. The trophy list was even localised, too, and I would have been all over this title if it was announced, as, being frank, it seems like the perfect game for me in both setting and tone (plus there are memes in the script supposedly).

PS Vita | Net HIgh

Aah, I would still love a localised release of this. Preferably with a limited physical run, but I digress.

Omega Labyrinth seems like it could be a decent roguelike, but if there were censorship issues with the ecchi content or the game sucked, then I could forgive not getting that. There was also Tokyo Xanadu, but, considering that Falcom are screwing Vita owners over with a little game called Tokyo Xanadu eX+, I’m not surprised we haven’t had an announcement for that. Alternatively, from XSEED the most likely games we’ll get for Vita now are Takaki’s latest projects, Valkyrie Drive and Uppers, which were also absent. I would hope that we’ll get them, but I don’t just want fanservice games localised for the PS Vita. While fanservice games were noticeably absent from E3, detractors still argue that the PS Vita has too many games with fanservice (of varying degrees), and more variety would be welcome. Which would also be a good opportunity for games like Net High to shine. In short, there was a huge missed opportunity here by XSEED to give some Marvelous Japan Vita games the spotlight.

XSEED weren’t the only publisher that disappointed me somewhat. What I was hoping for from Atlus was Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen developed by Aquaplus and Sting. Although the import reviews for this game on YouTube have been negative, I am still interested in trying this title out. There has been no word at all on whether this will be localised by anybody, let alone Atlus, and if they won’t be I’d rather have an outright confirmation so I can stop hoping and get ready to import it. That said, the lineup they have with SEGA is great, and I look forward to importing Persona 5, 7th Dragon III and Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X to Europe when they release in the US, and possibly Yakuza 0.

PS Vita | Utawarerumono: False Mask

I can’t understand what they are saying? I don’t think “This game sucks, don’t localise me” is correct.

The only other publishers that localise Vita exclusives are NISA and Idea Factory Int’l — though I say “exclusive” I mean “console exclusive” as in they get a PC port. While this isn’t a bad thing, I wish they held off for a couple of years and give the Vita owners the chance to enjoy the game as an exclusive for a while. I will briefly outline that I am a pro-exclusive gamer, and that, for games consoles to stay relevant, they need exclusives in order for them to sell, otherwise you may as well get a PC. Nintendo know this, hence they release almost all their games exclusively on their platforms and they are still selling and staying relevant, even without proper third party support. I am one of those gamers that wants to convince people to buy gaming platforms for exclusives, and, if they keep going to other platforms like PS4 and PC, it becomes harder to justify the purchase, just like I am having with justifying a PS4 purchase as they all keep going to PC (like Megadimension Neptunia VII and Onechanbara ZII: Chaos). That said, aside from Genso Wanderer, both publishers have been quiet, which is a bit of a bummer, even if the games they have announced already (with the exception of Criminal Girls 2) are worth getting excited for.

If publishers are no longer giving Vita exclusives the limelight, I guess it’s a sign of the times that the PS Vita’s market is getting smaller and smaller in the West. More and more releases in the West are becoming nicher and nicher, and these niche games are much less likely to take to the stage at E3 or be demoed. As it is, many uninformed people think the Vita is already irrelevant due to the lack of promotion by Sony and larger retailers, and not big games that appeal to the Western casual are being released anymore. These people also do not purchase the Vita games that are released, leading to fewer localisations and fewer physical releases. Having a PS4 or PC version spreads the risk, as more people have a PS4 or PC than a PS Vita.

PS Vita | Root Letter

I am sad, too, that Net High doesn’t appear to be in the localisation pipeline. But at least your game is.

That said it’s still good to see that there are publishers still supporting the Vita — Kadokawa’s lineup they showed at their conference is excellent, and I am interested in every single game they are currently developing. One of them — Root Letter — already has a Western publisher and that game will be day one for me, which is the highlight of my E3. Yeah, I’m deadly serious. A VN that next to nobody will care about is the highlight of my E3. That said, God Wars: Beyond Time also looks excellent and the art style is gorgeous, in a similar style to Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, which I also enjoyed. The lore, in particular, is appealing to me, and I do like my obscure games. Hopefully the strategy part of the game will be up to scratch, as well. Demon Gaze II also looks and sounds a treat as expected by Experience, and the first Demon Gaze is very good, so hopefully this game is an improvement, especially if it’s localised. I’d wager it’ll probably be one of the last exclusives we get brought over for the system. There’s also Reco Love, but I doubt we will get this visual novel title as it’s niche even for Japan, but I hope importers will find it a treat to read. There was also their dungeon RPG project due to be properly revealed in 2017 for PS4 and PS Vita, which intrigues me, as it’s a dungeon crawler. If you are a niche gamer, this should be the company that wins E3 for you — at least in my view.

Hopefully I am proven wrong about the exclusives, though, and that some more exclusives are brought over for the system as time goes on, or at least released in Asia with English subs — the games mentioned above I’d like to see alongside more Otomate titles in the West. But, yeah, if you’re a Vita fan, expect future E3s to have even less mention of the PS Vita from niche pubs let alone the mainstream, as the system is starting to enter its twilight years.

PS Vita | Girl Friend Beta: Summer Vacation Spent With You

Girl Friend Beta: Summer Vacation Spent With You. Another JPN exclusive I’d like to read someday.

About Joseph Puntschart

A university student who loves niche games and desires for them to be more fairly represented in the world. Favourite games include Persona 4 Golden, Super Mario Galaxy, Kingdom Hearts II and IA/VT Colorful. Hopes that one day a Japanese publisher will take the risk and make a Yaoi ecchi game. Think Valkyrie Drive with guys and you're on the right lines.