On February 22nd, 2012 the PlayStation Vita was officially released in North America and Europe; the successor to the PlayStation Portable (PSP), it’s an upgrade in nearly every hardware aspect – but how about that software library?
While sales of the Vita itself have been on the upswing, it’s the games where this console shines – and there’s a lot of games in the last year that contribute to that. With an attach rate of ten games per console as of E3, we’re likely well beyond that now as sales and great releases have turned those two or three game backlogs into a dozen or more games (which I can personally attest to).
While year one of the Vita’s Western release was peppered with strong titles like Gravity Rush, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation and Uncharted: Golden Abyss (the latter two of which carry clout due to their previous iterations), year two took a much more fleshed out approach to gaming. Titles like Tearaway and Soul Sacrifice have shown us that the Vita can be more than just a port machine or a place to put tie-ins; it showed us the Vita has an identity of its own.It’s this that we look to recognize, as we look into our picks for best games of the PlayStation Vita – year two.
Our first set of awards deal with the two ends of the gaming spectrum (and cause for much debate) – Ports and Exclusives. While many users flock to one or the other – either trying to play console games on the go, or find a new experience – we encourage you to try all of the games we’ve given awards here as they’re clearly top-notch.
The PlayStation Vita has its share of ports, multiplatform releases and enhanced versions of games, but none has made more of an impact than Persona 4: Golden. A Japanese role-playing game featuring visual novel elements, social interactions and an amazing story it’s one of the best selling games on the Vita and has a very deserved place as our gold trophy winner.
Our silver trophy position is reserved for a game that’s one of the only sequels on the Vita so far; Rayman Legends. A solid platformer that looks best on Vita (if not plays best), it’s famous for having a bit of a mis-step on release but is now considered a great purchase.
The bronze position goes to Flower. More of a concept and an experience than a game, it’s something that Brian describes as “deserving of every bit of praise it has received” .
In the area of exclusives, the PlayStation Vita is only just starting to shine – but it’s been kind of a supernova this year. While there aren’t a ton of exclusives, there are a high percentage of them that are great – and we aim to recognize that greatness.
Our pick for the best exclusive of year two is Media Molecule’s Tearaway. A unique title which breaks the fourth wall and makes you part of the experience, Tearaway is the first game to tie all the Vita’s inputs together in a way that ties your world and the game world together as well. Seeing yourself in the sun, poking through into their world and designing parts of the world/decoration only serve to heighten the experience in the game and hammer home the idea that it’s interaction, not just a game. Where Uncharted: Golden Abyss and others failed, Tearaway has succeeded in spades – and is well deserved of our gold position.
Our silver trophy goes to Killzone Mercenary, a title that has not only pleasantly surprised us on launch but has been continually improved and tweaked to try and give the player the best experience as well. With a single player campaign that many have called the best Killzone campaign hands-down, and a multiplayer portion that also stands out as one of the best on Vita – it’s a no brainer that if you want a portable shooter, you go Mercenary.
Ys: Memories of Celceta gets our bronze spot – despite not being released in Europe until yesterday (and not released there digitally ’til a few days after this is posted). The most solid action-RPG we’ve come across, it’s not only significant in length but also contains one of the best real-time combat systems we’ve seen in a while. If you’re looking for a great RPG experience with lots of adventure, action, puzzles and monsters – this is the game you should play on Vita.
Our next section is dedicated to the main genres on the Vita, grouping all the games into their most base categories and grouping as necessary (but not without merit). The categories we’ve chosen are Casual Play, Action/Adventure, Fighting, Indie, Platformer, RPG, Shooter and Sports/Racing.
This category is dedicated to the games we like to play in-between other things – waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for a download, those few minutes on break or before work. It’s the games you can jump into and out of at the ring of a bell or snap of the fingers, but still have had enough time to enjoy a level or checkpoint. These are the filler games, but that doesn’t mean they’re not awesome.
The winner of our gold trophy is Roll7’s OlliOlli – a skateboarding “runner” style game that is based on rhythm and quick reflexes. If you’ve got the tricks and precision, you’ve got the points; the bonus is that while the levels are short (less than 2 minutes each, much less for some) they offer enough difficulty and addictiveness to keep you coming back for more. Play a minute, play an hour – it’s just a matter of how long you’ve got to spare.
Our silver trophy actually goes to a tie – between Hotline Miami and multiplatform title CastleStorm. Both offer top class experiences; Hotline Miami being a hard-as-nails shooter with a unique setup and great mechanics and CastleStorm being an addictive physics-based tower-destruction title with fun multiplayer. Both titles are great for some jump-in-and-play style gaming, though they might require a little more time allocated per sitting than gold winner OlliOlli.
The action/adventure genre is an important one as it’s a staple in most gamers’ repertoire. These games are usually story based with an emphasis on collectables, interaction with the game world or real-time combat.
The gold trophy goes to The Walking Dead: Season One Complete, an exemplary adventure title from the guys at Telltale Games. Rich in story and great at drawing the player in and making them care about the characters, this title set in the same universe as “The Walking Dead” has you in the shoes of a man named Lee who isn’t exactly the greatest role model. A man with a muddied past, you must make life or death choices which almost always have consequences – not just for you, but for everyone around you. An interactive story, you choose your own path with this one – and you’d be choosing wisely by giving this one a play if you haven’t already.
The silver position goes to Lone Survivor – a Silent Hill style action/adventure title in which you wake up after an incident of sorts and find yourself trapped in a nightmarish hellhole where the only way out is through exploration. A pixel-art throwback to the retro games of yore, this one’s great for a bit of a thrill after dark – just don’t forget to check under the bed first.
The bronze trophy is sacrificed to one of our favourite new IPs – Soul Sacrifice. Product of Keiji Inafune and sucker of hours from many a life (including over a hundred of my own), Soul Sacrifice is a game that just won’t quit with tons of DLC updates and some great multiplayer to keep the game fresh. If you like action titles with some RPG elements mixed in, Soul Sacrifice would be a great addition to your shelf (or memory card).
When you typically talk about fighting games a few names pop to mind, but none of them are as unique as this year’s winner. In a year when we’ve had games like Injustice: Gods Among Us and Dead or Alive 5+ grace our handheld, are you ready for something different?
Seeing as how the gold this year goes to Iron Galaxy Studios’ DiveKick, we think that might be the case. A two-button fighter that has much more depth than the button arrangement suggests, this title is a break out hit which appeals to fighting game fans and others alike. You won’t just find the Mortal Kombat lover or the Street Fighter lover testing their skills at DiveKick, you’ll find a plethora of gamer types (and even some non-gamers) diving into this title that anyone can get good at and requires little to no memorization. When all you can do is dive and kick, it becomes not just a game of skill but of tactics as well – allowing even the slower players to win via other methods (fake outs anyone?). It also helps that they’re supporting it as well, with DiveKick Addition Edition coming as a free upgrade to current owners soon.
Second place and the shiny silver trophy goes to Injustice: Gods Among Us – a faithful port which is as close to the original as you can get on the Vita. Netherrealm Studios has learned from their work on Mortal Kombat and has applied their knowledge here, delivering something that any fighter would be proud to play.
The bronze trophy goes to two completely different types of games – Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R and Real Boxing. While Guilty Gear is one of the staples in fast paced, hardcore fighters, Real Boxing is more of a boxing simulation title; they really couldn’t be further from each other on the spectrum and yet they’re both quality titles. While Guilty Gear appeals to the fighting afficiando, Real Boxing is a more laid back title that will appeal to a broader selection of gamers – there’s truly something for everyone in the fighting genre these days.
There are many great indies on the Vita, hence the common misconception that it’s simply an “indie machine”. While it isn’t true that there’s nothing but indies, it is true that all the great ones seem to be making their way to our favourite portable.
Easily one of the best independent titles ever to grace my consoles, Guacamelee is a hell of a game. Developer Drinkbox Studios have got themselves the beginning of a decent franchise here, with the whole concept of an undead luchadore kicking ass and taking names being attractive, imagine our love of the game itself. With quite a few hours of play, excellent combat mechanics, a unique take on multiple worlds and that typical metroidvania power-up scheme this one’s just begging for a sequel. C’mon Drinkbox – give us another award winner, ’cause this one takes the gold.
If you like unique shooters, you’ll love our silver place winner – Velocity Ultra. A re-mastering of Velocity (a PlayStation Mobile title), Velocity Ultra takes everything that was great about the original and polishes it into what’s undoubtedly a superior title. Both simple and addictive, this game has been called “near perfection” by many and we’re inclined to agree.
Our third place (bronze) winner is a game that’s both recent and recently addictive; OlliOlli. Necomers to the PlayStation Vita Roll7 have pulled a rabbit out of their hat on this one, delivering us a skateboarding game with a twist that makes it even more accessible than something like Tony Hawk or Skate. A runner style game based on quick reflexes and keeping the rhythm of the rails, this one is likely to be a permanent resident on a lot of Vitas
Nothing says best seller like a great platformer – the favourite genre of many a gamer. One of the oldest genres in gaming as well as the most unchanged, the platformer is defined by its combination of run-n’-jump environments as well as its set of unique sections or levels. Platformers have traditionally come as 2D games however the last few generations have heavily introduced 3D platformers to the mix as well.
One of these 3D platformers is actually in our gold spot this time around, as newcomer to the party Tearaway shows us that paper and crafts can be cool too. With a style of platforming that breaks that 4th wall and allows the user to interact with the world directly, it’s as unique in its gameplay mechanics as it is in graphic style. There’s no wonder why Tearaway is the best platformer of the Vita’s second year – and anyone to deny it isn’t likely to have played the game.
Our silver trophy this year goes to 2D platformer Guacamelee, which most of our staff agree is a close second here. With around ten hours of gameplay, a near-perfect take on metroidvania style mechanics and a hilarious script – this one’s a no-brainer for anyone who enjoys classic platformers.
The bronze this year goes to Rayman Legends, which is yet another great port from Ubisoft. While it didn’t do as great as the original in sales (most likely due to some bad timing on a few counts), it’s still a quality Rayman game which stays true to its roots while adding some Vita-specific features as well. It looks great, it plays great, and it is great – which is why it’s a must have for any Rayman fan and stands as a valued title in any gaming collection. The only sequel on this list, Ubisoft shows us they support the Vita – and since their game is so good, we support them back!
Role-playing games cover a broad range of titles, though unlike some other categories this still leaves some clear winners. This year we correct the mistakes of the past and put one of the Vita’s finest titles in its rightful position (thanks to a staggered release date) as well as introducing you to some new greats.
Sometimes, we get to right our wrongs and fix things we might have missed – now’s one of those tmes as we’re happy to award Persona 4: Golden with our gold trophy as the best RPG of the PlayStation Vita’s second year. If you’ve been anywhere people frequent to talk about the Vita, you know that Persona 4: Golden is kind of a big deal – and rightfully so. A role-playing game which steals unique elements from a bunch of different game styles, “P4G” is one of those Japanese-made titles that appeal to more than just the RPG enthusiast or the anime fan. It’s one of the only games on the Vita that gets you invested in the characters lives, and as such pulls you into the game without gimmicks or tricks. It’s an experience, not just a game – and it’s one of the only titles we recommend to anybody even remotely on the fence.
Our silver trophy winner is a game which is part remake, part exclusive – Ys: Memories of Celceta. While it’s true this is “Ys 4” and it’s technically been done before, the title takes an almost reboot route, coming out as something vastly different from the original(s). A compelling action-style RPG modeled on a great system of mechanics, this one’s a recommendation to anyone who likes lengthy open world games with great combat. While Persona is for the all-around gamer, this one’s a bit more specialized in its audience as it’s closer to a traditional RPG than anything experimental.
The bronze goes to new intellectual property Soul Sacrifice, which has taken the boss-hunting RPG gene by storm. Sony’s answer to a lack of Monster Hunter games permeating its Vita, Soul Sacrifice is a magic-based title which has the player learning to be a magician through the exploits of an enchanted book with re-livable tales. It’s a great twist on the game style and easily one of the best things you can only find on Vita.
Shooting games come in many shapes and sizes – from arcade style shooters to first person and even third person; there’s plenty of different styles of shooter to choose from, but which are the best? While we’ve had our share of arcade style shooters, there’s a clear winner here in the first person shooter genre.
That gold trophy winner is Killzone Mercenary. Solid controls, benchmark graphics and plenty of ways to play (along with excellent support) make this THE shooter to get, hands down. After playing Killzone Mercenary, lesser shooters will feel like garbage and you’ll never want to pick them up again – it’s just that good.
The silver trophy goes to arcade shooter Velocity Ultra from Futurlab. While it’s not the technical marvel or stand-out favourite that Killzone Mercenary is, Velocity Ultra is the stand out in its specific genre. Near perfect gameplay, mechanics and re-mastering have left us with a game there’s not much (if anything) to say bad about. If you like shooters, you’ll probably like Velocity Ultra.
Total Recoil is a top-down 3D shooter with excellent roots in the arcade genre. A clear upgrade over the mobile edition which has garnered so much attention, the PlayStation Vita version comes with trophies, better controls and an approach to quantity that will give you hours of play for a low price. Cheap and best on Vita; what more could you ask?
The genres of sports and racing are tied together for the simple fact that racing is a sport, however it’s also a prevalent game genre. Unlike Hockey (which has yet to make a proper Vita appearance) there are actually a few racing games on our favourite portable, and so we though it deserved a mention.
Another thing that deserves a mention is our gold trophy winner, World Rally Championship 4. While not available yet outside Europe, WRC4 has still managed to push its way to the top position in this category. Why? It’s just that good. Improving upon the first in all categories, WRC4 is a good example of how to make your games – better each time, even if they weren’t bad in the first place. If you’re into rally games (or arcade racers) WRC4 is the game for you.
The silver trophy for this one is split between two games; Roll7’s OlliOlli and Sony’s MLB 13: The Show. While OlliOlli is a skateboarding game which plays out in short, “runner” style levels MLB 13 is a much longer game – these two couldn’t be more opposite. The only thing these two have in common are sports, scores and this trophy – but they’re great none-the-less.
The music in videogames can sometimes make or break an experience, and more than often a lot of us end up turning games down – however some games are worthy of praise for their treats to your ears; this next set of awards is for just that.
The gold trophy for the best soundtrack of year two goes to Tearaway, for its charming and audibly familiar soundtrack. Media Molecule is no slouch when it comes to music and they’ve pulled off some great soundtracks in the past with the LittleBigPlanet series – but in Tearaway they’ve outdone themselves. Brian actually talked with the guys behind the soundtrack which is worth the read if you need any more reason why this one’s a winner.
The silver trophy for year two of the Vita goes to Hotline Miami for its excellent soundtrack that perfectly complements the game atmosphere. The music combined with the gameplay is almost a hypnotic experience, pulling you in for just one more level, or just one more try. Hotline Miami is one of those games that proves soundtracks can be an integral part of the experience – and it does it well.
This year’s bronze trophy goes to Rayman Legends for its well constructed soundtrack. The chosen music fits perfectly with what the game is trying to accomplish and having the music-based levels shows the amount of time they were willing to take with how the design of the level flows with the music.
Everyone knows that graphics can be important in the presentation of a game; it’s what draws you in and make you part of the world that you’re playing in – but what does the Vita have to offer on the graphic front? It turns out, lots.
The gold trophy for year two goes to Killzone Mercenary for its realistic graphics, fluid gameplay and excellent polish. This is the handheld game that people think can’t possibly be a handheld game, the one people “ooh” and “ahh” over when they see it and run out to get themselves one. Killzone Mercenary is a good example of what’s possible on the Vita given the right resources, and they’ve set the bar high for anyone looking to compete visually.
The silver position goes to Tearaway, the “made of paper” style graphics having a unique charm that lent to the realism factor without looking too real – a good trick to up the perceived quality. The visuals in game were also quite crisp, with the ability to alter them in certain circumstances likely lending to its high marks.
We all like games that give you a reason to come back, and some of the best of those are on portables like the Vita. The games we’ve picked here are the games we just can’t get enough of, and we think you’ll feel the same.
The game with the most replay value from year two of the Vita’s release has been Killzone Mercenary. A clear winner in the replay category, this one just keeps on giving with two new maps added to multiplayer just the other day and an offline botzone incoming soon. Guerrilla Cambridge is supporting their title with everything they’ve got, and we’re appreciating the hell out of it. If you don’t believe me, check our Lounge Play videos – it’s become a staple in our lineup.
In the silver position is Spelunky with its rogue-like elements and unforgiving nature. Two plays on Spelunky will never be exactly the same, which is an ode to just how replayable this game is. Without the amount of repetition normal games have (though still repeating elements) it lasts much longer as a fresh experience than something pre-set you play over and over. The inclusion of the Daily Challenge doesn’t hurt either.
Bronze was not awarded.
Part of gaming has ever increasingly become playing with others; from the days of Pong to now, we’ve evolved from local 1-on-1 play to massively multiplayer online games and everything in between. In this age of social gaming, there are a few games that stand out as clear favourites though, and that’s what we’re here to point out.
Our number one favourite multiplayer game of year two is Killzone Mercenary. Yes, Killzone Mercenary wins again – big surprise, right? Not really. Guerrilla Cambridge has been excellent in attempting to make the online work for everyone the way they like; issuing multiple beta tests, multiple patches with online fixes and actually listening to their audience. Issues with spawns, connection errors, NAT type and more have been fixed along the way and they’ve been just amazing at making sure everything that could be fixed would be. They’ve also added some free maps, which is just icing on the cake.
Our silver place winner is Soul Sacrifice, which offered team boss-hunting made easy when it launched – offering both ad-hoc and infrastructure type connections with little issue. Hopping into an online game with Soul Sacrifice is easy as pie, and the addition of extra levels through free DLC has been great to extend the online life.
Our bronze winner is Zen studios’ Castlestorm, an often overlooked title. Whether you’re playing a co-op match or a versus, Castlestorm’s online modes keep you thinking about your next move and what your enemy is up to. Having a unique co-op mode makes the game worth getting with a friend for some entertaining matches, as with little to no lag you’ll feel like you’re playing in the same room.
Though not a lot of Vita games have downloadable content worth purchasing, there are a few that stand out amongst the many. The games chosen here are chosen for the additional gameplay they add to the games they compliment.
Our gold trophy winner is Soul Sacrifice, its steady stream of bosses and magic being added to the roster after launch giving people a reason to come back to the game over and over again. It didn’t hurt that it was free, either.
The silver winner is Thomas Was Alone, whose DLC added a new storyline and characters – extending the life of the game through a completely new story on the same engine.
The bronze goes to Guacamelee, which had two pieces of DLC which each added their own replay value to the game. The costume pack added some “rule changes” regarding player mechanics (with each suit having different rules) while the El Infierno pack added new playable areas along with a compliment of unlockable costumes. Both added trophies as well, which is good for those trophy hunters.
User’s Choice / Game of the Year
The User’s Choice this year was done via the forums, with all of the prevalent choices posted in a poll and around a week given to vote. While it was close for a while, in the end there were three clear winners, which actually mirror our Game of the Year choices as well – so I’m going to list them only once.
Our User’s Choice gold trophy winner, and winner of the platinum Game of the Year award is Tearaway. It’s no big secret that we here at The Vita Lounge loved Tearaway; the charm, quality and system integration were top notch and the plot was both obvious and surprising at the same time (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve completed it). Media Molecule have created another masterpiece, and we’re thankful they thought of the Vita as their canvas.
The User’s Choice silver trophy winner and runner up to Game of the Year with a second place gold is Killzone Mercenary. If you want a first person shooter on the go, you’re either getting Killzone Mercenary or you’re playing something inferior. Never has a first person shooter played so well on something you can walk out your front door with.
The User’s Choice bronze trophy winner and second runner up to Game of the Year with a third place silver is Persona 4: Golden. As close to perfect as we’ve seen on the Vita, this RPG is a must have for anyone looking to throw away hours of their life on something supremely entertaining. If you own a Vita, you’ve probably got a copy of P4G in your arsenal.
The last award of the year is a fourth place bronze for Game of the Year, which goes to newcomer Ys: Memories of Celceta. Another big winner tonight, Ys is the best action-based RPG on the Vita and is a testament to why Falcom is still relevant. Another Japanese localization, this is just another title which shows why the #JRPG movement is so important.
Just to recap the winners;
- Ports: Persona 4: Golden
- Exclusives: Tearaway
- Casual Play: OlliOlli
- Action/Adventure: The Walking Dead: Season One Complete
- Fighting: DiveKick
- Indie: Guacamelee!
- Platformer: Tearaway
- RPG: Persona 4: Golden
- Shooter: Killzone Mercenary
- Sports/Racing: WRC4
- Soundtrack: Tearaway
- Graphics: Killzone Mercenary
- Replay Value: Killzone Mercenary
- Multiplayer: Killzone Mercenary
- DLC: Soul Sacrifice
- User’s Choice: Tearaway
- Game of the Year: Tearaway
So we’ve dolled out a ton of awards today, but there are some clear winners to be sure. Titles like Killzone and Tearaway clearly stole the show but others got some recognition as well, owing to the great year that the Vita had in software. Compared to the first year, which contained a lot of games that were great in concept but not in execution, year two of the Vita has definitely been an improvement – and with over a hundred known titles coming this year (and plenty we probably don’t know about), year three will hopefully be even better.