PAX Prime 2015 is over and I’ve got some impressions to share of the event regarding PlayStation Vita.
For those that don’t know, PAX Prime is an event similar to Comic-con – but focused around the gaming community. It’s one of the biggest gaming events out there, and every year seems to be bigger and bigger.
Now, before you even ask I have to say; there’s no way to sugar coat it, not a single Vita was being demoed in the PlayStation booth. We already knew about the lack of Vita support from Sony, but seeing it in action at a conference event is much more real than just hearing about it.
Now you might sing doom and gloom, but all’s not lost – despite PlayStation’s poor showing there were many games being showcased that would be making their way to Vita. In fact, I got my hands on nine games making their way to our favourite portable (sooner or later).
Note; I would like to say that all games discussed here were played on PS4, PC, or Xbox – except Bastion which was on Vita. As such, I won’t talk too much about how they run as it’s irrelevant if played on another platform. Also, I’d like to note that all screenshot samples are taken from non-Vita versions of the respective games.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
YIIK was one of the first games I got to try that would be coming to Vita, and it was a good way to start. The demo was pretty short in the scheme of things, but it did a good job at showing off the basics of the game and what players can look forward to with the full experience.
“YIIK is a Colorful 3D JRPG set in the 1990s, about eight strangers, a mysterious woman who vanishes in an elevator, and weaponized Panda plushies.
When recent college graduate Alex Eggleston returns home from college, he finds adult life to be filled with mystery, strange friends from the internet, and other worlds that exist just out of sight. In YIIK, journey across an expansive flat-shaded wonderland, rife with with intricate puzzles, fast paced turn based 8 party-member battles, cat tossing, panda dropping, ladder throwing action.“ – via Ackk Studios
The first thing I noticed is just how beautiful the environment looks. Everything around is so bright and colorful, which really makes you want to see more of this world. Of course beauty isn’t everything, and if the gameplay wasn’t fun this article would be much different.
Luckily for Ackk Studios (and myself), the gameplay is quite unique – which is hard to come by with so many different JRPG’s out there. As many of them do, you’ve got a turn based fighting system; but in order to land your attacks you have to finish a quick mini-game.
For instance, as Alex if you use your basic attack you get a record spinning, and on it are yellow and red triangle sections. By tapping ‘x’ on the yellow sections you add more damage, and if you’re lucky enough to hit the red section the record will spin around once more – therefore making your basic attack hit even harder.
I found this really refreshing and was also happy to see each character was different, thus making the fighting more skill based – instead of just hitting attack and watching your character jump to the enemy and smack them with their weapon. At first it was a bit challenging, but after a couple fights I could feel myself getting better.
If you’re a fan of JRPGs and some unique fighting systems, then I’d highly recommend looking out for this one as soon as it hits our Vitas.
Next on the list is Moon Hunters, which is coming to Vita thanks to Kickstarter – and of course the people at Kitfox Games.
“Moon Hunters is a myth-weaving adventure for 1-4 players, solving ancient mysteries and building mythologies. Explore a hand-painted pixel art world that’s randomly generated yet rich with legends, non-linear stories, and secrets. How will you be remembered?“ – via Kitfox Games
Moon Hunters at first site may look like just another pixilated indie game, but of course there’s more than meets the eye. The game is heavily focused on multiplayer and your decisions as a group, as everyone in the party must vote on important decisions.
Now this sounds quite awesome, but there’s a big catch with regards to the Vita version; it hasn’t been confirmed to be getting multiplayer. This makes you immediately wonder how the game will translate, and well… sadly I don’t think it will very well.
As for my experience, I was playing with one of the developers behind the game. As we fought enemies and went about our business, I noticed that practically everything interesting aside from the combat was influenced by both our decisions. Playing this game single player could be fun and all, but with a lot of the mechanics being developed around the multiplayer aspect I’m not sure how well it’ll turn out alone.
Now with that out of the way, I would like to state that the game’s combat is a lot of fun. Each character has their own abilities and play style, which can make each playthrough feel new (along with the randomly generated environments). As for the story, as I mentioned it’s also non-linear and depends on your actions and decisions in the game.
I am a backer of this game myself and I would love to see the Vita get the co-op love it deserves, but regardless it looks like it could be a wonderful game to add to your Vita library.
Drive! Drive! Drive!
Next I was able to get my hands on a very interesting game that is quite early in it’s development, therefore a lot of what I talk about could change (for the better or the worse). Let’s have a look at Drive! Drive! Drive!
“Let us try to explain how this brain melting idea works: you must race & manage multiple tracks at the same time. You are able to switch between the different tracks of a race any time you like. When you switch away from a track, a computer racer takes over driving on that track for you. Unfortunately, the computer racers aren’t what you’d call competent. They are what you’d call incompetent. But in a clever way. In other words, to place well in every track you’re racing you’re going to have to hop from track-to-track on a regular basis to account for the subversively cretinous computer cars. This Articificial IdiocyTM is uniquely powered by our Intelligent StupidityTM engine. Drive!Drive!Drive! It’s a game about strategy and dumb computer drivers and track management.” – via Press Release
As stated in the press release, this game has a certain brain melting mechanic to it – but when in hand and seeing how it works it’s a lot of fun. Being as it’s early in development I did notice some hiccups, but I wasn’t bothered by them based on it’s early condition. The computer A.I. wasn’t the smartest either, but the fact that you have to juggle all these races at once makes up for it. I wouldn’t of found it fun if after I got first place in each of the races I literally could coast on through to the finish, and that certainly didn’t happen.
The unique aspect of this game and the way it challenges you to manage multiple races in a smart way is something exciting and fresh from the racing genre. With the ability to customize your own tracks I can see this game having infinite track possibilities. I was told there would be online and track sharing, so it’s possible you could take your crazy creations and share them with the world. There’s not to much else I know about this zany little title at the moment, but it’s got my attention and hopefully yours too.
VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action
Next it was time to check out another upcoming game that from the outside doesn’t look like much, but after playing it was apparent just how much this game has to offer. Being served to our Vita’s by Sukeban Games, just what is this game?
Well, “VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is a booze em’ up about waifus, technology, and post-dystopia life. In this world, corporations reign supreme, all human life is infected with nanomachines designed to oppress them, and the terrifying White Knights ensure that everyone obeys the laws. But, this is not about those people. You are a bartender at VA-11 HALL-A, affectionately nicknamed “Valhalla.” Although it is just a small bar downtown, it attracts the most fascinating people this side of dystopia. Keep your clients lubricated and you will be made privy to the most interesting stories.“ -via waifubartending
Being as this game is a visual novel it can be kind of hard to demo at an event such as PAX, but nonetheless they went for it. With all the people yelling, bumping into me, and just distracting me it was difficult. However, I was still quite interested and found the mechanics of making beverages for customers to determine how the story would play out extremely unique and exciting.
It’s one of those games that many people will have, but everyone’s story will be different – and that’s something to be excited about. I was told that the game isn’t just about serving drinks to people, as there’s also a system of having to make sure you make enough money to afford to pay rent and decorate your apartment. Unfortunately it wasn’t included in the demo, but it’s something that will keep the game from just being the same thing over and over (which is good).
If you’re a fan of the visual novel genre and looking for something different then I’d definitely keep your eyes locked on this one.
Hyper Light Drifter
This was a game I didn’t even know would be at the show, but when I got my hands on it I was happy it was here.
“Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D Action RPG in the vein of the best 8-bit and 16-bit classics, with modernized mechanics and designs on a much grander scale. Explore a beautiful, vast and ruined world riddled with unknown dangers and lost technologies. Inspired by nightmares and dreams alike.“ – via Heart Machine
Hyper Light Drifter reminded me a lot of Titan Souls. It’s a very challenging game, but when you pull certain things off (like killing a boss or taking down a ton of enemies) you feel the relief and satisfaction of finally clearing a section. Now if you took Titan Souls and added regular enemies that are easy to kill – but can still kill you quite easily – you’ve got yourself Hyper Light Drifter. They both feel similar to each other, but in good ways – and with more options at your disposal to deal with enemies, I feel like it expands on the idea of what Titan Souls was and refines it to be so much better.
I didn’t know to much going into PAX about this one other than the trailers I’ve seen, but after having hands on with Hyper Light Drifter I can’t wait to be playing this one on the go.
Assault Android Cactus
We move on to this interesting twin stick shooter that – like Moon Hunters – I see potential problems in. But first, let’s learn a bit about the game.
“Assault Android Cactus is a PC based indie manic twin stick shooter in the classic arcade tradition. Pick from a colourful roster of synthetic heroines and dive in guns blazing against a mechanical army in transforming arena style levels where only your skill, wits and reflexes will get you through. Cactus might just be a Junior Constable in the Interplanetary Police, but when she ends up stranded on a crippled space freighter under attack by its own robot workers, she’ll do whatever it takes – including conscripting any fellow androids she finds along the way – to reach the brain of the ship!“ -via Assault Android Cactus
Jumping into this game, I know for a fact I’m not the best when it comes to this genre – even though I was pretty good at Helldivers and loved it (just check out my review). Regardless of that fact however, I felt like I was doing pretty well. The controls felt really nice and I was able to pick up the game and just start killing robots.
The part where I felt the Vita could be a miss is if it doesn’t include multiplayer. I was playing with another person; which seemed to up the difficulty, but also make it more exciting as after each level it would show who did the best. It was little competition within the game instead of just trying to make it through alive.
Assault Android Cactus is definitely a game to keep your eyes on – especially if you’re into the twin stick genre.
I finally was able to hold a Vita that wasn’t my own at PAX – it was the best! I have never played Bastion before, but everything I’ve heard from it was positive. So as I grabbed that little Vita and started from the beginning I was ready for anything.
“Bastion is an original action role-playing game featuring a reactive narrator who marks your every move, lush hand-painted 2D artwork, and tight responsive gameplay that rewards playing with finesse. The game is designed to be simple to pick up and start playing, while offering a lot of rich choices around character customization as well as a deep story and gameworld you can lose yourself in.” -via Supergiant Games
First off the game looks fantastic on the Vita’s screen – and for the record I was playing on a Slim/PCH-2000 model. I could tell right off the bat that this game was going to be good, and it’s gotten me really excited for it to launch on Vita. It’s also worth noting that it ran very smoothly and was extremely easy to control, which – being that this one was actually playable on Vita – is quite good to know.
The game has you adventuring around a unique world with a narrator who like in the description above marks your every move and I found that to be quite an interesting design, though it did make me wonder if the narration would get annoying. That said, I quite enjoyed my time with Bastion – and am looking forward to its release.
In the end PAX Prime was a great time, even though sadness welled up inside me as I walked through the PlayStation Booth and not one Vita was around. Regardless, I still found myself playing a ton of games that I cannot wait to have on the go, and practically every game here has moved up on my must have list despite not being what you’d consider “AAA”.
Oh! I almost forgot something important; did you notice I said nine games at the beginning? Well, I wasn’t lying – I just can’t talk about them yet. We’ll have to save that for a little later. 😉
Stay tuned to The Vita Lounge for more from PAX Prime 2015, and you bet I’ll be talking about it in the podcast too!