Let’s Do Launch! I’ll Have a Grilled Cheese with Vel-Vita

Yea, sorry.  “Living La Vita Loca” was used by just about anyone that’s even thought of video games.

I actually got my Vita for Christmas. It was a neat surprise from my Daddy, which was cool and proves why he totally rocks. Of course, I only had Little Deviants to play around with, and while it was a little fun (and hugely annoying in some ways), it was just a glorified tech demo. Those aren’t exactly famous for their staying power. By December 26, the novelty of having a Vita two months early had officially worn off and it joined my 3DS on the shelf to collect dust. It was either that or look around for smiley faces to take pictures of. Um, yea, no. Dust works.

Well, you guys have had Vita for a few days now, and I’ve been getting requests to “go all Indie Gamer Chick” on it. You know, I resent the idea that I’m some kind of assassin for hire. You guys are big boys. You can fight your own fights. Besides, I don’t hate the Vita. Yet. You see, I’m willing to give it time. Why? Because there’s only three true certainties in life: death, taxes, and hand-held gaming consoles having shitty launches.

Let’s look back to the original Game Boy, which came out very shortly after I was born. At the risk of ruining my credibility here (no shouts of “too late” from the peanut gallery please, thanks), I never played the original Game Boy. Never. Not once. I’m talking about the original model of it, because I caught the Pokemon craze like everyone else who was nine-years-old in 1998. By then, I had got the Game Boy Pocket, and shortly thereafter, the Game Boy Color.

But, in retrospect, I didn’t miss much. The launch lineup for the Game Boy looks a bit abysmal. Sure, it had an iconic pack-in in the form of Tetris. But it also had some pretty craptacular secondary titles. Being the serious journalist I am (and no, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face), I bought them on the 3DS Virtual Console. Baseball, Alleyway, and Tennis. Wow, dynamite launch lineup. And of course, there’s the original Super Mario Land. Which is, sorry to you Nintendo fanboys out there, one seriously fucking terrible game. It’s glitchy, Mario is like three pixels tall, it’s glitchy, the enemies all look stupid, it’s glitchy, there’s horizontal space-shooter levels and oh God why is THIS considered a classic? You guys back then had no taste at all.

But I do have a point to go with this. Things got better. Once a developer gets past the learning curve, good stuff starts to happen. Look at the gigantic leap Super Mario Land made to become Super Mario Land 2.

You don’t need to go back to a period when your friendly neighborhood Indie Gamer Chick was still vulnerable to coat hangers for examples either. Sony’s history with the portable market is shaky at best. The PSP, while simply incredible to look at when it came out, had a pretty underwhelming launch lineup. Sure, Luminies was cool, but does anyone look back fondly on their time spent playing Untold Legends? Metal Gear Acid? Ape Escape on the Loose? Of course not. Nintendo DS was the same way. In fact, it was so bad that people instantly wrote off the machine as the second coming of Virtual Boy. Among the “highlights” was an unplayable port of Mario 64 and a seriously lousy tech demo by Sega themed around fucking called “Feel the Magic.”

But things got better. The PSP and especially the Nintendo DS became two of my favorite consoles of all time. It just takes a while for developers to get the hang of a system. In fact, that’s true these days of most consoles. I don’t think I would have trouble finding people to agree with me that the Xbox 360 and the PS3 both got off to a shaky start. I can’t even remember any launch titles for the PlayStation 3. I even forgot about Resistance. It just wasn’t that memorable. For the Xbox 360, all I remember is how disappointed I was in Perfect Dark Zero, and that I spent most of the first week I had with it playing Hexic.

The Vita is too new to write off. I’m not being an apologist for it. I’m just trying to keep it real. Yea, it bombed in Japan, but I think that has more to do with the mentality of gaming having changed so drastically. No matter how much it pains hardcore video game players to hear this, portable gaming is now tied to phones. iPhone moves hundreds of millions of games yearly. Hell, it’s damn near billions. When I point that out to your traditional, old-school, crotchety old gamer, it usually results in a cringe followed by some half-assed attempt at damage control usually discounting it as not being relevant. They’ll say it doesn’t count because phones are for “casual games.” What does that even mean?

Hardcore gamers, who usually also pride themselves on being Retro gamers, want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to talk about the good old days when a quarter bought you three minutes on Defender, but then immediately discount that $1 on your iPhone buys you a game like Cut the Rope, because that’s a “casual” game. I don’t get it. When old farts reminisce with me about the glory days of arcades, they speak with a tremble in their voice and a glimmer in their eyes as they describe rows of games, all unique, accessible to everyone, and cheap to play. Geez, that sounds kind of familiar.

Perhaps we’ve come full circle and the long-time gaming populace doesn’t realize it. I never got to experience a smokey arcade full of class-cutters and mohawk-wearing juvenile delinquents. My gaming life began just as the arcades were dying off. But with iPhone, I think I can kind of imagine the sense of awe players felt in the golden age of the arcade. I think that’s true of many gamers my age. Whether we realize it or not, phones are our arcade. And they’ve changed what we expect a portable gaming device to be. When you can have the gaming version of the Library of Alexandria on you phone, with games costing $1 or less, it’s hard to justify paying $300 for a dedicated console that tries to bring console-quality titles but will inevitably come up short.

The sun is setting on the era of the dedicated portable gaming device. Given its luke-warm reception, I think it’s a safe bet that the Vita will close the book on Sony’s journey in portable gaming. Nintendo will probably stick it out at least one generation longer, if only to triumphantly hold up the dismembered head of Sony much like they did with Sega, NEC, SNK, Bandai, Nokia, and nameless others. But that doesn’t make the Vita a bad console. Yea, the camera is shit, and the much trumpeted OLED display already looks dull in comparison to iPhone’s. You know what? Who cares? I like games, and I like Sony’s brand of games. So in the long run, I’ll probably like the Vita. Plus I’m sure it will be good for a few laughs when professional asshat Jack Tretton takes the floor at E3 next year to announce the next model has a completely unique glasses-free 3D display unlike anything ever done by anyone ever, for real, fingers in ears, la la la la la, we’re not crazy.

We don’t know what you guys are talking about. 3D was totally our idea. Nothing like it out there.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

5 Responses to Let’s Do Launch! I’ll Have a Grilled Cheese with Vel-Vita

  1. Excellent analysis chick, but I have to say just two things:

    1)Imho the Vita oled screen is much better then the iphone 4s one, and i own an iphone 4s :p

    2)If you can, do yourself a favour and try some indies for Vita like Super Stardust (simply the best twin stick shooter I’ve haver played), Escape Plan and Tales from Space, they’re really good imho.

  2. You already know I agree about the fate of handhelds. Good point about the comparison of iPhone games to classic arcades; well observed. If Space Invaders was released now as an iPhone game, having never existed before, the ‘hardcore’ crowd would spit on it.

    Don’t even get me started on the idiocy of the hardcore/casual divide. Playing games is a fun recreational activity. If you’re being ‘hardcore’ about it, you’re doing it wrong. Besides, ever noticed that the ‘hardcore’ label is always self-applied? That’s like saying “My name is Tim but everyone calls me Ace” when in fact they call you Stinky.

    When I, like you, foretold the last gasp of handhelds, people left comments screeching that I was a “stupid casual” and “not a gamer”. It’s funny how you can play games almost daily for longer than a commenter has been alive, and they will scoff at your credentials because you point out that iPhone games are popular.

  3. Professor Fessor says:

    I have to disagree with the comparison to classic arcades. Nothing will ever compare to walking into a darkened room with stupid neon signs, the sounds of arcade games congealing into a constant ruckus, and the joy of someone of not realizing $20 bucks worth of tokens get spit out from the token machine in two rounds, meaning you just nabbed 10 bucks worth of tokens. But these are aspects of walking into a physical location to play games, the gaming content on iPhone is pretty close.

    • Kairi Vice says:

      Well obviously you can’t get the atmospheric feel of an arcade on a phone, but the selection of games and the types of games present sound much like the early 80s arcades as I’ve had them described to me.

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