Sony’s revamped PS Plus Premium’s lack of Vita titles highlights a big issue for the manufacturer and game preservation as a whole. We here at Any Button Gaming are big fans of the retro scene. We think game preservation is incredibly important. We also think that publishers should be doing more to preserve their titles. So we are not complaining about Sony’s new service.
The problem is that there is a gap in their offerings. The new Sony PS Plus Premium subscription gives paid subscribers access to PS5, PS4, PS3, PS2 and PS1 games. Sure, PS3 is still streaming only (we’ll get to that) but it’s a healthy start. Besides, gamers can expect some nice features like saves and rewind. You know, things that emulators have been doing for years.
Because we don’t believe in piracy, if publishers can give us what we want in a good package then we are down for that. It’s not perfect – there are some titles we really want to see – but beggars can’t be choosy. From our perspective, it’s time that Sony listened to their long-time fans and showed some pride in their amazing back catalogue. There are titles from across all generations. Except one.
The little handheld that… couldn’t?
The PlayStation Vita is possibly this authors favourite handheld console. This isn’t just a hipster, it’s cool because no one bought it kind of feeling. We got a Vita new when they were still available in the shops. It’s just kind of the last mainstream ‘pocketable’ handheld. We could, and probably will, write an essay on why it never became a success. What we want to focus on though is its nice library of games. Games that were developed specifically for it. Which is the problem.
You see, the Vita has several features that just never really got adopted across the mainstream. First, there was the touch front screen. Then the touch BACK panel on the rear. That’s not forgetting Gyroscopic controls. Oh and no trigger buttons we suppose. Anyway, the point is that porting is not simple for the Vita.
In a lot of games designed for the Vita, these were baked into the gameplay. If you take Uncharted: Golden Abyss for example. To cross a beam, you need to use the gyroscope feature. The Metal Gear Solid Collection uses the back panel for knife and radar. This was an issue that the ill-fated PSTV ran into. If you needed Vita specific controls, the game would not boot. That means that some of the best, most unique, Vita games aren’t playable without original hardware.
Porting ain’t easy…
It should be noted that for the PSTV, there are some soft mods that can be applied to make games run and there are workarounds for some titles. There is only one Vita emulator floating around and it currently supports 4 games because, well emulation is hard for a device like the Vita.
All of this proves the point – the only way for someone to enjoy the Vita library is to have the original device and software or for Sony & publishers to put real effort into porting these games. Sony aren’t the only publisher to have this problem or to ignore it to some extent.
Nintendo are famed for making innovative/out there hardware choices. The Wii is an example. This has motion controls. Nintendo has made some efforts to port some of their most popular Wii games to the Switch, such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Super Mario Galaxy. Sony have managed it themselves with the port of Tearaway Unfolded and Gravity Rush Remastered for PS4.
… but it can be done
The key point though is that they needed full ports to work. Wii emulation is possible on the Wii U baked in but it needs original hardware to play it. Even emulation for the Wii with the Dolphin emulator supports original hardware (though there is some mapping for controls you can fiddle with).
Sony have gotten around the architecture of the PS3 by offering titles via streaming but this is more an emulator/hardware power consideration. The PS3 is hard to emulate for but not impossible. Vita titles need careful porting – with an emulator that can replace hardware controls and make the system run in a playable way. That will take time and resources. Which means money.
For a system that had a good but not huge library, it is clear that Sony doesn’t think it is worth it. In the same way that Nintendo are picking and choosing which of their harder titles to port to Switch. Understandable, but very disappointing for those of us interested in game preservation.
PS Plus Premium’s lack of Vita titles highlights a big issue… it needs funding.
There is a joke in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End at the expense of the Vita outing of the game. It suggests that the game is a lesser version, not to be repeated. This may be how Sony wants us to see the game & system but it’s a part of the Sony’s legacy. There are some other great games. In our opinion, Killzone Mercenaries is as good as any mainline entry in the series.
In the end, it shows that we have a long way to go with publishers truly supporting game preservation and making their titles available. For every win, such as PS Plus Premium, it highlights just how much is still virtually unplayable on modern hardware. With Vita prices going through the roof and the inherent obsolescence in handheld devices with batteries etc., the Vita Library may become another unplayable relic. Unless someone invests heavily to demonstrate otherwise.
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Rudy Manchego has been gaming since the days of the BBC Micro Computer and spreads himself thin with a love of retro, indie and mainstream gaming. He’s one half of the Jambags Comedy Gaming podcast and likes nothing better than kicking back with a nice pot of lapsang souchong, a good game and a background podcast on the intricacies of Spanish cheese making.