Vita Fans, Consider Buying a Switch
Some of the Vita’s best qualities live on in Nintendo’s hybrid console
Dear PlayStation Vita brethren. It’s time to finally let go of our beloved handheld. Believe me, I’m not happy about that either, but perhaps it’s for the best. Sony refuses to show it any love and the games that do get released for it are an ever-dwindling number of indies and obscure JRPGs. Good games, to be sure, but not enough to sustain the system any longer. It’s sad to say, but the Vita’s time may have finally come.
But what now? If not the Vita, then where can we turn for the warm, cozy gaming experience we’ve come to know and love?
Well, what if I told you that the gaming experience didn’t have to go away? What if I told you that there is another console out there that can not only take the Vita’s place but also improve upon its formula?
Fear not, because what I claim is absolutely true, and chances are, you already have an idea what console I’m talking about. If you’re skeptical (and I don’t blame you), then listen for a bit. Because when you look past branding and team colors, you’ll see that the Nintendo Switch can provide a similar, if not better, gaming experience than the PS Vita.
The Switch platform is indie friendly
Like I mentioned before, the games that are currently being released for Vita are steadily declining. And first to go, will be the indies. Nintendo’s initial wave of “Nindies” have done incredibly well, and now we’re beginning to see an indie gold rush on the Switch. Why spend precious resources developing for the Vita, when there are a variety of other, more lucrative platforms? In less than a year, the Switch’s digital store has already built a solid selection of titles including Shovel Knight, Stardew Valley, and Axiom Verge. And more and more titles keep being added to the platform each week. Last I counted, there were roughly 250 indie games available for purchase, and it won’t be long before that number rivals that of the PSN. But it’s not just small studios either. Bigger players have been adopting the “indie” aesthetic, and they’re now bringing those titles to the Switch. These are the same digital titles that are being released for PS4 and Xbox One; games like I am Setsuna, Fe, and Octopath Traveler. At this point, I’m willing to bet money that nearly every major indie game for the rest of this generation will be on Switch. If you’re like me, and absolutely love the indie game space, then making the “switch” should be a no-brainer.
Japanese games and everything else
If half of Vita owners are into indies, then the other half are into obscure Japanese games. And yes, the Switch will most definitely have those too. One of the launch titles for the Switch was Disgaea 5 Complete. Now, that particular title isn’t exactly obscure, but it certainly caters to a niche audience. And from what I read, it sold relatively well- something further supported by the continued releases by its publisher, NIS. Not long after Disgaea, they released the even more obscure Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle, and are putting out several new games this season. Other niche publishers are starting to release Switch games too, like Xseed and Bandai Namco. And if you somehow need more convincing, well, Inti Creates will soon be bringing Gal*Gun 2 to the system! That’s right- the big, family-friendly Nintendo is getting a GAL*GUN game! Shoot, even after Bethesda ported Doom to the Switch, I was still skeptical about just how much Nintendo was willing to drop its “kiddie” persona. Then they go and do a thing like allowing Gal-FRICKING-Gun onto the system. Frankly, the only thing still separating Vita from Switch is Criminal Girls, and with my luck, even that might still change.
But let’s say you’re not into the otaku stuff. Say, you’re looking for more of the mainstream style of video games. Well, Nintendo’s got you covered there, too. Since Switch is their primary device, you don’t have to worry about Nintendo ditching it the way Sony did with the Vita. They’ve already released mainline Mario and Zelda games, and they’ve announced upcoming Pokemon, Mario Tennis, Metroid Prime, Kirby, Yoshi, and Fire Emblem games. Nintendo is clearly going all-in, and really, that’s no surprise since Nintendo systems have mostly always had good first-party support. What’s still a bit unknown is how well third-party game studios will continue to support the platform. Some are testing the waters and porting last-gen games to the console (quite successfully, it seems), but others, like Bethesda and 2K, are bringing current-gen titles to Switch. Now, the Switch is powerful, but it ain’t that powerful. Adapting current-gen releases like Doom and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus probably takes significant time and resources. Not many developers are doing it, but if these games sell well, then we can probably expect to see more AAA PS4 and Xbox One games coming to the handheld.
The Switch is a Vita from a parallel universe
Hyperbole aside, it’s hard not to notice some similarities between the Vita and the Switch. Both are portable handheld consoles. Both use cartridge-based games and offer expandable memory. Both have touch screens and traditional, dual-analog stick controls. And both are meant to bridge the gap between living-room and portable gaming. If you compare them point-for-point, it almost looks like Nintendo paid close attention to the Vita, trying to avoid Sony’s mistakes in design. Many of the common traits between Switch and Vita are just executed better on the Switch. Examples include the addition of shoulder triggers, inclusion of built-in storage, the choice to use non-proprietary expandable memory, a larger screen, and the inclusion of a TV-connection peripheral. Sure, some of these functions or features also exist on the Vita, but they lack the elegance of Nintendo’s execution.
Perhaps the biggest example of this is the wonky relationship that the Vita has with television gaming.
The Vita offers the ability to play PS4 games via video streaming, but it’s subject to network speed and it uses strange workarounds for its reduced number of buttons. Alternatively, you can play Vita games on the TV, but only through the PlayStation TV, a separate console that plays some Vita games. In that scenario moreover, the Vita isn’t used at all, and the game is played with a PS3 or PS4 controller. Now compare that tangled hodgepodge of hardware to the Switch, which forgoes all the asterisks by just fusing handheld and home console into a single device. It’s genius when you think about it. To be completely fair, Nintendo also has a long history of trying to bring its consoles and handhelds together, so they certainly deserve credit for the Switch. But it’s also quite apparent that there’s some Vita DNA in there too. After all, it resembles a Vita more than a 3DS. Perhaps the Switch is Nintendo’s way of trying to take all that it’s learned from itself and its competitors and make something great from those lessons. If that’s indeed the case, then I’d say they’ve mostly succeeded.
The bottom line
The Vita is pretty much dead and we all know it, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. In many ways, the Switch is providing a similar (if not superior) gaming experience to that which we’ve come to know and love on the Vita. It’s bringing great games with exceptional graphics and doing so in a format that successfully bridges the portable and living-room experiences. All in all, it’s just a great package for all but the most hardcore of gamers, and definitely for the average Vita fan. Yes, I still have a soft spot for my Vita, and I still play it occasionally. But my time spent with the console is definitely declining; a pattern that mirrors the signs of its long-apparent demise. Sony started farming out its first-party games to smaller developers. Then we stopped seeing first-party games altogether, leaving only the diminishing third-party releases. Finally, the Vita stock at brick-and-mortar stores started to vanish, and now, it’s nearly impossible to find them outside of the dark corners of a few GameStop locations. Alas, it seems that my once favorite handheld console is going the way of the Dreamcast. And while that definitely makes me sad, I feel fortunate that the Switch has come along just in time to prevent a Vita-less void. Because of it, we not only have a platform on which to continue playing our indie games and niche Japanese games but also Nintendo IPs and a number of ports! We won’t be seeing handheld versions of Uncharted or Horizon anytime soon, but we’ll at least have Zelda and Smash Bros in their place. And honestly, I’m alright with that.