Ben's 2010s - The Vita

The 3DS isn't the only handheld console that defined this generation for me. In fact I'd go as far to say that it eventually became my second choice. Despite loving that thing as much as I did, the Vita is what would eventually take over for it.


When the Next Gen Portable was announced I instantly knew that I wanted one. The PSP was a handheld I originally passed up for the DS instead, but eventually came back to quite a few years later. During that time I missed out on so many great games, and it didn't take me long to realize just how great the system was for newcomer RPG fans like myself. Star Ocean, Final Fantasy, all those PS One Classics... It was just great. So obviously the Vita would be the same. Right? Well, that's where things get tricky.

The first time I played a Vita was at a Target. They had a demo set up, and you could either pick from Uncharted or Gravity Rush. I tried both but I didn't have that much time to stand there and play them. All I knew was I wanted it, and both games. The only problem was I couldn't afford it. The Vita itself was quite expensive, and then I was hearing about this whole memory card thing too. It turns out the Vita used proprietary storage devices, and they were all expensive. It's not like you could go without them either, as Vita games would require updates just like a full console, and have downloadable games. That's something that turned a lot of people off, but honestly wasn't too big of a deal for me -- it's just I would've liked to spend the money on something else if I could. Thankfully I had a plan B, and it actually worked.

That year was my 21st Birthday, and my parents wanted to get me something big. It was that final "now you're fully an adult" birthday, and it couldn't have been timed anymore perfectly. Really I wasn't sure if they'd agree to buy me a Vita, but I figured I'd ask. Man I'm glad I did.

Sometime after that day my family took me down to GameStop and let me pick out exactly what I wanted. I chose the cheaper wi-fi Vita model (who needs 3G on the Vita), an 8GB memory card, and Uncharted Golden Abyss. Gravity Rush wasn't out yet sadly, but it was coming out a few days before my birthday. I also didn't want to ask my parents for more (as they spent way too much already), so I started putting money aside so I could buy it myself. Actually went to Walmart and grabbed it before I even owned the Vita! Still remember how shocked the clerk was when he told me "this is the first time I've seen someone buy a Vita game." (Guess that should've clued me in to what was to come.) Anyway despite buying the game two days before my Birthday, I only had to wait a day to play it.

My parents gave me the Vita on the night of June 18th, and I was pretty excited to say the least. At first I thought I would dive right into Uncharted (as it was the game I had been waiting months for), but I actually started up Gravity Rush instead. Everything about this game just blew me away. The fact that an open world with such a nice art style was running on a handheld was shocking to me, and I really loved the gameplay. Controlling gravity and "falling" to fly was something I had never seen before in a game, and the story had me hooked. I wanted to know more about it's world and characters, and I never wanted to stop playing it. In fact I enjoyed it so much, it was the first time in years I actually set out to do everything the game had to offer. And that's how I got my first platinum trophy, and when I wrote my first Vita review.


Uncharted was great too of course. The gameplay was solid and I liked the level design, but I will admit the first half of the story was pretty weak. The new characters and plot felt a little off compared to the main series, but thankfully that all changed by the game's second half. The way the game used the Vita's camera and touch features was interesting as well, but sometimes I had a hard time getting the map to uncover as I held my console up to a light bulb. It was forgivable though -- it was their first try at something like this after all. Still Uncharted would go on to become the game I spent the least amount of time with, and was only the start of what my Vita collection would soon become.

My next Vita game choice was none other than Resistance... I.... Yeah... I covered all of this in a review, but let's just say it wasn't worth it. The game was fun and looked pretty nice for a handheld title, but it didn't have much to offer. The story was extremely short, and I was able to get the platinum trophy in roughly five hours. And that's after taking breaks to eat and do other things. Once you have the platinum all that was left to do was jump into the game's online, which didn't take long to show you just how dead the game really was. Sure you'd find some matches after waiting awhile, but it honestly wasn't worth waiting for them. By this point I was wishing I had picked up Dynasty Warriors Next instead, and so that's what I eventually did. I scraped up whatever remaining free money I had, and went out and bought it.

I loved Dynasty Warriors Next. In fact I may even go as far as to call it my favorite standard Dynasty Warriors game! Sure it isn't as big as DW8, but I had a lot of fun playing this one. The story seemed to be more fleshed out than previous entries (although it was still the same story), the character creator was pretty nice, and I liked the game's extra modes. The fact that all of this was running on a handheld made it even better for me, as it's the type of game I like to pick up and play off and on rather than being stuck with in front of a TV. I liked it so much I decided to review this one too! And it successfully replaced my 3DS copy of Samurai Warriors Chronicles -- which had been my go to portable warriors game up until then. (At some point I should really get 3 on Vita...) Anyway after Dynasty Warriors it would be some time before I got another Vita game. I went through most of my extra cash at this point, so I had to start saving up again if I wanted anything different.


In August I was getting ready to start my final year of college. I was nervous to say the least, and constantly worried about stupid things. I hid this by trying to ignore my worries, but that was easier said than done. I remember being in the GameStop close to my college (I think it was the day I finished signing up for classes), and seeing a copy of BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend sitting on the shelf. I am a huge BlazBlue fan, and Continuum Shift was the start of something great for the series. I had played the heck out of it on the 360, but due to my limited budget I had never played the Extend version. This release included the new stories added for the 3DS port (CSII), and introduced other new content like a remake of the first game's story. I had wanted to see the new story for awhile, but I just couldn't get myself to buy the game for technically a 3rd time (I owned all previous copies of Continuum Shift). When I saw that Vita version sitting on the shelf though, I just couldn't pass it up. Finally I had a real reason to pick the game up again.

BBCSE is a game I would go on to play for years. Whenever I'd take my Vita with me, it was usually the game that came with it. It's also the last Vita game I'd get for quite awhile, putting aside PSP games like Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. (I still remember taking that one with me to my family's bakery.) Really while I did mainly get the Vita for Vita games, the PSP and PS One library became a huge part of the console for me as well. These games were cheap and didn't take too much to download (I only had that 8GB card), and sometimes Sony even gave us credit to buy something. I also started asking for PS Store gift cards for Christmas and birthdays, and the Vita is where most of these went to. It really was a great console for this sort of thing, but sadly most people out there had no idea this was even a feature of the console. But putting that aside... My next Vita game didn't come until December.

Ragnarok Odyssey is something I bought shortly after finishing college. It was the game I played after Starfy on DS, and before I started up 999 (as I mentioned in my 3DS post). I wanted a game that was MMO like without actually being an MMO. The hack n slash combat just seemed interesting to me, and the fact that it had online co-op meant I could keep coming back to it without running out of things to do. Sadly this one didn't stick with me like I had hoped. It was fun and all, and I did play co-op quite a lot, but in the end it just wasn't my favorite. It felt like a light version of Phantasy Star Online, and I also wasn't a fan of the level up system. Or rather, the lack of one. It used randomly dropped cards to control your equipment and power, and it just wasn't a system for me. For that I preferred games like Monster Hunter. So I dropped it for the time being, downloaded the demo of Virtue's Last Reward, and the rest was history.

After sending back my Chinese copy of Borderlands 2, I chose to pick up 999 because of Virtue's Last Reward (which was a sequel to it). What little story I saw already had me hooked, and I loved the gameplay. As I mentioned in the 3DS post, 999 completely blew me away, and when I finished it I was ready to get to the full version of VLR. That day is one that will always stand out to me. Not sure if it's because it's a good memory from the Bakery, or just because I liked that game so much. Who knows, maybe both?

The day it came I was working Saturday morning at my family's bakery. It was a busy long day, and by the time noon hit I was exhausted. Pretty sure we were almost completely sold out by then, so the girl who came in to work the next shift was going to have it pretty easy. Overall it was a pretty good day for us! That being said when I got home I didn't really feel like doing anything. Then I saw the package.



Back then I didn't have anything like Amazon Prime, so when I ordered a game I never knew when it would come. Seeing Virtue's Last Reward sitting there already was completely unexpected, but it was a very nice surprise! I opened that game as fast as I could, sat down at my desk to boot up my Vita, and then dove into the brand new story... For about 15 minutes at least. By then it was after noon and I was starving. My parents were heading up to a local town to grab something to eat, and I decided to go along with them. I brought my Vita with me (as I wouldn't be the one driving), but I actually didn't play it until we were on our way home. As we did some shopping as well we were gone for quite awhile, and I actually bought a brand new desk chair too. We stopped by Pizza Hut on the way back so we had something for supper, but it wasn't until I ate and put my chair together that I got back to playing. (Although I guess I did play a little on the way home.) The next day was Sunday so I still had work, but once that was over with I was free for the entire next week. I was done with school, wasn't scheduled to work, and had plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. VLR would become my go to game for quite awhile, and sadly it was the game I was playing right before we got the call about my Grandma going blind in one eye... Which was the day before Fire Emblem Awakening released, and was the night of the Super Bowl... Thankfully everything did turn out okay in the end, but it was a scary time. Shortly after this I would also pick up God Eater Burst as a PSP download, as well as Final Fantasy VIII (the game I was playing as I got word about my first job interview -- which I didn't get).

Many months later Persona 4 Golden would be the next game to hold my interest, or rather the Persona series in general. This brings us up to something I've already covered, but it was a huge part of the Vita for me. I still hadn't found a full time job yet, so Persona 4 became a pretty big part of my "final summer vacation." It's a game I didn't want to end, and I'd stay up late every single night playing it. I'd usually lay there on the couch while watching reruns of Frasier as I worked my way through the game's dungeons -- just another reason why I like playing this sorta game on handhelds. Time flew by, and once I finished the game I still hadn't had enough. Bought Persona 3 Portable with what leftover cash I had, and once again spent the next week or so playing it non stop. With this one TV really helped me out as it's dungeon can be quite a grind -- as many fans would already know. Still I loved every minute of it, and couldn't wait for Persona 5 to finally be announced... Many years later...


After Persona, the Vita became a bit dry for me again. I grabbed the Metal Gear Solid collection because I loved that series, but my next new game wouldn't be until a few months later (putting aside free apps I had downloaded). Muramasa Rebirth was the last Vita game I played before I got a full time job and entered the real world. It was an enhanced port of an older Wii game, and one I had heard a lot of good things about. I liked it to say the least, but I was pretty nervous at the time. It had been almost a year since I finished school and I still hadn't found a full time job to go to. I didn't know what to do about it, but I continued looking and applying to places. Working at the bakery was fine and all, but it wasn't something I could live off of. Shockingly I got this game on the 28th, and it was on the 29th when I was contacted by a company. Now nervous about my possible new job (funny how that works) I played Muramasa in what free time I had, and managed to finish about a week before I started. It was the start of a new chapter in my life, and I wasn't sure what was to come.

Now that I had a job quite a few things changed. One of the first things I bought was PlayStation Plus (which let me download great games like Rayman Origins to my Vita), and I started saving for the PlayStation 4. I was also more willing to try games on the Vita, so I started buying whatever looked interesting to me. This lead to some flops, but also great indie games like Lone Survivor. I also grabbed a larger memory card so I could download DJ Max, and I finally checked out The Walking Dead game. It was pretty great to say the least. Downloaded Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus also, and had a lot of fun going back through one of my favorite PS3 games. Then things started to change.


Ys Memory of Celceta was my reintroduction to Falcom and their games. I got this game on the day before Thanksgiving (the final Thanksgiving I would spend with my uncle), and it was the game I was playing when my uncle called me over to the bakery to help. It annoyed me because it was late at night and I had work the next day, but I went anyway. I remember him telling me "thanks for helping," while I replied "next time just let me know ahead of time, okay?" Sadly this was the last time I even got to speak to him... There was no next time.

Losing my uncle was hard enough, but seeing the family bakery go was also a major blow. It was the knot that kept so many people in contact, and after it was gone, so where all the people involved. I guess it officially closed the first of the year in 2014. Six long years ago. After I did see some of the regular customers from time to time, but that's about it. Everyone drifted apart, and things were never the same again.

Before all of this happened I did pick up some classics like Tearaway and Disgaea 3, but after my uncle's death I didn't feel like going back to those. I didn't even finish Disgaea, and Tearaway I just rushed it. I got Sonic Racing Transformed for free a couple of days after my uncle passed away, but I couldn't get myself to play it at all. (Still to this day I can't.) It wasn't even until Need for Speed Most Wanted a month later that I picked up my Vita again. After my uncle's death I had a hard time focusing on much for quite awhile. I mean I did play my new PS4 and was going to work, but the hole my uncle left was always there. It's not something that can easily go away, and when playing the Vita (and even 3DS) I couldn't help but remember those days at the bakery. So it took awhile before I got used to my new life, but eventually it did happen. PlayStation All Stars came after Need for Speed and lasted me awhile, but it wasn't until Danganronpa released that things changed. This was my reintroduction to visual novels on the console, and is what eventually fortified the Vita as one of my all time favorite handhelds. It wasn't quite the Zero Escape series (Virtue's Last Reward), but it was amazing to say the least.


Final Fantasy X and X-2 were the next major RPGs I played on the console, and that next 4th of July I checked out the Atelier series. Before that I did check out Conception II, but I don't talk about that. (I hated it so much.) Mind Zero was my attempt to get into first person dungeon crawlers (which I failed to do), and BlazBlue Chrono Phantasma eventually came along  to replace my old copy of Continuum Shift Extend, and it's "prequel" visual novel XBlaze Code Embyro was out for my birthday (funny the GameStop preorder said it was for Game Boy Advance). Phantom Breaker was a cool beat em up, but I didn't understand why people liked that guest character Kurisu so much. Sword Art Online was a major let down, but Danganronpa 2 came along to make me forget all about that. Then my copy of Gundam Breaker got lost in the mail and traveled the world, and Freedom Wars was a promising series that was sadly a step back from God Eater. Tales of Hearts R was a GameStop exclusive remake of a game I had wanted to play for years, and Guilty Gear Accent Core Plus R helped me fully get into the Guilty Gear series. Although I didn't like everything that came out, the vast majority of these were fun games, and I have a lot of good memories playing them. However what came next wasn't...

I bought Toukiden for myself the day before Easter. Thanks to me buying FF7 years before, it's become somewhat of a tradition of mine to buy myself a game on this day. (Which first was started by my parents when they bought me a game as a kid.) So in 2015 I decided I'd pick up the Monster Hunter clone, and finally give it a real chance. I had my eye on the game for quite awhile, and now it was cheap enough on the store to give it a chance. So that night I downloaded it, spent some time playing, and then went to bed. Just a normal Saturday. That is until I woke up the next morning.

Easter 2015 was one of the worst days of my life. I woke up to a horrible stomach ache, and I couldn't get it to stop. Obviously I thought I had to go to the restroom, but I quickly realized that wasn't the case. I couldn't go, and the pain was getting worse. I tried to ignore it and went to my grandma's house to eat, but I just couldn't. They ordered fried chicken, and it made me sick. By this point the pain was spreading to my back, and working it's way up towards my chest and I could hardly even sit. I ended up going home early, and spent some time attempting to play the newly released Bloodborne. Yeah, that didn't go so well.

That night the pain was almost unbearable. I couldn't sleep in my bed so I slept sitting up on the couch. There were times I had to get up and walk around the room just to try to ignore the pain, but even this didn't really help. Needless to say I went to the doctor that next day, and thus the months of tests began. This extreme pain lasted for nearly a week. I was able to go to work some days of it, but others I just couldn't. Despite going to the doctor that week I chose to go to the emergency room that next Sunday to get a second opinion. This is when my first tests really began, and why I would be required to have blood drawn almost daily for months. My liver count was found to be high, but nothing could be found as the cause. I was tested for every single disease in the book (including the extremely rare ones), and thankfully everything came up negative. By this point the pain did go away, and slowly day after day my liver count returned to normal. It wasn't until that summer I was told everything was fine again. As for what caused it? It could've been a number of things. I've been told to never drink in my life just to be safe, but it could've been a virus or even a side effect of all the over the counter medicine I was taking for my wisdom teeth pain. Either way it's something I have to keep an eye on, but thankfully even tests a year later showed me everything was fine. Anyway I never really gave T'oukiden a chance after that. It just brings back too many bad memories... (And did I mention our homes started falling into the mine during this? Yeah, that was fun... Worrying about having to evacuate while you suffer in extreme pain...)

After summer finally came and I was told things returned to normal, I downloaded a few more Vita games, and Neptunia was one of these. I always thought the series was stupid and for girls, but it was 10 bucks and I figured was worth at least trying out. I'm not a person to hate on a game without experiencing it for myself, so this was my chance to do so. Shockingly I liked it! Sure I wasn't a fan of all of the characters, but I actually had a lot of fun with the gameplay and combat system. I also liked how it was basically about game consoles and companies fighting against the R4 card (an emulation device for the DS), with random stupid humor thrown in. While I can't say this game made me a fan of the series, I can say I enjoyed it for what it was. It did get me to pick up the sequel about a month later, but I didn't care for it as much... Ar Nosurge on the other hand? That one was great.


Going back to visual novels, Ar Nosruge Plus was an enhanced port of the PS3 game I never got around to playing much. While it was an RPG on the surface, it was more visual novel than anything else. The game and it's scifi story had me hooked from start to finish, and thankfully I was able to beat it right before before the next visual novel came along -- a game called XBlaze Lost Memories. This was a sequel to Code Embyro and was a game that would connect greatly to the upcoming "final" BlazBlue game. It however would be nothing compared to the next visual novel I'd give a chance.

Steins;Gate. Need I say more? Actually, yeah I do. My history with this series was not a good start. I was talked into checking out the Chaos;Head anime in high school by a couple of friends, and I hated it! It was a confusing mess, and I didn't like the main character at all. Back then I didn't realize the anime itself was a butchered mess that didn't even follow the original story, so I just assumed it was bad. So why would I play Steins;Gate? Well another friend had tried to convince me to watch it's anime as well, and I figured the visual novel would be the best way to give it a try. So I bought it, simple as that. I will say that I thought the game was boring too, and I was pretty close to giving up on it. It had some interesting parts, but nothing major was keeping me invested. That's when one Thanksgiving night I decided to play it for about an hour before bed, and then the next thing I knew it was 3 AM!What happened completely caught me off guard, and pulled me in for the long haul. Just like that a game I hardly liked became one of my favorite stories of all time.

(The Engrish is still great.)
The Vita also saw quite a few other games I really liked. Persona 4 Dancing came out shortly after Steins;Gate and was a fun follow up to Persona 4 Arena. Operation Abyss was yet another attempt to get into dungeon crawlers (and it still didn't hook me), and then Trails of Cold Steel came out. This "Trails" series in general is something that would keep me coming back to my Vita for the next who knows how many years, and quickly became possibly my favorite RPG in general. Heck I'm still streaming Cold Steal 3 from my PS4 to it! It's just such a good series, and one I'll continue to play for at least the next 20 years. (Or however long it takes them to finish the story!) And let's not forget Sky FC and SC which were PSP titles that started the whole thing!


Since that day the Trails series has taken over my Vita and most of it's play time, but that doesn't mean I've ignored other games. Phantasy Star Nova was a nice handheld spin off from Phantasy Star Online 2, Atelier Escha & Logy was a surprising game for me because I didn't expect to like it as much as I did (even platinumed it!), and Ray Gigant once again turned me off from first person dungeon crawlers. (Why do I keep trying?) Around this time was when the Vita started dying however, so I started being less choosy with my games. I began collecting physical copies of whatever I could get my hands on, so this lead me to grab games like Super Monkey Ball, and Hot Shot Golf. The Vita version of Mighty No 9 never surfaced (which is kinda a good thing), and I didn't like Atelier Sophie as much as Escha & Logy. Still I grabbed that physical copy of Shallie the moment I stumbled across it. God Eater finally returned to the Vita also with a remake of the original, and an English release of GE2. Virtue's Last Reward's sequel finally released after a three year wait, and one of my favorite anime series (Psycho Pass) got a visual novel side story by the company behind Steins;Gate. It was fun and all, but honestly not my favorite. World of Final Fantasy was a fun return to the Final Fantasy X style of games, and Root Letter was an average visual novel. It wasn't until Steins;Gate 0 released that I got to play a truly good visual novel on the console again, but thankfully this trend would only continue from here on out.


Yomawari would become the last video game my grandparents would buy me for Christmas, and that same year my parents tracked down a physical copy of Shinobido 2 for me. 999 received it's Vita remake a few months after (and as bundled with VLR), and the Utawarerumono series would finally see it's release overseas. I originally downloaded this game on memorial day, but I'd buy a physical copy of both it and it's sequel that following winter -- the day before I was let go from my job. Danganronpa V3 came out a couple of months before this, and Chaos;Child (which is related to Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head) released right before Halloween and on the same day as the PC version Destiny 2. These games would be the last ones I bought for quite awhile as starting on January 1st I'd be officially unemployed. Then my grandpa was hospitalized shortly after.
 
While the 3DS helped me get through the issues my grandma ran into back in 2013, I don't have any similar stories with the Vita or any game console really. During this time I wasn't playing games, except for the odd mobile game or two. My Vita sat unplayed for a long time, and it wasn't until Root Double came out that I got back to it. Even then I didn't buy this until after I was hired at my current job. It was a great visual novel I'd spend the next year playing, but the release of Muv-Luv and it's sequel would keep me from it for quite some time. The next game by the Zero Escape series creator (999/VLR/ZTD) also wasn't bad, but it wasn't nearly to the same level as his previous works. Continuing the trend of buying whatever physical games I could find I also picked up every cheap game I found (which lead me to a lot of "meh" releases), but there were some hidden gems as well. This is what lead me to where I am today.

Here at the start of 2020 my Vita is still going strong. There are plenty of games I want to get back to playing, and there are even more that I still want to buy. It's a handheld I really like, and am a little bit sad to see officially go. It's been a huge part of my life over the last many years, and I can't see that changing anytime soon. It's a shame how the handheld was handled, but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying it one bit.


Well I guess that about does it. This decade really was a great one for me gaming wise, and I look forward to see what 2020 has in store. Thank you guys for taking time to read my stories!

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