Vita Sunday Brunch

Lots of random stuff, most centered around Gamescom 2012 news and announcements, so let’s get started straight away …

PSOne Compatibility in Sight
Finally! The long awaited feature to play PSOne games on our Vita is almost launched. No idea what took so long, but hopefully Sony pulls this off without a hitch.

Why play 15+ year old games on the Vita? Why not – there are a ton of classics just waiting to be found and enjoyed. As part of the launch, it would be nice if Sony features some sort of PSN PSOne sale to coincide with the firmware update, and certainly throwing in a couple of classics as part of the PS+ update would be appreciated.

Vita Gets PS+
Speaking of PS+, the Vita finally gets some love.

We will also deliver PlayStation Plus, which is currently available for PS3 users, to PS Vita users this year. By purchasing a membership to PlayStation Plus, PS Vita users will be able to enjoy various services which will become available exclusively for members.

I really expected Sony to push PS+ as part of E3, but they waited until Gamescon to final admit they have a wonderful system that needs some TLC. Depending on how they position PS+ for the Vita (hopefully not just the “services” part), Sony should have a compelling offering on their hands. Even if Sony only provides occasional PSOne, PSP, and minis (OK, I don’t really care about the Minis), PS+ on the Vita should be well received.

If nothing else, precious memory card space could be freed up by transferring occasionally played game saves to the Cloud Game Save service.

I love the stylistic look of Tearaway; fantastic looking game.

Hopefully this one progresses nicely, and the Vita’s features do not get in the way of the fun or come across as mere gimmicks.

Gravity Rush DLC Articles
I’m not very far into Gravity Rush, but at some point I intend to pick up the Maid Pack and Special Forces Pack DLC. One of these days. At any rate, I thought the reviewer did a good job of providing some decent commentary on the merits of the DLC.

COD: Black Ops Declassified
I’m not a fan of military shooters so I don’t intend to pick up COD: Black Ops Declassified. According to EDGE, it looks to be a train-wreck, while the official’ish Sony Blog makes it sound spectacular. Unless the release is delayed, I see this one falling flat and living COD fans disappointed; not the system seller Sony needs to push the Vita.

Ragnarok Odyssey Gets Delayed
Technically it’s not a delay if a release date was never set for August 21, which was the case at the time of my original pre-order. Amazon now estimated an October 19 arrival date, which may or may not be “official” but certainly this could be too close to the November 20 P4G release.

Ragnarok Odyssey has been on my radar for a while; starved JRPG fans get sort of desperate that way.

Speaking Of JRPGs
Ys Celceta: Sea of Trees [There is no way that title doesn’t get changed in the localization process; assuming the game makes it to NA.] continues to look impressive, but P4G is the real prize and now you can get a preorder bonus. I don’t really care for the skin, but I’m sure some Persona nuts will get all teary eyed over for this one.

Vita Should Go Digital Only?
I don’t think so, but this article from Game Insider makes a case for revamping the Vita to include physical memory, digital only gaming (even though the PSP Go was a miserable failure), and removing 3G support. I disagree with these points, but physical memory is an issue. The article is well written and worth a read.

Cross Buy
Sony looks to be pushing Cross Buy with games like Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault.

Not only will the game feature cross-play and cross-save, but it’s also part of a super-cool promotional offer where anyone who purchases Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault for PS3 via PlayStation Network will be able to download the PS Vita version of the game from PSN at no additional cost and vice versa.

No complaints from this gamer. This approach can only help the Vita. It should be interesting to see if any Third Party partners offer something similar; doubtful, but worth watching.

Happy Sunday!


Sony Sends Mixed Messages with PSP RPGs

OK, it’s not Sony, but maybe it is. I really don’t understand why Sony continues to push the PSP. OK, I do; it’s all about money, finances, and sells opportunities. The PSP has a huge installed base, while the Vita is struggling to get out of Sony’s birth cannel.

I guess what I don’t understand is why can’t Sony assist publishers in making PSP games Vita compliant. Case in point Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time.

Some of the comments say it best. The Vita needs support and by continuing to throw out PSP games that are not day one Vita supported, Sony or Atlus in this case, are really contributing to the failure of the struggling Vita.

So far the Wayfarer of Time has received limited, but decent reviews. I still have my PSP, but it’s time to move on to the Vita, only Sony will not help its own cause.

Thankfully Ragnarok Odyssey for the Vita is due shortly, as in (tentatively according to most retailers including Amazon where I have my preorder) later this month.

XSEED PR suggested that I think of Monster Hunter bosses. Actually, much of the game is very reminiscent of Monster Hunter. The comparison is inevitable with 87 quests ranging from five to 20 minutes apiece, three lives to confront each quest, four-player co-op (local or Wi-Fi), and a large array of unlockable armor sets.

The core gameplay might look familiar, but it takes major inspiration from a very different Capcom franchise: Devil May Cry.

Of course it’s not Monster Hunters … but it should be a decent shot in the arm for Vita RPG fans. I have never been a huge DMC fan; too damn old for all that fancy trigger work. My dexterity is not what it used to be! I’m still anticipating Ragnarok, but according to the official’ish PlayStation Blog, Ragnarok Odyssey may not be out in August, as no “official” release date has been confirmed.

Somewhere between Ragnarok and Persona 4: Golden (P4G), Vita loving RPG fans should become a happy lot. Of course these two releases may not be enough to push the needle, but at least it’s a start. Now, if only Sony would stop putting out mixed message, and provide more PSP-to-Vita support, we could only start living happily ever after!

[Edit Aug. 10:  So apparently Growlanser is now Vita compatible, only Sony hasn’t put it on the PSN Vita store.  Instead, you have to go to the PSN PS3 store to purchase, download, and transfer to your Vita.  Nice one …] 


Vita RPGs Release Dates Torturously Slow

For RPG fans, the PSP was a godsend, with a huge variety of classics, lots of Final Fantasy (FF) options, and plenty of newer high quality RPG titles to explore. Not so much with the Vita, however at the 5+ month mark, it should be noted that the Vita is still in its early days.

Of course the Vita has the ability to play some PSP RPGs that are offered via PSN, but where do Vita owners that want new RPG experiences, and I might add Trophies, turn?

With the announcement that FF X HD is miles away, it looks like Xseed’s Ragnarok Odyssey, with an August 21 release, is the closest Vita RPG loving fans are going to get to RPG drought relief. I have had Ragnarok Odyssey on preorder for a while, so hopefully it is decent.

On the Japanese import front, Ys Celceta: Sea of Trees, is being release September 27. There is no word on this one receiving US localization support, but if it does, hopefully the name will be changed to something a little more Western’ish.

Despite the outcry from fans that Atlus is forcibly (via software) region locking Persona 4, it is still rapidly approaching an October release.

Of course RPG fans can always pick up fan-favorite Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, which is a completely different than normal RPG fare. Disgaea is turn based, over the top, entertaining, and has layers of depth upon layers of depth. Something like that.

To be honest, I have only just touched the surface. While the game is entertaining, amusing may be a better description, I don’t usually have the time commitment required to go in deep for my Vita sessions. One of these days I will have to check out the GPS Mode and see what sort of trinkets the developers embedded for 3GS Vita Disgaea play on the go.


Vita Countdown (Four More Sleeps)

February 15 is tumbling towards us quickly, along with the start of soccer practice for my nine year-old son (and yours truly co-coaching), Valentine’s Day, the newest Twisted Metal, and of course the Vita.

How are these all connected you may ask? Let’s take these in quick succession.

Soccer practice will be Monday and Wednesday, meaning that I will not be sitting on my ass playing the Vita Wednesday night. That’s OK, said ass needs a workout.

Valentine’s Day will also see the release of Twisted Metal. Play it too much, and no needful for me. With the Vita arriving just a day later, I figured I better hook my wife up with something nice – can you say jewelry from Blue Nile? Some nice garnet earrings and matching pendent; Blue Nile is truly a best friend, always helping me out of those tough spots like new a Vita and a host of games showing up as bookends to V-Day.

Which does in fact bring us to the Vita. While the anticipation is building, one of my burning desires is that the Vita turns into a quality RPG producing machine, along the lines of the PSP, which was really underrated in this respect. Hopefully the next Atelier receives a U.S. localization effort.

It was confirmed earlier this week that long suffering U.S. Vita fans will not receive a UMD Passport offer, allowing PSP owners with large UMD libraries to quickly port their content to digital media for a modest price.

While the lack of a U.S. UMD Passport program is disappointing, I can accept that the Vita will not offer a means of being directly backwards compatible with PSP UMDs. I find it very disappointing that as of right now, the Vita is not compatible with PSOne titles.

I’m not sure why Sony would not at least attempt to flip a few bucks on a limited UMD Passport offering, which would obviously be restricted to the PSP titles available via the PSN store. There are so many ways that Sony could play this, and capitalize on PSP owners converting (upgrading) to the Vita, and their desire to have some of their favorite UMDs still accessible on the Vita.

My approach will be fairly simple. I’ll keep a few of my favorite PSP titles, flip a few more on eBay, and the rest will go to one of my PSP owning boys.

I’m sure there are all sorts of licensing issues to overcome, but if Sony could in Japan, there is reason to think that Sony could have managed some limited UMD Passport effort in the U.S. It is really too bad because this sort of short sightedness could cost Sony some much needed sales.

The Trophy whore in me loves that I can now (on Feb 15th at any rate) rack up trophies on the go. I can’t imagine spending much time with Little Deviants, except to get some trophy boosting, but since it is a throw in with my early release bundle thingy, boost I will.

Whew! That’s enough for early Saturday morning. Time for another cup of coffee; truly the nectar of the gods. Happy Saturday!


Sony Says No To Vita PSOne Support

To me it is a major bummer that the Vita, at least upon its initial release, will not support PSOne titles. Having 25+ digital PSOne classics, many of which were obtained via PS+, available gives me more options for my PSP and Vita.

Sure these games are old, but some of the RPGs are pure gold, and the catalog is too amazing to ignore, perfect for gaming on the go.

Hopefully Sony addresses in the very immediate future.


PS3 HD Collections …

So far I have really enjoyed The Sly Collection; currently in the swamp on Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus. Getting past Muggshot to continue the game and earn the Silver “Giving The Dog A Bone” Trophy had to be one of the most frustrating gaming experience I can recall. Or maybe I am just getting too damn old for platforming games.

At any rate, I have to decide it I am going to double dip on the God of War Origins Collection which feature the two best games on the PSP – Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. Seeing these two titles in HD, with the added bonus of Trophies, may tempt me … maybe. If you have a PSP and you have never played these titles, for shame!

Rounding out the collection list is the Ico and Shadow of Colossus Collection; the official’ish Sony Blog just released some of the bonus content (videos and two dynamic themes) along with the Trophy list. I have had this on one pre-order since Thanksgiving weekend last year, so I am really looking forward to seeing this one arrive in late September.

While it is not a PS2 HD re-release collection, I thought I would add in one random PlayStation LifeStyle link. Pretty good article and strong reader comments on what XSeed will do with the PSP Ledgend of Heroes series. Me? At this point I am firmly committed to not purchase any more UMDs, although my 9 year-old a PSP … he is not into RPGs, much less JRPGs so I will probably miss out unless these somehow port to the PS3 or get a Vita release.


Welcome Back Choices

Today is the last day to claim any “welcome back” games. When Sony’s package went live in early June, I picked up the free PS3 theme and LittleBigPlanet (LBP) for the PSP. I still have not made my other PSP selection; will probably settle on ModNation Racers as Pursuit Force and Killzone Liberation are not my typical fare for PSP gaming.

From a PS3 standpoint, I already purchased the PSN titles Dead Nation and Super Stardust HD. I also own LBP (although the Game of the Year Edition), and inFAMOUS. While I do not technically “own” Wipeout HD, I do have it available to my library as part of the initial PS+ offering. I also took advantage of a PS+ discount last September to pick up the Fury DLC for $7.99, which also renders this option as semi-worthless.

In other words, my PS3 choices are rather limited. I decided on Wipeout HD just because I would now “own” the game; not that I am planning on letting my PS+ subscription expire anytime soon.

I also decided on inFAMOUS; was there really any other choice? inFAMOUS was packed in with my PS3 Slim that I purchased around this time last year as a replacement to my original PS3 60GB system. Would you believe that I never actually played inFAMOUS, much less opened the game? I know; I suck. Figured I would get to it at some point down the road as I work my way through my backlog of games.

By going with inFAMOUS, I figure I can at least flip my copy for a few bucks on eBay or via some sort of trade in down the road, although the value has to be pennies on the dollar due to the game being offered in the “welcome back” package.

Yesterday I attempted to add inFAMOUS as my second game, however it was not offered as an available “welcome back” choice. After a lot of pain and suffering (i.e. research), I realized that because I never deleted and never played the free trial I received last year as part of PS+, I needed to download the trail again, play it, and let it expire.

That is a hell of a lot of work to try to get some value from the “welcome back” package. It fact it was way more work than I anticipated. For some reason the game took impossibly long to download; maybe hordes of other gamers were also making last minute “welcome back” selections.

At any rate, the download completed and installed just before midnight last night. I played it for about 30 minutes before crashing for the night. When I checked the available “welcome back” options this morning, there sat inFAMOUS. So happy days; I am currently downloading the full game now.

I know I should not look a gift horse in the mouth …

[July 4th Update:] If you failed to collect your free “welcome back” games, Sony has extended the offer: “The Welcome Back offer has been extended until 9am Pacific on Tuesday, July 5th. If you haven’t had a chance to download the offerings, please do so before then.”

If you have not already done so, now is the time to do the needful.


PSP Still Has Legs

Well, at least in Japan. I think it is interesting that the PSP is still managing strong sells in the face of the upcoming Vita and of course the 3DS.

Of course Sony could be heavily discounting the PSP or offering pack-ins, or other incentives; or maybe all three. In fact yesterday I received some Sony propaganda for a PSP-3000 deal (Japan must have something similar). The PSP-3000 Limited Edition Entertainment Pack includes Gran Turismo, MLB 11: The Show, and a 2GB memory stick PRO; all this is yours for $159 MSRP, which is actually a pretty solid deal for anyone needing a PSP replacement or just late to the PSP party.

I have been considering getting one of my boys a PSP; thinking they will go even lower in the final days before Vita, which will happen to be in the headwinds of the Christmas shopping season.


PlayStation NGP – First Comments

Now that Sony has unveiled the first info on the successor to the PSP, the various mega sites have beaten the NGP to death with their coverage, predictions, options, etc.

To keep things short and simple, I will offer up a few comments of some items that caught my attention.

The NGP will contain 3 motion sensors, including six-axis motion support. It will be interesting to see how well this capability is implemented in games; hopefully it will not just be a cheap gimmick.

The NGP is set to have front and rear cameras, which should be perfect for practical applications such as video conferencing. Gaming should also benefit – basically a built in PlayStation Eye Camera (or two).

The NGP will have touch screen technology. This one is pretty obvious, but when there was a lot of speculation around the PSP Go, a touch screen was in demand.

GPS will be built into every NGP. There should be plenty of apps in the work for instructions to the nearest bar or cheapest place to buy some new NGP game.

The NGP will support Wi-Fi. Let’s just hope this works if you are off the 3G network, either by physical location or lack of funds to support your mobile phone needs.

And oh by the way, the NGP is obviously a phone. I thought I would save that one for last and make a clever joke, but in retrospect, the implementation and execution were poor.

All of this is great stuff, but what about the price? Predictions range from $249-349 according to analysts quoted on PlayStation LifeStyle. The PSP has notoriously poor battery life, so Sony better be able to muster 15+ hrs for a full charge.

Of course for a portable gaming device, games matter. Sony is starting off with a solid library of PSOne Classics to play on the go, Minis, and whatever else is in their current PSP PSN stable of games. Will that be enough? I still hate the fact that not all UMD based games are available in digital format on the PSN. At this point in the PSP lifecycle, I believe that is unlikely to change, and I think there is almost zero chance that Sony will offer some sort of conversion utility.


PS3 Gets Inferior Angry Birds Minis

I am not sure why I care. It’s not as if I have posted anything in the last few days, or have purchased the Angry Birds Minis. Sometimes something just catches my attention, amuses me, and for shits and giggles I have to post.

Take this PC Magazine review of PlayStation Minis Angry Birds as an example. It is an entertaining review (I have quoted the review summary) because it points out so many of the flaws with the current PlayStation Minis program.

Faithful port of the iPhone/Android versions.

Jerky on the PSP. Blocky on the PS3. Analog stick/disc control isn’t as satisfying as touch screen. Not as many levels as smartphone versions.

Bottom Line
Though it’s still just pocket change to play, the PlayStation Mini version of Angry Birds is more expensive and less enjoyable than the iPhone/Android versions.

PlayStation gamers are straddled^ with a port that is flawed on the PSP with graphics issues, slowdown, etc, and apparently the game looks like shit on the PS3. I can only imagine how bad things must be on a good quality high-def TV.

For those of you keeping score at home, the PlayStation Minis version cost more ($3.99) than versions for other portable devices; it only includes 63 levels (vs. the 180+ levels available on other portable devices), and the port is flawed.

Good grief. I hope Sony addresses these types of issues with their publishing partners in the future. At a minimum, when the NGP is released, Sony has to address Minis pricing.


^ = Edit.  Upon further review, in this context, this does not make sense, but I like the way it sounds/flows.  Besides, it is my blog, so it stays.


Black Friday Gaming

I am not a huge shopper, except for the stay at home and click on Amazon kind of shopping. This year (at least so far today) I did not see a whole lot of deals that I just had to get.

The tally today is FIFA 11 (DS) and Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) for the kids, while dear old dad took advantage of a couple of Lightning Deals for God of War Collection (PS3) for a mere $10 and God of War 3 (PS3) for a click under $35. Thanks to the PSP and God of War: Chains of Olympus, I have become somewhat of a Kratos fan. Good stuff.

I am thinking about taking advantage of some of the PSN titles on sale. Joe Danger looks better than decent. I am pretty sure I am going to pull the trigger on Destruction Derby (PSOne); long time readers will remember that seeing the demo of this game made me fall in love with the PlayStation. I have not picked up very many of the 15th Anniversary sale items, but this is one that I will not pass up. Then again … backlog list of games is growing deep. To the good, Destruction Derby will get some use on the PSP.

Gaming today has mostly consisted of Sports Champions, which is a great family title, and of course some Gran Turismo 5 action.

Happy gaming weekend to everyone!


Ending Credits

Yesterday I threw up an article congratulating myself for completing Afrika, in the process achieving my first Platinum trophy. This is a great segue into a recent IGN article titled “Why Don’t We Finish More Video Games?

It is a damn good question, and the article brings out a few interesting points that I shall proceed to quote for your reading amusement.

The irregularity of getting a new video game can also blunt your temptation of pulling the rip cord before it’s over. When I was younger, I felt damn lucky to get four or five new video games over the course of a year for my Master System. But now I have the ability to buy more than one video game a month.

Back in my ill spent youth, I too was lucky to receive 3-4 Intellivision games a year. Of course having a December birthday always meant getting shafted – “Christmas will be here in a few days.” Joy. That always sucked.

At any rate, new games were special. These days new games are not exactly special; a dime a dozen. Of course Gran Turismo 5 releases today, however it is not as if I am in dire need of a new game. As the article said, I still have a ton of unfinished games, including F1 2010.

Do you remember game-ending glitches fifteen years ago? Personally, I can’t recall a single game found on a cartridge that suffered from a crippling bugaboo. (PC games have long endured a reputation for shipping before being completely stable.)

There’s now an over-reliance on the ability to patch a console game after it ships via the console’s Internet connection.

I really abhor this aspect of today’s generation of consoles. I remember having arguments with friends and colleagues that PC gaming was a waste of time and effort. Console gaming was the way to go because games were in one nice tidy package, without relying upon patches to “finish” a game. Boy have times changed!

My issue with completing games is one of time; really lack of time. I want to move on to new experiences, and my available free time is limited. I typically end up in a trap of starting a game, playing for a little while, and moving on to the next thing. Moving day occurs because I want to experience the new game, not because the first game sucked.

In theory I am getting better. In the last few months I have “completed” a few PSN titles, God of War Chains of Olympus (on the easier levels at any rate – but I did see the ending!), and of course the lead in for this article, Afrika.


PSPgo – Complete Failure?

I know that the Japanese market is not the end-all-be-all barometer when it comes to videogame sales data, however the continued abysmal numbers for the PSPgo are worth noting. The Sixth Axis just posted some data for July.

Across the month the Wii beat the PS3 (89,899 vs. 77,315), the DSs beat the PSPs (202,082 vs. 108,695) and the PS2 continued to beat the PSPgo (6,134 vs. 4,056). Overall shares of the month’s hardware unit sales are little changed from June with Nintendo stealing a percentage point from both Sony and Microsoft. Out of the 509,108 consoles sold Nintendo accounted for 57% (291,981), Sony 38% (192,144) and Microsoft 5% (24,983).

I don’t think anyone is surprised with the continued success of the DS over the PSP; same for the Wii over the PS3. Was anyone really expecting the PSPgo to be a complete failure? I don’t think this is just a case of consumers wanting physical media (UMDs) over digital downloads. So what is wrong with the PSPgo?

  • Overly expensive hardware: I am not sure about in Japan, but $222 (discounted from $249 on Amazon) is still $100 too much.
  • Inadequate digital library: The selection of game available for digital downloads is vastly inferior to physical UMD products. In other words, all UMD products are not available on the PlayStation Store.
  • Digital library price relief: In some cases the UMD counterpart to a digital download actually cost less. Why? There are no traditional distribution costs, no physical manufacturing costs for the product (case, UMD, manual). Ridiculous.
  • No upgrade path: Sony has decided not to provide a UMD to digital format trade-in program or otherwise provide some mechanism to convert UMDs to digital format for the PSPgo.

I could probably go on, but I think Sony screwed the pooch with the PSPgo. I am guessing that Sony will try to continue to play up the PSPgo, but until they come out for the next PSP (PSP2, PSP Phone, whatever), Sony is probably better off offering incremental improvements with a PSP-4000 at an enticing price in over to keep in the handheld game.


PSP Update

I thought this was a great PSP article on kotaku via N4G. As documented here, my PSP ownership has been very hit or miss. My periods of PSP enjoyment are often followed by very long (as in months) dry spells where the PSP does not get any love.

Over the last few weeks that has changed. I really think that for the most part I have been playing the wrong games. Gems like Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters and God of War: Chains of Olympus are very worthwhile PSP gaming experiences.


The Changing Face of Wonder Woman

It looks like Wonder Woman is about to get a complete makeover, which I assume will make her more relevant, and of course provide more T&A appeal. Just follow the money … and you are sure to find some eye candy, even in comic book form.

Over the last couple of days FoxNews has been following the story closely, decrying Wonder Woman’s makeover as fundamentally un-American.

But when asked about the absence of the American flag on the new costume, a spokesperson for DC hedged.

“We at DC Comics are exceedingly proud of Wonder Woman’s heritage and Superman’s heritage as iconic symbols of American patriotism,” the rep told “Suggestions that any costume changes within their 70 plus years of rich storytelling come at the expense of this heritage are unfounded. The latest evolution of Wonder Woman’s iconic costume is a central part of the latest comic book storyline. All of the classic symbols – patriotic (stars, eagle) and heroic (lasso, bracelets) – are ever-present. We encourage Wonder Woman fans to stay tuned.”

Lynda Carter, the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman on TV in the 1970s, declined to answer Fox’s question about the removal of the American flag from the Wonder Woman costume. In a previous interview, Carter said she thinks Wonder Woman would want all the upset fans to just “get over it.”

If ‘ol (really old now) sexy blue eyes says FoxNews should let it drop, I agree. Earlier in week, Wonder Woman comic writer J. Michael Straczynski told FoxNews [actually he told IGN]:

“Her look was almost identical to what it was in 1941. Other characters have changed and evolved … and female friends of mine kept asking, ‘How does she fight in that thing without all her parts flying out? How does she carry her stuff?” the writer said.

Good point. If anything the short-shorts and boobage flying around should distract Wonder Woman as well at the Cheeta, who I also figured had a crush on Wonder Woman.

Personally I think the new Wonder Woman art is pretty hot (in a non-sick-o, comic book loving sort of way); however at the risk of Lynda Carter coming after me, I wish comic book artist Jim Lee could have incorporated more of the American flag look into the new outfit.

Speaking of Digital Comics and DC; if you missed the earlier story about DC going digital, you may want to check out this article from IGN Comics. If you are a PSP owner, head over to the comics part of the Official PlayStation Blog or the PlayStation Comics home page for more info on downloading a free Wonder Woman comic.