Thursday, 23 February 2012

Top 5 Vita Launch Games

With the PS Vita out this week some of you may be wondering which games to choose. After considerable time spent with the launch titles, I'll narrow it down for you in my list of the top 5 Vita launch games.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

It’s absolutely no surprise that Sony’s flagship series has taken the reigns as the key launch title for the PlayStation Vita. At first glance this is every bit the Uncharted game you’d expect with a great story, lots of exciting action and plenty of thrilling set-piece segments. However, the developers Sony Bend have insisted upon including almost every single one of the Vita’s different interaction mechanics into the game, making Golden Abyss feel at times, like a tech demo. Indeed when the Vita leaves Drake alone, you will feel right at home in another excellent instalment of the Uncharted series, but when Sony Bend try to show off everything the Vita can do, you can’t help but feel yourself come out of what is a very immersive experience.

Set as a prequel to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Nathan Drake returns once again to track a voyage across Central America. Nolan North and all the voice-cast you have come to know and love reprise their roles as key characters from the series. Alongside them, a host of new characters are also introduced, although in comparison they seem bland and offer no real incentive to become emotionally attached to. Golden Abyss will see you rummage through a variety of jungle locations, caves and caverns and the Vita’s immense graphical power ensures every environment, character model and explosion is simply beautiful.

Golden Abyss plays in an identical manner to any other Uncharted game but there are times where the Vita’s extra mechanics come into play. The touch-screen can be used to easily navigate Drake as he climbs and moves his way around obstacles, you can perform combos by pressing icons that appear on the screen mid-action and almost all the puzzles require you to get hands on with them. While this isn’t a bad thing, it just seems unnecessary and I found that at every given moment I could play with the Vita’s fantastic face buttons, I would. I didn’t enjoy mashing my screen and getting my fat thumb in the way of the action, rather it felt like a choir I was forced to do by Sony Bend while they continued to prod the Vita’s features in my face. This pompous attitude continues with Vita’s gyro mechanics as you can tilt the machine to make Drake lean in a particular direction then jump – all of this at times was completely unnecessary.

Ultimately when the Vita’s mechanics stayed away from the action this was a very impressive Uncharted game, especially the latter half of the experience and one that all fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

Ninja Gaiden is an iconic action adventure game that every modern gamer simply has to play, there’s literally no excuse if you haven’t played one of Tecmo Koei’s many re-releases or revamps of this fantastic title. If you haven’t, you are graced with another opportunity as Ninja Gaiden arrives on the PS Vita in the form of Sigma Plus.

Ninja Gaiden tells the story of Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja that seeks revenge after his village and clan were decimated amidst a clan rivalry. Your journey will take you across a wide variety of environments that encompass a whole host of fantastic enemies and clever boss characters. Ninja Gaiden has always been known as a pinnacle action adventure title and this is obvious from the outset as a perfect difficulty curve is coupled with intuitive game mechanics, great level design, enemy design, story and pacing.

The transition to the Vita in large is a successful one, with new touch-screen controls intertwining with the already engaging and fast-paced combat. The game looks sharp although it’s a real shame that Ninja Gaiden naturally is quite a dark and grey game, meaning the vibrant OLED screen is never really used to its full capabilities here.

Unfortunately, Ninja Gaiden continues to suffer from the minor issues it faced all those years ago during the initial launch, with sub-par loading times and an occasionally awkward camera angle helping to frustrate you at every turn. That being said these really are minor issues, especially if you consider how good the rest of the game really is. If you’re looking for a challenging, exciting and fast-paced action adventure experience or just fancy replaying an iconic game, then Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is absolutely the right launch game for you.

Rayman Origins

Touted as one of 2011’s best games, Rayman Origins is a phenomenal platformer that makes a perfect transition to Sony’s new handheld and brings a colourful double dose of carnage and fun – make no mistake about it, Rayman Origins is the best platformer we have seen in this entire modern age of gaming and is a testament to the roots of video gaming.

Origins is an excellent example of a game that is pushed entirely by gorgeous artwork design. Right off the bat you will be stunned at how beautiful this game really is and the gorgeous OLED screen really helps illuminate all of what’s so beautiful about Origins. Every character model, environment, heck even every speck of dirt has personality in Origins, making each new level a joy to play through with the excitement of what’s on the next screen constantly pushing you forward.

It also helps that Origins controls are faultless too. Continuing the simple notion of platforming, Rayman and his friends can jump, attack and perform particular special moves that you eventually learn from each unique world. This of course opens up opportunities to go back to previous levels and find hidden areas and goodies that you previously couldn’t access thanks to a lack of a particular power.

What’s really disappointing however, is the 2-4 player cooperative mode that made Origins such a huge success on home consoles has been entirely omitted on the Vita. This is staggering considering the handheld supports local and online play and how they could take away such an important aspect of Origins will continue to baffle me for months to come. To compensate the developers did introduce some new features including a Ghost mode that acts as a time-trial, but this is in no way as substantial as the multiplayer present on the home console versions. That being said, Rayman Origins is so freaking good that even without the multiplayer it’s probably the stand out launch title for the Vita.

Those of you who haven’t picked up this game or have been put off but its apparent childish looks absolutely need to get this for your collection because you will love every single second with Rayman Origins.

FIFA Soccer

With the amount of hours I’ve clocked on FIFA 12 already, I was going into playing FIFA Soccer very conservatively because ousting the home console version was never going to be an easy task.

FIFA Soccer sticks strictly to EA’s roots and keeps gameplay almost identical to the home console versions. Players move with the same elegance, pass with the same intelligence and score with the same ferocity, this is a FIFA game through and through.

The incorporation of the Vita’s touch controls are hit-and-miss. Using the touch-screen to pass the ball is utterly pointless, you lose sight of the pitch and it’s impossible to string together any set of passes, thank goodness this is optional. Using the track-pad on the back however, is a whole load of fun. The track-pad acts as the goal and you touch where you want your shot to go and hold down for the amount of power you want to put in. This is a very intriguing and intuitive way to play FIFA and kudos should be given for the clever way this mechanic has been implemented. Once you get to grips with this control mechanic, it becomes all too easy to score goals, giving you an unfair advantage against other players.

All the same game modes are present in FIFA Soccer, allowing you to play against other players online, get stuck into a career mode or just have some fun in exhibitions. EA have done a very good job at porting over FIFA and players looking for a football fix on the go will be pleased that they can play a game of such high quality on a portable device.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a direct port of the PlayStation 3 version of the game. If you enjoyed the hectic 3 on 3 brawler or have been interested in trying a game in the beat-em-up genre, then this is a perfect opportunity to do so.

UMVC3 is a fast paced arcade fighting game that encompasses both the Marvel and Capcom universes. If you ever wanted to know who would win between a team of Spider-Man, Captain America and Hulk against Ryu, Guile and Dante, then you’ve come to the right place!

I’ve consistently been talking about how well thought out the Vita’s face buttons are and how impressive the D-pad is, well here’s where that D-pad comes in handy. Owners of the PlayStation Portable had a nightmare playing any form of fighting game due to the difficulty in pulling off moves using the old D-pad, well I had no issues at all in performing any of the more advanced combos available in UMVC3.

From a technical perspective the game runs as fluidly and efficiently as the home console counterpart. The fantastic animation really helps once again to emphasize just how impressive the Vita’s OLED screen really is, characters bounce around the screen in fantastic fashion and your eyes will light up at all the beautiful colours and explosions.If you need a fighting fix then Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is definitely the better choice on launch as BlazBlue is quite a complicated brawler reminiscent of the Guilty Gear series. A large roster of characters, great gameplay and all ported very well onto the handheld makes this a great title to start your Vita collection with.

Final Thoughts

If those games don’t tickle your fancy then have a look at the other launch titles including Unit 13, Little Deviants and Wipeout 2048 amidst others. While not a completely innovative line up by any stretch, this compilation of games above all else really shows the potential and gaming power the Vita possesses. If this is only the beginning then I hope you are like me and very excited to see what star-studded list of games are going to make their way to Sony’s portable device.

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