With Nintendo's 3DS hitting its stride just in time for Christmas last year , and with Sony prepped to come out swinging with the Vita early this year, handheld fans we salivating over the prospects that 2012 seemed to hold. The reality? Well, the Vita has had one or two stellar titles, though nothing perhaps that's really come to define the platform, not at a premium level anyway. In all honesty, too, the titles we've most been excited for on the 3DS ended up getting pushed back into 2013, with Fire Emblem, Luigi's Mansion 2, Animal Crossing, and Castlevania all due to hit in the next few months.
That said, there have been a few standouts for portable fans this year...
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
By setting you down in a strikingly rendered game world and giving you an incredibly unique way to explore it, Gravity Rush joined the select handful of games that occupied us for hours on the basis of mechanics alone. Toyama's decision to move away from survival horror resulted in a game of dazzling beauty in both function and form. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn special.
LittleBigPlanet Vita was a triumph of handheld development, an unprecedented creative outlet that will remain relevant, varied and important throughout the console's lifespan. The campaign was great fun while it lasted, and once the community got into full swing, it literally became the last Vita game you'd ever need.
The cheapest of the Vita's launch titles turned out to be the most enjoyable, and the one we'd find ourselves constantly returning to over the course of the year. A fantastic retro-flavoured racer with some wonderfully futuristic elements, MotorStorm RC proved that the Vita can carry off sub-£5 games with aplomb, and paved the way for some very interesting cross-platform opportunities to come, even if that potential for the platform was questionably fulfilled.
Black & White version 2 refined Pokemon's gameplay into its most capable and enjoyable shape to date. Despite several issues in the disbelief department, these were two fantastic timesinks, with the series' best rival to date, a huge array of Pokemon to collect and train up, and an impressive array of MP options. Shame Nintendo couldn't quite bring themselves to fully slap it on the 3DS.
Resident Evil: Revelations was a sensational portable title that made full use of the 3DS' capabilities, and proved a great addition to the franchise in its own right. Impressive value and a masterful multiplayer mode elevated Capcom's latest to the upper echelons of handheld gaming this year.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy succeeded on every level, as a point attack rhythm game, nostalgia trip, persistent RPG, and inescapable addiction. It was an utterly essential purchase and killer app for 3DS-owning Final Fantasy fans, and well worth checking out even if you're just looking for a quirky new experience. We'd love a sequel, if only to give Theatrhythm the only thing it lacked: its own voice.
A staggering technical achievement, and undoubtedly the lead launch title for the Vita, Golden Abyss carried on the series’ tradition of excellent adventure games with all the familiar elements working fantastically on the new handheld. The list of collectibles had us replaying it obsessively, the Vita’s unique control features were used to fantastic effect, and the bar was set incredibly high.
Tarsier pulled something brilliant out of the bag this year. We were excited for LBPV back when we first got it in our hands last year, and the full product did not disappoint at all. Possibly the definitive LBP title out there, not only was the main story fantastically imaginative, but it made excellent use of the Vita's unique hardware features. The creation tools were, typically, comprehensive, and the sheer array of user-generated content meant that it was a truly killer app: you'd buy a Vita to play it on the move, and there'd be a good chance you wouldn't need another game all year!