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.
2012 has been a fantastic year, both from a writer and gamer's standpoint. Crucially we've always had new and exciting things to play, whether on PC, consoles or handhelds, from the biggest AAA studios and the smallest one-man outfits. Indie gaming has fully integrated into the mainstream, delivering countless killer titles for pocket money prices. We've gotten to grips with two new pieces of gaming tech, and though the Vita and Wii U have yet to prove themselves, they've already provided plenty of fun and happy hours spent in front of a touchscreen.
What an amazing year. And what a horrible few days it's been trying to whittle down an enormous selection of great games to a tiny shortlist. Here, as they say, goes nothing. - Jonathan
Far Cry 3, Vessel, Defender's Quest, Torchlight II, Thomas Was Alone and Crusader Kings II all jostled for my attention this year (amongst many others), sucking me in for countless hours and spitting me out, bleary eyed, after innumerable sleepness nights. Any number of games have impressed from a graphical and mechanical standpoint, while others showcased fantastic art direction or innovative concepts that defied conventional thinking.Click here to read more...
Gravity Rush director Keiichiro Toyama was pleased as punch to collect the TGS Game Of The Year Award yesterday, and naturally received many messages of congratulations from fans.
“Thank you! I’ll do my best on the sequel,” Toyama tweeted to the well-wishers, followed by "it's a secret" as the responses inevitably started pouring in. Was this a slip of the tongue or a figure of speech?
We rated Gravity Rush as an exciting burst of creativity on the PS Vita platform (check out Matt's 9/10 Gravity Rush review), though personally, I feel that the innovative mechanics deserved a less repetitive gameplay experience overall. Hopefully the sequel will spend less time finding excuses to remove Kat's powers and more time finding exciting and different ways to use them. [via Gematsu]
There have been some rather interesting little tidbits in this week's Famitsu, with a number of leading Japanese creative types such as SCE's Keiichiro Toyama and Capcom's Hideaki Itsuno stating that they'd love to make sequels to their respective games.Click here to read more...
Halfway through 2012, now that the E3 backlog has been shifted, it's time to take stock of the past six months. We've had games aplenty and, although it seems everyone's saving nearly all of their big guns for the winter gridlock, the first half of the year has seen some fantastic games. Here are our highlights from 2012 thus far...
Diablo III - It finally arrived, and is awesome. Apart from the DRM. And the lack of a proper end-game. And the fact that it was built around an auction house. And the fact that it wasn't properly stocked. And the persistent connection issues.
But that aside, Diablo III is absolutely brilliant.
Sine Mora - The alliance between Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture yielded an absolute cracker early this year with a steampunk SHMUP that managed to breathe some new life into a classic genre.
Total War: Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai - In an age of on-disc, day one DLC, in an age of publishers demanding that every last drop of gameplay is as fully monetised as it possibly can be, it's refreshing to find a company that still releases expansion packs as they used to be. There was so much brilliant content to this that frankly Creative Assembly could have released it at full price.
Sifting painfully through the endless swathes of poorly organised titles in the app stores for something of real quality can be frustrating. But every so often you come across a game like Waking Mars. A scientifically-minded platform-puzzler built around giving and creating life to the red planet rather than taking it away, Tiger Style's game proved to be a perfect synthesis of aesthetics and execution, delivering a strikingly complete and joyously satisfying experience.
The Vita's first killer app, Gravity Rush, is finally hitting European stores today - so here's a gorgeous launch trailer for your eager consumption.
"Gravity Rush joins the select handful of games that will occupy you for hours on the basis of mechanics alone," Matt explains in our 9/10 review. "Toyama's decision to move away from survival horror has resulted in a game of dazzling beauty in both fuction and form. Gravity Rush just became the best reason to buy a Playstation Vita."
With luck, the coming months will herald more innovative and artistically striking games for Sony's handheld, despite their E3 press conference being light on new Vita reveals.Click here to read more...
Rejoice, ye Vita owners, because the Gravity Rush demo is available to download ahead of its June 15th launch. Matt describes Gravity Rush as "the best reason to buy a Playstation Vita" in our recent 9/10 review, so be sure to get on it. Otherwise, today marks the debut of flawed Vita FPS Resistance: Burning Skies, which proves that the genre works brilliantly on a handheld but delivers some nasty performance problems. Check out our Resistance: Burning Skies Review for more details, though beware its insulting £39.99 price.
If you fancy some excellent (if visually dated) shooting, the original Ghost Recon is available for £5.49 (PS2). It's a brutal, stealthy and tactical experience compared to its sequels and all the better for it. Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition will set you back £14.99 as a PS3 download, which is actually fairly competitive... especially next to a hilarious £44.99 price tag for Prototype 2.
The pre-E3 week is usually pretty slow, but that didn't stop the latest PS Store Update spilling the beans about Battlefield Premium! You can check out the full list of prices, DLC packs and game updates (and the hastily removed leak) over at the European PlayStation Blog.
This week, after rummaging around a couple of rumours from the week just gone, we take a look at maturity in games, and ask if adults are being short-changed. We look at how the industry often panders not only to teenagers, but to the lowest cultural denominators, how money and the bottom line have fuelled an unbalanced demographic. Fianlly, we look at David Cage's suggestions that gaming really hasn't evolved much over the last couple of decades, and ask what this means for next-gen.
PWNCAST | Season 1: Episode 14, Recorded: May 17th, 2012
Some of the things that get covered this week:
...and much, much more.
Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be quite a few instances of strong language.
Click below to play the file, or right click on the banner at the top, and select 'Save Link As' to download the file onto your hard drive.
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Sony Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
I'm riding around the industrial district of floating city with remarkable verticality, having just plucked three police officers from high urban precipes and rescued them from the machinations of a cackling madman in a pinstriped suit who reminds me an awful lot of Batman's nemesis - the Scarecrow. I've gotten to this point, after 17-odd hours, having leapt from the underside of a bridge and catapulted myself skywards, karate-kicked a bunch of glowing purple enemies out of the clouds, rescued a child by levitating him with powers given to me by a sparkly cat, and won a pavement-surfing race that would make Sonic cry.
Please allow me to introduce you to the first killer app for the Playstation Vita: Welcome to Gravity Rush.
Gravity Rush has a story that sees you step into the shoes of the amnesiac Kat - a blonde-haired, red-eyed, charming protagonist. She wakes up, stumbles around in confused fashion for a little bit, gets imbued with gravitational powers by a cat that then insists upon following her everywhere, and sets up home in the sewers of the strange city in which she finds herself.Click here to read more...
Gravity Rush is set to be one of the Vita's most impressive games, and currently languishes behind an interminable June launch window. We want it now, dammit. To kill some time, director Keiichiro Toyama has spoken out to discuss the origins of his physics-defying platformer... which is apparently inspired by the most unexpected of Xbox 360 exclusives.Click here to read more...
Gravity Rush is fast becoming one of the PlayStation Vita's most anticipated titles, promising to deliver an entirely unique and unconventional action adventure that flouts physics with merry abandon. Sony has now confirmed that Gravity Rush is headed to Europe on 13th June, both as a digital PS Store download and a physical Game Card release.
We've got a new trailer after the break, along with a Gravity Rush hands-on preview for your eager delectation. June can't come soon enough.Click here to read more...
Sony has released what I can only describe as an achingly beautiful trailer for Gravity Rush that ranks amongst the best they've ever produced. Forget Kevin Butler: this one has stunning direction, a haunting sountrack and, erm, apples.
Gravity Rush is one of the most impressive-looking launch titles for the PS Vita, and Brendan's hands-on preview has definitely gotten us hot under the collar about SCE Japan's upcoming brawler. We hope that it delivers on February 22nd.Click here to view the new Gravity Rush trailer >>
This is one the first action beat em' up titles we've seen on the PS Vita and from this hands-on demo it's fair to say that it's one of the most visually appealing Vita games yet. Despite the demo being in English, there’s not much we can gleam about the story. There’s a mystical cat in a quaint town square, then monsters attack.
The aesthetic style is a hybrid of comic-book visuals and anime cell-shading. Storyboards illustrate some plot elements and you can move the Vita around to peak around the frames, providing a rather pleasing semi-3D effect. The gameplay seems to have been influenced by a wide range of sources as gamers will be able to spot elements of Bayonetta in the combat and the Spider-Man games in the way you utilise walls as traversable surfaces.Click here to read more...