Is it still worth owning a PlayStation Vita for otaku games?

In recent years, the Nintendo Switch has very much taken over from Sony’s underappreciated Vita as the best place to go for otaku games. Indeed, we’ve seen developers and publishers on Nintendo’s platform pushing the boundaries further than ever before with titles that feature full nude content — and on top of that, we’ve seen a bunch of well-regarded Vita games, such as Compile Heart’s Genkai Tokki series, ported to Switch.

So, then, that begs the question: for the discerning fan of otaku games, is it still worth picking up a PlayStation Vita, either in its original handheld form factor or in its consolised PlayStation TV incarnation? Let’s take a look at some of the titles in the library that are still confined to the platform, and ponder if that — taking into account the rising prices of second-hand and retro games — makes it worth snagging yourself a Vita in 2022.

According to Wikipedia (which isn’t necessarily a reliable source, but it’s a good starting point if nothing else), there are 81 Vita exclusives. Some of these — mostly licensed anime titles — never got localised, while others were stripped-down versions of titles released on the more powerful TV-connected consoles. But there’s some that remain genuine exclusives — and in many cases we’ve seen no indication of whether or not they’re ever going to get ported to today’s systems or, at the very least, PC as a digital download.

Vita games: Dungeon Travelers 2

One of the most noteworthy that we’ve mentioned numerous times here on Rice Digital is Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and the Monster Seal. This is an astonishingly good dungeon crawler developed by a collaborative effort between visual novel makers Aquaplus and mechanics maestros Sting, and is widely regarded by those who have played it as one of the absolute finest games on Vita. It also shot to notoriety back on its original release for pearl-clutching western games journalists getting all bent out of shape that it has some mildly lewd scenes in it.

A while back, it looked as if Dungeon Travelers 2 might be heading for Steam, which would have been wonderful to see — but then it appears that the game suffered the unpredictable force of Steam’s ban hammer. We’ve never heard any official word on this — a PC port was never even officially announced — so right now the current status of the game is in limbo and, as such, the best means of playing it is still on the humble old Vita. As you might expect, this has meant that demand has shot up for the game in recent years, with CEX listing the title for fifty quid and eBay listings going for anywhere between £35 and £60.

Is it worth that much? Well, I’d argue yes; it would have been around the £35-£40 mark brand new, and there’s several hundred hours of game to enjoy there. Not only that, but used Vita games tend to be in pretty much “as new” condition most of the time, anyway; new Vita games very rarely came with a manual, meaning that all you need for a “complete in box” copy, if that’s what you’re after, is the case, inlay and cartridge itself.

Vita games: Bad Apple Wars

The Vita is also great for otome titles, as there are a number of games in this genre that have never (or rather, not yet) been ported to more modern systems. That situation is changing bit by bit, but there are still a few that, at the time of writing, have never received any indication that they will be getting rereleases or ports to other systems.

A notable example is Bad Apple Wars, from Idea Factory’s popular Otomate brand. This follows the Angel Beats-esque story of a young woman who dies and finds herself in an afterlife that resembles a high school setting. Following the narrative involves siding with the “good apples” or “bad apples” who follow along with or oppose the strange school’s administration, and the story branches according to your decisions.

Bad Apple Wars was well-regarded on its original release for its story, and otome fans to this day continue to praise it for being a great example of the genre. This one actually isn’t too pricey to pick up today, either; CEX lists it for £25, while eBay prices are similar; perhaps a little more if it comes with bonuses such as an art book. As a relatively niche interest, limited release Vita title even on a niche interest platform like Vita, though, this can sometimes be hard to find a copy of — so if you’re interested in it, it’s worth snagging a copy while there are still some out there looking for a good home.

Vita games: MeiQ - Labyrinth of Death

A personal favourite of mine that I’m honestly surprised hasn’t seen a port to PC at the very least is Compile Heart’s excellent dungeon crawler MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death. This title, heavily inspired by the earlier Famicom installments in the Metal Max series, strikes a good balance between accessibility and mechanical depth, being fairly easy to romp through on its default difficulty, but offering an escalating challenge on subsequent playthroughs.

Sadly, as a Vita exclusive relatively late in the system’s lifespan, the game passed by most outlets largely unnoticed, or got only the most cursory of glances if anyone did pay attention to it. Consequently, it was lumbered with what looked like a mediocre critical reception, leading people who live their lives by Metacritic scores to believe it’s not worth bothering with.

Well, I’m telling you now — while it may not be a title necessarily worth buying a Vita for, it’s a game worth picking up if you do happen to have a Vita. It can be a little pricey today — CEX lists it for £48 at the time of writing, while eBay listings go for around £50 in varying degrees of disrepair — but, like Dungeon Travelers 2, there’s a substantial amount of game here to enjoy for the price.

Those are just a few examples of the games that, right now, remain stuck on PlayStation Vita. It’d be lovely to see some of these ported to modern platforms at some point — I’d say the most likely of these is probably Bad Apple Wars, if anything, given the very welcome growing trend for otome titles — but for now, they provide a few good reasons to keep a Vita in your collection.

And, of course, there are plenty more besides — what are some of your favourites?

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Pete Davison
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