Despite great support from a number of developers and publishers throughout the past five years, ranging from tiny indie studios to huge AAA publishers, Vita has still been a console full of missed potential with genres and franchises sadly missing from the handheld. While games get cancelled for every console in existence, Vita’s lukewarm worldwide sales have meant a number of projects have never seen the light of day that would perhaps have been made had things been different.
What I’m aiming to look at in this article is ten of the more high-profile games which were either officially announced or heavily rumored to be coming to Vita that ended up never appearing, with an examination of what we knew about them; what they could’ve been and what happened to them.
Probably the most high-profile among the list, this one was officially announced at E3 2011 yet went radio silent for many years afterwards, only re-surfacing years later when Ken Levine took to Twitter to explain that he still wishes the game could’ve been made but that Sony and 2K never managed to work out a deal.
Rather surprisingly, it later transpired that the series’ creator didn’t envision the title as an FPS, but rather a turn-based tactics game set in pre-fall Rapture. How this would have panned out is anyone’s guess and there were more than a few rumblings of disappointment that it wasn’t an FPS, but it’s an intriguing concept and Vita has shown itself to be a capable home for games of this style.
At the very least, fans hoped that 2K and Sony would manage to get the iOS version of Bioshock onto Vita but as of the date of this article, that hasn’t happened and seems increasingly impossible given that it has been pulled from the app store and as such we are left completely without the franchise on the handheld.
Perhaps the most surprising cancellation on the list given the studio developing it – Gust, who have released a total of eight Atelier games and two Surge Concerto games for the platform. Chronos Materia was to be a turn-based role-playing game that utilized the company’s strengths in character design; combat and item creation, but what made it unique was a time-travel mechanic that allowed characters to travel back and forth to train up and defeat enemies.
After being announced in 2013 for a release later that year, updates on the title went completely silent for a number of years and it was presumed cancelled until official word came in 2016 that the game was no more. I wonder how much influence Koei-Tecmo’s purchase of Gust had in this decision as they were soon developing much larger-scale games such as Nights of Azure while plowing on with releasing Atelier across multiple platforms (no longer releasing exclusives as they previously did).
Whatever happened, it’s a shame this game didn’t see the light of day – although we have multiple Atelier titles to fill the void, none of them were designed specifically for Vita nor do they have the interesting time-travel mechanics proposed.
Final Fantasy Type-0/Agito
If Chronos Materia is the most surprising cancellation, then Type 0 & Agito are the most insulting. For some history – Type 0 started life as Agito XIII, a mobile game set in the same universe as Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII. As time passed, the project shifted to PSP due to technical constraints with mobile development and was handed to the team who made Crisis Core. The game is an action-RPG with some RTS elements with a darker aesthetic and story than previous titles, that was well-received among import reviewers.
The project released on PSP in late 2011 in Japan and soon gained notoriety among western Vita fans who petitioned hard for its release, given PSP’s decreased prominence at western retail. Progress seemed to be made when a localization was announced on the PlayStation Blog in 2014 which confirmed the game was coming to Vita, only to be quickly amended to PS4/XB1 only which caused outrage among fans (rightfully so).
Months later, a white flag was offered when Square Enix announced that their mobile companion game Final Fantasy Agito (which borrowed heavily from Type-0) would be coming to Vita as an expanded release in 2015. Months went by without any word before the mobile game was shut down and soon after the Vita version was cancelled as the whole game was being repackaged as an online multi-player RPG. The best part? This new title was skipping Vita entirely, releasing only for PC & mobile.
It seems this particular brand of Final Fantasy just was not destined for Vita, despite originating from the PSP and looking to be a great fit for the handheld. The way it was handled by Square Enix was nothing short of atrocious, providing lots of optimism for fans only to shoot this down.
Ghost Recon Final Mission
Of all the games on this list, Ghost Recon Final Mission probably had the least information released about it. All we have to go on was a retailer listing from 2012 that showed the title – alongside Assassin’s Creed 3 – were coming to Vita. Given Assassin’s Creed happened later that year (through the side-story Liberation), it’s safe to assume that Final Mission was at least in consideration if not development at some point (possibly in development at Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation developer Ubisoft Sofia?)
As such, there’s not much for me to say about this game other than why I think it would’ve been great. While the PSP entries were of varying quality, they were part of a much larger line-up of tactical shooters that included Brothers in Arms; Rainbow Six and SOCOM. On Vita, however, Ghost Recon would’ve stood out being the only game of this type aside from the launch title Unit 13, which had already shown us the potential of a good third-person shooter on the handheld thanks to twin-stick controls.
Hyper Light Drifter
One of the most anticipated indie games in recent memory, Hyper Light Drifter is a fast-paced action RPG with a gorgeous pixel art aesthetic; beautiful soundtrack and minimalist story that created an absolute storm on Kickstarter, raising over $645k by its conclusion. Development went fairly smoothly and by early 2016 PC gamers had the game and console ports were to follow but in September, the developer confirmed that Vita (and WiiU) versions were scrapped.
This was particularly frustrating due to the game’s origins on Kickstarter meaning that fans had actually paid for this development and it still wasn’t being delivered; although the developer’s health problems certainly shouldn’t be understated, a contingency plan or porting studio should really have been explored before outright cancellation. Incidentally, Just Add Water (famous for the Oddworld Vita ports) reached out to the developer on Twitter, but so far there has been no update on this front.
Hyper Light Drifter should have sat proudly with other indie classics on Vita – with the likes of Bastion; Hotline Miami and Super Meat Boy, but sadly it wasn’t to be which was another disappointing cancellation for fans of the handheld.
It was only recently that news about this potential port was revealed by series creator Yoko Taro. Supposedly, they wanted to give new players the chance to experience the game while simultaneously adding some extra content, making the game an expanded port which have become fairly commonplace on Vita. Apparently, the title never happened because the team were busy with other projects at the time so it fell by the wayside and after the team were back to working on it again, they’d come up with ideas for a sequel which is now headed for PS4, so the Vita port remained just a pipe dream.
If there’s one thing Vita has shown itself to be a capable home of, it’s quirky Japanese games, and Nier is definitely up there among the quirkiest; having received a particularly notable cult following after its release. Plus, it would provide some nice genre variety being an action game with RPG elements. Sadly it wasn’t to be.
Tales from the Borderlands
Telltale Games seemed to rapidly change from massive Vita supporters to not even touching it without much of an explanation. With the help of Sony, their critically acclaimed masterpiece The Walking Dead: Season 1 was ported to the handheld and they quickly expanded this to include two further games – The Walking Dead: Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us. Following this, Tales from the Borderlands was quickly confirmed at E3 2014 while sizzle reels at E3 2015 showed Game of Thrones and Minecraft Story Mode were also arriving.
Yet, by the start of 2016, none of these games had released and the situation was looking increasingly bleak. Telltale PR man Job Stauffer re-confirmed the company’s commitment to the platform early last year, yet as the holidays hit and there was still no word on any of the games it seemed increasingly likely they weren’t coming – which was compounded by the fact that Telltale refused to respond to any questions about the Vita on social media.
The reason I singled out Tales from the Borderlands is that it’s by far the best looking of the three that were announced – and indeed, the best reviewed, so it was a shame not to see it reach the handheld. Amusingly, the game was actually included on the blue Vita slim’s box when it released in North America along with a “coming soon” release date, meaning Sony definitely had faith the game was coming at one point.
Unseen64 has been a great source for finding out about games we otherwise wouldn’t have known existed and they really pulled through in unearthing details about this. Pitched as a Vita-exclusive title to release in the console’s first year, Terrorforge was a sort of god-game where the player controlled forces of nature to defend planet Earth from alien invaders. It would have made use of both the front and rear touch to control powers such as summoning earthquakes or tornadoes.
Although the game was only ever in the early prototyping stages, it sounded extremely cool and would’ve made a nice addition to the Vita’s library as there really isn’t very much similar on the console or even elsewhere (Eric Chahi’s From Dust being the closest game I can think of), as well as making nice use of the inputs available.
The game was pitched to Sony themselves and – as we’re all aware – they dropped support for Vita fairly swiftly, meaning the game never received a green light in the first place and the title was never shopped around to any other publishers so sadly never saw the light of day.
Warrior’s Lair (aka Ruin)
If there’s one thing fans seem to universally agree is missing from Vita’s lineup, it’s a good loot-heavy dungeon-crawling RPG in the Diablo vein. Although Dungeon Hunter Alliance made a decent budget substitute and things like Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy emulate the experience, there’s really not been anything to properly plug the gap. If it had ever released, Warrior’s Lair would definitely have been that game.
Revealed alongside the console at E3 2011 and originally known as ‘Ruin‘, the game took the dark fantastic aesthetic of so many in the genre inspired by Diablo as well as many of the core mechanics of isometric ARPG’s. Its unique twist was a content creation tool – players could create and edit their own dungeons to store loot in which could then be a location for other adventurers to explore, providing it with a potentially endless stream of content.
Sadly the game hit trouble when its developer, Idol Minds, was taken off the project in April 2012 and development was handed to in-house SCE developer Sony San Diego. After this the project went quiet until its eventual cancellation in July 2013. The reasons for this remain unknown, but prior to cancellation a former developer supposedly predicted its fate and noted that Vita games were given a Metascore target to hit which numerous titles missed, leading to Sony becoming bullish about upcoming projects.
It marked a sad end to a title that would’ve made a fantastic addition to Vita’s library.
Zone of the Enders HD Collection
As with Warrior’s Lair, Zone of the Enders was another announcement at a major press conference that went completely silent – this time being announced at Sony’s pre-TGS press conference in 2011 by none other than Hideo Kojima himself, alongside revealing that Metal Gear Solid HD Collection would also be hitting our handheld. While the latter title did eventually arrive, ZoE HD never did.
Presumably there are multiple reasons for this cancellation. Upon release, the home console versions received some negative feedback for looking bad and running poorly – which took nearly a year to receive a patch and only on PS3 (the Xbox 360 version was never fixed), likely meaning Vita optimisation would have been difficult. In addition, the sales of the PS360 ports were cited by Konami as ‘disappointing’ and plans for a new sequel scrapped. Alongside the Vita’s lukewarm hardware sales, it seemed there wouldn’t be a future for Zone of the Enders on Vita.
As with all the cancellations on this list, it’s a shame to see the game not hit the console – particularly as Vita’s been quite a home for some great mech-action games (Gundam and Macross among others), but it’s also been a nice home for Hideo Kojima’s works (able to play all of the first three Metal Gear Solid games).
I’ve always seen Vita as the little handheld that could – despite lukewarm hardware sales, the console has kept a stream of amazing games coming throughout its life. Whether this was through surprise localization announcements (DanganRonpa; Demon Gaze); indie games which sold well enough for their creators to pledge ongoing support for the console (Retro City Rampage; Thomas Was Alone) or fan-drive movements to get specific titles (Borderlands 2; Oceanhorn), the console is a great place for a number of developers and publishers to release titles.
In spite of this, some titles just haven’t been able to come to fruition for a number of reasons – ranging from performance problems to legal struggles and everything in between, although the biggest hurdle seems to remain that the Vita just hasn’t sold very well. Which has meant a lot of lost potential for fantastic handheld titles – and although I personally don’t feel disappointed with the experience I’ve had with Vita in the slightest, it’s difficult not to lament what could have been.