Although you’ll often hear me pointing out that Vita has continued to get outstanding support throughout its five year (and counting) life, it’s difficult to deny that things are winding down for the system in 2017. Although there’s a flurry of support still coming throughout the year, it’s been increasingly difficult to actually buy the hardware in the west since Christmas and sales also seem to be slowing down in Japan which, combined with lots of the western media and forums I read declaring “Switch is the new Vita and all games should come to Switch going forward”, means the console is likely on its last legs.
In spite of this, we’ve got multiple games already confirmed for 2018 in both the west and east; alongside new announcements happening each day for the console. One in particular inspired me to write this article – a leaked listing for ‘Drive Girls’ on Vita published by Rising Star Games which, combined with the recent confirmation of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory for 2018, made me realise just what a great job the localization houses of the west are doing to keep the console alive. I’ve written articles that have briefly explored this before but I wanted to celebrate that by looking at just what they’re doing, hence I penned this article.
Yet, while writing it also made me realise there were some glaring omissions from this list and I’ll focus on that too – which provides an interesting discussion about why certain companies are going all-in on Vita in its twilight years versus others who seem to have jumped ship a long time ago.
So, without further ado…
Luckily I get to kick off this article with the most surprising Vita supporter of 2017. Aksys have always published games for the handheld, dating back to launch (Blazblue) and have released at least a couple of games every year since with plenty of gems in there (Exist Archive; Shiren), but 2017 seems to be the year they’re really going all-in on the console. Leading the charge is Tokyo Xanadu, the action-RPG from Nihon Falcom which seemed to be a shoe-in for an XSEED localization, but it seems Aksys beat them to the punch on this one. They’ve also picked up four different otome titles from Otomate – Bad Apple Wars; Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~; Collar x Malice; Period Cube, making them by far the most noteworthy otome publisher in the west.
But it’s not just localizations for the company. They’ve also announced a port of the well-received DS title 999: Nine Persons Nine Doors Nine Hours for the console in the form of The Nonary Games, a collection including the sequel Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. It marked the completion of the trilogy on Vita and showed Aksys to be one of Vita’s premier supporters through 2017; particularly as all titles are receiving physical releases.
Atlus (and SEGA)
Compared to Aksys, Atlus have been quieter Vita supporters, yet in spite of this they’ve always had a presence on the console through the years, ranging from internal titles (Persona 4 Golden) to games from their partners (Odin Sphere). 2017 marks an interesting turn as they’ve confirmed 3 games for the year, all from long-time partners – they’re working on the FuRyu-published RPG The Caligula Effect alongside two Aquaplus-published Utawarerumono titles. It’ll make 2017 the year where they’ve released the most games for Vita (combined with 2015) showing they’re definitely in it for the long haul, although Caligula is their first localization which is seeing a digital-only release.
Since 2013, however, Atlus has been a part of SEGA and that definitely has to be part of the consideration too. So far, SEGA only have Valkyria Revolution planned for 2017 – although their Japanese branch has announced Vita’s first 2018 Japanese release in A Certain Magic Virtual-On, the bizarre crossover between A Certain Magical Index and Cyber Troopers Virtual-On. Whether this game comes west is anyone’s guess but hopefully, thanks to Atlus’ influence, we may see it come across (in any event, it should be a fairly easy import for people like me), meaning both companies have a continuing presence on the platform during its latter years.
Since I’ve already covered their ongoing support in my recent article I won’t dwell on this point too long – the summary is that Bandai-Namco have a number of games lined up for so far for Vita in 2017/2018, headlined by Accel World vs. Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight as well as the already-released Super Robot Wars V. However, they also recently committed to a 2018 release in the form of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory, which came as somewhat of a pleasant surprise after Next Order farce.
It’s not all been smooth sailing for the company – just a month ago they announced that Chroma Squad, the Kickstarted strategy game would no longer be coming to Vita despite being continually confirmed for it. In addition, smaller anime titles like Twin Star Exorcists seem to have fallen into the pile of games being skipped, despite its relative popularity. While it’s nice to see the company commit to the console as far in advance as 2018, it came as a bit of a sting to see other games bite the dust.
Idea Factory International
Since being established in 2013, Idea Factory International have been a constant presence on the Vita despite seeing some incredible sales figures on Steam in the same period. They seem to have their strategy nailed down which involves localizing a game for its original platforms before porting it to PC a while later and offering it as a steep discount. This has meant that any Compile Heart-developed Japanese titles is up for grabs, such as Mary Skelter: Nightmares which is scheduled for later this year. They’ve also sporadically gone after their parent company’s otome games and have Hakuouki: Kyoko Winds in the works, but overall 2017 is one of their quieter years so far.
Thankfully, the potential is there for more, as Compile Heart and Idea Factory are still hitting Vita hard in Japan. The problem is an issue of censorship – the company’s president has noted that they won’t localize games anymore if they require censoring. That means that titles like Gun Gun Pixies and Moero Pirates may never find their way west due to excessive fanservice and – as Idea Factory International have never published another company’s games (yet) – we may find their western support dries up sooner rather than later. Still, the company still seem fully on board in 2017 with what is available to them.
As with Bandai-Namco, I’ve already written a recent article covering their support so I won’t dwell on this one too much. The publisher has been one of Vita’s biggest publishers throughout the years and that appears to be continuing into 2017, with games like Atelier Firis; Atelier Shallie Plus; Berserk and the Band of the Hawk; Dynasty Warriors Godseekers and Toukiden 2 already released in the first three months of the year.
However, with the release of Toukiden we now don’t know any of their future plans going forward. They’ve announced a localization of Nights of Azure 2, but given the preceding game only found its way west for PS4 the status of this title on the handheld is unknown. Similarly, they’ve announced further localizations on other consoles for later in the year – Samurai Warriors: Spirit of Sanada and a Romance of the Three Kingdoms expansion, but despite both of these releasing for Vita in Japan, the company has no plans for them in the west. This throws a big question mark over upcoming Japanese titles like Blue Reflection, Gust’s latest stunning-looking RPG. Let’s hope they’re not completely done with the platform yet.
Nippon Ichi Software America
It’s all set to be an absolutely storming year from NISA on Vita, possibly their busiest ever despite the fact they’ve been heavily present during pretty much every year of the handheld’s life. Headlining is Ys VIII, the latest entry in Falcom’s long-running action RPG series; which is joined by DanganRonpa V3, the reboot-sequel to Spike Chunsoft’s visual novel series that found big success on Vita in the west. But this is far from all they’ve got coming – they’ve also announced God Wars; Operation Babel and Tokyo Tattoo Girls as well as a number of Touhou titles – Burst Battle; Double Focus & Genso Wanderer, making them by far the biggest Vita publisher in 2017 in terms of volume.
While the company does seem to be shifting towards a PS4/PC focus, it’s very nice to see them committing to Vita in such large numbers during its final years. While I can’t help but lament some of the games that have been skipped from their parent company (particularly noteworthy for me are Coven and the Labyrinth of Refrain and Hero Must Die), I’m just happy they’re bringing some quality titles to the west and giving the console some much needed life during 2017.
Sekai Project have long been promising Vita support dating back years, yet despite multiple Kickstarters being funded and reaching their Vita stretch goals they’ve yet to release a game on the platform. Things finally seemed to be kicking into gear by the middle of 2016 with the announcement that they were partnering with Mighty Rabbit Studios to bring Fault Milestone One and Rabi-Ribi to the platform, alongside re-confirmation of the World End Economica trilogy. They even announced a port of the well-received Narcissu 10th Anniversary Anthology, although it seemed that an extra PS4 release was the driving force for all of these.
Whether all of these titles come to fruition or not remains to be seen as they’ve still released absolutely nothing for the platform, but the intention is there. They’ve also promised versions of the Grisaia trilogy and Root Double in the past, so hopefully these will release on the console in the not-too-distant future and lead to an ongoing stream of Visual Novels for the handheld.
In addition, there are plenty of smaller localization teams who are still bringing handheld content to the west in 2017, a number of which are quite surprising given their history on the platform. Leading the charge is Gaijinworks, a long-time PSP supporter made of ex-Working-Designs staff who have finally made the jump to Vita with their first title Summon Night 6. Given they supported PSP until its dying breath, the hope is that we’ll see further titles from them going forward (although the small size of the team may be a factor in this).
More interesting is a recent leaked listing of Drive Girls published by Rising Star Games, a company who have only really touched Vita to handle European distribution of things like Sorcery Saga and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. The game is developed by their parent company Bergsala Lightweight likely explaining the surprise pick-up, but it still shows a level of commitment to the platform even at this late stage in the day.
But who is missing?
Well, there are a number of localization team who have worked rather extensively on Vita in past years that are missing off this list, right? I’ve saved these for last because – while they may have one or two titles planned throughout the year, in general the Vita seems to be seeing a decreased output from them in 2017 or they’ve chosen to skip over a large number of titles which they would normally have picked up in other circumstances. Whether this is rectified by announcements that have yet to happen remains to be seen, but I felt these needed to be explored separately.
Perhaps one of Vita’s biggest supporters during 2016 with games like Gal Gun; Root Letter; Steins;Gate 0 and Valkyrie Drive. the publisher seem to have found themselves a loyal fanbase on the handheld for their particular niche of games. Unfortunately, they currently have nothing announced or scheduled for 2017.
In spite of this, it seems highly likely they’re going to at least announce some titles – a recent Kotaku article hinted at this and a recent retailer leak seemed to suggest the games will be Chaos;Child; Punchline and YU-NO, continuing the company’s focus with Visual Novels on the handheld. It’s not a massive surprise that we haven’t seen any of these announced yet as they seem to be more active with publishing in the second half of the year, but without any confirmation I have to include PQube with the other publishers who appear to be having a quieter 2017.
While the giant of Japanese publishing had a surprising amount of high-profile titles for Vita in 2016 – led by World of Final Fantasy alongside Dragon Quest Builders, 2017 is comparatively quiet for them. They do have one title lined up – their port of SNES classic JRPG Romancing Saga 2, but this has already seen numerous delays despite the fact the mobile counterpart released in May 2016. It doesn’t bode well for the recently announced Vita port of Romancing Saga 3.
In addition, despite them localizing the PS4 version of Dragon Quest Heroes II, the company have decided to skip releasing the Vita version in the west altogether, a baffling decision considering the work is already done. Perhaps it’s to boost the sales of their recently announced Switch port of the game, but it seems insulting to Vita fans especially considering what a good job Square Enix were doing of supporting the console over the past 12 months.
Now here’s where I may get a bit of flak. XSEED are supporting Vita in 2017 – they’ve already released Fate/Extella and have just announced that Akiba’s Beat will be releasing in May. That puts them on as many titles as Idea Factory International, a company I was just praising above for continuing to support the handheld. So what gives?
Well, rather than it being what XSEED are doing, it’s what they’re not doing. Since 2015, they’ve been increasingly skipping titles from their parent company that released on Vita – these include Luminous Arc Infinity; Net High and Uppers. In addition, they’ve let games that should have been sure-fire localizations for them go to competitors – notably Tokyo Xanadu went to Aksys and Ys VIII went to NISA despite XSEED’s long-standing relationship with developer Nihon Falcom.
It’s difficult not to see the reasons for this as being Vita-related. Tokyo Xanadu was originally a Vita-exclusive when it was first released, and Aksys’ announcement of the game was just after the revelation of a PS4 port – meaning the contracts were likely signed while the game was only on Vita (hinting XSEED either chose not to localize it or lost out on bidding). Indeed their parent company’s game – Valkyrie Drive – was actually localized by PQube by some miracle, despite the fact that XSEED would almost certainly have right of first refusal on it. This is only conjecture, but they appear to have stopped picking up any Vita-exclusive games going forward for whatever reason.
Possibly, this is because their focus seems to increasingly be on PC going forward as confirmed in a recent interview with Ken Berry, so despite the fact that they supported PSP for nearly 8 years with games such as Trails in the Sky SC releasing in 2015, they may already be all but done with Vita. Let’s hope not, because they’ve brought some fantastic games to the handheld in the past and whatever happens going forward, they have a track record of fantastic support.
While the continued support of a small number of long-time Vita friendly publishers is in question, it’s undeniable that the console is being given a bright future through 2017 thanks to the efforts of a number of localization houses. We’ve even had a number of 2018 games confirmed and which I don’t expect this to be the norm going forward, it seems the handheld is definitely picking up PSP’s mantle of being a haven for niche titles in its latter years; something which I’m incredibly happy with and very much looking forward to.