Re-playing classic games is something that’s very important to me (and likely something I’m going to continue writing about a lot in future). It’s a joy that’s been rediscovered thanks to Vita, really, due to the console being perfect for playing PS1 classics (and PSP games) without making them look horrible on a big screen, alongside my natural love for the handheld.
I’ve written previously about how the service with classic games on Vita could be improved and one of my major issues was that there are a number of key titles that are completely missing from the PlayStation Store. This inspired me to produce an article about what games are missing and I ended up coming up with about 50 different suggestions – from niche forgotten classics to multi-million selling blockbusters. Over time I narrowed that down to the ten most obvious omissions and I aim to examine what they are; why they’d be great on Vita as well as suggestions for why they’re missing.
Crash Bandicoot was a legitmate celebrity during the PS1 era. His games sold gangbusters and reviewed extremely well; advertising was everywhere and he was the mascot of the platform he was on. Sony decided to book-end his time on the home console with a party-game spinoff entitled Crash Bash, which featured a variety of mini-games ranging from pushing opponents off platforms on the back of a polar bear to shooting gems at targets on the back of a dragon. It didn’t receive the best reviews and was best played with friends, but was a game I still had an absolute blast with.
With every other game in the franchise being available on the store – including the SCE-published Crash Team Racing – it seems a bizarre decision to exclude Crash Bash. With a resurgence in the IP recently – particularly with the upcoming release of the N-Sane Trilogy – perhaps there’s a fleeting chance, but it’s more likely the game will simply be remastered for Sony’s home console. Thankfully, there does seem to be a way to play a beta version of the game on the handheld if you’re into that.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
One of the PSP’s flagship titles was this prequel to Squaresoft’s seminal PS1 RPG Final Fantasy VII. Telling the story of Zach Fair, the SOLDIER whose memories were confused with Cloud’s own during the events of the game, Crisis Core shifted the action into a third-person action-RPG perspective as well as filling in many gaps in the plot of its sequel. The title was a resounding success, selling more than 3.1m copies worldwide and receiving a very positive critical reception. Sadly, despite all this, the game failed to show up on the PSP’s digital store when it launched and is still missing from the Vita’s store too.
The reasoning for this is fairly simple, and unfortunately something that I don’t ever see being resolved. See, the game modelled one of the main characters – Genesis – on the Japanese musician Gackt, who also provided the voice acting for him. Combined with the fact that the end theme – Why – was a licenced track by musician Ayaka, and you have a web of licencing issues to overcome for a digital release that have kept the game as a UMD-only title. This is likely the same reason we don’t have a remaster too, although whether this changes with the advent of the episodic release of the Final Fantasy VII remake remains to be seen.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Square-Enix titles are – sadly – a recurring theme in this article. Despite being one of PSP’s biggest supporters, they haven’t managed to get many of their handheld titles up on digital store and as such Vita is missing a large number of them. This Kingdom Hearts prequel, following the stories of characters Aqua; Terra and Ventus was a late-in-life title for the PSP and remained one of the most beautiful games for the handheld, as well as providing a nice shift in the battle mechanics for the franchise. Critical reception was positive, while sales numbers are unknown but would certainly have been boosted by a digital re-release.
Why Birth by Sleep is missing from digital storefronts is unknown – it was previously suggested it was to do with licencing issues (again) relating to the Disney characters in the game, but these were seemingly overcome with the remastering of the game for the PS3 (and later PS4) in the HD 2.5 Remix collection. Why this couldn’t have also been fixed for a digital release is a mystery, but possibly Square didn’t want people buying this and preferred them to spend their money on the home console versions.
The PlayStation Store has been a pretty good home for classic games, with many franchises fully represented from their PS1 days – things like Spyro the Dragon and Tomb Raider have every entry available on PSN. As such, when the original MediEvil appeared on PSN in 2007 it was easy to assume the sequel would make the jump too – but it never did. The great adventures of Sir Dan Fortesque in Victorian England are therefore confined to the archives, despite the game being a large improvement over its predecessor.
This was particularly surprising as following the re-release of the original game in 2007, the PSP remake MediEvil Resurrection also appeared on PSN in 2008. It seemed a shoe-in the sequel would also release, but this never happened. I can’t really think of any reason for this, other than the fact that perhaps the previous releases didn’t sell enough to justify the investment – but considering it would simply be a ROM dump of a game which Sony already owned the source code for, this shouldn’t have been too much of an investment. With Cambridge Studio now shut down, it seems unlikely this will ever happen, which is a real shame.
Metal Gear Ac!d 1 & 2
Back before PSP’s launch, Konami – publishers of the seminal PS1 game Metal Gear Solid – announced that the handheld would be getting a spinoff game available for its launch entitled Metal Gear Ac!d. Rather than the tactical stealth-action of the main series, Ac!d would focus on turn-based combat using decks of cards – an interesting twist which proved a great fit for handheld play. It was followed by a sequel in 2005, but by 2006 the publisher had decided to shrink the main MGS experience to provide on the go and as such Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was born.
Thankfully Portable Ops, its expansion Portable Ops Plus and its sequel Peace Walker are all available from the PlayStation Store and compatible with Vita, but oddly Ac!d 1 & 2 are missing. Perhaps this is due to the company simply seeing them as outdated in the wake of the newer titles, but personally I think they’re well worth revisiting and would be great on Sony’s new handheld. A glimmer of hope occurred when Metal Gear Solid’s Community Manager stated he would “like it [to happen]” but so far there has been no movement with regards to this.
Ridge Racer Revolution/Ridge Racer 2 (PSP)
Thankfully, Vita is well represented for Ridge Racer games with one from each era – Ridge Racer Type 4 from the PS1; Ridge Racer from the PSP and a native Vita title as well. Despite this, there are still a large number of titles missing – including the original PS1 Ridge Racer and its expansion Ridge Racer Revolution; the often-ignored Rage Racer and the compilation title Ridge Racer 2. Each have their own pros and cons (the early PS1 games have aged rather poorly while Ridge Racer 2 is merely an expansion for the original PSP game) but it would’ve been nice to see them all included on PSN for purchase.
Mostly, these titles had original soundtracks so licencing is unlikely to be an issue – meaning the reason for their omission is something else. Perhaps Namco simply doesn’t see much profit to be made in re-releasing the classics, but personally I’d be very interested in trying the majority of these titles again – particularly Ridge Racer 2 which is largely seen as one of the most content-rich games in the franchise. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame to see them missing from the store.
Star Ocean: First Departure/Star Ocean 2: Second Evolution
The third and final Square-Enix franchise on this list is Star Ocean, the often-ignored action-RPG series that features some crazy sci-fi plots and incredibly enjoyable combat. The original two games were both remade for the PSP in 2007 and 2008 respectively, providing a great way for gamers to re-visit these classic titles; as well as showing the franchise was a perfect fit for portable play. Yet despite this, the games never appeared on digital stores to this day and as such are not playable on Vita.
As with MediEvil, I can’t really think of any reasoning for this aside from laziness. The second game was recently remade for PS4 and Vita in Japan (as a digital-only release) yet the producer announced they have no plans for releasing it in the west, showing the company really doesn’t want western gamers playing Star Ocean 2 on the Vita – for whatever reason.
Tekken 3/Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection
As with Namco’s other franchise Ridge Racer, Tekken is another series which has decent representation on Vita thanks to Tekken 1 & 2 listed as PS1 classics and Tekken 6 available in the PSP’s store. Yet despite this, the series’ two best titles are missing – Tekken 3 from the PS1 was the ultimate in the smooth fighting available at that point; while Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection was a brilliant reinvention of the franchise after the disappointing 4th entry that went on to become one of the PSP’s best reviewed titles as well as a big seller at more than 2.2m.
The reason for the former is easily explained – Tekken 3 features guest character Gon, a dinosaur from a Japanese manga series that likely would’ve been a licencing nightmare to be included in a digital release. But the explanation for Tekken 5‘s absence is less easily explained – as the game seemed to have no licencing hoops to jump through and the PS3 digital version is fully available. Possibly, Namco only wanted people buying the sequel Tekken 6, but this seems like a bizarre oversight considering the sales they’d be passing up by having both games on the store.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2/Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 Remix
Perhaps one of the largest falls from grace in gaming history is the Tony Hawk franchise, which went from a multi-million seller on the PS1 to almost non-existent on the PS4. Despite this, the older games still hold up really well thanks to some tight gameplay mechanics and fantastic level design, meaning they’d fill a gap in the Vita’s library among extreme sports titles. With a whole catalogue of titles to choose from including four Pro Skater games on the PS1 as well as the PSP’s Underground 2 Remix title, you’d think there’d be some representation among the classics on the PlayStation Store – but sadly, every single game is missing.
Once again, the issue seems to come down to licencing – something that has plagued digital re-releases of older games. As the majority of these title’s soundtracks is comprised of songs from real-world artists, this means royalties have to be paid and contracts have to be re-signed for digital versions – something Activision clearly didn’t think was worthwhile and as such the games have never appeared on PSN.
WipEout 2097/WipEout 3: Special Edition
WipEout is a franchise which has always been with PlayStation gamers, starting with the European launch of the PS1 in 1995 right through to the most recent entry Omega Collection in 2017. Psygnosis/Studio Liverpool – the developers – did a good job of supporting Sony’s last handheld with new entries in Pure and Pulse, both of which are available on the PlayStation store alongside the original WipEout game. All the games still look beautiful on Vita’s screen and provide some great portable racing action.
So things looked good for getting the other PS1 entries right? Well, for whatever reason, the vastly improved sequels 2097 and 3: Special Edition are both absent from the store. Possibly this is yet again due to licencing as each game contains licenced tracks from real-world artists – but this was an issue that was overcome for all the games currently on the store, so seems unlikely here. Perhaps, then, the re-release of the original game simply didn’t sell enough to make it worthwhile – but this is a terrible bar to measure things from considering the sequels improved the formula in nearly every aspect, likely meaning bigger potential sales. With Studio Liverpool now shut down, however, it seems increasingly unlikely this will ever happen.
There’s a whole host of other titles that I would love to see available via PSN to download onto Vita – whole franchises are missing like Ace Combat (despite Joint Assault previously being on the store, it’s now removed and neither 2 nor X are available) or Yu-Gi-Oh, which had great entries on both PS1 (Forbidden Memories) and PSP (5D’s Tag Force). On that subject, both Digimon World games from the PS1 era are also not available for whatever reason, despite the resurgence in popularity of the IP thanks to Cyber Sleuth.
From the PS1 side, other classic franchises missing entries include Destruction Derby (which is missing both the second game and Raw); Driver 2; Jet Moto 3 and Twisted Metal 3 & 4. On the subject of Destruction Derby, the vast majority of Psygnosis’ back catalogue isn’t available ranging from all three Colony Wars games to G-Police 2, which is a real shame as they were a big part of establishing the PS1 as a platform.
On the PSP side, fun open-world racing game Test Drive Unlimited is missing, as well as any of the licenced Spider Man games including the brilliant second entry.
Vita has been like a blessing for me to re-discover classic games – I’ve loved how great they look on the screen; how easy they are to dip in and out to thanks to suspend/resume and how well some of them have held up. Yet, for everything Vita gets right in this aspect, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the console’s potential isn’t fully realised thanks to some glaring omissions of older-generation games that aren’t available on the store – and that’s a real shame.
As this article has shown, the vast majority of these come down to licencing issues – something that isn’t easily overcome and may stop some classics ever being re-released unless contracts are re-negotiated. Despite this, some games aren’t held back by licences and as such their omission is baffling – likely just down to laziness, or the publisher not really interested in the small returns from digital titles. This is an area Sony really should have stepped in to help with, but unfortunately we’re too late in the day for that to really matter (thankfully some publishers like Capcom still made strides in regards to this right up until 2016).
Still, I can’t complain too much – I’ll just return to playing Spyro on my Vita, happy that I’ll be able to come back to a handheld version of this in 10 year’s time.