The fourth in a series of articles I’m writing, looking at Vita’s success in providing a portable version of classic consoles. I’ll look at what games are available on the handheld (including PS1 & PSP versions through backwards compatibility) as well as what titles are missing that were re-released other platforms (and titles that have never been updated beyond the original hardware). I’ll be including straight ports of titles and emulated versions, as well as sequels to popular series and (in some cases) spiritual successors.
My previous two articles on this subject were about Sony consoles (PS1 & PS2), both of which received extensive representation on the handheld, while the first piece (Dreamcast) was about the last home console from a company who became a third-party publisher following its demise, leading to lots of ports of its games to other systems. Xbox doesn’t really fit into either of these brackets – but oddly, Vita seems to have gained a decent number of defining games from the original Xbox console, so I thought it would be a fun experiment to examine this subject as the next in this series.
When launching the Xbox, Microsoft managed to court various third-party developers to create content exclusively for their new console and one of the key players they managed to get on board was Team Ninja – creators of the Dead or Alive franchise that had originally debuted on the original PlayStation before shifting to Microsoft’s line of consoles beginning with the third entry.
The series began as a collection of fighting games and Vita received a port of the fifth entry (Dead or Alive 5 Plus) in 2013 which brought the tight hand-to-hand based combat to a portable format. Yet it became equally well-known for the busty proportions of its female heroines – which was fully showcased on the handheld thanks to a first-person mode allowing you to fight on a beach using touch controls (which was somewhat superfluous to the experience).
While the mainline series was adding ‘interesting’ features such as these to bring in a certain type of gamer, the developer went further on both the original Xbox and then on Vita with a spin-off entitled Xtreme Beach Volleyball (the Vita version is titled Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Venus). Focusing even more heavily on the pervy elements, these games are loosely based around beach volleyball but feature a variety of other minigames – yet the main draw is undoubtedly the ability to watch the DOA girls lying around on a beach wearing next to nothing.
It wasn’t just the Dead or Alive series that Team Ninja made a name for themselves with though – in 2004 they released Ninja Gaiden exclusively for Xbox, a reboot of the popular NES-era action games redesigned for western audiences. It proved to be a massive success, selling more than than 350k in North America in the first month alone – it was eventually remade for PS3 subtitled Sigma which was itself ported to Vita for the console’s launch as Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. Combined with the port of the game’s Xbox 360 sequel, it made Vita into the ultimate portable Ninja Gaiden machine.
Aside from courting Team Ninja for Dead or Alive, another franchise Microsoft managed to get on board for Xbox was Oddworld. Lorne Lanning’s oddball series that follows the threat to native species from industrial corporations was born on the PS1, but saw its third entry Munch’s Oddysee land on Xbox in 2001 followed by a spin-off Stranger’s Wrath in 2005 – both of which were ported to Vita (and thankfully received physical releases through Limited Run Games). While Munch brought the series into the third dimension, Stranger introduced first-person shooter mechanics that produced one of the most unique titles on both platforms.
Microsoft also worked heavily with SEGA following the failure of their Dreamcast machine and exit from the console market. The main game that benefited from this partnership was Phantasy Star Online, for which Vita received the sequel Phantasy Star Online 2 in 2013 – although sadly unlike the original, this title never left Japan. Other franchises made the jump too – a sequel to Jet Set Radio (subtitled Future) landed in 2002 which to this day remains exclusive to the console, although Vita thankfully got a port of the original from the Dreamcast (oddly, a very similar thing happened with Crazy Taxi which had two entries on the Dreamcast then the third came exclusively to Xbox, although PSP received a compilation of the original games entitled Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars, which was a decent substitute).
These weren’t the only SEGA games to land on Xbox of course – it managed to get a port of the first two Super Monkey Ball games (Deluxe) while Vita received its own bespoke entry entitled Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz; plus Xbox received things like Puyo Pop Fever while Vita was given the newer entry Puyo Puyo Tetris (sadly, the brilliant Outrun 2006 came to both Xbox and PSP but the handheld version was never added to PSN).
Microsoft were also able to leverage their links with the PC development community when making the original Xbox, where various genres had made few inroads into the console market. Among these were management games, of which the market leader Championship Manager made its console debut in 2002 – years later the PSP would receive multiple entries from 2005 to 2007, which can be grabbed on Vita via the PlayStation Store. Sony’s newest handheld would also receive its own entry Football Manager Classic 2014, carrying on the Xbox tradition of management sims on consoles.
Elsewhere, a variety of western-developed games were available as multi-platform releases with the PS2, many of which I covered in my article on the subject. Among the more notable titles are two LEGO Star Wars games (Vita received a sequel LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as the PSP title LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars), a trilogy of Spy Hunter titles (Vita received a reboot in 2012 which was sadly quite poorly received) as well as multiple FIFA and Madden releases. A couple of games were given HD makeovers too – the bizzare isometric brawler The Bard’s Tale as well as quirky car combat title Cel Damage.
A couple of Japanese developers were on board too – Koei-Tecmo released multiple Dynasty Warriors games as well as the first Samurai Warriors which both received iterative sequels on Vita (as well as backwards-compatible PSP games), while SNK ported both Metal Slug 3 and Samurai Shodown V to Xbox (which were later ported to Vita, although the latter came across in its V Special expanded version). Interestingly, Xbox also received two Robotech games (which is the western title of the Macross franchise) while Vita received Macross Delta Scramble – a thoroughly enjoyable version based on the latest version of the anime.
Backwards-compatible PSP games
Despite PS2 being the runaway market leader during the sixth generation, one area the Xbox seemed to have Sony’s console beaten was in shooters – both first and third-person – which seemed to show up in far greater numbers on Microsoft’s machine. Of course, that’s likely to do with the fact that Halo was the flagship franchise for the Xbox brand, but it still made for an interesting point.
One franchise that was especially prominent on Microsoft’s console was Tom Clancy, across a number of different sub-series. Among these, the biggest was probably Ghost Recon – Xbox received multiple bespoke entries as well as expansion packs (which did not land on PS2/Gamecube) and while PSP didn’t get these, it did get a port of Advanced Warfighter 2 as well as its own entry Predator (both of which are available on Vita through the PS Store, where they play much better than they did on Sony’s first handheld).
Xbox was also a very good home to Rainbow Six, where it received multiple exclusive expansion packs just as with Ghost Recon (it seems Microsoft and Ubisoft had a very strong relationship). Vita didn’t receive a bespoke version, but thanks to backwards-compatibility the PSP entry Rainbow Six Vegas is available – which isn’t quite the same, but provides a decent fix (alternatively you could try the PS1 original, which isn’t very good). Splinter Cell also flourished on Xbox, and PSP received its own compilation entitled Splinter Cell Essentials which is transferable to Vita.
Elsewhere, things like Gearbox Software’s Brothers in Arms was doing well on Xbox (PSP got a compilation port of the first two titles in Brothers in Arms: D-Day); Medal of Honor had made its way across from being PS1-only to landing on Microsoft’s machine too (PSP received two titles – Medal of Honor Heroes and its sequel, both of which work on Vita in North America) while Star Wars was flourishing with Star Wars Battlefront II (PSP also received two bespoke sequels). For a different type of shooting, there’s also a port of Gun (subtitled Showdown) as well as a handheld version of Ubisoft’s racing-combat hybrid 187: Ride or Die (known as Street Riders).
Aside from these, a couple of interesting oddities exist. Dead or Alive Xtreme – which I previously mentioned got a three-quel on Vita, also got its Xbox 360-exclusive sequel ported to Sony’s last-gen handheld entitled Dead or Alive Paradise (albeit with a few features stripped out). An updated version of Sid Meier’s Pirates! also landed on PSP despite swerving Sony’s line of home consoles altogether (but did debut on Microsoft’s Xbox), providing a nice dose of strategy-laden loot-plundering fun.
Otherwise, Xbox shared a large amount of its library with PS2 and therefore many of the titles I covered in my previous article on this subject are still relevant here. Things like Burnout, Driver, Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt, Midnight Club, Need for Speed, Prince of Persia and SSX exist on both consoles and received down-ports or bespoke versions on PSP, which in turn are available on Vita through backwards-compatibility.
I decided to write this article for a bit of fun after realising a number of previously-exclusive Xbox series had come to Vita including Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden and Oddworld. The fact I was able to find enough similarities between the two software systems to write a whole 1500-world piece about it goes to show how much overlap there actually is.
Of course, this is still the weakest in my series as the original Xbox was defined by two different types of games that Vita sadly lacks. The first is Microsoft’s own first-party titles – led by Halo which arguably shaped a generation of first-person shooters, the console also held key series such as Fable and Forza. The second area that Xbox stood out was in its selection of western-developed RPG’s and shooters that made the leap across from PC – everything from Counter Strike to Doom to Elder Scrolls to Knights of the Old Republic helped to shape Xbox, which is a type of support Vita never received.
Vita and Xbox both lived their lives in the shadow of other consoles, under-appreciated for what they were capable of (both substantially more powerful than their competitors) and the library of games they have access to. While Microsoft rushed off to make the Xbox 360 when the original wasn’t a success, Sony finished their handheld line with Vita – but by revisiting the games that are available on both, you might find some brilliant surprises which show that both companies should have paid a little more attention to their discarded machines during their lifespans.