Whether your console is a runaway success or an abject failure, game cancellations happen. Many projects run into problems during development – whether it be issues with scope and focus (such as Deep Down on PS4) or simply technical problems in porting (such as Steep on Nintendo Switch), an announcement doesn’t necessarily mean that a release will happen.
Vita has seen a larger than usual amount of cancellations due to its lukewarm sales and aging mobile hardware – it’s something I’ve already looked at two years ago, but decided to revisit given we’ve seen a number of new projects stall in recent months.
So 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.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
Vanillaware, despite their stature as a tiny independent Japanese studio, have arguably been one of Vita’s best supporters between their port of the beloved Muramasa, their loot-heavy dungeon crawler Dragon’s Crown and stunning update of the PS2 classic Odin Sphere. So when they announced they were working on a new game named 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim for Vita and PS4, expectations were high that they’d deliver another brilliant experience on Sony’s handheld, even if it was another genre shift for the company (this time to a pseudo visual novel).
Sadly that didn’t come to be as years passed without any update on the game (including two Tokyo Game Show press conferences) and it was formally cancelled for Vita at the end of 2018. The process in making 13 Sentinels seems to have been troubled and there’s a paid demo coming out for PS4 in March, seemingly a sign that they’re trying to raise funds due to its protracted time in development to finish it off. It’s a shame that Vita had to lose out as a result of these problems as there’s a potentially gorgeous title underneath all this mess.
The Banner Saga
Possibly the only Vita game to hold the accolade of being cancelled not once but twice makes The Banner Saga a double whammy of missed opportunities. Stoic Games’ epic strategy RPG was originally announced to be coming to the platform from the developers themselves before development was halted in December of 2015. In stepped Gio Corsi and his Third Party Productions team (with the assistance of experienced porting studio Code Mystics) but even they couldn’t save the ill-fated project from a second cancellation in July of 2017.
Various reasons surrounding technical difficulties were given both times which suggest we may well have dodged a bullet here – it’s also worth noting that they only ever confirmed we were getting the first title in a fairly interlinked trilogy which hints that we may have been left high and dry after the first one. Still, given all the critical acclaim it has received over the years it was difficult not to be at least a little excited – made worse when a Nintendo Switch port of all three games was announced rapidly after the cancellation.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Oh Bloodstained, you were the chosen one. You were the Kickstarter project that was supposed to show all the others how it was done and deliver a compelling metroidvania on all the platforms originally promised – there was even a seasoned developer hired specifically to handle the Vita and Wii-U ports. Yet as time went on the game was repeatedly delayed and developers dropped out painting a bleak picture, leading to the inevitable cancellation announcement which occurred in 2018 – the year it was supposed to release and three years since the successful crowdfunding campaign.
Coming from the mind of Koji Igarashi, the man behind many of the most beloved entries of the Castlevania franchise including Symphony of the Night, it seemed like a perfect game for Vita and was a real shame to see it finally go (it even made my most anticipated titles for 2018). On the plus side, at least they offered refunds for all backers and still gave us the rather brilliant 8-bit tie in Curse of the Moon, which is a minor consolation prize.
City Shrouded in Shadow
Japan has been Vita’s most constant source of support, so it’s always surprising to see a game from the region cancelled despite the console’s relatively strong hardware sales over there. City Shrouded in Shadow is a spinoff to the popular Disaster Report series (which was last seen on PSP) that sees you escaping a city being attacked by a variety of Japanese monsters including Godzilla and Ultraman – which sounds like a fantastic mix of action and survival horror that I’d love to see.
Sadly, after being announced the project went silent for years before resurfacing as a PS4-only release (just like 13 Sentinels) despite the developer saying the Vita cancellation wasn’t due to specs. Oddly the game is still Japan-only, although import reviews seem largely positive (despite some abysmal framerate drops at time) making it a real shame we can’t play it on Vita – which has been a really good home for quirky Japanese titles like these.
Tower defence is a genre that seems well-suited to handhelds, offering bite-sized missions to chip away at on the go. Yet precious few developers actually attempted this – Aegis of Earth, Defender’s Quest, Final Horizon and Pixeljunk Monsters were a few of the standouts but otherwise you’re pretty stuck, and there’s even fewer that offer action elements too (Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force is pretty much your only option, despite its plethora of technical problems). It was a gap in the market that desperately needed filling, so it seemed perfect that Trendy Entertainment’s beloved Dungeon Defenders was announced to be making the jump across.
In Dungeon Defenders you play as one of a variety of classes in a third-person action game that also allows you to build structures to defend your base in an addictive mix of genres that was very well received upon its initial release. It never saw light of day on Vita as the developers shifted resources to other projects, which is a crying shame as I can’t think of many titles which would be better suited to being a part of the handheld’s library.
Game of Thrones
There was a time when Telltale Games, creators of the critically acclaimed The Walking Dead and the company heralded as being saviors of the narrative adventure genre, seemed to be going all-in on Vita. On top of their two zombie games as well as the cult hit The Wolf Among Us, they’d also announced that Minecraft: Story Mode and Tales from the Borderlands would be coming – as well as their take on the hugely popular Game of Thrones IP. Sadly, not a single one of these actually made it out.
I’d included Tales from the Borderlands in my previous list but Game of Thrones seemed just as interesting – taking place between the third and fourth seasons of the TV show and having a new cast interacting with the established characters while forcing you to make choices that would ultimately decide their fates. We never got a reason why it didn’t happen, although the sudden and unexpected closure of the studio suggests there were a lot of problems being the scenes that went beyond Vita.
Despite the fact that independent games have flourished on Vita throughout its life, we’ve seen a tonne of cancellations in recent years ranging from high-profile (see Bloodstained above) to the very minor (whatever happened to Collectems, the Pokemon clone that was announced in 2014?). One that hit me hardest was JYDGE from 10tons (one of Vita’s biggest supporters) that looked to be their most ambitious and exciting title yet.
As the name suggests, this is heavily inspired by Judge Dredd and casts you as a cybernetically-enhanced law enforced required to raid strongholds and bring criminals to justice. Offering a continuation of the gameplay ideas established in Neon Chrome (which I absolutely loved, even with its performance issues) in a similarly dystopian futuristic setting, it seemed to be a perfect handheld game – at least the option to play on Nintendo Switch is there, but this is one I’d much rather have been playing on my Vita.
Avid readers of my site will know that I’m a big fan of importing Japanese-only action games on Vita, so it’s always a disappointment when one is announced and my excitement builds only for it to get cancelled along the way. That’s unfortunately what happened with Killing Bites, based on the popular anime about humans who transform into beasts called ‘hybrids’ and fight in deadly underground tournaments.
If you’re thinking “that sounds like Bloody Roar” then that was the impression I got too – and I’ll always be happy to see more things like Bloody Roar. Sadly, we knew very little about the game – other than being an ‘action’ title we knew little about its genre or gameplay structure (I suspect it would have been a brawler in the vein of Senran Kagura, but that’s just pure guesswork based on what has been popular on the handheld) and it was unceremoniously cancelled for both PS4 and Vita two years after being announced, without an ounce of gameplay footage to show for it. A real shame, because I’d like to have seen what could be done with Killing Bites.
Medal of Honor
One of the things PSP did that no handheld had really done before it was demonstrate that full-fat shooters were possible on the go. In the realm of first-person games Medal of Honor Heroes was the shining example of what could be done while SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo and its sequels were its equivalent in terms of third-person titles. Vita never really received the same love, so when it was unearthed that SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3 developers Slant Six Games had been working on a Vita-exclusive Medal of Honor, it certainly made me lament what could have been.
Now sure, the developer’s pedigree certainly wasn’t stellar (they were responsible for the average SOCOM: Confrontation and fairly poor Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City on PS3 after all) but their handheld output was fairly solid and they clearly knew how to craft a good game when following the right template. Vita is in desperate need of more FPS titles and Killzone Mercenary showed just how impressive a custom-built portable FPS could be – making it a real shame that this one never came to pass.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus
There was a time when Sony were pushing their cross-buy initiative hard (where you buy a title once for both PS3 and Vita), particularly with their own family-friendly titles like PlayStation All-Stars and Sly Cooper. Ratchet & Clank also received this treatment with Q-Force, but it seems that we were also going to get that game’s sequel Into the Nexus at one point too, until it was scrapped even after multiple ratings boards had leaked news of the port.
As the final entry in the Future sub-series, Nexus was a return to the traditional third-person-shooting-meets-3D-platformer gameplay that had made the franchise such a success in the first place. It mixed in some fantastic gravity elements with a handful of the most open environments ever seen in a Ratchet title – I had a blast when I played it on PS3, even if it was a bit on the short side. I’d guess it was cancelled because the port was being handled by Tin Giant who had made a right mess of Q-Force, but I was personally really disappointed that it never happened.
The past couple of years of Vita’s life have exposed the unfortunately cold and harsh reality of game development – that initial intentions can be good, but weak hardware sales provides a perfect reason for a company not to bring their title to a console. We’ve seen this from studios of every size – little independent developers (JYDGE), to projects where gamers themselves funded the development (Bloodstained), to mid-sized Japanese publishers (13 Sentinels) and even juggernauts like Sony themselves (Ratchet).
Vita’s software library has always massively surpassed my expectations and it has received a variety of games I never thought were possible – and for that I’m incredibly grateful, but the 10 games in this list would have made some more brilliant additions and I can’t help but wish they’d somehow managed to happen.