Friday, December 18, 2015

Game Diary - still in love with my Vita.

Today, I got an email update from GamesIndustry.biz.  They pop up every morning around 10:30, and whenever a big (really big) story breaks - but usually they're just ignored.  Today, one of the two lead stories was "2015: The Year That Handhelds Died."

Which is weird.  'Cause I spent all last night in rapt joy, clutching my Vita and thrilling to Bastion.  For a start.


Every time I talk about Bastion on Vita, I kind of just say "it's frickin' awesome" and link to its review or that of its spiritual sequel, Transistor - but that's doing it a disservice.  In the same way Dragon's Crown's presence on Vita gave the game insanely long legs, having a little slice of perfection on a handheld with excellent controls is... meaningful gaming.

Bastion, like Transistor, is such an accomplished little thing.  The way the game constantly - right up until the last hour - is dropping new weapons, new mechanics, new strategies on the player, refusing to let things get stale.  The way the titular Bastion comes alive at your touch, and becomes the menu through which you specialize your Kid as a rough-and-tumble melee fighter or a potion-packin' special-move specialist, all the weapon-specific challenge rooms, and it's presentation isn't good or great - it's oh-my-God incredible.

Everything about Bastion is five out of five stars, and I can slip it into my pocket when I'm ready for a pause in the action.


But a lot of good stuff has become available on my Vita, as of late, so I shut down Bastion and tried out Metal Slug 3.  Metal Slug 3's arcade version was ported to the Vita earlier in the year, and fans went kind of nuts about it - but Metal Slug held no great nostalgia-driven sway over me, so I ignored it at its fifteen dollar price point.

Giant tank/crab!  Runnnn!

I mean, yeah, it's a classic action game with beautifully-animated 2D sprites - which is enough to get me on board with anything, as a rule - but I didn't want to dip my toe in unknown waters, at the time.  Last week it went on sale for like, five bucks or something.

Played through the first mission.  Pretty good!  Massive boss fight.  Second stage boots up and... are those zombies?  Oh noes, the zombie killed me!



And that... is suddenly one of the greatest games of all time.  All hype justified.  I got to the end of stage 2 and found myself standing before a colossal alien construct.  This must be the source of the zombie plague!  Oh noes - a half-dozen gigantic alien monsters?

You mean I gotta' to kill those now?  Wait a minute - that ain't right - let me rephrase.

You mean I get to kill those?


Then, satisfied that Metal Slug 3 was as incredible as everyone had suggested, I rolled over into Nuclear Throne.  Nuclear Throne, it has been said, is the pure-action love child of Hotline Miami and Spelunky.  As in, imagine if a game had Spelunky's Roguelike nature and razor-sharp controls, with Hotline Miami's top-down shooter/melee pastiche.

I had thrown it a half-hour last week, but last night I snuggled into it, and let it dash my brains across its irradiated wasteland again and again as I pushed a teensy bit further, each time, against its harcore-but-not-insurmountable challenge, and here's the thing... I think Nuclear Throne might be as incredible as everyone is suggesting, too.


And even as I wallow in this cornucopia of handheld awesome, I'm looking over my shoulder at all the RPGs and indies I didn't have time to play on my Vita this year, where Ar Nosurge remains in its first act, multiple Disgaeas bat their eyes and Teslagrad and Super Meat Boy chill out with other indie luminaries like Limbo and Super Time Force.  And I'm looking ahead to Atelier Escha & Logy Plus and the Japanese release of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir in January.  I'm looking forward to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel coming out this Tuesday.

And yeah... maybe GamesIndustry is right.  Maybe the Vita and the 3DS will be the last of the dedicated handhelds, but maybe that ain't so bad.

Maybe that means they'll have legs as long as Dragon's Crown, once it landed on a handheld.

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