The Return of the Portable
I spend my daily commute behind the wheel. After a great deal of experimenting, I have found that this arrangement is not well suited to playing 3DS or Vita. Back when I commuted by train, I had about an hour a day for Nintendo and Sony on the go, allowing me to enjoy my DS and PSP without cutting into home console time or running the risk of crashing into a tree. Once car replaced train, handhelds became a far less important part of my video game routine. However, this has started to change over the last couple of months. I've been spending evenings playing my portables on the sofa, in bed and sometimes even standing up, resting my elbows on a windowsill or other surfaces of a similar height. Like a kitchen table, for example.
I like having something that is instantly accessible, a game and platform for when I have only fifteen minutes to spare. I'm not going to turn on my PS3/WiiU/360 for anything less than thirty minutes, as by the time I've sat through the sign-ins, updates (Sony!) and loading screens it's hardly worth the bother. As I try to cram more things into an ever tighter schedule, I need my video games to be more flexible than ever before. To this end, my PS Vita has proved invaluable over the last few months. Short-burst experiences and the ability to power down mid-game, then jump back in later and immediately pick up where I left off, have made it my go-to gadget for whenever time is of the essence.
Persona 4 Golden kept my Vita and I occupied for almost four months. While we did share many extended sessions, most of the time I tackled Golden in bite-size chunks, clearing a couple of in-game days or a level or two in the latest dungeon. I finally beat P4G earlier this month, and immediately found myself pining for another portable distraction. Fortunately, I found one in Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F.
I picked up a copy of SEGA's vocaloid rhythm game when I was in Tokyo earlier this year. The series has enjoyed a great deal of success in Japan, but until recently Sega had shown zero interest in introducing their digital pop star to other territories. With the exception of its vibrant colour scheme, I am not a fan of the art style, but otherwise I have thoroughly enjoyed my fortnight with Miku and friends.
The gameplay mechanics are the standard fare - you press the face buttons and tap the screen in time to visual prompts - but they are perfectly suited to the platform. The original compositions, over thirty tracks in all, range from catchy to downright unbearable, though there's definitely more of the former. The music videos are colourful, charming and creative and I have found it to be the perfect game for short, portable sessions.
Hatsune Miku is not the only Vita game vying for my attention. Thomas Was Alone is now free for EU PS+ subscribers, and will soon be joined by side-scrolling shoot-em-up Sine Mora. I've had my eye on Sine Mora since it first appeared on XBLA last year and it looks well suited to my Vita habits. I'm yet to make up my mind about Soul Sacrifice - I approve of the concept but the artistic direction does nothing for me - but it is another potential reason to snub TV and console; once I finish 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS) I'll be moving onto Virtue's Last Reward on Sony's platform. The Vita's forthcoming line-up does not inspire confidence, but I have no shortage of titles to keep me occupied in the coming months.
While Nintendo may be disappointed with 3DS sales in the West, their handheld is certainly not short on quality software, with the promise of much more to come. The most recent Nintendo Direct was crammed full of announcements worth getting excited about, even if you don't give a shit about red and green Marios. The Nintendo faithful are well catered for, with a new Yoshi's Island, A Link to the Past and much more on the horizon, but there are also plenty of RPGs and strategy-focused titles to excite the less Nintendo-centric consumer, like me.
Fire Emblem Awakening is finally out in Europe, and is destined to rule my thumbs over the coming months. I even considered upgrading to an XL for FEA but decided that was a little too indulgent, considering I've just bought a Wii U. I'd been pining for a localised Bravely Default for bloody ages - perhaps I should buy an XL? - and might even be convinced to try Soul Hackers, if the price is right. I thought Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate would be my 3DS mainstay this year, but the Wii U version, now with off-screen play, has made it surplus to requirements.
My preference has always been for home console gaming, but I'm rather enjoying this mini, portable renaissance. While most iOS games bring me out in a rash, I'm finding it increasingly easy to find video game satisfaction on handheld devices. It's great that the Vita and the 3DS have forced their way into the rotation and are challenging the living room dominance of my PS3, though I could probably do without the hand cramp.