I can’t wish the PlayStation Vita a happy fifth birthday because it’s been dead for a while now. The portable console has become a safe haven for indie games and Japanese visual novels, but third-party developers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts along with Sony itself have reduced their Vita support to a smattering of annual cash-grabs. Yet every month when I pack for a flight, my Vita feels very much alive.
My Nintendo 3DS and iPad offer new games, though I typically prefer passing long trips by sifting through my Vita backlog. I’m at varying points in the lengthy stories of the platform’s many fantastic role-playing games. Some flights I pick at Persona 4 Golden, others I sink a couple hours into Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. I rarely make time for the genre at home, where I have chores to do, books to read, and other flashier games to play on the living room TV. But the Vita has been a re-introduction of sorts to the kind of games my younger self got lost in.
Spelunky and Persona, what more do you need?
The slim portable contains all my favorite video game comfort food, too. My favorite video game (Spelunky), my long-standing guilty pleasure (Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space), my go-to time waster (Resogun). There’s Joe Danger, Sound Shapes, and SteamWorld Heist; Fez, Shovel Knight, and Rayman Origins.
I can play many of these games on a console or PC, and some of them have made their way to my 3DS or my iPhone. But the Vita is the only hardware that feels like a complete and portable video game library — at least without buying a $2,000 laptop that weighs roughly the same as a toddler.
Sure, the Vita rarely gets new games in 2017. But I haven’t even started Steins; Gate 0, Zero’s Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, Three Fourths Home, or the many story-heavy games my peers recommend. Though I do wonder if I should download those games soon. As unlikely as it is, I worry Sony might shut down the Vita’s digital story without notice. (Remember: Sony unceremoniously shuttered PlayStation Mobile in 2015, ceasing the distribution of games like Passing Time and Tokyo Jungle Mobile.)
Perhaps then the Vita isn’t truly dead so long as the store is online. In the age of digital stores and multiplayer servers, entire games and communities truly disappear when a company decides it's financially responsible to pull the plug. Sony may not have love for its disappointing little machine, but it hasn’t cut the cord. I can still sign on to the PlayStation Network, download the games I’ve missed, and make my perfect portable even better.
Is it the best portable on the market? No, sadly. But for what I need, it’s just good enough.