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Curse of the Early Adopter, Or: Why I Just Bought a PS Vita Again

Games, people. Games. That’s what it really comes down to.

That’s why I’m sitting here staring my new PS Vita, the second one I’ve bought in the past two years.

Yup, I was one of the early adopters that bought a PS Vita back in early 2012 when it debuted in the U.S. And by January of 2013, I had traded my Vita in when I purchased a WiiU. The main reason I got rid of the Vita (other than needing cash for the WiiU), was because of the lack of good Vita games. The irony is that I traded in the Vita and bought a console that had the exact same problem as the Vita. But that’s a sob story for another time.

Fast forward to 2014, and I grabbed one of the Walking Dead bundles off of Amazon, which netted me the Vita, a 4GB memory card, and download vouchers for The Walking Dead, Retro City Rampage, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Those four games right there are better than any four games I had at one time for the Vita the first time around.

Add to that the fact that with PlayStation Plus, I have access to the aforementioned Uncharted, Wipeout 2048, Gravity Rush, and more. The icing on the cake is the ridiculous Steam-like sale Sony just had, where I picked up Soul Sacrifice, Thomas was Alone, Spelunky, Stealth, Inc., Killzone: Mercenary and Lone Survivor.

For the same price I bought my original Vita, a game and memory card for, I now have a library of over a dozen of the best games to come out for the Vita.

The lesson here is the same one I learned with the WiiU, and the same one that PS4 and Xbox One owners are learning right now–new consoles rarely launch with a lineup of great games. For many consoles, the first year is filled with mediocre ports and a lack of titles altogether. So if you can just wait, if you can just hold off for that one year, you can usually get a better deal for the console overall, and have plenty of great games to play on it.

I did not heed that lesson when it came to the WiiU, and the first several months of that console were pretty rough, which is one of the reasons it’s struggling so badly. Had I waited until this holiday season, I could have grabbed a great WiiU bundle and would have had a bevy of great games waiting for me.

The good news is that so far, I’ve been able to hold off on getting either a PS4 or an Xbox One. With my current consoles and the Vita, I have more games than I can possible play right now. I may finally be learning my lesson when it comes to early adopting.

But probably not.

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Taking GRID 2 Out for a Spin

Racing games have never really been my thing. I mean, I always played racing games, whether it was growing up in arcades with Pole Position and Out Run, or marveling at the night driving in Rad Racer on NES. I like racing games–they’ve just never been a genre I was really into.

The racing game I probably spent the most time with in the past twenty years has been Burnout Paradise, as it was the perfect blend of arcade-style fun and simulation for my driving game tastes. It was basically The Dukes of Hazzard: The Game.

So when I saw GRID 2 was free on PlayStation Plus this month, I decided to check it out, as I hadn’t spent any time with a racing game in while.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well GRID 2 drew me in with its story, which sort of pits you as a YouTube sensation who gets recruited to help organize a world series of racing by attracting the top drivers from around the world. To do this, you need to race them and show them you’re worth teaming up with. It’s a simple premise, but the presentation is slick, and it’s enough of a story that it added an interesting layer to the game.

The learning curve of the actual driving was more fun than frustrating. Granted, it took me about ten tries to place in the top three on the first track–a winding road through the California mountains–but I made progress each time. And the ability to rewind the last few seconds of a race lets you correct big mistakes (although I used it less than I thought I would). I am a terrible driver, and it will take a long time for me to master drifting and cornering, but I never finished a race without knowing exactly what I could have done to place better, which made me want to jump right back in and try again.

The bottom line is that GRID 2 makes a really good first impression, and I’m inclined to spend some more time with it. If you’re a PS Plus subscriber, it’s definitely worth a download.

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Return to Demon’s Souls–Part 2: The More the Merrier

Probably the biggest difference in my current playthrough of Demon’s Souls as opposed to the original is my participation in the multiplayer aspects of the game. The first time I played Demon’s Souls, my multiplayer experiences were limited to being invaded by the occasional Black Phantom.

Having spent over 200 hours with Dark Souls (many of them in multiplayer) has really changed my approach to Demon’s Souls this time around, though. Because Demon’s Souls doesn’t have Humanity like Dark Souls, reviving to human form is a little more precious. You do find stones that will revive you to human form, but they’re nowhere near as abundant as Humanity is in Dark Souls. The most consistent way you revive in Demon’s Souls is by beating bosses.

One huge difference between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls is that in Demon’s Souls, if you have the necessary stone, you can revive at any time. In Dark Souls, you can only do this at bonfires. So, in Demon’s Souls, I can battle my way to just before the boss, and then revive and summon another player or two in. In Dark Souls, when I revive, I have to make it from the bonfire to the boss without dying, and if I’ve summoned in other players, they do as well. This is a huge tactical advantage the Demon’s Souls offers over Dark Souls, one of the handful of areas where the original is better than the sequel.

I’m about a third of the way through the game now, and I’ve summoned players in a handful of times, making boss fights much easier. What I’ve done a lot more though, is made myself available for summoning into others’ worlds.

What’s cool about the summoning in Demon’s Souls is that you actually rate the other player after you beat a boss. When someone looks at your summon sign later on, they see how many matches you’ve participated in, and what your rating is. So far, I haven’t seen anyone really abusing this by trolling people with low ratings, and the system is a great way to thank someone for coming in and helping you through a difficult part of the game.

Outside of summoning, I have had my share of invasions so far, and I’ve had some amazing battles. The other day I was invaded in the Shrine of Storms level (luckily I’d cleared out the steel skeletons before that happened), and the ensuing battle was about ten minutes long. We both switched back and forth between spells and weapons, each getting the other near death several times. I ended the battle with a well-timed roll and sword attack, finishing the invader right before they landed a blow that would have taken my last sliver of health. It’s these kind of battles that make the Souls series so memorable.

That brings up another big difference between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls–the ability for summoned or invading players to consistently heal themselves during co-op or PvP. In dark Souls, players have to use Humanity or miracles to heal when summoned or invading–Estus flasks don’t work. In Demon’s Souls, you can use the healing grasses to regenerate health as much as you want. This makes for longer PvP battles, as well as an increased chance that a summoned player will survive a level or boss encounter with you. It’s another area where I prefer Demon’s Souls over Dark Souls.

Next time I’ll be discussing some of my favorite locations in Demon’s Souls, especially the mind-flayer populated Tower of Latria.

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PlayStation Plus Could Turn the Vita’s Fortunes Around

As one of the early adopters of the PlayStation Vita, I’ve experienced a good amount of buyer’s remorse since picking it up in February. The Vita had a pretty great launch lineup, including Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, Wipeout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, ModNation Racers: Road Trip and Super StarDust Delta. A few weeks later, MLB 12: The Show launched, which was the first game where you could share a season between the PS3 and Vita versions of the game, one of the highly touted features of the Vita leading up to its launch.

After the launch however, things pretty much dropped off cliff. After The Show in the beginning of March, there was pretty much nothing until the end of May, when Resistance: Burning Skies was released, and it wasn’t good. The next solid Vita release was Gravity Rush in June, and that was the last really good game until the amazing Sound Shapes came along in August. So far this Fall, Little Big Planet Vita is the only thing resembling a top-tier game that has come out for the console. Almost everything else released for the Vita since its launch has been a port, a remastered collection or a stripped down version of a console franchise.

For me, the biggest gripe I had about the Vita was the lack of PlayStation One support at launch. This was something that Sony has talked about over and over before launch, and we didn’t get the feature until late August, over six months after the North American launch.

Sales of the Vita have been unimpressive so far, and by refusing to cut the price of the Vita, Sony wasn’t doing anything to help themselves. Media outlets and many gamers have been talking about the Vita as if its already dead, and they may be right. But I think Sony finally understands just how bad of a position they are in with the Vita, because they have finally stepped up and provided one very compelling reason to own a Vita–PlayStation Plus.

I’ve raved about how great PlayStation Plus has become over the past year and a half. On the PS3, it’s essentially become a Netflix for games, as each month subscribers are getting access to great games for free. In the past several months I’ve downloaded InFamous 2, Just Cause 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 OneSaints Row 2, Resident Evil 5 and a bunch of PSN games. There are also tons of discounts on newer games–this month is Portal 2 for $13.99, for example. Bottom line is, for $50 a year, I’m getting a huge amount of value out of the service, and now it’s coming to Vita.

On November 19th, the PS Plus service will be available on the Vita, and six games will be available at launch–Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Wipeout 2048, Gravity Rush, Jet Set Radio, Mutant Blobs Attack and the PSP game Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. That’s an amazing group of games. And since I’m already a PS Plus subscriber on PS3, that subscription transfers over to my Vita as well.

PlayStation Plus reinvigorated the PS3 when Sony started giving away free games through the service. A couple weeks ago, Sony reported that the past two quarters have been the most profitable in the six-year history of the PlayStation Network. Sony has fine tuned the PS Plus Service on the PS3, and now the Vita will benefit from what they’ve learned.

So let’s say you go out and buy the PS Vita Assassin’s Creed: Liberation bundle. For $250, you get the new white PS Vita , AC: Liberation (a $40 game) and a 4GB memory card. If you grab a 3-month PS Plus membership for $18, you get immediate access to $150 worth of other games that will provide you with months of gaming. Not a bad deal.

I’ve no doubt that this move could turn around the fortunes of the Vita, but it all depends on how well Sony does in getting the word out about it. I’d like to see a holiday bundle that comes with a year subscription to PS Plus and a decent size memory card (at least 8GB). There are rumors of $200 Black Friday bundles featuring some of the current big titles, so that’s a step in the right direction for the short-term. Of course, Sony will need to keep the games coming each month to PS Plus on Vita, as they have with the PS3 service.

It’s about to be a great time to be a Vita owner. Kind of makes me wish I’d waited to get mine.