In 2011, Sony decided to release a new handheld console in hopes of surpassing its first venture in to portable gaming, the highly successful PSP, while also taking a leaf from Nintendo’s handheld touch screen juggernaut, the Nintendo DS. In this moment, one of the most polarising gaming systems was born – the PlayStation Vita (or PS Vita for short). This console has been sadly underappreciated or overlooked by many for the duration of its life. For those who chose to invest in one, however, they found in the PS Vita a fantastic console capable of handling some incredible games, while also offering a goldmine of options for fans JRPGs. Despite the poor sales, and even worse general opinion of the console, I for one class this unassuming handheld among my favourite consoles of all time. I am sadly aware that I am in the minority with this opinion, and due to this, many fantastic PS Vita-exclusive games will tragically be lost to the annuls of time. As such, on this trip down the otaku rabbit hole, I will be trying to right this wrong by recommending three PS Vita games that are true hidden gems and worth checking out for anyone with the console, or for those considering picking up the console. Two of the three games on this list have luckily received re-releases on Steam, but are still criminally underappreciated, so if they sound interesting, then maybe this will convince you to check them out. Now, without further ado, lets jump right into it.
Hyperdevotion Noire – Goddess Black Heart
Hyperdevotion Noire – Goddess Black Heart is the first of two Idea Factory (IF) titles on this list, and is a spin off game for the cult favourite franchise, Hyperdimension Neptunia. In this franchise, four goddesses, each representing one of the major consoles: Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s Playstation, Microsoft’s Xbox and the unreleased Sega Neptune, do battle in a literal console war for supremacy. Many Hyperdimension Neptunia games and spin-off titles were ported to or developed for the PS Vita during its lifespan. This title, however, breaks a tradition in the franchise, and instead of casting the titular Neptune in the leading role, we are treated to the franchise staple and best-girl, Noire, as our protagonist this time around.
The story follows Noire after she manages to successfully beat all of the other Goddesses into submission. After a short-lived victory, the power of the nation’s shares, the power source of the world, is stolen and the generals (personified versions of popular game franchises/ genres) head off on their own. For the rest of the game, Noire sets out to gather her lost generals and restore the power of her shares in a fanservice masterpiece like no other. The story is told through visual novel style sections, although I must admit that the story holds very little in the way of hard-hitting moments. Despite this, it’s a fun and relaxing story that’s just stimulating enough to keep you invested for the duration of the game.
The gameplay in Hyperdevotion Noire is a step away from the series’ action-orientated roots, instead taking the form of a turn-based strategy RPG with adorable chibi character sprites. In a style highly reminiscent of classic games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, only with its own unique charm, this game has an incredible degree of depth and a massive character roster to choose from, although sadly it never truly measures up to the giants of the genre. While not anything particularly innovative, Hyperdevotion Noire – Goddess Black Heart is a fantastic addition to the franchise as a whole while still being a solid yet accessible standalone strategy RPG for fans of the genre and newcomers alike. Hyperdevotion Noire is also available on Steam, for you to check out and enjoy if you’re tempted to check this one out.
Trillion: God of Destruction
The second IF title on our list, Trillion: God of Destruction shares many traits with Hyperdevotion Noire, in that it’s a turn-based strategy RPG, although there’s a great deal more on offer here than meets the eye to help give this game an identity to stand out from its peers.
The story starts with our main protagonist and lord of the underworld, Diabolos, receiving news that a beast has entered his domain and is devouring his realm before his very eyes. He decides to fight the beast, only to meet his demise in an embarrassingly swift fashion. Diabolos is revived, but as a shadow of his former self, having no power with which to defend his realm. In this moment, he is left with no alternative but to send one of his generals, a group of women that make up his friends and family, each embodying one of the seven deadly sins, to fight on his behalf. Here is where the true game begins, and what’s laid out before us is a tale of courage and tragedy.
Throughout the game, there are two main gameplay sections: the character development sections and the battle sections. In the development sections, you have to build your current general through training regimens that unlock stat-points. These points are used to unlock abilities and skills to increase the characters potential damage output against the beast, Trillion, as well as to increase regular stats such as HP and MP ready for their difficult fight against the beast. Trillion, so named for his astonishing HP total, is the primary, and potentially only, enemy that you will face in this game, although this is far from the negative that it seems at first glance. You will need to use all your skill and knowledge to even land a single attack on Trillion, as any attack from the titular beast will result in some potentially fatal outcomes. As the game progresses, you will also gain the ability to fight against a training dummy, enabling you to practice your strategies to be used against Trillion in a relatively safe environment, and these battles will prove invaluable as the game advances.
Sadly, while it is possible to beat Trillion on your first attempt, this is highly unlikely, meaning that you will inevitably lose some of the generals along the way, which becomes almost soul-destroying when you have no option but to watch the general you’ve built up from nothing, and that you’ve undoubtedly grown attached to over the course of the game, be reduced to little more than a light snack. Despite these tragic losses, whenever a general is slain, the next general will gain a base stat-point bonus before you begin, meaning with each subsequent general, the game should become easier and easier, hopefully resulting in your eventual victory, paved by your series of losses.
The story is, yet again, told through visual novel style sections that are both emotionally driven and heartbreakingly fantastic due to the ability this game has to build an emotional bond between player and general. A truly challenging game on occasion, with difficult decisions abound, Trillion God of Destruction is one worth checking out, especially for the characters, story and hard-as-nails combat. This game is also available on Steam, so now is a good a time as any to give this game a try – there’s no reason not to.
Soul Sacrifice (Delta)
Soul Sacrifice, and its enhanced version, Soul Sacrifice Delta, are the only games on this list to not receive re-releases on another platform and was the main reason for me deciding to make this list in the first place. Soul Sacrifice is a hunter game, meaning that battles tend to take place between your character and a giant monster, with the occasional small fry thrown in for good measure.
The story follows the tale of an unnamed character having been captured at the end of the world by evil wizard Magusar. In his cage, he finds a magical talking diary – Librom – who allows the character to enter its pages and battle through the events experienced by its original owner, fighting giant monsters and in the process learning more about the events that lead to the end of the world. While fighting the hordes of monsters in Librom’s pages, your character gains powers and tools to stand against Magusar in preparation for your final confrontation. You can challenge Magusar at any point in the game, but this is ill advised, as it will inevitably lead to your death.
The battle system is incredibly unique, relying on the use of charms that can be equipped at will, each with a special magic and element attached to it. Each charm has a set number of uses, and overuse of any charm will result in it breaking, thus limiting your combat options for the rest of the fight. The number of uses can be recharged in battle under different situations, although the challenge of resource management will often mean the difference between victory and defeat in battle.
The theme of saving vs sacrificing also plays a key role in these games. Upon defeating a monster, it will return to its un-corrupted human form. In these moments, you are given a choice – to save or to sacrifice them, each offering is own set of benefits and drawbacks. You’re not just restricted to sacrificing your enemies, however, as should your health fall below a certain threshold, a super attack will become available. To use it, all you need do is sacrifice a part of your body, such as your skin or eyes, to deal tremendous damage to your enemy, potentially turning the tides of the battle in the process. On the down side, this will also add a heavy, semi-permanent handicap on your character such as reduced vision or defence, meaning that using these is a heavy double-edged sword. These changes can be undone by Librom after a mission – for a cost, so abusing these supermoves will mean that you may be stuck unable to undo the handicap.
The pages of Librom will unlock more and more for you to do as you play, and repeating missions is also rewarded through branching paths within the diary’s pages, depending on whether a character was saved or sacrificed. Soul Sacrifice Delta also expands on the solid basis of the original game with a larger selection of missions to complete and monsters to be fought. This game is a truly excellent hunter game and is a rare example of a game that far outstrips its source material. If you’re in any doubt and have been thinking of picking up this game, then I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!
With that, you now know a little bit more about three underappreciated PS Vita gems, and I really hope that you’ll check them out because they deserve a whole lot more love that they get. Once again, we’ve finished another trip down the otaku rabbit hole and hope you guys enjoyed. Until next time, keep it weeby!