Menu

Handheld Gaming Keeps Classic Japanese Game Styles Alive

Handheld Gaming Keeps Classic Japanese Game Styles Alive

Portable game consoles sometimes get a bad rap with gamers who consider them to just be for kids, not for the hardcore gamer. Yet, if you’ve been gaming for a while, you know that handheld systems can sometimes have the best games of any generation, beating out home consoles, handily. As the gaming industry has grown with its audience the trend has turned away from just creating quality games and into creating “AAA” titles, the big budget blockbusters that are meant to sell millions of copies and call for press releases gloating about sales. We’ve gotten lost in a sea of games akin Michael Bay summer blockbusters, which is fine, but sometimes we forget that there is more to gaming than running and gunning with cutscenes telling us an overly-emotional tale, which is a departure from what we grew up with, which was Japanese video games that did things a lot differently.

This is where handhelds come in, though, as they aren’t as powerful as the home consoles, they also aren’t really made for some big screen, explosion-filled experience, either. Instead they are more fit for different kinds of games. Handhelds work perfectly for games that you can pick up and play for half an hour or so without feeling like you are neglecting it, or they are perfect for games that tell more intimate and subdued stories compared to their bombastic AAA cousins. Then, of course, they are perfect for re-releases of older games that might not of had as fair of a shake or were never released in certain markets.

So this holiday season I found myself in possession of not one but two handhelds; the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS, each one with their own set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own unique game libraries. Without a doubt the 3DS is the king of the handheld world right now with over 39.6 million units sold compared to the Vita’s 6.7 million, but the Vita is a powerful and beautiful piece of hardware with some really amazing features of its own, never mind the incredible PS4 remote play features.

I decided to delve into the strengths of each system’s game libraries and pick at what I thought would be some great games and honestly, it has really given me a newfound appreciation for the really well-made Japanese games that have been brushed to the wayside thanks to the AAA game movement. Sure, I messed around with Hotline Miami and Guacamelee on my Vita as I owned them on PS3 and could easily download them to my Vita for free. I also found myself playing Resogun via PS4 remote play and enjoying it (especially when discovering the rear touch pad for the L2 and R2 buttons), but when I delved deeper things just got better. The Vita-exclusive from Media Molecule, Tearaway, was an awesome experience that took advantage of every feature of the Vita without being too gimmicky, but that wasn’t my favorite, oh no.

You know what game really pulled me in? Persona 4 Golden. Persona 4 Golden is an updated version of Shin Megami Tensai: Persona 4 from the PlayStation 2. As is standard for Atlus, this was released well into the death throes of the PS2’s lifecycle in December of 2008 when I was already sitting around comfortably with my Xbox 360 while my PS2 was off to the side and pretty much only booted up to play Fire Pro Wrestling R. So having Persona 4 Golden released early on in the Vita’s lifecycle sure does help, as it is a damned fine game.

Japanese RPGs are some of the games that I miss the most, as there are still fine releases like the PS3 version of Ni No Kuni (which was originally a DS title from Japan in 2010) and a select few others, but a lot of the focus tends to be on companies like Square-Enix that have been trying to adapt to the Western world of AAA titles with their games and just failing miserably when compared to what they used to churn out. Yet, on a handheld putting in dozens of hours into a Japanese RPG feels natural and fun.

On the 3DS front, as tempting as the new Zelda really is, for some reason I decided to instead immediately pick up the new Phoenix Wright game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies and my god, it just feels like putting on a pair of your favorite shoes that you haven’t worn in years. You could argue that the Ace Attorney games haven’t evolved much over the years, but the quasi-point and click adventure game, quasi-Japanese visual novel style works as well as ever and is executed almost to perfection.

Playing both of these games really made a lot of things stand out to me; the first being how refreshing it is to play games where the main mechanics aren’t shooting mechanics, the second being that Japanese games have taken a backseat to Western games, but that a well done Japanese game can still feel magical, even if it isn’t revolutionary. In a way it is a shame that you have to turn to handhelds to find these kinds of experiences (never mind how easy they make digital distribution), but then again, it only adds to the experience to be able to take games that can span 30 - 80 hours with you in your pocket and play them anywhere.

In the past I’ve complained that it seems like we’ve moved so far away from the roots of home gaming that we came from in the 80’s and 90’s, the classic Japanese-styled games. It makes sense that as we, the Western world, grew up and started making our own games that we’ve have our own take on it and that it would appeal to more people here, but the fact that Japanese games have had such a struggle capturing broad audiences has been a difficult pill to swallow. While on home consoles it has felt like for every quality Japanese game there has been a few that try too hard and miss the mark, it is nice to know that on handhelds these games are alive and well.

Last modified onSunday, 05 January 2014 14:39
Dave Walsh

Dave Walsh is a writer residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is best known for his work as a Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts journalist. His work has been featured on a number of publications, including BloodyElbow.com, MiddleEasy.com, CageSideSeats.com, Heavy.com as well as his own site, LiverKick.com.

His first novel, The Godslayer, is on sale now.

Twitter: @dvewlsh

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Comments   

 
0 # pokerfacekilla 2014-01-03 19:08
Huh...Never had any mobile's since gameboy. Any suggestions MEasiers?
Reply
 
 
+1 # Dave Walsh 2014-01-05 14:21
If you are inclined to what Nintendo has to offer, 3DS (or a 2DS as the 3D is cool but I find it obnoxious sometimes) isn't that expensive and can play the entire DS library.

Both the 3DS and the Vita have decent catalogs, including back catalogs from older consoles. PS Vita has PlayStation Classics and PSP classics on top of games specifically for the Vita.

I say look at Kotaku's "best games" lists that they keep active for each system and see which one looks best.
Reply
 
 
+1 # Ryu 2014-01-05 08:26
I got a 3ds a few weeks ago and I love it. I'm addicted to fire emblem awakening right now. I've played it more than any console game I picked up last year. Console games are getting a little stale to me, 3ds is a great change of pace. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves games.
Reply
 
 
0 # Dave Walsh 2014-01-05 14:18
Yep! Pretty much.

That's next on my list after I finally play Zelda.
Reply
 

Add comment

Security code
Refresh

Ever wonder what Metal Gear Solid V would look like in Grand Theft Auto V? Wonder no more

When looking for a comparison to the MMA world for Hideo Kojima, it isn't easy. Comparisons usually give unreal expectations to people and aren't fair for anyone but they are...

04-17-2014 | Gary LaPlante | 2 Comments

A fighter's worst nightmare: Check out this upkick KO from Cage Warriors 67

Since we're on the topic of Cage Warriors yet again on MiddleEasy, let me tell you about the story of when I tried to trick the guys at Cage Warriors...

04-16-2014 | Zeus @MiddleEasy | 1 Comment

Guy wins MMA fight with a reverse Boston crab, off his BACK!

Boston Bomber. Boston Tea Party. Boston Massacre. Boston Baked Beans. All of those variations of Bostonian things will get you killed, but only one of them will give you diabetes while...

04-07-2014 | Zeus @MiddleEasy | 5 Comments

Rousey and Shafir's coach says either fighter would knock out Cris Cyborg

There's nothing to Shafir but Shafir itself. Despite living virtually next to the Glendale Fighting Club, I've never been inside or even been invited to step into Ronda Rousey's training lair....

04-11-2014 | Zeus @MiddleEasy | 10 Comments

Jeff Monson has quietly retired from MMA in Russia

This Jeff Monson, a verifiable international man of mystery. It's safe to say The Snowman has renounced being American after he stated anarchy was the country's only solution. Now all...

04-15-2014 | Zeus @MiddleEasy | 8 Comments

The UFC waves goodbye to Jake Shields

I used to date this chick that claimed Jake Shields was her favorite fighter -- and I never entirely bought her story. Perhaps there was some sexual innuendo with Jake...

04-07-2014 | Zeus @MiddleEasy | 14 Comments

This fan made trailer is infinitely better than the official TMNT trailer

Guys, I know the MMA community is always divided, Fedor or Brock, Brazilian Top Team or Chute Boxe, Sakuraba or the Gracie's. There is one thing that we can come...

04-07-2014 | Gary LaPlante | 3 Comments

Children doing judo is officially a cuteness frate trane

A few weeks ago, there were two children in my house. They both were very rambunctious to say the least, they were running around the house screaming and not only...

04-09-2014 | Gary LaPlante | 9 Comments

Former UFC fighter planks his opponent and nearly pulls off a run-away KO

Last night I arrived in Hollywood from Downtown LA on the Metro -- I missed my stop so I got off at the Sunset and Vermont exit and decided to...

04-07-2014 | Zeus @MiddleEasy | 2 Comments

Log In or Sign Up

Registrations are OPEN this week.

Log in with Facebook

Forgot your password? / Forgot your username?