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Vita’d

I just bought a Playstation Vita and I don’t know why.

…okay, maybe I know why:

PSVitaDeal

A bargain at twi… pretty much that price. Or less.

The amount of both hem and especially haw I was engaging in was truly ridiculous. As you all know, I dislike decisions generally, much less ones with deadlines. In this case, it was the $15 that eBay was giving everyone for making a purchase over $75, as long as it done by 8pm EST on Friday. On top of that, I am heading on vacation the week of the 4th, so it’s entirely possible that the Vita doesn’t make it to me before I leave.

Want to know what pushed me over that final edge? It was this:

PSVita16gb

Still criminally overpriced.

Even on eBay, the 16gb Vita memory cards are still $25 used, and $35 new. My auction includes two of them, and along with the 8gb one (a $20 “value”) brings the Vita price itself down to ~$75. Or $55 if you buy memory cards from Amazon. So… pretty close to what I spent on the PSP.

Of course, the continued existence of my PSP triggered some intense buyer’s remorse. Simply put, I don’t play much else than my PC games these days. Or since college, really. It took games like The Last of Us and Journey to convince me to get on the PS3 bandwagon, and I have yet to finish anything else on the system. Red Dead Redemption? Years worth of PS+ freebies? Nope. Similarly, not much progress has been made on the PSP front since buying it just about two years ago. Booted up Legend of Dragoon and some SNES classics for fun, and that was about it.

The really embarrassing thing about this purchase is that I don’t even know what games I have for it. Sony’s website is about one of the most egregiously useless pieces of website garbage I have seen in quite some time. This isn’t like Steam or GoG or even Origin where you can see a nice listing of all your games. Nope, it’s just pages and pages of unsortable nonsense. I have apparently accumulated 269 individual titles (free DLC counts as a title) from over three years of PS+, and the only way for me to actually tell which are Vita-playable will be to Ctrl-F and create a spreadsheet.

So, in essence, I had to have bought the Vita to figure out what games I own. Pelosi would be proud.

Having said all that, there are a few factors that make this less of an insane impulse buy. The first is that my PSP has a weirdly distorted screen thing going on, which dampened my enthusiasm after the initial vacation impetus for its purchase faded away. The second is that my living arrangements will be altering a bit in the coming months, which may or may not impact my PC usage. Finally, it was such a pain in the ass to actually play games on the PSP, and so I’m hoping that’s less of an issue this time around with the Vita.

In any case, I suppose we will see how this… plays out.

The Collector

[Blaugust Day 14]

In a roundabout way, Sony almost pushed me back into a life of piracy with their latest PSN Square-Enix sale. Not sure how long it’s going to last, but some of the games include:

  • Tactics Ogre – $9.99
  • Final Fantasy IX – $4.99
  • Final Fantasy VIII – $4.99
  • Final Fantasy Tactics – $4.99
  • Legend of Mana – $2.99
  • Vagrant Story – $2.99

When I saw this list, my first thought was “gimmie gimmie gimmie.”

My second thought was “What? No, that’s silly. And $10 for Tactics Ogre? Yeah right.” What was pulling on my strings a bit at this point was that all of these games were cross-play with the PSP and Vita. I don’t actually own a Vita, and fully expect the handheld to go under in the next few years or less, but I do own a rather inordinate amount of Vita games by virtue of my PS+ subscription. So despite the fact that I own physical copies of at least three of those games, my inclination was purchase digital copies “for the future.” You know, one in which I move again and don’t need to lug the discs around.

Then I started to think about why I own a PSP and not a Vita in the first place. Then I remembered that post I wrote last year. And then I went to Amazon to reaffirm the insanity:

Abandon all logic, ye who games here.

Abandon all logic, ye who games here.

Yeah, fuck you, Sony.

So there I sat, fuming, fingers ready to raise the black flag out of spite. Seriously guys, Sony’s proprietary bullshit is over five times more expensive than a microSD card! No matter how cheap a deal I could get on a Vita, that memory card would just erase all of the gains by itself. What would the price of one of those be even in a Toys-R-Us fire sale? $40? $30?!

Ugh.

Then I remembered that the last time I touched my PSP was six months ago. And the likelihood of me actually playing those games again are even smaller. If I lived in a city first-world country that actually had a working commuter rail system, things might be different. Alas, I am in the United States, and can’t even settle for a busing system that could get me 10 miles to work in less than 2 hours.

Oh well.

What PSX games would you actually play?

So my PSX problems from the other day were mostly solved by stumbling across an emulator website that specifically had a PSX-2-PSP section that already did the heavy lifting for you in terms of format conversion. From there, I simply had to choose any of their 1301 offerings on sale to download.

And therein lies the rub: what would I actually play?

This September, I will be 31-years old. Holy shit, right? I grew up on the crest of the videogame revolution and rode it rather thoroughly until the end of the PS2. I was there to play games like A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger and FF6 and Super Metroid while they were current. I still remember, with perfect clarity, unwrapping the Playstation for Christmas and popping in FF7 for the first time. When Tifa and Barret appeared onscreen together in the 7th Heaven Bar, my father walked by and quipped “Wow, that’s pretty progressive of them to include interracial dating.” This was in 1997, mind you. After that, I made sure to never play RPGs when other people were around.

Point being, the original Playstation era was one of unparallelled nostalgia for me. These were prime gaming years in my prime (14-17 years old). I still remember the shivers I felt when watching the promo video for Xenogears that was included in the packaging for Parasite Eve. In fact, I just spent 30 minutes trying to find that video, and I felt those same shivers sixteen years later.

Nevertheless, I sat looking at the PSX game list for a good ten minutes without selecting anything. Believe me, I understand the intoxicating effects of nostalgia and the risk one takes in replaying old games generally; not only is the game unlikely to hold up, you risk souring your memories by subjecting yourself to downright primitive graphics and design. But all of that was not actually my concern. My concern was: I still remember all these games.

For example, I was looking pretty intensely at SaGa Frontier 2 for a bit, as I remember it being a fun game with a beautiful art direction. But… I still remember the strategies I used to defeat the game, the places where I got stuck, and the end result of the progression. I’m pretty sure I remember crafting a pistol that shot rockets in Parasite Eve – and that awful final boss encounter. I have talked about Novelty being the essence of fun before, and my particular problem is that the intervening decades have not diminished my memory of the experience of these games. “Something something riding bikes,” in other words.

There were some exceptions in the list. I let out an audible squeal when I saw Tactics Ogre. That and Final Fantasy Tactics seemed perfect for this little PSP experiment of mine, as they remain games I still somehow consider fun despite knowing everything about their systems. Maybe it is because a tactical game has many more possible permutations than your average RPG battle system?  I felt no hesitation with Xenogears either, nor Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, although I’m going to hold off on FF7 until I play it via Steam.

For the rest of the list, I think what I’ll end up doing is actually picking titles I haven’t played. Enough people have talked about Legend of Dragoon to overcome my memories of renting the game and setting it down 15 minutes later. Suikoden 2 has been hyped beyond all reason, so that’s another easy one to test. Beyond that though? I dunno. I would solicit answers from you, dear readers, but I fear it would just be a bunch of “already played that” replies.

So allow me to turn the tables a bit: what PSX games would you actually play? Is there a title you would like to play again, or perhaps one you’d like to check off your bucket list? Would you even play any at all?

[Fake Edit]: The PSX-2-PSP website didn’t actually solve anything; all the PSX come up as “corrupted files” even though they are fine on my computer. It’s almost enough to drive a man to legitimacy.

PSP PSX

Way back when, Gaben of Valve and Steam fame put forth an assertion that (game) piracy is an accessibility issue, not a monetary one. In other words, the primary driving force for piracy is because companies make it difficult to legitimately use/acquire their products, and not because people don’t want to pay for them. The economic argument can’t be dismissed, of course, but the accessibility one was particularly novel for its time. The meteoric rise of Steam as a PC game platform certainly has codified the argument as a truism.

I have a series of vacations coming up soon (in fact, I’m on one right now) that will see me far from my normal means of entertainment. Indeed, one such vacation will be 2 weeks in Japan, and the corresponding 13-hour one-way flight is particularly noteworthy. So, in order to assuage my upcoming gaming withdraw, I purchased a PSP from eBay for about $60. I was going to spring for the Vita instead, but the outrageous price of its memory sticks and lack of hackability dissuaded me from a purchase. How could it really compare to a cheaper PSP with nearly a hundred of the best NES/SNES/Genesis/GBA/PSX games on it?

Well, let me tell you how: by not being a giant pain in the ass.

This is truly a First World Pirate Problem, but setting up the PSP to play original PS1 games has consumed more time thus far than I would likely play any one of them. If I sat down and devoted an entire day to copyright infringement, no doubt I could get everything set up and likely streamline the process somehow. But every minute screwing around with POPS loaders and converting .ISO files to .eBoots and wading through sketchy websites for files is another minute I’m not using my leisure time for its titular purpose.

A friend of mine had gotten on the PSP pirate train early, so I hit him up for advice. “Get a Vita.” If the news passed you by, Sony has digitized a rather large selection of PS1 classics to be purchased and downloaded from the PSN service. Much like me with PC games, I’m relatively certain that my friend’s change of heart had more to do with ease of use than necessarily a moral epiphany. Nearly 5-10 hours into this process across as many days, I am certainly pondering how much I would be willing to spend to just have everything work.

Nostalgia is expensive.

Nostalgia is expensive.

$9.99 per 700MB game that came out in 1998 that I already legitimately paid for? Tactics Ogre at $19.99?! Ehhh… let me dick around with it a little bit longer.