This week, Sony confirmed the rumors that the PS3, PSP and Vita storefronts would be closing between July and August, 2021. (Please note: redemption codes, preowned games, PS Plus games, patches and trophies are unaffected). While many expected this to happen at some point, the notice was far too short, and while it may make sense to cease development on storefronts that see little use comparatively, it is a stark reminder as to the fragile nature of all things, especially modern gaming. Like finding a grey hair, how long do we really have, how long until my games in the cloud vanish entirely, or worse yet, hardware long ago retired finally gives way and we have no means to even play?
Well, no need to fret on a world that has yet to happen, but rather, let’s celebrate what is here and now. At 15+ years old, these systems are truly edging into what could be considered retro, and truth be told, PS3 is certainly one of my favorite era's in all of gaming.
Many think back on PS3 as Sony's hubris come to bite them, and in many respects it was, but you have to think of it from Sony's perspective. They just dominated media based entertainment with their PS2 and it's DVD drive, and instead of continuing that game, they chose to reinvent it entirely. Sony threw so many things at the wall, you have to admire the hussle compared to the relatively safe ways of today.
-Designing a cell processor
-Delivering a free online gaming platform
-HD Portable Console
-PS TV Console / Streaming Hybrid
-PS Home Social Space
-PS Move (thanks Wii)
-Active 3D TV Technology
-Stereoscopic 3D Games
-The Wonderbook (remember me)
Many of these failed, some evolved on. But one must admit, they were creative. The PS3 and Vita era is truly unique, and I'm finding myself loving it more and more the deeper we get into a world of over monetized, live service games (nothing beats a late Saturday night playing House of the Dead Overkill in 3D with the lights off, move powered rifle in hand).
-Finished Attic Corner Setup-
(In picture: 2 PS3’s, 2 PS Move, 1 PS Vita, 1 PS TV, 1 PS 3D Monitor)
Without further ado, here are some recommendations I would suggest for any interested in unique PS3 and Vita content that could be hindered or even halted once the PS store drops. While some of this can be found on other systems and platforms, this list is tailored to those who wish to play it only on a PS3 or Vita. I have omitted many common entries to focus on titles that personality sing to me, and I hope can hum a tune for you as well.
MGS4 is a gem. Long before Death Stranding was Hideo Kojima's WTF project, MGS4 existed, a game for MGS fans by MGS itself. From Cyber Raiden, to Fashion Models piloting animal mechs, to Mount Snakemore, to a 4 phase Ocelot fight recounting the entire series’ history, there is just so much love here. Godzilla Vs Kong comes out this week and I'm all but confident it won't have the same impact Rex Vs Ray had for me nearly a decade earlier.
I had many MGS loving PS2 loyal friends switch to 360 instead of waiting for Sony's $600 behemoth and it's unfortunate because MGS4 never made the leap onto anything but PS3. I would hope a port is in PS5s future but until then, PS3 is it's home. At launch, MGS4 was (and is still) notorious for it's insane download times in between chapters, sometimes taking upward of a half an hour. Here comes the digital edition, released years later, which allows you to download and install the entire game from the start, and not have to wait in intervals. Konomi also interestingly patched in trophies years later, which gives any who may have missed the game a great reason to dive back in and play in ways they may never have. Though I believe the disc version has since also been patched to include a full game download from the beginning, there's just something about having the entire game on your drive and not needing to authenticate with the disc. TLDR: Please go back and replay MGS4, it's...just something else.
Soul Sacrifice is an amazing exclusive for Vita, a Monster-Hunter like game about demons and soul hunting and losing one's self over time. I took my Vita with me on my honeymoon and distinctly remember playing SS on the plane and how into it I was (and like, in love with my wife). Like any great follow-up, Soul Sacrifice Delta doesn't bother reinventing the wheel, but rather creates a Director's Cut by taking everything that was in SS, and adding about 50 percent more content. Of note, the game adds monsters and levels inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales, and they are magnificent to behold and hunt.
For a long while, the only way to play SSD in English was to download it from the Vita store, and that is largely still true, as no physical edition has come out in the west. However in the last few years, an asian territory physical port has been released which contains the English version of the game. Because Vita is region free, this is an option. However, due to rising prices and scarcity of physical Vita games, the digital edition is still the most accessible option while storefront is open. Highly recommended.
Staying on the Vita love wagon, we come to Muramasa Rebirth. First appearing on Nintendo's Wii in 2009, Vanillaware's take on the hack-n-slash genre is nothing short of amazing, and in 2013, the Vita received a completely enhanced edition in Rebirth, with HD graphics, redone controls, and a new more accurate translation. In a sea of amazing quality, Muramasa Rebirth is my favorite of Vanillaware's library. The gameplay is addicting, art second to none, and I listen to the soundtrack probably every month since release. Luckily, physical copies of Muramasa Rebirth are readily available, so there's no fear in losing access to this gem.
HOW-EVER, ever the perfectionists, Vanillaware pushed Rebirth from merely amazing to GOD-Like by releasing 4 DLC Chapters, combined called Genroku Legends. Each DLC chapter includes a New Playable Character, Skill Tree, Story, Enemies, Bosses and Music. The amount of effort put into this DLC shows their absolute love for the game. I mean, look at their target audience, they would have had to:
Own a Vita
Own Muramasa Rebirth
Be Inclined to buy DLC
I mean, talk about niche. While the DLC was released as a downloadable code in specially marked versions of JP Physical copies, the DLC only exists on the PS store in the west, and is the most tragic loss set to happen in August when the store closes. If you're reading this, I beg you, if you have a PS Vita and or PS TV, please give the game a try. Effort like this deserves to be rewarded and your eyes, ears and heart will thank you.
ArcSys is basically 1990's Capcom here in the 2020's, their output is numerous and consistently of an incredibly high quality. One such game was a completely unexpected crossover with the Persona universe which culminated in Persona 4 Arena, a Persona fighting game featuring characters from Persona 3 and 4, and a story so long and complex, it is actually considered canon. Much like Soul Sacrifice Delta, ArcSys (classically) created an updated "Director's Cut" version shortly after called Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, featuring refined gameplay, more characters, stages and an expanded story. If you played an ArcSys game, you know how great it looks and plays, and if you've played a Persona game, you know how gorgeous it sounds. It's an absolute gem for fans of either. While the game is available on multiple platforms physically, the additional DLC characters released later are tied directly to online storefronts such as PSN. These characters are:
In short, this game is a canonical continuation of Persona 4, and to have the complete roster, one needs to buy the additional characters from PSN before they vanish into great beyond.
The Evil Within is one of my favorite games ever. It is also a game I can't in good conscience really recommend. It's obtuse, hard, somewhat clunky, and long. It’s atmosphere and story are incredible however. Likewise, I love The Evil Within 2 which corrected a lot of the gameplay and polish issues, but also can't simply recommend it, because it's missing the atmosphere and story presented in the first game. So individually, each is compromised, but together, they form the complete The Evil Within Experience, and THAT I can recommend because it is truly glorious to see Shinji Mikami's final directorial foray in all it's glory.
But speaking of compromised and complete, TEW1 has the worst DLC setup I have probably ever seen. To start, the best, and I mean BEST weapons in the game, were tied to preorders. I say "were" because they have NEVER been released anywhere since. Literally, weapons like the double barrel shotgun and flame bolts, IN A GAME WHERE FIRE CAN KILL ANYTHING, are literally gone forever unless you preordered the game in 2014. What...the actual...hell.
But anyway, what IS still on the PS store are the three DLC Chapters for TEW1: The Assignment, The Consequence and The Executioner. In addition to being of extremely high quality (except Executioner which feels tacked on), The Assignment and Consequence feature a new playable character, stages, enemies, bosses and story. And that latter part is key, as HALF THE STORY IN THE EVIL WITHIN IS LOCKED AWAY IN IT'S DLC. I have no idea what they were thinking. A common criticism of TEW1 is the story, namely it doesn't make sense nearly the entire game until end game exposition, if people play for that long. Even then, you leave the game scratching your head. Whether intentional or reactive after the fact, the DLC serves to "mostly" tie up these loose ends, and thus, are instrumental in understanding the game and story. Again, I love the game and the story is realllly good once understood, but the fact that the story is spread across DLC that has never had a physical release and only exists on storefronts is bizarre. Thus, it doesn't matter that physical copies exist, a good portion of the story is digital only. Thank god for Steam, haha.
Just when I thought TEW1 couldn't mess up DLC more, a fellow Dtoider reminded me of Asura's Wrath, an incredible game whose true ending Capcom decided to sell back to you as DLC. Balls. Just on principle it's hard for me to recommend giving in and rewarding this practice but Asura's Wrath is incredible, a playable anime with production values that astonish the eyes, and make you forget you're playing on a system with 256 Megs of dedicated video ram. The story is engaging enough where just more of it is welcome, and like TEW1 above, that story only exists in the store. There's also an additional mode where Asura can fight Ryu ala Street Fighter 4 which is badass, so yeah, the moral of the story is this game has some great DLC that SHOULD have been in the game. Asura's Wrath is an oddball, near genre breaking game, desperately in need of a complete edition port on modern systems. Until that day, the only way to complete this journey of revenge is via the storefront.
Well, that's my impassioned list. If you're at the bottom, thank you for your consideration and may you enjoy this generation of Sony's passion as much as I do.