Something About Japan: Vita’s price drop, Soul Sacrifice and Phantasy Star Online 2

Vita

Amid all the fuss last week over PlayStation 4, it was easy to overlook the sudden Nintendo Direct-style live-streamed Vita presentation a couple of days before. Presented by SCEJ president Hiroshi Kawano, broadcast only in Japanese and aimed squarely at the domestic market, the event was Sony’s way of reminding Vita owners here that it hasn’t abandoned them entirely – this was of course before the world knew of Vita’s forthcoming connectivity with PS4.

One reason the presentation was easy to overlook is that really there was nothing much in it for Western gamers. The Vita is getting a much-needed price drop in Japan, from 29,980 yen (£214.20) for the 3G model and 24,980 yen (£178.50) for the Wi-Fi model to a flat 19,980 yen (£142.80) for either, but there has been no such sweetener in Europe or the US. And the roundup of games was almost entirely bereft of surprises, let alone titles with global appeal.

But for gamers in Japan it wasn’t a bad haul, and sales figures for that week (17-23 February) showed an uptick in Vita sales – before the 28th February price drop even officially kicked in. As some stores reportedly applied the discount early, Sony’s ailing handheld even outsold Wii U that week. Vita sales were up to 11,456 on 8,044 the week before, beating Wii U’s 9,633 sold, according to Japanese game-industry tracker Media Create.

Japan was the market that sustained PSP for years after it had died in the West, so it’s understandable that Japan is getting a little special attention.

Leading the pack was Soul Sacrifice, Keiji Inafune’s four-player co-op action RPG – not a new announcement, but an important one for Sony nonetheless. We all know the impact the lack of Monster Hunter has had on Vita’s fortunes in Japan. The series has sold over 21 million units to date, most of those in Japan and many on PSP. Now exclusive to Nintendo hardware, Monster Hunter has left a gaping hole in Vita’s lineup. Inafune has openly admitted that Soul Sacrifice is his attempt to fill it.

Actually Soul Sacrifice isn’t that much like Monster Hunter: Its co-op mechanics and behemoth-bashing core are similar, sure, but its grotesque dark-fantasy setting and accessible arcade feel make for an entirely different experience.

“We wanted a control scheme that would not frustrate players,” said Inafune during the live stream, a barely disguised dig at Monster Hunter’s “claw” controls and the 3DS’ clumsy Circle Pad Pro add-on. He said that in addition to the controls, “Vita is easy to develop for and allows for beautiful graphics… This combination is only available on Vita.”

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