Whatever gamers were expecting from Sony Computer Entertainment's pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference, what they got was a lot of PS Vita content. Front and center in that push was Japanese publisher Marvelous AQL, which used the event to reveal three new Vita titles: action RPG Valhalla Knights 3, Vanillaware Wii port Muramasa: The Demon Blade, and girl-y action fighter Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus.
"We had already announced that we'd be supporting the PS Vita," MAQL chief creative officer Yoshifumi Hashimoto told Famitsu magazine this week, "but our dev tech has gotten to be pretty mature by this point and the timing was right for it, so that's why we made the announcement when we did. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan really pushed us to join in, and that was a really big impetus for us. You could really tell that SCEJ really loved games, and I thought we could join in and provide gamers with the sort of fun experiences that only Marvelous AQL can provide."
"I think the process of launching a system, expanding it and maturing the lineup is extremely important," echoed SCEJ president Hiroshi Kawano. "You need to give users a large variety of gaming experiences throughout that entire process. Marvelous AQL is providing a lot of that, games that really grab users' attention, and it's a shot of confidence for us. I'm glad we went through the effort of courting all the designers, so to speak."
When asked about the Vita - a system that has yet to register in the minds of a lot of hardcore gamers - Hashimoto is ebullient. "It's just a system that's fun to make games on," he said. "You think to yourself 'This is about the limit, I think,' and then you do more research and you're able to get even more power out of it. It's the kind of hardware platform that grows and evolves the more you learn about it. I also think, though, that the PS Vita might seem a little too flashy for some users to give it a shot. It exudes this aura of coolness, but to some extent, that makes feel like a less-than-nearby presence to people. I'm hoping that us producing really intricate, well-made games will help bridge that gap a bit."
And what about those games? Valhalla Knights 3, due out early 2013, is an action RPG whose main draw is large-scale battles featuring lots of characters in your party at once. "This is a completely new game in the series that got its start on the PSP in 2006," Hashimoto said. "We're using all of the PS Vita's horsepower to depict these chaotic 7-on-7 combat scenes. We didn't have that many people onscreen at first, but through research and discussion with SCEJ's engineers, we were able to get 14 moving around at once. It's interesting to see how games evolve along with the hardware; I think it results in palpably more fun in the end."
Hashimoto also sees Muramasa as a good fit for the Vita's feature set: "Muramasa's unique graphic taste is its most prevalent feature, and I think the subtle colors of the originals could really come out on the PS Vita's screen. That's why we were picturing a straight port originally, but not we've also got a mini-scenario as DLC featuring a new hero. Working on all this took time, but I think instead of gradually letting all these titles seep out, it's better to get them all out at around the same time, if only to show how much we really care about the system."
In Kawano's eyes, publishers like Marvelous AQL devoting so many resources to a still-new platform like the Vita isn't just good for the game library - it's a key part of pushing the system forward worldwide. "That initial impact is key," he noted. "I think each title brings its own message and entertainment to the field; they're all really good. We're here to provide the platform, and to us, it's vital that the hardware's feature set, the basic specs and interface, connect directly to fun software. That's what makes collaboration between the hardware team and the designers of the software so important. I really feel the titles here bring out all the good thing the PS Vita has to offer. Playing on Vita opens up new discoveries in gaming; it lets them evolve and open up new possibilities. I'm hoping the platform provides room for a lot of experimentation."