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Sony may have spared the Vita store (for now) after some deserved backlash, but it wasn’t because people were looking forward to its upcoming games. Its new releases section has been incredibly dry over the past few years, which is not uncommon for nine-year-old hardware. This makes ScourgeBringer’s release all the more puzzling since it’s the biggest game to hit the system in years. And it turns out, the ScourgeBringer Vita port is a fantastic way to send off Sony’s underrated handheld.
Bringing the scourge to a new platform
However, ScourgeBringer is not a new game as it originally came out in Early Access in February 2020 before its full release in October 2020 on PC, Xbox One, and Switch. The PS4 and Vita are just finally getting this well-received roguelite.
Yet tardiness has not hurt the game’s addictive loop and stellar controls. Going through dungeons and balancing risk and rewards is a staple of the genre, but this is one of the better versions of it, even a few months later. Its roguelite qualities make that mountain a little less steep, too, especially when paired with its accessibility options that can further take the edge off.
Dying is a part of ScourgeBringer but it’s not ever frustrating because of the fluid controls. Combat is blisteringly fast and lets players go nuts with their air dashes in a way most other games limit. It’s like a mix of Dead Cells and Devil May Cry, but with its own original style that makes it feel unique. All of this works relatively well on the Vita, even though it lacks the extra triggers. It strangely defaults to making players use the rear touch pad for shooting, but that can — and should — be changed to the L button instead. The crispy D-pad and face buttons were made for games like this.
A few small sacrifices to the Chiming Tree
ScourgeBringer loses some in its technical transition, but not enough to be a deal breaker. Cold booting the game takes around 20 seconds — the PS4 version running on a PS5 is nearly instantaneous — but the loads into levels are comparable. The frame rate doesn’t appear to be 60 frames per second like all of the other platforms, but it is solid and responsive enough without many or any noticeable dips.
The art style still translates brilliantly to the Vita’s screen though as all of its purple-drenched pixels fit beautifully on a smaller display. The action is also a little easier to track on the screen as well since it is more condensed. And while it’s not a good or bad feature, it does look less blocky than the other iterations.
Many players probably won’t notice the visual differences because the ScourgeBringer Vita version doesn’t talk to the PS4 one. There’s no cross-buy or cross-save support. Both of them even have a separate trophy list. It’s puzzling as unification was nearly the standard for many games that appeared on both Sony platforms and made buying games on Sony platforms a little easier.
Slightly slower loads, a smooth but lower frame rate, and lack of PS4 interplay doesn’t make the Vita the objective, best version to play ScourgeBringer, but that’s always been the thing with the Vita. Those who liked the platform didn’t flock to it for its superior technical chops; they played indies on it because it was a convenient place to do so. Indies have always fit portables well since many of them are more predisposed to be played in smaller chunks and not require a huge screen to fully enjoy.
What could have been
Roguelites and roguelikes are made to be played this way and are therefore made for the Vita. They’re noncommittal platforms designed to be picked up and played for noncommittal short stretches as well as longer ones. This translates well to how roguelite runs can take a few minutes or a few hours. The Vita has a few roguelike and roguelite experiences like Spelunky, Nuclear Throne, and Rogue Legacy, but it stopped getting supported near the time when indies started blasting them out and such a high volume. The timing may have lined up for indie platformers, but it unfortunately died just before the roguelike frenzy struck in full force.
ScourgeBringer’s Vita release is a reminder of when quality smaller games like Guacamelee, Skullgirls, OliiOlli 2, and Hotline Miami (just to name a few) used to make their way to platform. It’s a portal into a bizarre alternate universe where high-profile indie titles from Hades to Hollow Knight still made their way onto Sony’s handheld alongside their Switch counterparts. Even the Switch is hardly the “best” ways to experience these titles, but fantastic indie games and portables will always naturally fit together so it’s heartening to see that pairing take form on the Vita one last time.