Persona 3, Tactics Ogre, and other PSP RPGs that will live on my Vita

This is a column by Kat Bailey dedicated to the analysis of the once beloved Japanese RPG sub-genre. Tune in every Wednesday for thoughts on white-haired villains, giant robots, Infinity+1 swords, and everything else the wonderful world of JRPGs have to offer.

A PlayStation Vita will be arriving on my doorstep some time on Thursday. It will be arriving courtesy of Amazon rather than Sony, in case you're wondering, so I did in fact spend money on the thing. I do not, however, plan to purchase any games for it. At least not yet.

As I perused the list of PSP games available for download, I realized that I already had quite a few titles to choose from. So rather than try to justify spending money on Lumines or Uncharted -- both fine games but not my cup of tea -- I decided I would revisit some of my favorite PSP RPGs on the Vita's big, beautiful screen.

It's really a pity the PSP never experienced the renaissance over here that it did in Japan, since it means quality RPGs like Valkyria Chronicles 3 may never be localized. It's only thanks to XSEED that Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky ever saw the light of day in the US, as well as Vanillaware's coming North American launch for Grand Knights History. A select few have made it stateside, and I'm happy to see them available on PSN. Here are the ones that will be making their way to my Vita, and to yours as well, I hope.


Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
: If I could change any one thing about the PSP, it would probably be its preponderance of ports and remakes. That said, Tactics Ogre was crying out for an update, not the least because of the draft loading times found in the PS1 port -- incidentally, the only version to make it to the U.S.

I mentioned last week that I don't think a JRPG really needs a good story to be successful, but with Tactics Ogre at least, the story is a strong point. Frankly, it's tough to imagine Tactics Ogre without its numerous branching paths and political intrigue. The remake in particular is well-written, and it's a blessing to be able to explore any path that you like.

It's worth noting that the better-known Final Fantasy Tactics is on PSN as well, and that it has much in common with Tactics Ogre, both of them having been designed by Yasumi Matsuno. Which one you choose is down to taste, but I like that Tactics Ogre's classes reduce the need for grinding by leveling up at the same time, as well as the branching storyline. Of course, nothing is stopping you from owning both of them, right?
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Ys Seven: This is another one of those instances where I find myself torn between two games; in this case, Ys Seven and Oath in Felghana. Once again, the decision comes down to taste, but it'll be Ys Seven making its way to my Vita rather than Oath in Felghana.

Longtime fans may disagree, of course. Oath in Felghana is very much a traditional Ys game, and quite a hard one at that. It's good fun, but I like the ability to dodge offered by Ys Seven, not to mention the larger party. Both are fine examples of what an action RPG ought to be -- fast and difficult, with great soundtracks. Seriously, no matter which of these games you get, bring a pair of headphones. You'll thank me later.
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Yggdra Union:You can probably tell that I have a thing for strategy RPGs. As sub-genres go, I find SRPGs to be well-suited for handhelds. Apart from the fact that they don't require much in the way of precise timing -- a virtue on a bouncing bus -- they are relatively easy to set down for long periods of time.

Yggdra Union is a good example of Sting's knack for thinking outside of the box when they're designing their RPGs (Hexyz Force notwithstanding). There's a lot to chew on in Yggdra Union, from combining units into "unions" to the way the selection of cards affects unit movement. Even gender has an affect on the units form-up and attack.

I purchased Yggdra Union not long after I got my PSP, but at some point I ended up setting it down, most likely because I had failed a mission. I've always enjoyed its unique battle system and its nice, clean art style though, so now is as good a time as any to revisit it.
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Persona 3 Portable: I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure it's possible to move a saved PSP game to my PS3 and over to my Vita [Eds. note: It is]. If not, it will be the third or fourth time I've started a new game of Persona 3. At this point, it's starting to feel like an annual ritual.

I keep going back though because Persona 3 is one of the more forward-thinking JRPGs to be released in the past several years, and its formula translates quite nicely to portable platforms. Its length makes it one of those games that's best enjoyed in small doses, lest you become completely burned out on it. On a typical bus ride, I'll knock out a week of demon fusion, dates, and volleyball practice, then cap it off with a quick visit to the Quiz Game -- a nice, productive commute.

I'll probably leave behind Persona 3 Portable when Persona 4: The Golden arrives, of course. I like Persona 3 very much, but I like Persona 4's creepy smalltown vibe that much better. But until it arrives, Persona 3 Portable will more than suffice.
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While I'm on the topic of PSP RPGs, here's one game that I'm on the fence about:

Z.H.P: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman
: First, let me give credit where it's due for the name. It's easily the best thing since Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! -- another NIS-developed game. And how can I resist a roguelike that bills itself as "a grindfest RPG of unheard of proportions?"

Z.H.P was developed by the team behind Disgaea, so it has the pedigree, and its well-developed sense of humor is a plus. But being a roguelike, it also happens to be tough as nails, so it's not for the faint-hearted. It comes recommended from people I trust though, so I may yet give it a try. The only question is whether I'm ready to die ... and die again.
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I'll leave the decision to you, dear readers. I'll be playing Valkyria Chronicles 3 while I wait, since it won't be available on either PSN or via the UMD Passport Program. Seems only right to give my PSP a proper sendoff.


Kat Bailey is a freelance writer based out of San Francisco, California. Her work has been featured on multiple outlets, including GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, gamesTM, and GameSpot. You can follow her on Twitter at @the_katbot.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.