Vita's Persona 4 Golden is both exciting and worrisome

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 has to offer.

I can't tell you how excited I am for Persona 4 Golden. In a holiday that's relatively barren of RPGs (unless you like MMOs), it immediately stands out.

As RPGs go, it's pretty much a perfect fit for the Vita. It's lengthy, the art looks sharp on the OLED screen, and it plays out in discrete chunks that mesh well with the portable experience. It's just the sort of fully-fleshed portable RPG that the Vita needs.

It's also a port, something that's become an unfortunate trend for the PlayStation Vita. In fact, all three of the system's most anticipated RPGs – Final Fantasy X, Persona 4 Golden, and now Muramasa: The Demon Blade – are ports or updates from aging release lists. I'm not going to lie: This was exactly what I was afraid of when the Vita first arrived. Publishers appear to be playing it safe on the platform, to the detriment of RPG fans.

Granted, it's always a bit of a battle between the desire to take the path of least resistance and the desire to make something new at the outset. Early adopters are typically more willing to go out and try something new when the library is still small, but the smaller install base makes heavy investment in a new platform risky. It's very much a chicken-and-egg scenario – platforms need dynamic new properties to sell systems, but publishers want to see a large userbase before they are willing to leave their comfort zone. And it appears this is a bigger problem for the Vita than the 3DS.%Gallery-157050%

Nintendo has a large stable of portable-friendly first-party games at its disposal, and it has been proactive in securing the rights to large third-party franchises like Monster Hunter. By comparison, Sony properties like Uncharted and God of War are better-suited for the big screen. The Vita certainly doesn't have anything on the scale of Pokemon, which will sell Nintendo platforms unto the ending of the earth.

As a Vita owner, I'll take what I can get, I suppose. In the short-term, there's the "sequel-reimagining" to the Wii's Little King's Story, which was released Tuesday. Ragnarok Odyssey is a solid action RPG, and both Dragon's Crown and Ys: Celceta no Juka (another remake actually – this time of Ys IV) are something to look forward to in 2013. Valhalla Knights 3 will likewise bring 7-on-7 battles and what look like some very nice graphics to the mix.

So help is on the way for the Vita's anemic RPG lineup, which is good. On the other hand, there doesn't appear to be any sort of platform-defining RPG on the horizon – a game like The World Ends With You that will always be inextricably linked to the system in question. With high-quality offerings like Bravely Default Flying Fairy, Shin Megami Tensei IV, and Monster Hunter 4 on the way for the 3DS, should Vita owners be worried? Yes and no.

"No" in that the Nintendo DS and PSP RPG library were similarly lacking up until 2007 – some two years after their respective releases. Both platforms now boast a very healthy selection of RPGs. These days, the PSP seems to have nothing but RPGs.

"Yes" in that there's no reason that the Vita will turn things around anytime soon. At this point in time, the Nintendo 3DS is a more attractive option for Japanese RPG developers. There's just no way around it.

Thus far, my Vita has gotten a reasonable amount of play, but that's mainly because I've been working on finish Super Robot Taisen Z2 – a PSP game. I'm willing to be patient, especially with so many PSP RPGs still to finish, but with TGS relatively barren of new and interesting announcements this year, I'm starting to think that there won't be relief until 2014 at the earliest. In the meantime, my 3DS is looking more and more interesting.

So I wait, and I play Persona 4 Golden, and I keep my fingers crossed. There may be hope, but thus far in terms of owning a Vita as a lover of RPGs, it feels as if I've spent $250 on a really fancy PSP.

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.