Spring isn’t officially here for another few weeks but it’s already over 50 degrees outside, new growth is starting to bud, and I’m feeling nostalgic for the dozen or so colorful indie games that I’ve accumulated on my Vita over the years.
For years around this time, Sony used to run its annual Spring Fever event promoting new and old indie games with brief sales. In 2012 the lineup was led by ThatGameCompany’s Journey. The next year DrinkBox Studios debuted Guacamelee!. And even after Sony abandoned the Vita following the release of the PlayStation 4 in 2013, March remained a time for the handheld to shine as some of the best games of the decade like Fez and Shovel Knight continued to get ported to it.
Back when the large publishers loaded most of their biggest releases onto the back half of the year, spring was a time to dive into some of the smaller, more personal, and highly curated indie games coming out, and the Vita felt like the perfect place to do it. Games like Titan Souls and Hotline Miami 2 were arcade-y and broken up into bite-sized chunks perfect for picking up and putting down in short intervals. The Vita made it easy to take many of them outside where the longer days and warmer weather offered much needed relief after being cooped up inside all winter. And while some of these games came to the 3DS, a lot of them didn’t. A few, like Titan Souls, still aren’t on Switch.
I moved around a lot in the 2010s. First back home after college, then to an apartment in the city, later back home again after a breakup, and eventually through a string of other apartments before finally buying a house. I remember grinding for hours in OlliOlli 2 in between building my first gaming PC. I remember being obsessed with exploring every little room in Salt and Sanctuary’s sprawling 2D world while living in my friend’s attic. And I remember dying to the Titan Souls’ thorny-vined Vinethesis on one bus ride to work after another until I finally beat it.
Games like SteamWorld Dig and Axiom Verge are also so steeped in the rich pixel art and detailed level designs of my favorite NES and SNES classics that playing them makes me feel more in touch with the ’90s kid experiencing Metroid and Super Castlevania IV for the first time. It’s re-energizing, but in a way distinctly attuned to the changing of the seasons. Instead of digging into comfort food from decades ago, I’m dipping back into fresh re-imaginings of some of my favorite games.
I could always try to re-build my indie catalog anew on Switch, but that would be far from cheap. Plus, it would feel like abandoning my favorite reading nook in a book store or bench at the park. The games are still excellent and play excellently on the Vita. And like a time capsule for my 20s, revisiting them on the handheld I first experienced them on helps me channel more of the energy and optimism that propelled me through the last decade.
Hell, maybe this’ll be the year I finally crack and buy one of Sony’s criminally still overpriced Vita memory cards so I can actually have all the games downloaded at once. Now who’s down for a round of Helldivers?