The Vita is the Go-To Pixel Art Platform

I’ve been playing the ever-loving snot out of Retro City Rampage DX recently. Sure, it’s hilarious, fourth-wall shattering, and generally pretty fun, but that’s not what impressed me the most about the deluxe edition of Vblank Entertainment’s retro-fied open world title. I bounced back and forth between the PlayStation 4 and Vita versions thanks to their Cross-Save functionality, and seeing them side by side highlights one of the handheld’s best features. Sure, the console versions of Retro City Rampage DX have some subtle touches that assist in evoking nostalgia (I’m a big fan of the way the screen edges curve to emulate the feel of an old CRT television), but dozens of indie games have demonstrated that pixel-art looks best on Sony’s misunderstood handheld.

A much smarter man than myself could explain exactly why sprite-based games look better on a smaller screen than they do on a massive display. They’d probably tell you something about how the resolution of these games is fixed, and making the display larger only stretches out that finite number of pixels. Then this wonderful expert would probably go into detail about how the only way to increase the pixel count of these games would be to redraw the art entirely. Since I’m not that man, I can only write two vague sentences that hint at plausible explanations and make me seem marginally less incompetent. At any rate, the Vita’s screen condenses those carefully placed pixels into sharp, appealing images, and on the original model’s OLED screen the colors are stunning.

fez vita

There’s something to be said for larger, bulkier pixels – such visuals provide a great deal of nostalgia to gamers who grew up during the bit wars. Still, the PlayStation Vita’s library is full of pixel-art titles, and many of them are at their best on the Vita. Hotline Miami originally launched as a PC-only title in 2012, but anyone who’s played Dennaton’s surreal massacre simulator knows that it works brilliantly on the go. Fez was a year-long Xbox exclusive before it eventually made its way to the Vita, and again that’s arguably the best version. Retro City Rampage, on the other hand, launched for the Vita on the same day as the PC and PlayStation 3 – Vblank’s crown jewel was meant for portable play all along. It’s worth noting that the PlayStation Vita is home to one of the best D-pads in gaming history, which makes old-school indie games that much more enjoyable.

The most grueling test of my hypothesis will likely be Super Time Force Ultra, which is slated for a Vita port sometime in the first half of this year. The Vita’s screen can make even the most intricate pixel-art look amazing, but can it handle one of the craziest pixel-art titles ever? Objects fly everywhere all the time in Capy’s action puzzler, and while they’re putting their all into optimizing it, this is a game that had slowdown problems on the Xbox 360. Regardless of whether Super Time Force Ultra turns out to be at its best on Sony’s beast of a handheld, one thing is certain: you’d be hard-pressed to find a more pixel-art-friendly platform than the Vita.