Sony has stealth-activated a load of PSP and PSone classics on PS Vita (as reported by CVG News), allowing you to download and play practically any of the classic content still available on the store on your handheld. About bloody time, too!
Strangely, however, you could be forgiven for concluding that not even Sony knew about the change, as it was activated to no fanfare whatsoever. But what titles they are! Sure, some have been available in select territories for a while, but now everyone should be able to enjoy Crash Bandicoot and Motorstorm: Arctic Edge. And how about Phantasy Star Portable 2? And Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops? Yes, we're talking major omissions from the Vita's compatibility library now being right there to enjoy. If you've bought them before, just download them from your download list. If not, buy them today! It's how digital distribution should be.
Mind you, Europe is STILL waiting for the original Ridge Racer to hit the store. It was announced at E3 2006 and shown running on a PSP. THAT WAS ALMOST 8 YEARS AGO. Is it because we laughed? Serves us right, I suppose. Riiiiiiiidge…
Also, it doesn’t solve the problem of long-term missing titles in the download store. OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast has never appeared in digital form, likely due to the expired Ferrari License. But there’s no excuse for games like Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep not to appear. It works on digital, it should be there to play on Vita.
I can’t understand the thinking behind keeping any old content off the store, unless there are licensing problems or compatibility issues. Indeed, some users are reporting difficulties loading Pocket Fighters (and I can't see it on the EU store), but I highly doubt Sony has dedicated an entire team to ensuring compatibility rates are perfect on PSP and PSone games. If it had, there would have been a lot of noise championing the results of that team’s labours.
The only other possibility is that the compatibility update was released by mistake (which is unlikely but just about feasible). If so, it’s the best accident to happen to Vita by far. Let’s not forget that PSP sold over 80 million units, many say because it was so 'open', despite Sony's efforts to close it. Loads of people used it to play their old SNES games, for example. I’m definitely not condoning piracy, but right now, Sony needs to increase Vita’s install base, to attract third-parties to the platform and ensure the platform enjoys a long and successful life.
By opening up the console to content already purchased on PSN/SEN (even PSP demos!), gamers will know that they can buy the console and have access to a load of games right from the off. It's a softener. It removes a barrier to entry. And Vita needs as much of that sort of thing as it can get.
I've got an analogy (it's OK, I've got an inhaler for it): Sony has arguably hooked up Vita to PS4 like an intravenous drip-feed in order to keep it alive for the time being. But full backwards-compatibility is a solid meal it can chew with its own teeth, which will help build up its strength. Arguably it should have been choosing from the entire selection of retro morsels from Day 1, but hey-ho. Obviously (hang in there, I'm not done), Vita needs to be cooking and eating its own meals without eating pre-masticated versions of daddy’s food (eew... sorry) or hunting for scraps festering in PSP and PSone’s well-past-their-sell-by-date larders. But until a massive E3-shaped food delivery arrives, anything to fatten it up right now is a good thing. Analogy over. Nailed it.
Today’s news is great for the console. So why Sony hasn't said anything or championed the move is a mystery. Surely the Vita can't be so far down its list of priorities that 'send out press release for backwards compatibility update' comes under 'Tweet about Tales of Xillia 2 getting two (count 'em) 'lavish' special editions on PS3'... right?