Wales’ love affair with the PS Vita…

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The PlayStation Vita is a console that you’d normally associate as being strongly linked with the far East, most notably Japan. Certainly, at times it seems as if it’s been all but forgotten in the West. On a retail level at least, America tends to show disdain for our favourite system, and Europe shows it no favours either.

Yet there are still fast approaching 16 million loyal Vita owners worldwide and developers still writing games for it with a strong fan base everywhere, eager for new games and a passionate community spirit. When I talk about passion, there’s none more so than my adopted home country of Wales. The country is certainly showing the Vita a lot of love from the developers that can be found amidst the cities and valleys of the Welsh countryside, not to mention a few other surprises the country has contributed to the Vita…

Wales as a whole isn’t traditionally associated with playing a strong role in the video games industry but nothing could be further from the truth. The Welsh Government has been supporting home grown talent for a long time both financially and additional nurturing and assistance. The nation has it’s own awards for the industry with the video games awards from BAFTA Cymru, and there is a thriving development community working together and even coming together for the annual Celtic Games Show (formerly the Wales Games Development Show).

But what of the Vita itself? Since moving to Wales in late 2013 I was curious to know just what the industry was like where I lived in relation to the PS Vita. Certainly South Wales in particular has a long history with the UK computing industry as it’s the birthplace of the Dragon 32 (built just 10 miles from where I live in Port Talbot where many an episode of Doctor Who has been filmed) but what about today? Vita owners would be surprised to know just how many developers there are that hail from Wales or who have connections to the country and just how important it is to the games industry.

Starting off on a smaller scale, and one that shocked me in terms of how closely they are based to where I lived are Cooply. The former PlayStation Mobile developers are working on a number of multi-format games right now but it’s safe to say that they haven’t put their PlayStation days behind them just yet…

For those who like their games a little on the quirky side, there’s Cardiff based Dakko Dakko who have been bringing us games since the days of the PSP, with the most recent being their port from their Wii title Scram Kitty. Still with quirky (and animals) is Wales Interactive, located in Pencoed who have brought Gravity Badgers to the Vita. Again, they’re still looking into further releases so fingers crossed on that front.

On the games front, possibly the biggest for Wales is Llamasoft who really need no introduction. A real stalwart of the games industry, veteran programmer Jeff Minter has been developing games since the dawn of the industry in the UK and it’s safe to say that he has probably written games for most computers or consoles in his career. While he has only released one Vita title so far, in the case of Llamasoft it’s quality that counts and you can’t ask for more when it’s TxK – one of our highest rated games on the website.

I know that’s only really scratching the surface on the developer and publisher front, but I can’t leave it there without a mention for West Coast Games from Aberystwyth. Responsible for the PS Vita port of Putty Squad, they’ve also been campaigning to bring the 16-bit classic D/Generation back to modern machines which was great both on the Amiga and CD32. While their Kickstarter campaign for this was unsuccessful, the game is now available for the PC (via Steam) and we can only hope that the planned PS Vita version still goes ahead.

Beyond the developer side of things, Wales has made a few other contributions to the gaming world that many may not have realised and one in particular may surprise you…

While the latest game may not be Vita-bound, there’s no getting away from the excitement surrounding the release of the new Ratchet and Clank game for the PS4 and the new movie. Sadly as Vita owners we’ve had to settle for a few of the PSP titles, The Ratchet and Clank Trilogy and Ratchet and Clank: Q Force but as well as the outstanding gameplay from all of these titles, there’s something that makes all the games in the series stand head-and-shoulders above most platformers – the superb voice acting.

Amazingly, David Kaye, the actor behind the voice of Clank is of Welsh heritage. While born in Canada and now living in Los Angeles, his grandparents on one side are from Wales. More specifically, the small mining town of Maesteg in South Wales a few miles from Port Talbot (in fact, just a couple of miles down the road from where I live). Unlike many actors who tend to forget their roots, it is something that he is very proud of and he does come back to Wales every few years to visit family across the area.

Vita Player Editor Simon Plumbe (L) and David Kaye (R) at Maesteg train station, 2015.

I can’t finish talking about the Wales and the PS Vita without mentioning Rugby (and if I did ignore it I wouldn’t be forgiven, especially with the number of our team members who live in Wales!). It’s our national sport and one we can be proud of. Unlike England who rarely seem to get out of the starting blocks when it comes to football, at least the Welsh national team manage to win matches at rugby.

Whether it’s going to see a game live (and the atmosphere in Cardiff is indescribable when there is a game on at the Millennium Stadium), betting online at Betstars to support the boys, or even just watching on television with friends, it’s something that you can’t escape living here. The official games we have seen for the PS Vita from Big Ben Interactive may not be developed in Wales (they’re produced by HB Studios in Canada), there’s no denying that there’s been plenty of love for Rugby fans and may it continue!

There’s certainly plenty for us to be proud of here in Wales. Whether it’s our developers, publishers, the pedigree of the voice actors the country is producing or even how well our national sport is being treated… it’s definitely a great place to be as a Vita owner!

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