One of the reasons I love my Vita is that it has allowed me to play a large assortment of games that I never got to experience before. Sony has taken the liberty of porting quite a few of its PS2 and PS3 games tto the Vita; they might not be original games, but they’re classics for a reason, and it’s great they’re on the Vita because these classics are now portable.
This time, it’s one of Sony’s strongest Playstation brands in God of War. It needs to be stated from the outset that this isn’t a full collection; it’s only the first and second title, and it is quite disheartening that Santa Monica decided to not put the third (and arguably best) GoW game in the collection, given how closely the three games work together. Players assume the role of Kratos, a Spartan warrior who serves the Gods and is given the task of defeating Ares, the God of War. Using Greek mythology allows for amazing enemy design, action set pieces, and pounding, dramatic soundtracks. Sadly, the collection fails to live up to its potential.
There are some irritating little issues from the outset. For instance, players can’t change games unless they close the application first. There are poorly tacked-on touchscreen and rear touchpad controls. And the collection does very little to improve the visual little of games that (especially the first) could look a whole load better on the Vita. It might seem that I’m being a little unfair to God of War, but I am also playing the remastered Final Fantasy X at the moment. Both games were released on the same system. The effort that has been put into FFXHD warrants the purchase of the remake, while this HD collection feels a little lazy.
And it’s a shame because God of War is still a great game. While it has the basic premise of a button-mashing beat-em-up, the combo system is worthy of spending some time investing in the combat. Kratos’ main weapon of choice is two blades connected to his wrists via chains, and he’s a very fluid combatant, moving around the battlefield with the grace of a dancer. It’s a combat system that is accessible, and still very enjoyable, but is starting to feel ever so slightly dated. Whoever thought slow, quick time events in the middle of high-intensity combat was a great idea? On occasion, the player will inadvertently press the wrong button, leading Kratos to spectacularly allow minions to slip out of his hands. It’s by no means a deal-breaker but will cause some frustration, especially with boss battles, and the industry has moved away away from doing things this way for a good reason. In the distant future you can just tell that God of War is going to feel positively archaic while other games from this era will be remembered as timeless.
That aside, most of the gameplay mechanics are solid, and encourages experimentation with different combos and weapons. As Kratos proceeds throughout the game, he is often given gifts that help in his fight against the Gods. Throughout the adventure, Kratos collects orbs that are used for upgrading his weapons and abilities. With these upgrades comes new combinations for use in combat. Eventually the combat becomes as enjoyable to watch as it is to play.
Undoubtedly, the most enjoyable parts of the game are the boss battles (those quick time events aside). Every single time the player is slowly pushed along environments that build to the climatic fight that is accompanied by the best fighting music an orchestra can provide. I would happily play a God of War collection that only featured boss battles.
But there are also issues that didn’t appear on the PlayStation 3 version of the collection. The positioning of the face buttons of the Vita leads to unbearable hand cramps with long term play. I couldn’t go five minutes without having to stretch my fingers. The fast-paced nature of the combat only increases the pain and it’s not very fun to have to continually put down the system. It might be because of my large hands, but it was a big hindrance in the enjoyment. The sound has also seem to have taken a quality hit. Going along the headphones option is much more viable then listening through the Vita’s speakers, but the impact of the soundtrack is lost either way.
The God of War Collection on the Vita isn’t a very good port, which is a shame as the both God of War and its sequel are great instalments to the Vita’s library. If you can move past the issues of the games and want to enjoy the collection on the go, pick it up. Otherwise I couldn’t recommend this over the cheaper and high-quality PS3 equivalent.
– Sam M.