Don’t Try to Hack Your Vita. It’s Not Worth It.

While the writing has been on the wall for some time now, the PS Vita, Sony’s attempt at a follow-up to it’s popular PlayStation Portable (PSP), has been discontinued. For the first year or so after its initial release to American audiences, the company made a half-assed effort to show support for the powerful piece of hardware, but in response to sales never quite picking up, they pulled all software support about halfway through its lifecycle, leaving the heavy lifting up to 3rd party and indie developers. And lift they did, eventually releasing a ton of games that, while mostly not exclusive to the system, were still fun to play on the go.

I could lament from atop my soapbox until the cows come home about the mistakes Sony made or the potential the Vita had to rival the Nintendo Switch, but that won’t change what has already happened. The only option now is to move forward. Sometimes to move forward though, one has to confront the past, and the truth is, the most glaring flaw with the development of the console is that only Sony’s proprietary memory sticks could be used for game storage. These things were at least twice the price of standard SD cards with equivalent storage and the maximum capacity available was a paltry 64 GB. For someone such as myself who has a lot of/too many games, that kind of storage doesn’t cut it without constantly doing storage management.

So a couple weeks ago, I started wondering if any 3rd party developers had ever created more sizable storage options in the years since the console’s launch. Such a thing is standard practice in the gaming industry, even for niche hardware. I happened upon some threads and Amazon listings suggesting that special adapters could be used to install micro SD cards in the game slot. My prayers had finally been answered! The only catch: I had to hack my system in order to do it. With fully detailed instructions all over the Web, how difficult could it be?

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I have a small amount of experience having done soft hacks in the past. First, it was emulators, which wasn’t so much hacking as it was acquiring software from different places and using them correctly. Then, I started jailbreaking my first iPhones, enabling me to do things I couldn’t normally do with them. That was simply a matter of downloading the right program and running it with the phone physically connected to the PC. Next was my first actual hacking: the aforementioned PSP. I honestly don’t remember much about this because it didn’t last long. While I was able to successfully play a ton of games from different systems, the hardware was notoriously unstable and eventually bricked itself.

Much more recently, I installed a high storage memory card on my 2DS, allowing me to store all my games on it at once. This was simple, convenient, inexpensive, and didn’t really require hacking. I was hoping to get the same results from hacking the Vita. So after checking to make sure I had the right firmware–anything below version 3.70–I bought the two pieces I needed, the SD2 Vita and a 256 GB micro SD card. I briefly glanced over instructions for the process and, while tedious, most of the steps were simply copying and dragging files. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I’m not going to go over every step of the 4 or 5 hours I spent trying to get the software to work on my Vita, but suffice to say, it didn’t work. The first process I followed didn’t transfer the necessary software onto the handheld at all, so I sought out a more hands-on procedure. This next one actually did install one of the programs on the hardware, but after opening it and attempting to install the other ones, seen in the below menu, the system just crashed. Nothing I did could make it work, after wasting a night on it.

At first, the angel on my shoulder said, “You can just start the process over tomorrow. Maybe you made a mistake somewhere. Failing that, you can just find another procedure that’ll work better.” But the devil on my shoulder said, “What? And waste another night on this crap? Your time could be better spent blogging and playing video games!” So I listened to the devil and now I’m looking for a reason to keep my unopened 256 GB micro SD card. Storage management is annoying, but it’s not worth wasting multiple nights trying to avoid it.

If you must have a hacked Vita and can spare dropping around $300, which is nothing compared to all the money you’ve spent on your games if you don’t have storage space for them, there are plenty of pre-hacked consoles on eBay at the optimal firmware version, 3.65. They also have emulators for multiple former systems like the NES and Sega Genesis including their entire game libraries. I would recommend buying one of those.

Dragon Quest XI First Impressions and Moving Forward

I gave into temptation. I’ve seen the glowing reviews for this game from other sites. I also read somewhere that how well this game sells will decide whether Square-Enix will localize future titles. I’m also fairly confident we are in the beginnings of an old-school JRPG renaissance after the overwhelming support of games such as Octopath Traveler. So I gave into temptation and bought Dragon Quest XI at full price, which is not something I do often.

After I bought it, I remembered I still have 500-some games that I wanted to play first, but I really wanted just a little taste of the game I will eventually have time to play. “Just a little taste,” I kept telling myself. Thankfully, the game was set up quite well for this with the first dungeon being something of a tutorial. I haven’t played the demo, but I imagine this would make for a good one. If I were to describe what I’ve seen of the game in one word, it would be “gorgeous.”

dragon-quest-11 early

The graphics seem to be similar in style to Dragon Quest VIII, black line borders around characters and cel shading, but with 3-dimensional backgrounds and a more expansive palette. As a result, the game comes off as a realistic-looking, colorful anime. Peering into the distance on the mountain I was climbing revealed other interesting-looking monuments I will no doubt be visiting in the future. For now, I can only gaze out in wonder.

The story seems to start off simple, like any Dragon Quest game. The traditional storylines of the games have been a hallmark of series since its inception, and this one involves a coming of age youth making his way through his village’s ritual trial only to discover his lineage as a displaced heir to the throne. Though this is a cliche opening, the developers have thrown such personality into the characters and gameplay, the plot really takes second fiddle.

There are so many things to find through exploration that I forgot where I was supposed to be going a few times. Luckily, getting myself back on the right path was relatively simple. As fighting battles are a substantial portion of the game, I’m delighted to report that they function just as well as they always have. The developers decided to allow the player to get an overhead view of the action and to run around the battlefield. Come to find out, this doesn’t serve a tactical purpose. It is only an aesthetic change and can be switched to the more traditional front-facing view.

dq11 battle.jpg

Alas, I quit the game right before leaving the first village, but I had fun with what little I played. Recently I realized that with all the games I’m trying to get through, I haven’t been taking a systematic approach to playing them which is really necessary in order to get through them more efficiently. As such, I decided I would start playing them chronologically by system, leading me all the way back to the original Playstation. Games on older systems tend to be shorter, so it should be easier to pump them out. Nostalgia trip, here I come!

Backlogs and Other Projects

May 12, 2018 was an important day for me. Yes, after working on and off for 15 years, I finally received a Bachelor’s degree. But more than that, I came to realize I have a large number of things I’ve been putting off doing over the last 10 years, and especially the last 5, in favor of doing schoolwork or anything else I had going on. Now that I accomplished a goal, I have magically transformed (cue the Sailor Moon music!) into a goal-driven person.¬† Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

The one thing that I have been putting off for even longer than I had attended post-secondary education is my backlog of video games. Ironically, though it has been neglected, it just keeps getting bigger. Like a weed. Ever since I started trolling through the Playstation Network and seeing how many great free and discounted games are available through my PS+ membership, I’ve been a little…unrestrained. On top of that, it is much easier to accumulate things when you don’t physically have to store them in your closet and have more disposable income.

At first my backlog was just some sort of intangible blob in the back of my mind. One day I would surely get to all of my games, however many there were, some day. I mean, I paid for them, so I can’t waste money. But then I decided that in order to tackle this festering cancer, I needed to know what I was dealing with. Somehow, I ended up reading an article on the subject (maybe on Kotaku?) and going through the comment section. As an aside, I’ve always found Kotaku’s comment section to be the most informed and intelligent on the internet.

One thread was discussing how they keep track of their backlog, suggesting a few different sites and even just Google Sheets. I groaned at the thought of using a site to do all this work after I already entered all this information into an app on my phone¬†4 years ago. It is more for scanning physical games, which at that point was the bulk of my collection, and used to be a great way to keep track of them all along with pictures, selling prices, and review scores. It’s called Video Games Database Scanner, but I do not recommend it unless you are a collector. Even then, the app needs an overhaul as much of its original functionality has ceased.

The one suggestion made in that comment section was for a site called Backloggery. After exploring the site myself, I groaned again at how simple the interface was. While graphically, it looked like a site that was built on Internet 1.0, entering a number of games into my list wasn’t the easiest experience due to a few flaws in the system. Otherwise, after managing to create my backlog with every game I owned, both digital and physical, I found that I have around 500 games I need to play through.

That should be the end of the story, but along the way I realized something about myself: I’m no longer a collector. At least, I don’t want to be. I live in DC and storage space comes at a premium here. I don’t like storing or displaying things unless they have a purpose and as I’ve matured (haha), I’ve learned that game cases are very ugly. I’ve also moved many times and have had to carry them all to each new home. So if I don’t want to display them and I don’t want to store them, why do I still have them? Thus began another project I’ve been putting off: selling things on eBay.

I’m now simultaneously going through my (still growing) backlog and selling physical games that have better digital versions. As I grow into my new life of having free time, I’ve decided I need to clear all the clutter out of home and life. By having less “stuff” I will be able to focus on the few things left that really matter. I’ve also found that as I complete more projects, such as whittling down my Facebook friends to only the 200+ people I actually know or care about, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it’s the little things we do that help give us a boost of confidence.

So how bout you? What projects can you complete within a few days to help you feel more accomplished?