You Can Take ‘Persona 5’ to Bed, But Expect Stutters Between the Sheets
There’s just something right about playing this series on the PlayStation Vita—but Remote Play comes with a few headaches.
Above: Persona 5 screenshot, all images courtesy of Deep Silver
You don't have to Google far to find people asking if the excellent Persona 5 is ever coming to the Vita, and soon enough expressing their disappointment that it's a PS3 and PS4 only deal. That's because 2012's equally terrific Persona 4 Golden just felt right on Sony's portable, carried around like a great book to be dipped into on the train and between classes or meetings, and binged on during late-night sessions when you're already tucked into bed.
Since Persona 5 necessitates a TV proper to play through, my personal pre-shuteye sessions, duvet pulled up and a warm drink on the side, have been dominated by Breath of the Wild on the Switch. Until I realized, obviously, I could just activate Remote Play on my Vita and stream the newest Shin Megami story straight to my bedroom.
I sleep above the lounge, where the Wi-Fi router is, so the connection's pretty good. And, sure enough, once connected, everything's looking great to begin with—the OLED screen of the first-model Vita has the colors singing, and immediately there's a comfort to having Persona back on the smaller system. I'm happy like this. I can't take it offline, on the move, as I could Golden; but this is cool, just like this, snuggled and satisfied. It's an attractive alternative to spending that same time sat up with the Switch, wandering Hyrule for new shrines. (Just finished my 64th, so I'm getting there.)
But it's not perfect, for a few reasons. Your mileage will differ, but even though my router is effectively directly beneath me when I'm lying in bed, and my internet the fancy fiber optic stuff, there's a stutter to the game at times. I tested at night, and then the early afternoon of the next day, and found no such problems the second time. Perhaps it's demand on the line, so to speak; but remote play in the late hours saw some of the voice-over exchanges flow less fluidly than they should. There was also a noticeable lag on inputs—not really a problem with a turn-based RPG, but a tiny annoyance nonetheless.
This sort of thing is far from unheard of with Remote Play, of course—and perhaps even expected of the set-up. But because Persona 5 is designed for TV play, putting it onto the smaller screen produces a headache born entirely of scale rather than internet speed. The text can be super hard to read at times, as it's hardly big when viewed as intended—for me, this was mostly when shopping, using the game's instant messenger system, and navigating the Tokyo subway. Public places can get very crowded, as you'd expect given the game's setting, and that can seem overwhelming when crammed into a five-inch window.
The simple fact that the Vita has fewer buttons than a DualShock must also be considered. The Vita's rear touch pad will substitute for the stick clicks (which you don't use) and the left and right triggers. Which seems like a fair enough set-up, until you're frequently switching the protagonist into "focus" mode by mistake, fading everything to black to highlight interactive possibilities, because your fingers don't feel right unless they're wrapped around the system. (If you can successfully "claw" your Vita, you've more disciplined digits than me.)
When this isn't actively interfering with play, it's popping an overlay atop the action, which you can see above. I just can't get comfortable, in a couple of hours of trying, with flicking my fingers back and forth across the rear of the Vita, triggering what I want, when I want it.
Truthfully, with L1 and L2 performing the same "focus" function in Persona 5, it's only the right trigger you need remapped for Vita, which allows you to run when in dungeons. Having done two of those, it's a useful, but not necessarily essential function. Which means you can turn off the touchpad completely, and lose the annoying pop-up when you stretch your fingers—but what if you suddenly need to make a dash for it, chased by a beyond-your-abilities shadow?
With no chance of a Persona 5 Switch port, nor a version retooled to take best advantage of Sony's handheld, Remote Play on the Vita is the sole way anyone is going to get down with Morgana the talking cat and company while "off screen". It works much better than other games designed with only PS4 play in mind—if you've not tried using the touchpad for shooting arrows in Horizon Zero Dawn, I recommend don't—but there are enough niggles to keep me playing Persona 5 on the TV downstairs, and Zelda upstairs after the lights have gone out.
Persona 5 is released in the UK and US on April 4th.