Eye don’t like his chances against Kratos…
With the Vita recently celebrating its second birthday, Sony has managed to bring nearly all of its signature franchises to the handheld: Uncharted, Resistance, Killzone, LittleBigPlanet, etc. Conspicuous by its absence is God of War — doubly so when you consider how well the series translated to the PlayStation Portable with Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. There’s no original title, but Vita owners can now purchase the first two installments as the God of War Collection, a port of the 2009 re-mastered PS3 version.
For the most part, the transition from console to handheld holds up quite well. Chaining moves, evading blows and blocking strikes are all responsive, and you can feel how everything was just a little more polished between the original and the sequel. Some of the platforming feels dicey, however, especially when Kratos is walking across narrow beams, and the decision to tie environmental interaction to the rear touch pad makes no sense. It’s unnecessary and feels forced.
Shifting to the small screen hasn’t been seamless as some of the detail work appears muddied and doesn’t pop on the Vita’s OLED like so many other titles do. Not surprisingly, this is more noticeable with the original game as God of War II looks cleaner, brighter and more fluid (though still not as fluid as the console as there’s definitely a lower frame rate).
As is typical with high-def upgrades, the cut scenes remain untouched and look decidedly grainy and outdated as a result. Despite these shortcomings, the games manage to retain much of the scope and feel of the originals.
Perhaps the more significant piece of collateral damage in the move to the Vita is the degradation of sound quality during actual gameplay, causing some of Kratos’ signature fury to become lost. In terms of actual voice acting and power of the soundtrack, both God of War titles are excellent; it’s just a shame that some of that brilliance was lost in translation.
As noted, the God of War Collection contains both God of War and God of War II. If, by chance, you’ve never played either game, the original follows Kratos’ battle with Ares to supplant him as the God of War. The sequel sees Olympus turn its back on the Ghost of Sparta, stripping him of his godhood and sparking a war between the Titans and the gods in the process — a battle that’s concluded in God of War III, which is not included here.
We’ve been a fan of the series since its inception and have played through all six games (the four console offerings and two PSP originals), and to us God of War II is the saga’s apex — a title that polished all the ground work the original laid, added more variety and upped the graphical ante. So, in terms of content, the Collection offers a lot for a reasonable price (US$29.99 MSRP), though we’re sure you could acquire the PS2 versions or the PS3 compilation for less on the secondhand market.
While both are great games, do keep in mind that neither of them were created with a handheld in mind, and as such they don’t play to the platform’s strengths (and hide its weaknesses) to the same degree as the aforementioned Chains of Olympus and Ghosts of Sparta. Nothing new has been added, either, and with the technological concessions made in bringing the game to the Vita it is undoubtedly the lesser version compared to the PS3.
Ultimately, what you have with the God of War Collection on the Vita is two excellent titles that hold up very well from a gameplay perspective, but other areas aren’t as fortunate. If you haven’t played them before, or it’s been many years, and want to play the games on the go then it could be considered a strong purchase. Otherwise, you may well be happier with the PlayStation 3 incarnation.