Last year's Rogue Legacy wasn't made explicitly for Vita, but it certainly plays like it could have been. The recent release maintains its unique charm on the new device with the added convenience of portability, without missing a step.
As in the PC version, this is a game all about minor iteration and improvement over the course of dozens, or possibly even hundreds, of playthroughs. Almost every "generation" of hero inevitably dies, but gathers some loot and treasure along the way. That funds the upgrades for the next hero, over and over. The concept lends itself to redundancy, but the procedurally generated castle and surrounding areas are bursting with variety.
Plenty of indie games capture and emulate the style of classic side-scrolling, but Rogue Legacy has a special knack for incorporating randomizing elements into what might otherwise feel too familiar. The adventurers have their own genetic advantages or disabilities, which can have effects ranging from reducing knockback upon damage to flipping the entire castle upside-down. A hero with a bad memory might not be able to access the map, while another might be unusually large or small. The environment has obstacles suited for every kind of hero, though it can be galling to find treasure just out of reach because you didn't pick a pint-sized one.
The rich class system helps stave off repetition as well. A few base classes like Knight or Mage evolve into Paladin and Archmage with a few upgrades, but others are much more unusual. A Dragon can't jump or use a standard weapon, but he trades off with flight and replinishing magic for his or her fireballs. The Barbarian is significantly weaker and less magical, but has HP far above its counterparts. The Miner is especially apt at farming for gold, but is otherwise fairly useless.
Gold farming is really the main goal of the game at certain points. This makes for a nice steady ramp of collecting loot, perhaps facing off against a boss or two, and then rolling that money into upgrading your next heroes. It's a totally natural progression for the most part, but it takes time hitting its stride. The economy has a brief but frustrating gap near the beginning in which it's difficult to collect enough treasure to afford any upgrades at all. Paired with a doorkeeper who takes your money to gain re-entry, it was difficult to get over that hump and continue progressing normally as the game intends.
Those are problems endemic to Rogue Legacy itself, though, and its presence on Vita is really well-done. The controls feel natural and the screen gives it a nice crisp look. The Start and Select buttons are a little too small for functions so important as accessing a map, but that's more an issue with the device. I also appreciated the cross-save feature paired with the PlayStation 3 version, but waiting for it whenever waking the system from sleep was difficult when I just had a few minutes and wanted to jump back into the action right away.
Even beyond the technical prowess, Rogue Legacy has a special kind of appeal on a handheld device. Maybe because it invokes classic games, it reminded me of those heady days of adventuring on a Gameboy in the back of the family car. It's a feeling that isn't quite replicated on larger screens, be it a PC or TV screen. If you have the option, play it on Vita. If you don't, play it wherever you can.
This impression is based on a downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher. Rogue Legacy is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Vita. The game is rated E-10.