Comment: Grand Theft Mobile

Volition, the makers of the wonderfully chaotic Saints Row have done their part in safeguarding gaming history through the release of a cancelled PS Vita game. Beyond a simple port, the game was to be the next installment of the franchise.

Drive by Videogames

I always find it curious that ‘adult’ titles made it on handhelds. For some reason, more so than other platforms, I associate these consoles with the idea that these are childish things. However, the history of portable gaming has its Hard R titles. To this day I own Grand Theft Auto for Game Boy Color (GBC). A curious port of series, Nintendo’s handheld didn’t give the horsepower to populate three cities with the appropriate level of life. Instead, one of the challenges was always finding a getaway vehicle to carjack as means of escape during your crime spree.


Grand Theft Auto

Rush hour in Grand Theft Auto (GBC)

Later handheld versions of Rockstar’s banner franchise overcame this and where some of the deepest offerings from the series. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars used the DX’s screen to deepen the experience even if it was a little unwieldy for play on the tube; whilst Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories is lauded at one of the best in the tentpole franchise.


To call the first iteration of Saints Row a copy of Rockstar’s series is probably fair. For my money, Volition’s take on sandbox ‘Crime-Um-Up’ is preferable. The title has evolved into an anarchic, wacky romp that only videogames can create. But its in early days it is unsurprising that THQ Execs looked to ape its more prestigious spiritual cousin.

Saints Row: Undercover would follow the events of the second game and via the PS Vita let the player explore Stillwater as a secret member of the city’s PD. The design documents makes clear that much of the games assets could be migrated over from early games, however gameplay would be far more of a challenge.

Common thread

With ubiquitous instances on Unreal and Android operating systems, today the process of porting or furthering titles on numerous platforms is becoming relatively painless. However, it wasn’t too long ago that such projects demanded a wholesale renovation of existing games. When gamers bemoan poor versions of games on PC or other platforms this was and continues to be the root of the problem.

Volition, had to deal with some realities when it came to developing Saints Row for the PS Vita. Aerial vehicles were out unless on rails and player input had to be completely redesigned to accommodate simply less buttons. Beyond the cosmetic, graphical user interfaces would have to be scaled back due to lack of processing power, as would the map and environments.

Final judgment

In the end bringing Saints Row to the PS Vita proved too challenging particularly given the financial reward on offer. Less units, meant less of a market and existing franchise fans, myself included wouldn’t have been attracted to a paired down version whose primary appeal would have been a continuation of the frankly scant, Saints Row story.

One has to applaud the studios for trying, and importantly throwing im the towel. Hopefully this article highlights why gaming is moving to a converged future. The simplification of game production and distribution would have reduced the scale of the challenge of bringing Saints Row to other devices and we may have been looking at the future release of the seventh, rather than the sixth under the Volition’s new owners Deep Silver.



Featured image is a screen shot at 04:41 of a Daily Motion video titled JXD S7800b Game Review | Gundam Seed: Rengou VS Z A F T Gameplay Part 1 by JXD Video Game Console

Screenshot of Grand Theft Auto for Game Boy Color sourced from Pocket Gamer’s article History in Handheld: Grand Theft Auto by Mark Brown.

All images Used without permission, please contact squareblind (at) email (dot) com if you are the copyright holder and wish this to be removed.


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