When they said “Vita is life”, Sony had no idea how determined their fans would take that to heart. Over half a decade since the handheld was effectively abandoned by its creators, there are still games for the portable PlayStation. Kept alive through the efforts of indies and hobbyist homebrewers, the Vita has found a new home! The… *checks notes* the Nintendo Switch?!
Hack the Planet!
That’s right! Your Switch is actually capable of running PS Vita software. Right now it’s limited to a few test programs and homebrew apps, but developer Sergi Granelli’s software has opened the door to much more than that. Rather than an emulator, Granelli’s tapped into the more exciting alternative of directly, natively translating the code. As in, PS Vita applications simply running in the Switch’s operating system as if they were built for it, without necessarily needing a direct port.
Okay but How Does This Make My Switch Able to Play Vita Games?
Modern Vintage Gamer, a YouTuber, homebrewer, and game developer experienced with console modding, goes into detail above about what is currently possible. However, for those who want it a tad simpler: by harnessing a low-level graphics program, Granelli is quite literally translating software calls across the two languages. In essence, it’s a Rosetta Stone for the Switch to understand a PS Vita app’s code.
What’s this mysterious graphics software, Deko3D? It’s a reverse-engineered API specifically targeting the Switch’s Nvidia Tegra X1 graphics chip. It works as the go-between, allowing programmers to access the system’s hardware more easily. There’s also been, upon inspection of Granelli’s github, some code drawn from the open-source PS Vita emulator, Vita3K.
So Can I Play Vita Games on My Switch Now?
Not quite yet. It’s an amazing technical achievement to be able to run any homebrew software at the moment. While the Switch is reportedly very easy to program for, and even to emulate on PC, as MVG cites, the PS Vita has its own unique quirks. Shaders in particular are tricky to work with at the best of times. If anything becomes playable, it might not quite look all that pretty for some time.
Regardless, as proof of concepts go, this is a landmark achievement for Switch homebrew. Not only could it give PS Vita games a new lease on life, but it would make Vita games finally playable on a TV without needing a hard-to-find PSTV unit. Which, speaking personally, is honestly a much harder, let alone more expensive endeavor than homebrewing a Switch. Here’s hoping the translation efforts lead to a great new way to play some hidden gems from Sony’s last handheld – and also, ideally, no legal action from either Sony or Nintendo.
If you’re a programmer or just happen to have a brewed Switch handy, you can download Granelli’s code on his github. For the rest of us, we’ll have to keep our Vitas charged until they crack the code.