Sony’s E3 2014 press conference was a pretty good show, filled with some surprising announcements and a lot of great games. It also, however, contained a moment that made me want to hate the entire company.
That moment came when SCEA’s new president and CEO Shawn Layden took the stage. As he talked about his history with Sony, the PlayStation brand, and gaming, he brought up a name that still dug like a dagger plunged deep into my heart: Vib Ribbon.
For those unfamiliar with it, Vib Ribbon was an early release from NanaOn-Sha, a Japanese development studio who helped establish one of my favorite gaming genres—music/rhythm games—and who crafted other classics such as PaRappa the Rapper and UmJammer Lammy. Vib Ribbon is the story of Vibri, a little wire frame rabbit who travels across a monochrome landscape created by the music that’s playing in the background. The game came with six tracks from Japanese group Laugh and Peace—song I still listen to to this day—but you could also swap the game out for your own music CDs, opening up brand new stages created dynamically from the songs contained on them.
Why did Mr. Layden’s talk of how much he loved Vib Ribbon, and how important it had been to him, bother me? Because while the game had been released in Japan and later ported over to Europe, we here in North America never got the game—and it’s existed as an 15-year-running shameful moment for how, at that point, SCEA was sometimes reluctant to give smaller, stranger games a chance.
Unfortunately, the teases didn’t end at E3. Little mentions of the game would happen here and there; Layden wore a Vib Ribbon t-shirt during his ice bucket challenge. Every one of these small mentions felt like another spoonful of salt being rubbed into the wound of PlayStation owners in the West. For me, I’d owned a Japanese copy of the game for years—two copies, in fact—but that wasn’t the point. I’d never been able to officially play the game on any of my North American PlayStation systems—and others had never been able to play it period.
“It was not my intention to rub salt in the Vib Ribbon wound, but to express my admiration for it as the genre-busting title it is and was,” Layden wrote in a post on the PlayStation Blog today. “My mistake was that I had assumed that everyone who had been around in the original PlayStation era would have had their chance to play the game. I had forgotten that the American gamer was effectively denied the opportunity. To mention it at E3 was to delight some and to squirt lemon in the eyes of others. For this, I apologize. It was not my intent to dangle the delight of Vibri in front of those who longed for but could not have. It was to make a point about having the courage, and talent, to break the mold. To do what your heart demands. To me Vib Ribbon — well, to be honest, Nanaonsha for that matter — has always been committed to that ideal. An ideal I wish to celebrate.”
And celebrate he (and all of us) will, as Vib Ribbon—fifteen years after it was first released in Japan—is set for release as a PSN download tomorrow in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Japan (with Europe following next week).
“Vib Ribbon is finally making its way to North America, and the major catalyst was all of you who wrote, posted, blogged, tweeted that you wished to see this game come back and wanted your voice to be heard by the suits. Well, it has,” Layden adds.
So, the big question: how does the game’s music-swapping element work? In his post, Layden notes that it’ll work on the PS3 by putting in your own physical music CDs. On the Vita, it won’t work—because you’d need to use digital music files, something the original game was never meant to handle. I’d love to see a Vib Ribbon remake that could work with such things, but for now, this beggar won’t be a chooser.
Oh, and Layden says that “we’re still working on a way to make it available on PS4” when talking about which systems Vib Ribbon will play on. So, even in the game’s announcement for North American release, he still can’t help but get in one final tease.
Source: Official PlayStation Blog