Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the jewel of the Playstation Vita launch, and it deserves to be. Itís fast, itís engaging and itís beautiful. Just like they advertised, itís a console experience on a small screen. But it does much more than prove what the Vita is capable of. It proves what Uncharted is capable of. By shrinking its story down, Sony has discovered the future of its franchise.
Itís not because the story is any deeper or the gameplay more elaborate. Itís just the opposite. The gameplay is repetitive and the story is entertaining but appropriately shallow. It introduces the touchscreen, but ultimately only as a troublesome afterthought. Itís just a day in the life of Nathan Drake. Itís perfect.
Look at Drakeís Deception vs. Golden Abyss. The former is a globetrotting epic, testing the limits of Drakeís mad commitment to treasure hunting as well as his relationships with Sully and Elena. Itís an emotional epic meant to shake Drake to his boots.
Golden Abyss, on the other hand, doesnít teach Drake one thing or change him one iota. The stock villain and the female lead are both entirely disposable. It takes place at an unspecified time, in a single setting, with a limited cast of characters and jokes weíve all heard before. Sully shows up for what isnít much more than a cameo. There are a lot of lines like: ďYou wait here, Iíll find another way upĒ, ďitís a long storyĒ, and ďthis place is coming down around us.Ē
In short, itís a Nathan Drake story, and itís an Uncharted game. You play it like popcorn and it leaves you feeling better than any summer blockbuster. It bodes well for the future of the franchise: Naughty Dog or any developer theyíve let use their characters could pump these things out ad infinitum. They could even play with releasing short episodes that last two or three hours, or releasing a Golden Abyss-style story in weekly installments. Drake is good enough to make it work.
In a franchise like Gears of War, people complained that the developers repackaged the same game in a new setting. That was part of the problem, but it wasnít the biggest one. The problem was that their writing and story were so god-awful that they couldnít hope to keep three full games engaging. A cover system does not a franchise make.
Uncharted is just the opposite. The gameplay stays mostly the same, as do the character models, but it doesnít matter. The story, the writing, and the magical feeling of being Nathan Drake are what keep the gamers coming back.
The interplay between console and handheld has served Sony well with God of War, which carried out Kratosís main trilogy on the Playstation 2 and 3 while delving into his past on the PSP. But Uncharted holds even more promise: Kratosí story all but closed with God of War 3, and the epic style of the series only allows for so many prequels. But Drake? Heís got a near infinite history of treasure hunting to exploit, and a near-infinite supply of mythical cities to go after.
There will no doubt still be room for Drakeís epic adventures on the Playstation 3, or even 4. But to see that heís also capable of a contained, repeatable story proves that gaming may have produced a franchise hero that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Sherlock Holmeses, the Marshall Dillons and the James Bonds of literary history.
There is an Uncharted movie coming out, though rumors about it buzz like mosquitoes. But it matters to the game series only as much as the Resident Evil movies matter to their source material. Uncharted is a video game franchise, and one that deserves to last decades.

Source: forbes.com