Although I’m a bona fide Assassin’s Creed 3 fanboy, it’s a bit of a bummer to see how Assassin’s Creed: Liberation loses something when it’s crammed into the Playstation Vita. This is not a series that takes kindly to be shoved down into a tiny screen. But unlike Vita games that are just direct ports writ small, Liberation is its own creation. And in some ways, that creation is better than Assassin’s Creed 3.

After the jump, seven ways that Liberation beats its bigger sibling

1) Aveline rocks
The lead character in Liberation is Aveline, and she’s the best protagonist the series has ever had. It’s not just that Aveline is a woman. It’s not just that she’s black. It’s not just the accent. It’s not just that she’s an orphan with a Mysterious Past. It’s not just that she’s a capable businesswoman shipping cotton to Havana. It’s all five of those things.

2) Three Avelines rock even more
Aveline has three personas, called guises, based on what she’s wearing. Each has different strengths and weaknesses. Her slave persona is very different from her assassin persona which is very different from her respectable lady persona. They’re each deadly in their own way, and they each store up wanted levels, which encourages Aveline to change clothes frequently to cover her tracks. Of course, she can’t just change clothes in the middle of the street. Clothes were very complicated back in the olden days, especially all that stuff ladies had to wear with, I dunno, corsets and whatnot. So you have to commit to a set of clothes at the unlockable dressing rooms scattered around the city. This gives Liberation something that very few superhero games offer: a playable secret identity.

3) No sign of Desmond
Liberation is exactly what all the Assassin’s Creed games should be: Desmondless. The virtual history sim — called an animus — still comes into play, but not by forcing you into cutafscenes where you have to play some whiny douchebag assassin descendant with daddy issues who needs to get up and stretch his legs. Instead, you can investigate a mysterious hacker running around the city and environs, a sort of ghost in the machine. Why can’t we be that guy in the other games instead of that Desmond doofus?

4) No attempt to tap into other games
Liberation is a self-contained mystery about Aveline rather than another installment in the saga of some character I actively dislike. It is a standalone story and not just another chapter an in incomprehensible series.

5) New Orleans has unique character
Assassin’s Creed 3 takes full advantage of its Frontier America setting, complete with all the silly History’s Greatest Moment bits. But Liberation’s exotic New Orleans swamp, on the cusp of being American if not for all these pesky Frenchmen and Spaniards, is enthralling. It even gives Liberation the opportunity to play with voodoo without feeling as cheesy as, say, the mystical tattoo/drug nonsense in Far Cry 3′s indeterminate Pacific Island setting.

6) I have no desire to play the multiplayer
Assassin’s Creed 3 is two full games, both very very good. It can be confusing. Do I level up my homestead or do I level up my online characters? There is no such confusion in Assassin’s Creed: Liberation where the multiplayer is, I think, an elaborate joke. Ha ha, Ubisoft. You guys really got me.

7) It’s on the Vita!
It’s on the Vita! Even though the visuals suffer in their tininess, none of the basic Assassin’s Creeding is compromised. This is a full-blown counterpart to Assassin’s Creed 3, with its own setting, style, character, and location. Bravo, Ubisoft.

4 stars
Vita