If you just landed on the PS Vita scene recently, or came back after a hiatus, things might be a bit confusing for you. There’s a lot going on, and using VHBL (the PSP Homebrew loader for PS Vita) is not always super intuitive. Heck, I wrote the dang tool and it took me a while to remember how things were done, because it’d been a long time since I had used my PS Vita. So here’s a quick tutorial and a bunch of tips.
What’s VHBL and why do you need it on your PS Vita?
Homebrews and emulators on the PS Vita can be roughly split into two categories right now: PS Vita “Native” homebrews (that run using the “full” power of the PS Vita), and PSP homebrews (that run through the integrated PSP emulator on the PS Vita).
Native PS Vita homebrews are expected to be more powerful, run at a higher resolution, etc… than PSP homebrews. But because the PS vita scene barely started, there’s not many of them (although there’s a quickly growing number of emulators for PS Vita). There are, on the other hand, many PSP homebrews, including but not limited to emulators. So while we wait for the PS vita homebrew library to grow, it might be interesting to play some old-but-good PSP homebrews.
PSP Homebrews don’t run out of the box on the PS Vita (at the time of writing this article), they need to go through VHBL, a PSP Homebrew Loader designed to run on the PS Vita. (For those interested in historical anecdotes, I released the first version of VHBL in 2012)
How to install VHBL on your PS Vita
You need a PS Vita (or PS TV) running firmware 3.60
Install HENkaku: long story short, go to henkaku.xyz in your PS Vita’s browser and click on the “Install” button. That site has more details if needed
There’s a lot of confusion here because installing homebrews with VHBL has evolved with versions: as Sony increased their security measures, it became harder and harder to install PSP Homebrews with VHBL, so you will find conflicting information on this depending on what sites you are looking at.
VHBL has an embedded way to install PSP homebrews from within VHBL itself, but it is convoluted, it requires special packaging of PSP homebrews in carefully crafted zip files. With HENkaku you don’t need to do any of that. With HENkaku, you only need to download the PSP homebrew of your choice on any PSP site (e.g. our database here) and copy it in the right folder of the PS Vita via FTP.
Important things to know when you download your PSP homebrews:
Not all PSP homebrews run on VHBL: in particular homebrews that require kernel access do not work on VHBL. Sometimes the kernel access requirement is explained in the readme of the homebrew, but more generally it’s “tribal knowledge” of the scene.
Sometimes, even homebrews that do not require Kernel access refuse to work on VHBL for various reasons. It helps to try other versions of the homebrew
If you have a choice between a “signed” version of the PSP homebrew and an “unsigned” (or “HBL version”) one, you need to download the “unsigned” one. (A good example here is Wagic which offers an “alternate unsigned version for HBL users” on its download page, which is the one you want to pick)
In general, do not download the “VHBL packaged version” of a homebrew to use with VHBL on HENkaku. (I know, this is totally counter-intuitive). These versions are packaged in some convoluted zip format that is not required anymore. If you do download these versions, they will work on VHBL but you will have to unzip the file and potentially rename a few things in there to get it to work. Not worth the hassle in general but it’s up to you
If your homebrew looks like some savedata with an INSTALL.ZIP file in it, it is probably a VHBL packaged file. You can extract that somewhere and you’ll get your homebrew
In that case it is also possible that you’ll have a file named WMENU.BIN in here that should probably be renamed to EBOOT.PBP (Although I believe VHBL will also accept to run it if it’s named wmenu.bin)
How to install PSP Homebrews in VHBL with HENkaku
By this point I assume that:
you know your way around HENkaku, in particular how to run molecularShell’s FTP server, and how to connect to it with your FTP client on Filezilla
You have installed VHBL in your PS Vita, and it’s giving you an error message telling you you do not have any homebrews installed in ms0:/PSP/VHBL/
run the FTP server on your PS Vita in molecularShell
connect to your PS Vita via FTP on your computer
in the FTP client, go to ux0:/pspemu/PSP/ . You should see folders named SAVEDATA, GAME, etc… create a “VHBL” folder in here, so that you’ll have ux0:/pspemu/PSP/VHBL
Navigate to ux0:/pspemu/PSP/VHBL in your FTP client
This is where you’ll want to copy your homebrew, in a subfolder of the VHBL folder. For example, I’ll put Wagic in ux0:/pspemu/PSP/VHBL/WTH/
All homebrews contain an EBOOT.PBP file. That file needs to be directly in the folder that you just created. For example in my case Wagic’s EBOOT.PBP ends up in ux0:/pspemu/PSP/VHBL/WTH/EBOOT.PBP when I copy the files. This is how you can know, when you download a homebrew, where to copy files once you extract them from the archive. If your homebrew is zipped with a bunch of folders, etc, just ensure that you extract it in a way that the EBOOT.PBP ends up in ux0:/pspemu/PSP/VHBL/[Your folder name here]/EBOOT.PBP
Exit molecularShell, and run VHBL. You should now be able to navigate the folders and launch your homebrew (by selecting its folder and pressing either X or O).
Notes: Historically PSP homebrews used to be in the PSP/GAME folder. Sony have added security measures to that specific folder on the Vita which is why we are using “VHBL” instead of “GAME” here. That’s technically the only change compared to running homebrews on the classic PSP. In theory you could use any folder name instead of “VHBL”, VHBL doesn’t care. Homebrews, however, might: some homebrews are hardcoded to use the PSP/GAME folder, and might not like to run in PSP/VHBL or other folders. You can try to copy those in ux0:/pspemu/PSP/GAME and see how they behave (might be able to run but not to save anything, for example). Other homebrews such as gPSP have a configuration file that let you tweak the folders it can use. Look into that before dismissing a homebrew as dysfunctional.