by Josh Hamel
After months of anticipation for the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s newest handheld has finally hit the western markets. Does it live up to the hype or should you invest your money in an iPhone instead?
I’ll get this out of the way early by saying that the PlayStation Vita is the sports car of the handheld gaming world. It is not a do-everything type of device like the iPhone and iPad. While the Vita has the capability to do many things including music and social media, you will not really want to use it for them as there are better, easier tools for those purposes. What the Vita does, and excels at, is play games.
Likewise, the Vita probably will not have the universal appeal like the 3DS has, no matter how hard Sony tries to make it so. On a purely cosmetic level, the Vita simply looks like an impressive piece of technology that contrasts greatly with the more inviting, almost toy-like appearance of Nintendo’s current handheld. This alone may deter some of the casual masses due to simple intimidation.
With that in mind, the Vita has a lot going for it and the potential to be a great handheld device is there in spades.
The overall build of the device is solid. While it is made entirely of plastic, it still feels sold when playing. The d-pad does feel a little fragile, but the frame does seem to have a quality construction.
The screen on the Vita is huge. For comparison, the screen alone is roughly the size of an entire iPhone. This gives you plenty of real estate to take in all of the on-screen action coming from powerful under the hood components, and you’ll want all the room you can get because games look stunning on Vita’s OLED screen. The handheld versions of Rayman Origins and Super Stardust Delta look just as good as their console counterparts, respectively.
Software controls are just as good as console versions, also, thanks in part to the system’s dual-analog sticks. While small, they are still fully functional analog sticks and a step up from the nubs found on the original PlayStation Portable and 3DS.
The dual-analog sticks are just one control input, though. The Vita also incorporates two touch screens, both front and back, to allow the player options to control their games how they want. The front touch screen works very well and has multi-touch capability. The rear-touch screen may be too sensitive, however.
There have been many times where I have accidentally hit the touch screen with my fingers while playing Super Stardust only to waste a special weapon or something similar. My hope is that developers will figure this out in time and be able to possibly lessen the sensitivity of the screen near the hand grips on the back so that this problem can be avoided.
LiveArea replaces the XrossMediaBar as the system’s UI
Gone is the XrossMediaBar user interface found on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable in favor of LiveArea. While it may take some time getting used to, the new interface works well and is user friendly. LiveArea is very intuitive due to its touch screen control that has been fostered with the rise of the iPhone. It is quite easy to hop out of one application into another seamlessly as the load times for most options are short.
I do have a few complaints with the system, though. The front and back cameras are low quality and will not be useful for much more than AR games or something along those lines. Second, with the Wi-Fi model at least, connection seems to be weak even on a strong network. The system is also very bulky. It does not fit easily into a pocket so you’ll probably want to put it in a bag when taking it on the move. Finally, even with all of the screen’s capability, it is a fingerprint magnet that smudges easily and is also highly susceptible to glare.
The system is also a bit pricy. When it was first announced, $250 seemed like a great price for the system. However, in the time since, the 3DS experienced a massive price drop and iOS gaming has only continued to gain in popularity. This was also before prices for Sony’s proprietary memory cards had been announced which only adds to the cost of the system.
These are all just small complaints, however. The Vita is an absolutely amazing piece of technology and a fantastic gaming machine.
Super Stardust Delta is one of the must-own titles at the Vita’s launch
Unfortunately, the Vita needs to be more than just a solid piece of hardware in order for it to succeed. While the launch lineup has a few good titles, I just don’t see a killer-app in it that will sell millions of Vitas. While Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a good start, I don’t see it as a must own. Personally, my picks for the best launch games are Super Stardust Delta, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, Lumines Electronic Symphony and Rayman Origins. While these are all solid titles, none of them really showcase a need for the system.
It also concerns me that Sony has not really revealed any titles coming after the release window outside of rumored releases such as Call of Duty. Hopefully Sony has learned from the 3DS launch that a steady stream of content is imperative to a system selling well, especially since the company does not have a Mario type franchise to rely on.
Like I have said, the PlayStation Vita is a system that is filled with so much potential. The hardware is there to make great games for. Hopefully consumers and developers alike see this potential and capitalize on it. If so, The Vita is without a doubt a system worth investing in.