Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the PS Vita is here. We know there are a lot of you out there who are interested in the Vita but think 200+ notes is a little pricey for a handheld. Perhaps you are worried it will turn out like your old PSP, gathering dust in a drawer somewhere? Unused. Unwanted. Unloved.
Given this, we decided to do a little article to let you know what Sony’s latest piece of high tech wizardry is capable of. This little article in fact. So, without further ado, here are 10 things about the Vita that might help you decide if it is the gadget for you: -
#1 – It plays Vita games
Obviously. However, this is certainly the most important feature of the system so worth mentioning first. Not only does it play these games, but these games are good. The Vita launched with an impressive line-up including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, FIFA Football, WipEout 2048 and Rayman Origins. If the quality of titles remains this high then the Vita certainly has a place in the market as a high powered and high quality gaming system.
#2 – It plays PSP games too
It won’t play your old UMDs, but any PSP titles you buy or have bought from the Playstation Store can be copied over to your PSV memory card (more on that later) and played from there. Given that there are some real classics available for reasonable prices on the Store this is definitely a worthy feature. Keep an eye out for sales on the PSN Store, as there are often a couple of PSP titles going cheap at any one time.
#3 – It is region free(ish)
Prior to this generation of consoles the region locking of games was commonplace. When the 3DS brought region locking back a few people were worried this would start a trend, but Sony seems happy enough to continue being region free - at least for physical media. Downloadable content is however still tied to a region, so you won’t be able to download games or DLC from another country’s PSN store and expect it to work. Still, region free physical media will keep importers happy and allow fans of alternative sports games and obscure RPGs to get their international fix.
#4 – It does not play PSone Classics…… Yet
Unfortunately the system is not currently compatible with PSone Classics you have purchased via your SEN account. However, the official word from Sony in February was that that “PS one Classics will be compatible with PS Vita soon after launch”. It’s been over a month now and still no sign of this update but hopefully this will still happen and open up yet more classic gaming for the Vita.
#5 – You can touch it in its special places
The PS Vita has a touch screen on the front and a touch sensitive panel on the back. The front screen makes menu management and keyboard input a breeze, working similarly to what you are likely to find on an IOS or Android device. Both panels are also used for controller inputs in certain games. Admittedly this implementation as a control mechanism has been hit-and-miss so far as the developers struggle to find their feet, but there is a potential there for some real innovation as they explore the possible future uses of these features.
#6 – It has proprietary memory cards
Yup. Not content to settle with one of the existing 13 million different types of memory cards, Sony has decided to introduce a brand new type of memory card to be used exclusively with the Vita. The downside of this is the sheer expense of the cards, ranging from £10.00 for a measly 4GB to a whopping £35.00 for 16GB – and this is based on shopping around; you could easily end up paying more. This is a bit of a sting and definitely a negative, but at least you should only have to shell out this money once.
#7 – It has dual analog sticks
This is a big deal. Dual analog has been the standard in home console controllers for years now and Sony really took some flak for not including a dual analog layout in the original PSP. Dual analog controls allow for better free camera control in third person games and more responsive aiming in both first and third person shooters. Given the massive popularity of these genres in the current market this really gives the PS Vita an edge.
#8 – It has many internets
The Vita is available in both 3G and WiFi models. Unfortunately we have access to the WiFi model only so we have not been able to test the 3G features personally. However, as we understand it the 3G is not capable of large downloads or online play for most games and so is more suitable for internet browsing and social applications. Price plans are available on a pay-as-you-go basis. When connected to WiFi you can access the PS Store via your existing SEN account, access your SEN friends list, send and receive messages, play online and browse the net. The internet browser is much improved on the PSP version but sadly is still not Flash compatible and it is not clear if this feature will be introduced in the future – which means no YouTube, iPlayer or similar at present.
#9 – It has social applications
Trying to be more than just a gaming handheld, the Vita has dedicated apps for Facebook, Twitter and Flickr as well as the Vita’s own ‘Near’ app. To be fair, the Facebook, Twitter and Flickr apps all easy to use and are stable and relatively fast when connected by WiFi. The problem is that most people these days are using mobile phones to access these applications and while the Vita apps are good, using the Vita for this purpose is less convenient than using a phone. Mobile phone contracts also tend to have a built in data allowance so 3G users will be more likely to use that than to waste their Vita’s top-up credit on these activities. The Near app lets you see what other people nearby are playing and interact with other players by leaving them ‘gifts’. WiFi users beware – this app consistently fails to find your location if you are indoors and connected to your home network, which limits you to checking on your friend list activities rather than local gamers in your area.
#10 – It has remote play and cross-platform play
These sound fantastic, they really do. Remote play allows you to connect to your PS3 either via a private home network or the internet and access and control it through the Vita. This includes accessing music, video, the PS Store and even PS3 games. Cross Platform play allows you to buy and play the same game on both your Vita and PS3, as well as compete in multiplayer games against players using both systems. Both are great sounding concepts and both work well where they have been used, but the list of compatible remote play games is tiny, as is the list of cross-platform titles. More time is needed for these features to be implemented and as yet they cannot be recommended as a reason to purchase a Vita.
To conclude, the Vita has a lot going for it as a gaming device: it is powerful, has a large screen, a good controller setup, an excellent line-up of launch titles, backwards compatibility with PSP and more. Little touches make a difference, like the fact that the startup screen for each game links to the instruction manual. Internet browsing and social apps are functional, but most of us have other gadgets which handle those tasks well enough that we aren’t looking for a replacement. Further features like remote play and cross-platform play look good, but need more time before we know if they are going to become a major part of the experience.
The extra features that Sony has introduced are a bonus for sure, but at its heart the Vita is a games console and can certainly be recommended to those who are looking for a good system to play high quality games on.