Sony’s PlayStation Vita is a console that has been received with many mixed feelings. After a weak start in Japan, the sales took a sharp drop, and there wasn’t much about the North American sales to redeem it. It has a gorgeous screen and a pretty solid lineup as far as games are concerned, but abysmal battery life and an exorbitant price tag. I pre-ordered the “First Edition Bundle” and received it a week early. From what I have played so far I enjoyed it for a little while, but I lost interest fairly quickly.
The First Edition Bundle came with the game Little Deviants. It is an interesting puzzle game that fully utilizes all of the new controls the Vita has. You tilt the device to roll the deviant around, use the rear touchpad to manipulate the landscape to move him along, or tap on the touchscreen to knock bad guys off of their perches in a barn-type building. The game is fun up to a point, but is difficult to stay interested in. When I couldn’t take it anymore I bought Touch My Katamari and Dungeon Hunter: Alliance. So far I have been fairly impressed with both titles although Dungeon Hunter lacks the utilization of new controls that Little Deviants and Katamari have.
This thing has a brilliant screen. There have been quite a few times when I have favored playing some of the arcade games and PlayStation games via the Remote Play feature on the Vita rather than on my TV. It is capable of a very respectable color range and the brightness levels accommodate both sunny days and dimly lit indoor lounging. Touch controls are very responsive, to a point where it isn’t altogether difficult to have accidental entries. The graphics for Dungeon Hunter and for Katamari look very similar to graphics that you’d expect to see in a PlayStation 3 title. This is no doubt the Vita’s crowning glory.
As far as the form factor goes, the system is a little big and perhaps could be considered bulky as well, though it is very lightweight. The Vita is both wider and taller than PSP, but is about the same thickness. The developers obviously gave some thought as to how the Vita should be held in your hands, because it fits mine very comfortably. I have found the best way to hold it is with pointer fingers resting on the L and R bumper buttons, middle fingers on the indentations in the back on either side of the touchpad and ring fingers free to manipulate the controls on the touchpad. From this position, all buttons on the face of the device are easily accessible.
By now it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Vita has it’s own proprietary memory cards. You can’t use regular SD cards with it, nor can you use the PSP Memory Stick ProDuo. Sony had to create a whole new breed of memory for consumers to buy. The prices on memory for the Vita are not much higher than what one would expect to pay for GB on other devices, which is nice, but because many games require the use of a memory card, it is still rather an obnoxious ploy.
Battery life is a huge disappointment. While it is understandable that it takes a lot of juice to power portable PlayStation 3 comparable graphics on a high-res screen, it would be nice to have a portable game console that is actually PORTABLE as opposed to tethered to an outlet. After about three hours of solid gaming, a low battery warning is imminent. In my tests, it lasted about this long without 3G engaged and with the screen turned down to a relatively low brightness setting. I expect that future versions of the Vita will have an improved battery because this will no doubt be gamers’ chief complaint about the device. For now, early adopters will have to settle with the Vita car charging cable, at $17.99.
Overall, the new handheld is a pretty little powerhouse. It has state-of-the-art graphics capabilities, a large, gorgeous capacitive touch screen and innovative and intuitive controls. The games that are currently available provide for a multitude of gamers’ tastes, and more games are coming soon in the future. I am particularly looking forward to Little Big Planet. It’s not a bad choice for your next handheld gaming purchase if you don’t mind the investment. Perhaps Sony will wake up to this like Nintendo did with their swift 3DS price drop and cut the price to raise their sales figures. If only they could make the dismal battery life a bit more substantial. PlayStation Vita: Never. Stop. Playing. Until your three hour battery dies. Then let it charge for a while. Wash, rinse, repeat.