Sony’s much-hyped portable game system – the PlayStation Vita – is now available to Canadian gamers on the go. Here’s what you need to know about this handheld device before you buy.
If you consider yourself a video game fan then you’re likely aware the PlayStation Vita (“PS Vita”) made its North American debut yesterday.
The successor to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) has a lot going for it, as we’ll cover in this review, but it’s not a perfect product either (which we’ll also get to). If you’re considering picking up the PS Vita, here’s a thorough look at its pros and cons.
What you’ll love about the PS Vita
The screen. As with the PSP, the PS Vita has a gorgeous screen. It’s a 5-inch organic light emitting diode (OLED) touch-sensitive display that delivers vibrant colours, dark blacks and crisp detail. Games like “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” looks comparable to its PlayStation 3 brethren – yes, in a handheld.
Multiple ways to play. Games can be controlled in one of five ways: via the 5-inch touchscreen, a touch panel on the back of the PS Vita, dual analog sticks (one on each side of the screen), PlayStation buttons (square, triangle, circle and X) and built-in sensors including an accelerometer and gyroscope. There’s also shoulder (trigger) buttons and a d-pad.
Powerful processor. The PS Vita is powered by a quad-core processor (ARM Cortex-A9), resulting in fast and reliable performance in your games. Even swiping and tapping around the home screen is smooth, as is opening and closing apps, or multitasking between open ones. Truly, Sony has upped the ante in portable power with this gaming platform.
Wide assortment of games. There are more games than any other PlayStation launch in history. This includes first-party games like the aforementioned “Uncharted,” as well as PS Vita versions of “Hot Shots,” “ModNation” and others, as well as third-party titles from the likes of EA Sports, Ubisoft, Capcom, Namco Bandai, Square Enix, and others.
Connectivity. While the Canadian version of the PS Vita is Wi-Fi only (there’s a Wi-Fi + 3G version in the U.S.), gamers can download digital titles and extra content from the PlayStation Network, engage in multiplayer games, wirelessly find other PS Vita gamers nearby, stream movies (including support for Netflix), surf the web, video chat, and more.
Five things you won’t love about the PS Vita
The price. Selling a portable game system for $249.99 is not only a barrier to entry, but the games are $29.99 to $49.99 apiece. This is way too much for a portable game system – not to mention many smartphone owners are accustomed to paying $0.99 cents or a couple of bucks on quality games from the App Store and Android Market.
Proprietary formats (again). Sony once again is introducing new media formats, which will likely frustrate gamers as there’s no compatibility with other devices and they’re sold at a premium, too. For example, the memory card that snaps underneath the PS Vita costs $30 for 8GB – but you can spend a third of that for an SD card with the same capacity. PS Vita game cartridges are also a unique shape.
Disappointing cameras. Why include not one but two cameras when the quality is so poor? Both the front and rear cameras are just 0.3 megapixels each. The photos I took using the rear-facing camera looked dark and grainy. This isn’t something that can be fixed with a software upgrade, so it’s too bad the cameras aren’t any good. [Similar to the iPad 2, it's possible Sony never intended the cameras to be used for anything other than capturing streaming video - Ed.]
Battery life. While better than the Nintendo 3DS with the 3D effect enabled, the PS Vita’s battery isn’t anything to write home about. Gamers can expect 3 to 5 hours of gameplay, which is exactly what Sony promised ahead of time, and longer for video playback, music, web browsing and so on. This means you’ll need to bring the charger with you if you’re out for the day.
Remote Play. The PS Vita can be wirelessly connected to your PlayStation 3 console, allowing you to navigate the Xross Media Bar to play music, look at photos and so on. But the experience was very slow and sluggish, plus I wasn’t able to load any video or games stored on my PS3. Apparently, more Remote Play functionality is coming soon. Let’s hope so.
As you can see the PS Vita has some merits and drawbacks. Overall, I really enjoyed playing through many of the first batch of titles (especially “Uncharted: Golden Abyss”), especially with the myriad of ways to control the action (yay analog sticks). The powerful processor and gorgeous screen also make the PS Vita feel like a portable console experience – as opposed to flicking 2D birds at green pigs with your fingertips.
If Sony can drive down the price – of the hardware, games and exclusive memory cards – it will open the PS Vita up to a much wider audience. Otherwise, the PS Vita might be the last portable console Sony ever produces.