PS Vita: Initial Impressions

A guest post by James Kanner.

Once upon a time, the handheld gaming market was dominated solely by Nintendo and its Gameboy brand. But now, with many iOS and Android devices offering cheaper and more accessible alternatives to the DS, 3DS, and PSP, the portable gaming market has become extremely competitive.

Sony has responded to this threat with the PS Vita, their second handheld gaming console. After spending some time with the Vita, I have been impressed with the system, and believe that it is capable of providing a compelling portable gaming experience.

First things first, the hardware is great. It is a robust machine with a sleek design that has managed to incorporate a lot of features. Along with a crisp 5-inch OLED screen, the PS Vita comes equipped with a d-pad, two analogue sticks (are you watching Nintendo), four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, touch screens on the front and back of the system, rear and front facing cameras, and a six axis motion sensor. Not bad for a system that measures 7.2 inches end to end.

Sony has made it abundantly clear that they wanted to create a handheld platform that can reproduce console quality titles. This means that no compromises were made when developing the Vita. As a result, the controls are tight, the system has excellent graphics, and the launch line-up is extremely solid.

Arguably the most impressive of the early Vita titles is Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Although Golden Abyss cannot match the visuals and presentation of Uncharted’s PS3 cousins, the game provides a fantastic experience that would not look out-of-place on a console. As with Nathan Drake’s other adventures, expect the six to eight-hour campaign to have you jumping, climbing, and shooting your way through South American jungles and ancient ruins.

While Uncharted demonstrates what the Vita is capable of, BigBig’s Little Deviants makes the most of the Vita’s features. The game takes full advantage of the motion controls and rear facing cameras to create a series of augmented reality levels from the world around you (much like the AR cards for the 3DS).

Certainly Little Deviants is fast paced, frantic, and fun, but the whole game feels more like a demonstration of the Vita’s alternative capabilities than a title worthy of your prolonged attention.

Perhaps my favourite Vita release is Rayman Origins. As a direct port of the critically acclaimed console version, Rayman Origins boasts a wonderful art direction, a fitting soundtrack, and some of the finest 2D platform gameplay seen on this generation of consoles. Unfortunately, the lack of lack of a 2-4 player multiplayer makes it difficult to recommend this version over the console original.

The biggest problem for the PS Vita, however, is Sony’s pricing strategy. Many may balk at the £259.99 for the 3G edition, but on top of that gamers are forced to shell out another £37 for a 16 GB memory card. Smaller memory cards are available, but if you want to download games and movies on your Vita, a 16GB card is the minimum requirement.

With all things considered, the Vita is at the pinnacle of portable gaming. I have been genuinely impressed with the Vita, as it is able to offer console quality experiences on a handheld system. But if Sony wants to sell more units than the 3DS, and steal market share away from mobile gaming, I suggest that they review their inflated prices.

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