The gaming provided by this small, lightweight and portable device is on par with the leading console gaming platforms like Sony’s own PS3 and Microsoft’s XBox 360. The graphics on games like Rayman Origins, wipEout 2048, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND – standard edition, and Unit 13 is top notch and fully realizes taking full-fledged console games with you on the go. Of these 4 games, 3 of them have online modes that you can play over the internet via the Playstation Network. Two of those, wipEout 2048 and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND – standard edition, allow for competitive play against others, while Unit 13 offers mission-based co-operative play. Rayman Origins offers a quirky and fun platformer that according to reviews like this one, is identical to its non-portable counterparts on PS3 and Xbox 360, save the lack of online co-op multiplayer.
The touchscreen means that there are a spattering of games (called PS Minis) like those found on iOS and Android devices that everyone seems to think will soon replace traditional platform gaming, but the PS Vita offers 2 more things that those don’t offer: physical controls and a focused gaming experience. Carefully aiming a headshot in a stealth mission while playing Unit 13 feels much more natural than trying to do the same while playing Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation on my new retina display iPad. Also, my pesky fingers don’t get in the way of any of the action when I’m using the actual physical controls on the PS Vita.
Surprisingly, the back-panel touch controls that are available on the PS Vita also prove useful in multiple games for getting your hands in the experience without getting in the way of the view of what’s happening on the gorgeous screen, at least, once you get used to this odd touch-control configuration. It also depends on the individual game’s implementation of the controls. I found myself endlessly annoyed by the gameplay offered by the demo of Little Deviants and avoiding activating the black hole via touch panel on Super Stardust Delta, but after a few days with BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND – standard edition‘s touch controls enabled, I’m finding that set up to be my preferred way to play this one on one fighter game.
As a long-time PlayStation player, and author of PSP Hacks: Tips & Tools for Your Mobile Gaming and Entertainment Handheld, I also love that the PS Vita integrates with my PS3 and can play PSP games. I can use the Vita for Remote Play of the PS3 and continuation of gameplay of some PS3 games. I can also backup my PS Vita to my PS3 and use my PS3 to manage media and games installed on my PS Vita. Several games that I’d bought via my PS3 in the past for my PSP were easily transferable over to the PS Vita, like Echochrome and Socom U.S. Navy Seals Frieteam Bravo, but unfortunately none of my old UMD disk games were transferable, so I ended up trading them in via Amazon Trade-Ins and put the credit I received for them towards two PS Vita games.
When purchasing games for the Vita, you can either download them via the online Playstation Store directly to your Vita, to your PS3 for transfer over USB to your Vita, or you can buy them in physical form as small memory cards (this is particularly useful if you’re not sure if you’ll like a game and you think you might need to resell it in the future / trade it in towards a new game).
The one particularly annoying thing about the PS Vita is that it doesn’t come with any internal memory, so no matter what, you have to purchase a memory card that will serve both to store any game saves you may have as well as any actual games that you download directly via the Playstation Store. So although it’s nice to have all your games in digital format always available for playing on your PS Vita, you are limited to how many you can have on the device at any given time by the size of your memory card.
The largest card is 32GB in size and costs $99, which is a pretty hefty addition to the $250 price of the WiFi only PS Vita. I bought the PlayStation Vita 3G/Wi-Fi Bundle, thinking that the PS Vita, 8GB PlayStation Vita Memory Card, and voucher for a free game was a good deal. This ended up being a mistake. The game voucher included in this bundle isn’t actually included at all: It’s dependent upon you buying a 30-day AT&T pass to their 3G network for $15, then you have to wait until the end of that period to receive your game code. It also didn’t specify what game it was for, so I thought it was going to be a generic coupon that I could use on the PlayStation Store to buy any Vita game. Unfortunately, I found out to my dismay that the voucher was for a game that I’d already bought:
I am so angry at Sony right now. Just got my bundle pack game voucher & it’s for a game I ALREADY BOUGHT! I thought it was for any game. GRR
— C.K. Sample III (@cksample) March 15, 2012
So I ended up giving away my coupon code:
Anyone with a PS Vita want a voucher code for Super Stardust Delta? ping me
— C.K. Sample III (@cksample) March 15, 2012
Buyers be ware.
Aside from that one problem, I am loving the PS Vita. Some of the reviews I’ve read fault the UI of the main interface for the Vita’s operating system, and complain about all the little odd add-on features, like the poor quality of the two cameras. But honestly: who cares? It’s a gaming system. All that matters are the games and the game play. Fortunately for the PS Vita, both the games and the game play are top notch.
Besides the gaming: this multimedia rich device can double as an MP3 player and you can watch videos on it’s gorgeous little screen (it’s bigger than the iPhone’s screen but slightly smaller than the screen on my Galaxy Note). However, again, you’re limited by your internal memory card here in terms of how much media you can carry around with you. That being said, Netflix is available free as a PS Mini app for the device (as are social network apps like Facebook, a Twitter app, and Foursquare), and Sony’s Music Unlimited service is also available for streaming tunes to the PS Vita, if you’re willing to pony up $9 a month for the service.
It also has a browser, which is about as functional as the old PSP’s browser. I’m sure there are some hack related things that can be done via the browser, but with a browser on every smartphone and tablet these days, the browser here is more of a tack on feature than anything you should care about on the PS Vita.
One thing that I’d like to see for this device would be an official Skype app that worked with the front-facing camera.
Battery life is pretty darn good. 6-8 hours of intensive gaming on a single charge. This reminds me of one other gripe I have about the device: a proprietary USB / charging cable; mini-USB would have been nice but this is a Sony device, so no real surprise there.
One real surprise for me was that Sony’s Content Manager Assistant software for backing up and managing your PS Vita should you not have a PS3, not only comes in the standard Windows version, but has a nicely functional OS X version as well for myself and my fellow Macintosh users. Unfortunately the USB connection when connected to a computer is only for data transfer and does not also charge the PS Vita. For that, one has to use the included AC Adapter.
If I think of more details, I’ll update this review later, but for now, that’s my take. I’m loving the PS Vita. It’s allowing me to get my full console gaming experience going while I’m engaged in my daily commute via train into the city. That’s golden.
Official Sample The Web Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.