*Editor’s note: this review was written when the Vita first launched
Guest review by Gatt
I picked up the PS Vita this week, and although I’m impressed with what it has to offer, I do find there are some drawbacks. I have never owned a PSP before, was always more of a Nintendo fan, so migrating to the new PS Vita was a big change. Because of this, I hope to offer a fresh perspective on the newest portable system from Sony.
So let’s start with what’s good about it. The screen is very clear and has amazing colour depth, which I noticed upon first turning on the system. Another thing thing that immediately stood out was the touch screen, which was very responsive and easy to use.
Set-up wasn’t difficult, and after a few steps to set up the system and connect to your wifi network, you reach the main menu. There are the usual content options such as settings, ps store, content manager, browser, music. But there are some new features also available which might seem pretty interesting to the involved player. There is a Trophies button/option now available, so you can keep track of all the accomplishments you have made with your new system. There is also a “Friends” and “Group Messaging” button/option to allow more interaction between you and your Playstation Network friend list. You can set up meetings, organize game times and more while on the go. Of course this is made easier if you have the 3G version, however I did not think it would be worth it to dish out the extra money and subscription fees at this time. Maybe a couple years down the road I might find it worth upgrading, but by that time, they may have a 4G option anyway, so it might be best to save your money as there aren’t very many features at this time that involve the 3G connection. Then there is the “Remote Play” menu option, which allows you to connect to your PS3 and play some games from it, explore it’s menus and more. When i tried this for the first time, I did notice that not all games are playable in this mode, first one i tried was Skyrim and that failed. It’s only been a couple of days so maybe i will see more use for this option, once games that support this function are released. Perhaps if you and another person share a home, you can still play some games from your PS3 while they are watching tv, but seeing as you have a Vita shouldn’t you just be playing Vita games anyway?
Now I come to the first thing I noticed once I started using this device. Everything on the main menu is touch operated. They completely took out the options of using buttons to navigate the interface. There is only one button used in the menu and that is the PS button which is just used to bring you back to home screen, kinda like the home button on an Ipod. I am all for advancements in technology and using touch screens and such, however the option to move around with your control pad and confirm with button x should still be there. I find it disappointing that Sony left this option out. Compared to my Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita lacks this simple function. With the Nintendo 3DS i can navigate their home screen using the touch screen or using buttons, whichever I fancy at the time, and I find that very helpful.
What did I notice next…. no games to start with. Sure they have this one little warm up thing called “Welcome Park” but that is just a glorified instruction application to teach you how to use all the different features of the PS Vita, such as the rear touch pad. There is no real replay value to that application and it gets boring very quickly. After that there is nothing else, unless you bought a game when you purchased the system. For $250.00 (plus taxes) you would expect to be able to do at least something with the system without having to dish out more money for video games. This is just another area where Sony dropped the ball. At least when I picked up my 3DS, there were a few games ready to go on the system, and it came with a 2 GB memory card (not too huge in space, but the gesture is nice). Games like Face Raiders and AR Card games were fun to play and quick to get me hooked into Nintendo’s newest portable system. It just seems that for a company who already has had a slow start in Japan, Sony isn’t trying to win people over with freebies. Now Sony did include some AR cards with the system, however you have to download the games from the PS Network. And if you are out and about the first time playing, this is not really an option, as you need a flat surface to lay out the AR cards which are involved in the games.
One other small thing i noticed, but perhaps this is just something I need to get used to, is the awkwardness of holding the system. To get a good grip takes time, and you fumble around until you can find a comfortable position which will allow you to use the buttons, the touch screen and the rear touchpad. I am willing to overlook this as the 3DS took some time to get used to also. However i do prefer the thumb pad on the 3DS over the analog sticks on the PS Vita. Maybe it is just a preference thing, but i find the thumbpad more comfortable to use on a portable gaming system, as it doesn’t stick out and allows you to maintain a good grip on your system. You might find the analog sticks are your more style though when you try out the Vita.
When you purchase the system, I suggest you pick up a game you will enjoy or go straight home and download a game from your Playstation network (All games are so far available through digital download if you don’t want to dish out money at a game store). Also pick up the PS Vita starter pack, which comes with a soft cover case, a screen protector, a screen cleaning cloth, a cartridge case, and a 4 GB memory card for the system. For $30.00 or $40.00 (plus taxes) this is actually a pretty good deal. And much easier for your wallet, as a decent 16 GB memory card alone packs a retail price of $60.00 (plus taxes).
When it comes to the available games out there, the quality so far is pretty good. I picked up Uncharted : Golden Abyss with my system as I am a fan of the Uncharted series and find they are always quality games. The graphics blew me away as they are on par with the PS3 in many ways. The sound quality is fantastic, and it feels good to be playing a game that crisp on a smaller system. The controls take a while to get used to, as they try to incorporate all the new features of the PS Vita. But once you get going it is hard to stop.
Some other games to check out: Little Deviants, Rayman: Origins, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, and more. I suggest you download the demos first, try them out and see which ones you like best. After you download the demos, it is usually as simple as confirming to buy the full version on the network in your PSN account and then you are ready to keep playing, unless you want the physical box and cartridge.
The Vita is a great concept, but there is no rush to buy it as game selection at this time is very limited. I can give it a 3.5 out of 5, however that could improve over time as more stuff for it come out.
Well, that is my basic review. Hope you find it informative and helpful. Have fun and game on!