With the North American launch of PlayStation Vita just days away, 1up has put together this in-depth evaluation, which serves as a scorecard of sorts to help you decide if Sony’s newest handheld will be a worthy investment of your hard-earned gaming dollars. Like many gamers, I too am weighing the decision of whether or not to drop $250 or more on this little piece of plastic, however slick and beautiful it looks at first glance.
After reading through 1UP’s four page’s worth of exhaustive hands-on review and commentary, I’ve distilled the main talking points into pros and cons to help me (and hopefully you) decide if Vita is the must-have, can’t-live-without gaming portable you should rush out to the store and buy immediately—of if you should save your cash and take the “wait and see” approach.
First, let’s get the fanboy hype out of the way…
10 reasons to buy a Vita right now:
1. The screen is drop-dead gorgeous. At 5 inches with a display resolution of 960 x 650, games look amazing even at oblique angles or from a distance. OLED technology means richer colors and pure, deep blacks.
2. Clunky UMDs are a thing of the past. For game software, the Vita drops universal media discs (UMDs), which were extremely clunky (due to all the moving parts required in an optical drive), in favor of proprietary, solid state flash memory cards. No more accidental disc ejections!
3. Decent battery life. Vita’s reported battery life is good for up to 5 hours of interrupted play. 1Up observed 3.5 – 4 hours of playtime running a high-performance game at full screen brightness. It’s not amazing battery life, but it’s certainly on par with most other devices.
4. Left AND right analog sticks for the win. The Vita is the only handheld that boasts proper left and right analog sticks (versus PSP’s weird little sliding analog nub thingy). Most modern games like platformers and FPSs are designed for dual analog sticks, so playing these types of games on Vita will be more comfortable and enjoyable.
5. Rear touch pad and two cameras. It’s a hardware combination that should make for some very interesting games, if developers integrate them wisely.
6. Simple, elegant, multi-touch user interface. It’s clear Sony was inspired by iOS when designing Vita’s interface; except instead of little square icons with rounded corners, Vita’s are circular. Multi-touch lets you flick and swipe the screen to move between home screens and launch and close apps.
7. Multitasking is now possible. Unlike the PSP, you don’t have to quit your game to jump into another app. And there are sure to be plenty of 3rd-party Vita apps coming soon that you’ll want to have the ability to switch between.
8. Vita’s PlayStation Store rocks. According to 1Up, it “easily ranks among the best content stores anywhere.” Navigation is easy and more direct than on PS3, and the store is simple and clutter-free.
9. Exciting launch titles. The launch game line-up for Vita, though not extensive, includes several hotly anticipated, noteworthy gems like UNCHARTED: Golden Abyss, Little Deviants, and Gravity Rush.
10. The (somewhat) affordable pricetag. Yes, it’s $250, which isn’t a drop in the hat by any means. But this is Sony we’re talking about. $250 for a technologically superior portable gaming device doesn’t seem so bad when compared to, say, 3DS’s $250 launch pricetag.
And now for some harsh realities:
10 reasons NOT to buy a Vita (or at least wait a while):
1. You’ll have to buy your PSP games all over again. If you want to be able to play them on Vita, that is. Vita only supports PSP games purchased from the PlayStation store. So if you have purchased an extensive library of PSP games and expect to play them on Vita (which upgrades their graphics quality significantly), guess what? You’re shit outta luck.
2. It’s not truly “backwards compatible.” Even though Sony’s pushing this as a selling point. Yes, you can play PSP games on Vita and they look amazing with upscaled graphics, but with no way of playing your PSP UMDs on Vita without having to re-purchase your games, is it really fair to make this claim?
3. The analog sticks are likely to break. Having dual analog sticks on a portable is great, but not when they jut out so far from the device that they could easily break off. 1Up recommends purchasing a hard-shell Vita case to help shield them from accidental drops, or being snagged on something (like when you’re stashing it away in your bag).
4. The rear touch pad is awkward, uncomfortable. Gamers with large hands may have trouble holding the device comfortably, since merely grazing the rear touch pad accidentally with your fingers can trigger “back touch,” Sony’s new touch-based sensor on the back of the system. You’ll most likely need to constantly adjust your grip while playing games, which doesn’t sound very comfortable to me at all.
5. Vita’s storage media is ridiculously expensive. Sony only uses proprietary (read: expensive) storage cards for Vita. A 32 GB PlayStation Vita memory card costs $100. For comparison’s sake, you can buy a 32 GB SD card for about 30 bucks. And according to everything I’ve read, you’re going to need a lot of storage for Vita’s library of games.
6. The touch screen controls are inconsistent. Rather than giving gamers a choice between touch AND D-pad controls, you’ll be forced to use only touch screen controls when navigating the Vita’s menu systems. This is counter intuitive and inconsistent with some games like UNCHARTED: Golden Abyss, where players have the choice to use either/or.
7. The Vita games library is promising, but not stellar. Other than a few key Vita titles, the library at launch time mostly includes ports and re-worked games from other platforms.
8. That $250 pricetag is actually more like $400. By the time you purchase a memory card, a protective carrying case (which you’re going to need, due to the analog stick design flaws mentioned above), and a game, you’re looking at a total spend of around $400 or more.
9. Other than looking impressive, what does Vita really offer? Apart from the rear touch control (which, from the sound of it, is less cool in reality) there’s not much in the way of innovation here other than being able to play beautiful-looking games on a handheld.
10. Is there room in our lives for another portable gaming device? Most gamers already own a DS (maybe even a 3Ds) and a PSP in addition to their smartphones, tablets, Kindles, and other expensive gadgets that can also play games. That begs the question: where does PlayStation Vita fit in?
The main question for me is: Do I really need this much gaming power in my pocket? Being realistic about the price, am I willing to drop around $400 for a device that doesn’t offer me any significant value other than looking slick and being able to play a small handful of beautiful-looking games? The thing that would be most likely to get me to change my mind at this point is offering more exclusive, must-have titles that would justify and support my purchase. UNCHARTED: Golden Abyss is a good start. But what else?
As I did with the PS3, I think I’ll take the “wait and see” approach for PlayStation Vita. How about you?