PlayStation Vita – taking portable gaming from behind

The term “Vita” is a Latin term meaning ‘life’ or ‘vitality’. I wonder what PlayStation were thinking when they named their most recent product, the PS VITA, but it was probably somewhere along the lines of this console being “your gaming life, right in your hands, wherever you are”. And that’s just what it is.

The PSV, which is to be released on February 11th 2012, has high expectations, as its predecessors, the esteemed PSP range, ruled the portable gaming world for a long while over the DS and crappy mobile games involving popping glitchy bubbles. It seems that with the pressure of current mobile technology on the increase, SONY have “done an Apple” and teamed up with a mobile company, Vodafone, to help release their 3G-compatible product. And why not? It works, after all…

Now in my opinion, it seems pretty pointless to splash out on portable games for a newly purchased console, especially if they’re the sorts of titles you’d expect for a PS3 or X360, because to properly enjoy them you’d want to connect up to a nice, large, HDTV, if you have one, in the comfort and warmth of your living room. I personally don’t have such luxuries, yet I still have a niggling thing against expensive portable games.

However, I can see a positive in them, as I am by no means biased (on this particular occasion, anyway). Some phone games, like the one I mentioned earlier, can be terrible, in terms of both gameplay and graphics. Unlike Snake and Space Invaders, mobile games are relatively poor in comparison to fixed-console titles. Then there was the introduction of Apps to the market, and everyone went crazy for Angry Birds and Unblock Me. Now, however, we’ve reached another standstill in advancements, as the masses slowly got used to them. But I think the PSV could be a breakthrough. I feel that as far as mobile and portable gaming goes, it has all the upper hands, and because of the incredible statistics of recent MMOs, the availability of 3G, GPRS and wifi really excels the possibilities for those of you who feel the need to be constantly connected. Furthermore, the PSV doesn’t limit the player to just touchscreen, instead it incorporates with the traditional X [] /\ O controls, the combination of which is a genius developed by Nintendo.

But as much as this new console may be the most amazing thing since sliced bread (it isn’t, but it could be), ask yourself: how often do you actually go out and have the time to whap out a multiplayer MMO, and get your mates to join., before you have to put it away again? Mostly I use the bus and the train, and yes this is great for long journeys, but if you’re on your morning commute to school or college then there’s probably not much point in owning one. I may be wrong, I’ve not tried it yet, but you can see what I mean.

Another bonus for the PSV is that you can play a wide range of games in many different genres, all from the word go. This was a fault Nintendo found quite quickly with the 3DS, and recognised, hence the multitude available now. You’ll be pleased to hear that many old titles have been updated, manoeuvred and compacted to play on the PSV, as well as some extremely tasty-looking games such as Project: Ruin, and of course, LittleBigPlanet: Vita. My only slight criticism is that these games may not be up to spec in comparison to Skyrim on X360/PS3, for example, or MW3, which have been designed with graphics in mind.

From PlayStation’s release video, all I can say on the design front is WOW. I will note the inclusion of an iPhone 4-esque rim look, which was also introduced to the new Blackberry, however much better is to come. The PSV is an incredibly sexy piece of kit, with decent display and classic controls alongside the touchscreen playability, and, drum roll please… a REAR touchpad! A relatively simple, yet effective idea, that makes this console unique, and opens up seemingly endless possibilities for gameplay. Whilst Unchartered shows a limited use of the rear pad, Little Deviants really gives control of the landscape from behind, which enables almost thoughtless movement, similar to the idea of using L and R buttons to move in Loco Roco. I believe the rear pad could become a very interesting asset in the future of PSV gaming, however at the moment most of what they’ve managed to do is enable the player to pick up a golfer…?

Anyway, I will move swiftly on to an important issue that must be raised – will it break? I am one of many game-players who are clumsy enough to allow their console to fall unpredictably on a hard surface… yeah, my NDS is in pieces (the original, of course). I need to know before buying this console if it’s likely to break when (not if) I drop it, and from looking at the release video, I expect it might. To drop a PSV on one of its panels would be catastrophic to the touchscreen/pad, and the butter-side-down argument means the front screen will be the first one to go… and as both sides are useable, how can Sony possibly invent a safe-case to go with it? Perhaps a rubber rim to go around the edge? It might impede comfort in handling the console, but it may work.

Anyway, either way you look at the PSV, it is most certainly competition for the 3DS, and will most likely win the masses over in no time at all. Unfortunately for Nintendo, who’ve jumped on the static-console-bandwagon too late, their once-top-of-the-range portable technology has been left open to attack. Is the PSV just an improved PSP, and will it be worth the suggested price, just under that of the 3DS? Well it’s smaller than the entire PSP range, yet has a higher resolution screen to counter. Also, the PSV is bulkier than its older brother, yet this seems to be forgiven in light of its rear touch pad. And critics expect the games to cost an incredible £35   : /

In conclusion, the PSV will inevitably be extremely popular when released, and I want one; I need a replacement portable device for my long train journeys and eventless free periods, so this will be a decent haven from boredom. I haven’t got a PlayStation newer than the chunky PS2 to my name, so it may be a way to get back into the swing of new gaming, but I think to buy a PS3 now, before Christmas and the January sales, may be foolish. And I seriously doubt there will be much point in getting a PSV until I know for sure that there will be friends online with me when I log on; otherwise, it may be a waste of effort and money on my part. Either way, I highly rate this upcoming console, and have great expectations for Sony’s future.

– Will  : )

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