PS Vita Hardware Review – The New Neo Geo?

So, Vita came out this week. And it might be the new Neo-Geo. Self-explanatory title I suppose, so read on to find out just what I think about Sony’s newest handheld.

If you’ve never heard of the Neo Geo Pocket Color, I can understand why. Produced between 1999 and 2001 by SNK (producers of the Metal Slug series), it was a small handheld designed to compete with the Game Boy Color. It sold two million units then quickly faded into obscurity. History lesson over! Let’s talk modernity!

It’s been proven time and time again that you don’t screw with Nintendo. Sega learned that with the Game Gear and Sony was later taught the same lesson with the PS3. It’s pretty accepted wisdom that no matter how much you throw at them, the big N just won’t fold. They’re like a bullied nerd that occasionally flips out and puts the bullies in the hospital – you aren’t supposed to feel glad that it happens, but at the same time there’s a certain sense of justice.

The PSP was by no means a failure. Almost 70 million sales worldwide actually puts it third in the seventh generation console race, a little behind the Wii and almost 20 million ahead of its bigger, bulkier brother. That said, it never really captured the market in the way Sony hoped – the awkward UMD disc format put paid to the idea of high-capacity handheld media until the tail end of the generation saw digital distribution and flash cards become a viable option. The system was also notoriously easy to pirate, with many games being playable by simply putting them on a Memory Stick, a problem not helped by the fact that many of them ran better than when forced to load from a disc.

This time around, Sony’s opted to use proprietary cartridges to carry physical games (nice to know we’re in the 1990s) and is using specially designed memory cards to store downloaded data. Unfortunately, while a 16GB card for 3DS downloadable data will set you back around a tenner, Sony sees fit to charge £45 for the same privilege. What I can’t comprehend is why they expect people would pay that much when the same amount will buy you an entire new game – I’ve even heard that a 32GB card is available. For this beauty you’ll be shelling out £77. What? That’s madness. For the price of that glorified floppy disk you could buy half a 3DS, and at least that comes packaged with an SD card!

Where Vita will really be made or broken is with its software library and in that regard it’s not too bad so far. There’s a FIFA game, Uncharted and Rayman Origins (though not if GAME have anything to say about it), as well as a LittleBigPlanet game to look forward to. Unhappily, the UMD Passport system that would have allowed PSP owners to transfer their games to Vita hasn’t made it out of Japan, meaning that once again Sony is missing a trick by removing backwards compatibility with a very popular system for little discernible reason. You really know how to value your customers, don’t you?

The screen is a lovely 960×540 multitouch OLED thing, which has designers and display enthusiasts drooling, but it suffers the same problem as the iPhone, where the size of the screen completely negates any advantage in resolution simply because most people can’t tell the difference between it and the 3DS. Also, OLED screens are expensive as hell, and what the PS Vita expressly doesn’t need is a £230 price tag. I would recommend that they drag the price down by releasing a version with an LCD screen instead. Sure it won’t look quite as pretty, but in this climate it’d definitely shift more than a few units.

Word to the wise, Sony – sort out the analog sticks. They’re small, uncomfortable and far too sensitive to use properly, and ruin the Vita’s image by portraying it as a sleek black box of joy that happens to have two little rubber nipples sticking out of it. It’s off-putting and I’d much prefer something akin to the 3DS’ Circle Pads.

Overall, I’m not too down on Vita. It’s a powerful system let down only by a stupidly high price point, awkward control system and a lack of full backwards compatability. I don’t see it lighting the world on fire, but I applaud their efforts. Keep it up, Sony! Someone needs to reign in Nintendo.

Do you have a Vita? What do you think? Let us know below!

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Robin Wilde

Co-Editor of Cubed Gamers, meaning I send out, take in, edit and upload content. I'm also in charge of doing much of the graphics and design stuff for the site.

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