The Playstation Vita; and oft-forgotten console (even Sony seem to have erased it from their memory), and I were made acquaintances a year ago (almost to the day). I was able to pick one up at an insanely low price.
Public opinion is split on the Vita. Those who own one speak about it in an almost unanimous positive way. Those who don’t own one are unaware of its existence.
How have I found the Vita? Well let’s take a look.
For me the Vita was never a ‘must-buy’ console, I looked at the release schedule…barren. I then looked at the games that had been released, not much better to be honest. IT seemed that Sony had ostracised the Vita from the rest of the “Playstation Family” alongside its older brother – the PSP.
And that’s the thing really; I loved my PSP (I got one at launch) and it gave me many, many hours of entertainment – in fact it become my travel companion to and from college. It was a technical marvel which never got the support it deserved and needed to compete with the behemoth that was the Nintendo DS. In saying this though the PSP still had a great library of titles across the genre’s they were just spaced out over a period that was simply too long for the ailing console.
When the opportunity to purchase a PS Vita and a 16gb memory (that are still notoriously expensive) for less than £100 I knew that I had to take it…
…and I haven’t looked back. The Vita is an incredible console. Let’s start with the hardware – originally sold by Sony as handheld on par with the PS3 (horsepower-wise); this however is misleading. The Vita actually sits somewhere between the PS2 and PS3 in terms of pure horsepower – but this is not a negative. On the contrary, having a processor throw around polygons on the level of the previous gen is quite simply unfeasible on current battery technology. What Sony have done; rather ingeniously, is given developers a handheld that is powerful enough to create the illusion of a home console.
Sony have also loaded their beautiful handheld with a number of technologies including a stunning OLED capacitive touch screen (not on 2000 model), a rear track pad, a gyroscope, camera, 3g, wifi and most famously a second analogue stick. It’s an expensive thing to hold in your hands and it feels reassuringly expensive; sure the ergonomics could’ve been better – but I can’t think of a handheld that couldn’t be improved in this respect.
A console lives and dies by its library of games and in the past year I have sampled many, many games the Vita has to offer. Those first few months especially; were a whirlwind of games – ‘Uncharted: Golden Abyss’ was an absolute gem! I’m a huge fan of the series and this entry was a real demonstration of exactly what the Vita was all about – near home console quality graphics and it really showcased the strengths of that beautiful screen. Colours were vibrant and the motion handling was just stunning – I wreaked that game in two days.
‘Gravity Rush’ was next and again it showcased exactly what the Vita was about. Gorgeous graphics and showed what the extra features of the console did, the gyroscope use was optional (but worked very well indeed) and it even used the rear touchpad. Two games that I’d give 8/10s to – what a batting average.
After I’d finished these two gems I needed more, I needed my Vita fix and there were a huge number to download! Games of all sizes and genres – PSone classics (admittedly not what I bought a Vita for), First-party, third-party, indies…my God the indies! My next purchase was a small title I’d never heard of before, but I liked the screenshots and it had received unanimous 5-star ratings in over 100 reviews.
‘Olli Olli’ was something completely different, it wasn;t drop-dead gorgeous and it really wasn’t a game to showcase the power of Vita, but its mix of beautiful animation, compulsive gameplay and daily grinds all combined to create one of my favourite games of last year. A Vita exclusive (for most of the year). £7.99. And I got (roughly) 100 hours out of this title. I’d been bitten by the bug. I needed more ‘Indies’.
Luckily the Vita is not short on indies and at the time PS Plus worked slightly different, there was a large number of indie titles available; right now, for free…it was a no-brainer.
In march it rained games – indie after indie fell to my power – ‘Splunkey’, ‘Steamworld Dig’, ‘Guacamelee’, ‘FEZ’. ‘Hotline Miami’ and more! Each of these games glorious, each quite short and that is the issue…I was burning through the back catalogue and Sony didn’t seem to care, they released nothing. Literally nothing. I look forward and I am welcomed with very few games to play and this saddens me, Sony, please, release something.
This is the big issue with the Vita, there are releases sparingly – Sony have pulled the plug and will release no more games, they are leaving it up to their partners and the indies, there is a trickle of new releases and they are of a mixed quality (like all consoles). Sony see the Vita primarily as a peripheral for their PS4 (yet they have no bundles in stores).
Yes it works well, it’s an outstanding piece of functionality added to a console through software, but this performance comes with a caveat – do not attempt to play the PS4 in a different room over wifi. For performance that is conducive to gaming your PS4 MUST be hardwired to your router (mine is through homeplugs). If you can meet this requirement I can tell you that remote play is absolutely brilliant – when you get your head around the revised control scheme (the vita only has one set of shoulder buttons). There is a lot to be said of playing your PS4 in someone else’s house over the internet.
Look back at the start – I drew many comparisons between the Vita and the PSP; Sony have done one of two things with the shortcomings of their first handheld:
1) Ignore the problems of the PSP and hope the fans do too.
2) Had an arrogance with the popularity of the Playstation brand name.
One thing they certainly didn’t do was learn from those mistakes as the Vita has exactly the same problems. It is unsupported by Sony, it doesn’t have a deep enough library of truly great games to sustain gamers over its (sure to be a prolonged) life and they turned it into a peripheral for their current home console.
The problem of games can be explained in one line; I’ve owned the console for over a year and I have no idea what the game cartridges look like, that is a damning inditement of Sony’s treatment of the Vita, the fact that a “core” gamer has never bought a retail title for a console because nowhere sells them. All the games I’ve bought have been digital and I must say – it may be the future!
Sony have once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with their handheld.
It’s almost as if Sony want it to fail so they can never make another handheld.
The Vita is a console that deserves better, If you want a handheld that is capable of giving you home console thrills, indie goodness, functionality of a tablet all at the same time look no further. Need to play Destiny on the toilet? The Vita will allow you!
I implore you; fine readers of this small blog, give Sony the middle finger and buy the Vita – it is one of the greatest consoles you’ll probably never play.
Do you have a Vita?
Would you recommend it to a friend?
What’s your favourite game on the Vita?
Have you played the Vita and hated it even?
Let me know in the comments below!