On 22nd February 2012, the PS Vita was finally released to the expectant Western World after more than two years of the familiar rumour, hype and hearsay routine (starting as far back as July 2009) that usually accompanies the release of a new console.
There are many impressive new features that make the PS Vita worth investing in, even should you still be enjoying the life left in your now-6 year old PSP. This includes a front touchscreen and rear touch pad, which could potentially give greater control to games than even the PS3 can currently manage. Launch games such as Dynasty Warriors Next and Wipeout 2048 utilise these aspects, albeit in basic ways that you would expect. The success of this new control method is, of course, dependent upon the creativity with which developers use the hardware at their disposal.
You’ve also got front and back cameras (0.3 megapixel), a screenshot function that you can use at any point (useful for those rare achievements in games that you wish you could savour in visual form, rather than a save file), and the ability to listen to your own personal music while playing certain games such as Wipeout 2048 and Plants vs. Zombies. Again, time will tell whether developers take full advantage of these features, or whether they become nothing more than a gimmick used to boost initial sales figures.
The most important new features, though, are more obvious to the naked eye. There is the 2nd analog stick, making for far greater (and, it must be said, a lot more comfortable) control over your handheld games. Fans of Monster Hunter on the PSP will be happy to know you no longer need to use ‘the claw’ to play it. This also means the FPS genre should find better success on the Vita than it did with its predecessor, if the Unit 13 demo (full game out now) is anything to go by.
Backwards compatibility with the PSP is a given, although UMDs have now been made obsolete, so it will be your online downloads that you’ll be coming back to.
The battery lasts for 4-5 hours with bluetooth and wireless connected constantly. Shut these off while reducing screen brightness, and you can significantly enhance your short term battery life.
It also has a larger, brighter main screen, and a new menu interface. Like the PSP, remote play and connectivity with the PS3 is implemented. An improvement from the PSP is that all transfers between the Vita and PS3 now happen on the handheld console, meaning there is no need to switch TV channels to transfer data any more, unlike before when you would generally get on the nerves of everyone else in the room and end up defeating the whole point of having a ‘handheld’ console in the first place.
All in all, Sony has delivered an impressive piece of hardware with an (uncharacteristically for Sony) even more impressive launch library. Full price will look too steep for some, especially for students, but those that have the monetary capabilities to invest can rest assured that Sony is giving you more than your money’s worth.