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Posted by Chuck Corbin on Jun 26, 2012

The PS Vita, Or How I Learned To Love The Bomb [Review]

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So, perhaps the word “bomb” is a bit harsh. After all, the system has only been out for a few months and has essentially kept pace with Nintendo’s 3DS, with the Vita selling around 2 million units in the 8 months it’s been out compared to the 3DS’s roughly 4 million in the year or so that it’s been out. And yet, despite that bit of success, people have taken to calling the Vita a failure, citing the lack of games being released for the system as proof.

Well, I decided to take a chance. I’ve been eyeing the system for months, and as time has gone on I’ve only become more intrigued by the device. That’s why last week I decided to place 300 bucks on the counter of Best Buy and picked myself up the PS Vita, an 8 GB memory card, and the game Gravity Rush, which I will be posting a proper review of in the next week.

First Impressions


The first thing I noticed when I turned this system on is just how crisp the graphics are. When you boot the system up, the main screen shows you several round buttons that you use to launch your applications. You know Sony wanted to give you a hint at how powerful this system really is, because when it comes to graphics on a system, rounded shapes tend to be the hardest to look, well, rounded. The PS Vita accomplishes this impressive, albeit minor task with flying colors. Of course, good graphics don’t mean a thing if the screen is tiny, and luckily that’s not the case with the Vita. It sports a 5 inch OLED touchscreen that takes up a majority of the real estate of the front of the Vita. Needless to say, I can stare at this thing for hours.

Something else that impressed me from just playing with the system was the sound quality. When playing the game Gravity Rush, I have to admit that while the graphics helped suck me in, it was the sound that kept me coming back for more. The Vita can also really pump up the decibel level quite a bit, as I’ve found that the maximum volume setting to actually be too loud, and that’s not a bad thing!

Functionality

So, the system looks and sounds good, but how does it play? Honestly, it’s not too bad. You’ve got two thumb sticks, with the left one being below a d-pad and the right stick being below the familiar PlayStation Triangle, Circle, X, and Square buttons. On the top of the unit are the right and left shoulder buttons, and not only is the front screen a touch pad, but so is the back side of the Vita! The Vita also has the Sixaxis motion sensing system installed, which depending on the game can help out tremendously with the action. In Gravity Rush, for example, I’ve found that just turning my system left or right by the slightest bit helps in aiming a long-range gravity kick by a huge margin.

Now while the controls are pretty good, they’re not perfect. When you have a portable system, sacrifices will need to be made in order to keep the system from becoming some huge monstrosity. The speakers end up being right next to the thumb sticks, so if you’re not careful you’ll end up muffling the sound of the system with your meaty thumbs. It’s also a bit cumbersome, in my opinion, to have to take your right thumb off of the stick to use the other buttons, especially when playing a game that uses the right thumb stick to aim. I’m hoping, then, that whenever I find a game that uses the back touch pad that they’ll have a control scheme that doesn’t require me to lose my ability to aim.

With a system this beefy, you wouldn’t expect it to have a great battery life, and unfortunately I can confirm that. When playing off of a battery, the system only lasts about 3-5 hours and there’s no way to change the battery either. However, it appears that at some point Sony will be releasing an external battery pack, so if you don’t mind lugging it around you’re in luck there. Also, if you don’t want a battery pack, you’ll find that the charger that comes with the Vita has a good cord length, and when plugged into the Vita it’s mostly out of the way, letting you play your games from wherever you want to in the house, essentially.

The internet functions on the Vita are simultaneously the best and also the most aggravating part of the system. You’ll find it easy to set up your Vita for the wireless network, and once you’ve logged on to your PSN account, you’ll be able to enjoy many of the online features that come from the different games and applications for the device. The system is also capable of 3G service as well, though I did not pick up the 3G version of the Vita. Downloading firmware updates is a breeze, as is syncing up your PSN network from the Vita. If you want to share what it is you’re doing on the Vita and you can’t pry your hands off of it, you can download several different social media apps for free from the PSN Store. The PSN Store also gives you the option of purchasing most PSP and Vita games online (with PSOne games being added in the near future), and downloading the games to your Memory Card, meaning that you’ll never have to go out to Wal-Mart or Best Buy again. Well, until you fill the Memory Card that is!

However, there is one major issue that I’ve found with the PSN Store, and as far as I can tell it’s not really the fault of the Vita. I’ve been so far unable to purchase any games from the Store using my credit card, as it’ll give me a “Lost Connection With The Server” error. After doing some research, I’ve found that the problem is that the PSN Store is INCREDIBLY specific with the credit card information, where if you have listed a slight difference in the address it will essentially prevent you from using that credit card. The only work-around I’ve found is to purchase PSN Store cards from different retailers and redeeming the codes in the PSN Store. When I do that, I’m able to purchase PSP and Vita games again.

Final Thoughts

So, I guess you can say that despite its faults, I really do like this system. It speaks to me in a way that the Nintendo DS never could, and I think a lot of that has to come down to the online functionality. Purchasing and downloading games online is something that’s rapidly becoming the norm here in the 21st century, and Sony is getting right on track with it. Once they fix some of their problems with the Store, and add some more games in general to the system, I think you’ll see an increase in support for the Vita.

Is it worth the $250? That question I’m not quite so sure of. I love the system, yes, and while I don’t feel regret for shelling out the big bucks for it, I feel like it’s a little on the pricey end of things. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Sony ends up dropping the price by $50 to $100 around the holiday season. They can make a killing around Christmas with a price-cut, and I think they know it. Hopefully, Sony and the publishers decide that the Vita is worth sticking with once the holiday season starts. And if the worst happens, and Sony decides to cut their losses on the Vita, then I can always figure out other uses for it!

The Good

  • Bright, crisp graphics
  • Stellar sound for such a small package
  • (Mostly) great online services

The Bad

  • Thumb stick placement can cause muffled sound
  • Short battery life
  • PSN Store has some glitches

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