Review by imagine606

Reviewed: 03/12/12

Sony Makes a Statement For Themselves in the Handheld Market

For most of my life I was a Nintendo person. I mean, look at some of the things that Nintendo has done. They have arguably the two greatest series to ever be a part of video gaming with Mario and Zelda. They are also where portable gaming really got it's legitimate start. When Game Boy came out it was the first time you could play a video game anywhere that actually felt like a video game. Soon Sega followed with Game Gear (Atari had Lynx out at the same time as well). Nintendo countered that by bringing out Game Boy Color a few years later. However, there was a decent period where Nintendo was still very strong, if not coming out in first in the portable game competition despite Sega's system being in color while the initial Game Boy was in black and white (more of a black and greenish color). With the success of the Super Nintendo as well, Sega was left scrambling a bit and had to back out of the handheld market, allowing Nintendo to pretty much dominate with Game Boy Color and Gameboy Advance. After that Nintendo decided to get a bit fancy with their portable systems by bringing out the DS. This was a system that took what the Game Boy systems had done and added a whole new element to it with a second screen, one of those screens being a touch screen. This is where Sony stepped into the market as well with the PSP. The PSP didn't have a touch screen or anything fancy like that, but it brought forth similar, if not slightly better graphics. One of the best things it brought was the analog stick to a handheld. The DS had come out with a remake of Super Mario 64, a great game itself, but without the analog stick the game didn't play as well as it could have due to the lack of an analog stick. Still, Nintendo kept control over the portable market during that generation.

Now we're in a new generation. Nintendo released the 3DS almost a year ahead of when Sony released the Vita. The 3DS features games in full 3D, without the aid of glasses. The 3DS also included an analog stick (well, a circle pad), and later an additional one that was added on. Neither one of the two was released with a very strong lineup, although at the current time Nintendo, with a year in advance, has the edge largely due to some outstanding games that have come out for download. However, the Vita is nothing to scoff at already. While the game selection isn't great, the hardware itself is very impressive. This is where I cut out everything that is not the Vita (outside of a possible mention or two).

The Vita is the first Sony portable to feature a touch screen. Not only does it have the regular front touch screen, but it also has a back one. On the back screen you obviously don't see anything, but you can run your fingers along it for use in several games. The graphics themselves are the most amazing part of the system. They are phenomenal. They're not quite what the Playstation 3 graphics are, but then again, going after them for not being able to pull 1080 graphics should help you realize that they are really good still. Of the games available upon release, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Rayman Origins were two very obvious examples of this. The Uncharted series is especially known for its beautiful graphics, and when I heard that Golden Abyss was going to be the highlight of the Vita launch, I was very skeptical. However, the game itself featured graphics that, while not as great as the 3 PS3 games for graphics, still held up to them.

The graphical power of the system is great, but something that is more important to me (as someone who's been playing video games for over 25 years) is the controls. When I started you had a joystick and 1 button. When Nintendo came along there were buttons like start, select, a, and b as well as a control pad instead of a joystick. Now days it's much more than that. The Playstation 3 features 17 buttons that can actually be pressed in, 2 of those also being analog sticks. With the Vita you have 13. Sure, it's not quite the 17 of the PS3, as you can't push in the analog sticks and there are 2 of the 4 shoulder buttons missing, but there's still more than enough buttons to put together an amazing. Having the touch screen also is something that deserves mention, since you can add any number of places to touch on that screen to act as buttons. Controlling any game will be easy on this system. If you look at Golden Abyss, which does double as a bit of a tech demo as well, for grenades you need to use the touch screen, but the way it's done, with how you only have to touch the grenade, and then drag it to where you want it to go, is just so easy. If Sony continues with controls like these, then there will be no problems with their controls.

One of the biggest problems with portable games in recent years has been gimmicks that haven't worked. With the DS it was games where they tried to incorporate the touch screen too much, and wound up killing the game because of this. With the PSP this wasn't an issue since there wasn't a touch screen. Now, with the Vita there is a touch screen. However, with the Vita they've learned from Nintendo's past mistakes. So far, outside of a game or two, they have been using the touch screen for help with controls, and little else. Now, this is something that can change and something that goes very little into the actual system, but just being able to do this means something to me.

One thing that does mean a lot to me, but at the same time is almost mandatory in systems today, at least early on, is that this game is backwards compatible as far as downloaded games go. While it cannot play physical PSP games, any downloaded PSP games can be played on it. This includes games downloaded onto the Vita or PSP or games downloaded onto the PS3. The one problem I do have is that there are PSP games that cannot be downloaded from the Vita store that can be downloaded onto the PS3. I don't understand why this is, but it's puzzling to me that I had to transfer Littlebigplanet, GTA Liberty City Stories, and Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles instead of being able to just download them. Of course that's not everything, but at the same time I wonder if they would've been better off just coming out with a drive that could play PSP games in the first place that could be connected or something like that. Either way, at least let me download them straight from the online store.

The bottom line here is that the hardware is top of the line. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. However, a lot of it would be in the sense of cutting corners. Sure, it would be nice to be able to use the analog sticks as buttons as well, and it would be nice to have 2 extra shoulder buttons, but really, how badly needed are those? The bottom line is that when you take a PS3 and go from that to a Vita you sacrifice a little in the graphics department, and you don't give up much, if anything otherwise. This is a handheld that actually plays like a console. There's nothing special about figuring out the controls or anything, this plays very much how you really would want a portable to play.

Yes, there's some flaws, but at the same time this is a very strong piece of machinery. Sony put themselves into the portable market as legitimate players this time with the Vita.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: PlayStation Vita (US, 02/22/12)

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