Review by BigReed

"A portable dangerously in need of some games, and Sony support"

Back before the Playstation Vita was first announced, many wondered what direction Sony would go in after their surprise success with the Playstation Portable. Sony was able to go head on against Nintendo in a market that the house of Mario ruled undoubtedly and uncontested, and somehow Sony was able to not be completely crushed. The PSP was able to outsell all of Nintendo's other competitors that ever were in the portable market COMBINED.

Sony was able to accomplish this by doing the opposite of what Nintendo does. Hi tech hardware that had multimedia functionality all with an aim at the “hardcore”, much older market demographic. Sony was also willing to take a loss on the Hardware as the install base was built up, something Nintendo is none too fond of.

Now with the Vita, Sony is once again enacting that same strategy that was used with the playstation portable. The Vita is a much more powerful machine than its competition (3ds) and is once again very heavy on the multimedia uses, but I associate this more in line with the IOS market. Sony has done both some good and bad with the launch of the Vita. When the price for the system was first announced, Jack Tretton was met with thunderous applause. Nintendo had launched a much less powerful system for the same price (250 dollars) and while initial sales numbers were promising, the Market expressed to Nintendo that with the current capabilities and software lineup, the system was not worth owning currently. However, Nintendo learned from this launch and slashed the price of the 3ds and offered 20 games for those who purchased early.

Now Sony is in a bit of an awkward position. The game industry is changing drastically. Video game systems as we know them either have to drastically change or are eventually going to die off. Sony is also stuck with the 250 dollar price point for now, all while either selling at a small loss or breaking even. In one generation, the electronics market has changed substantially. People have phones capable of quick, cheap gaming experiences, and many cannot justify paying 40-50 dollars for a single video game. Nintendo was able to rebound from their mistakes by pumping out first party software. Sony has a very steep hill to climb just from looking at the current sales of the Vita. Times are rough, but eventually the Vitas library of software will fill out and people will be more than willing to take the plunge.

I purchased a Vita, 3 retail games, and a memory card at launch in the US. My review will reflect my roughly 4 months with the system and games.

Hardware Design
The design of the Vita makes it very apparent that Sony is heavily influenced by iGaming. People want one single device that plays and does everything. Generally, with our industry this is not the case. When this generation of consoles first launched they really only played movies and games. Currently they run all sorts of popular apps including facebook, Netflix, hulu, skype, and youtube. The Vita is also on board with most of these apps and also sports a large touch sensitive screen. In fact, Sony is so committed to the multimedia idea that the Vita menus can ONLY be operated by the touch screen. Some hate this considering that one major advantage game consoles own over other devices are buttons.

I personally did not mind this input mechanism. The Vitas screen is large and user friendly. Also, considering how large the system is, it is also very light. When holding the Vita, it reminded me more so of my iPad than my psp, but Sony was sure to make the system very comfortable to hold for longer game sessions. Overall, the design is reminiscent of the psp, but with a more sleek and user friendly design. UMDs are also gone. Thank god Sony was smart enough to mimic Nintendo this time and use memory cards for their games.

Software has become the prime center of debate over the Vita. Some hail the Vita launch as the best video game launch of all time based on proven software experiences, while others complain that too many console ports plague the Vita and offer little reason to purchase it when all of those experiences are cheaper and available on a home console (ps3) that costs the same price. I find myself on the fence on this. Yes the Vita does have a ton of high quality experiences because of the high rated games ported over, but at the same time many of these experiences had features cut, and on the Vita are being sold at full price. Rayman Origins, one of my launch games that I enjoyed for example, was 19.99 on home consoles when it launched on the Vita.

I believe that those who do not own home consoles will thoroughly enjoy the Vita library more than those who are avid gamers outside of portables. But right now, even with some of Sony's popular franchises, the Vita still does not have that killer app that can only be found and done only on the Vita.

One thing Sony does, for better or worse, is pack in a lot of power into their consoles, and the Vita certainly follows suit. The Vita is able to run games that are closer to the ps3 graphically than Nintendo's 3ds. The OLED screen is also beautiful to look at, and makes up for the Vitas lower than HD resolution. Since Sony decided to include a pretty large display for what the device is, it is pretty easy to notice the jagged edges of the Home Menu icons. However, this is a very small concern because the Vita looks great.

Sound is generally something that is always weak on portable game devices. The speakers suffice normally, but if you use high quality headphones you realize what you were missing out on. Personally, I never had any problem with the Vitas built in speakers, but then again I am not that into high quality sound for my portables.

Since the recent price drop of the Nintendo 3ds, many have questioned if Sony should follow suit. Low sales across all regions for the Vita are raising concerns about what Sony's next step should be. This past E3 Sony was more interested in showing ps3 to Vita connectivity for gaming rather than unique experiences that can be found only on the Vita. Sadly, this is the same strategy that they used for the PSP in North America, which eventually killed almost all software releases and sales for that region.

This is a path I hope Sony does not continue, but after their E3 showing where they focused and promised support for phones rather than the Vita, so all signs point to the Vita being more of a tie in for the ps3 than a standalone portable. Anybody thinking of purchasing the Vita should be aware of this before they spend their money.

A memory card is also not included with the Vita. Sony has also decided to not allow SD cards to be used and decided to manufacture a new memory card that can only be bought through Sony. This is problematic because Sony is also in control of the pricing, which right now is way overpriced for memory storage in 2012.

Final Recommendation
As indicated in the title of this review, my Vita is currently posted on eBay. I am selling mine and eventually if the software library picks up, I plan on buying one of the Vita bundles that Sony has announced.

For my final recommendation I actually suggest waiting for one of those Vita bundles I mentioned. You get a Vita (maybe even the sleek White Vita if you choose), a game, and a memory card all for 250 dollars. Unless you cannot wait till the end of the year to purchase a Vita, I suggest waiting until one of the cost effective bundles is released.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/11/12, Updated 08/13/12

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

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