Sony's new handheld is impressive, but is it impressive enough to get one right out of the gate?
Like I mentioned a week ago, while I was out and about I got a chance to play the PS Vita for a brief amount of time. While I didn't purchase the system or have enough of a go with it to give any sort of definitive review I can give you some first impressions regarding both the system itself and some of the hardware for it.
A lot has been made of the graphical level of the Vita, and for what it's worth it does emulate a console experience extremely well; I played the Gravity Rush demo that was available on the machine and was rather impressed by the graphics. People have been gushing over the screensize of the Vita as well, and I myself must admit that it's definitely impressive; I can say though that some sort of screen protection is going to be a must if you want it to retain such a high level of lustre, given that it's a touchscreen that's bound to otherwise get scratched and smudged.
Speaking of touchscreens, the Vita has two: one on the front and one on the back. I can understand the want of the company to make a lot of showy additions (I mean, the thing also has a built in gyroscope for heaven's sake) but I can't help but feel that the touchscreen on the back is incredibly awkward. There's two small sections for you to place your fingers on when you're not using the back touchpad, but it honestly doesn't feel like enough. I don't know if some games simply won't recognize the back touchscreen if they don't use it, or if there's an option to disable it, but if not I could see accidentally activating the thing getting really old really fast. Again, these are just first impressions. I didn't have the luxury to fiddle around with the machine to learn it inside and out.
In terms of the front, aside from the screen there are the dual analogue sticks, which actually feel like sticks this time around as opposed to the "analogue nub" of the original PSP. The buttons are the usual Playstation design, and seem nice and solid. The recessed select and start buttons are sort of a pain in the ass to hit quickly though.
Of course a system lives or dies by its software, and while I didn't get a chance to play around with much, the launch lineup certain seems impressive, with franchises like Uncharted, Katamari Damacy, Marvel vs. Capcom, and others. Time will ultimately tell if software support for this system keeps coming, instead of drying up somewhat like it did for the PSP.
One final thing worth noting is that this thing is a costly beast all things considered; the PS Vita itself costs 250 mighty Canadian dollars with games ranging from 30 to 50 dollars and memory cards running from 20 to 100 depending on size in gigabytes -- I also need to mention how damn tiny those things are, they're around the size of a penny which means good luck ever finding one again if you lose it -- so by the time you've picked up the system and the games and accessories you want for it I hope that you're comfortable spending 500 to 600 dollars. At the moment I can say that although I'm keenly interested in the system (more interested than I've been with handhelds for quite some time) that I'm not willing to invest this much this early. A price drop, the inevitable second iteration, or more "must have" titles would certainly tip the scale in favour of buying it, but for now I'm content with just watching and dipping my toe in the water, as opposed to diving in head first only to find the pool is shallow.