The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Playstation Vita Takes Handhelds to the Next Level

4 min read

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The Playstation Vita is the perfect device to distract you from doing anything productive ever again. If you’re looking for that special something to subtly drive you towards flunking out of college your search is over.

On Feb. 22, Sony released the long-publicized successor to the handheld gaming system the Playstation Portable (PSP) in North America after a winter 2011 release in Japan. The Vita offers unique control-schemes, new networking abilities and easily the best looking games to ever grace the palm of your hand.

Like its primary competitor, the Nintendo 3DS, the Vita makes use of touch-screen and motion sensor controls. The touch screen is incredibly effective, utilized to navigate the system’s interface and menus as well as part of the control scheme for many of the handhelds games. The Vita also makes use of a rear-touch panel which, while not as easy or natural to use as the touch screen, adds to the novelty of certain Vita games.

“Uncharted: Golden Abyss,” a Vita launch title, uses the rear touch panel to climb ropes and zoom in and out when taking pictures or wielding a sniper rifle. “Golden Abyss” also makes great uses of the motion sensor controls. When aiming, players can move the firing reticle by tilting the Vita itself. This, combined with the rear panel zoom, make using a sniper rifle in “Golden Abyss” a unique and novel experience that shows just how innovative the Vita’s controls can be.

“Uncharted: Golden Abyss,” is just one of a handful of high-caliber Vita launch titles including “Lumines: Electronic Symphony” and “WipEout 2048.” While it took the Nintendo 3DS upwards of a year to accumulate enough solid titles to warrant purchasing, the Vita offers something for everyone right off the bat.

The Vita’s games all look spectacular, especially considering the Vita is a handheld system. This due largely to the Vita’s 5 inch OLED touchscreen. The screen isn’t quite a 1080p HD television in the palm of your hand (don’t expect to play it in the sun without supreme amounts of glare and do expect the characteristic finger smudges of a touchscreen), but it’s the next best thing, offering crisp colorings and shades that make games look the best they ever have on a handheld.

Vita games come on cartridges smaller than your thumb, but every Vita game can also be purchased online through Playstation Network, eliminating the need to switch between cartridges on the go or fear losing the small parcels. Unfortunately, digital downloads reveal one of the Vita’ s most egregious weaknesses.

Purchasing a Vita is hardly a matter of scrounging together spare change – the standard Wi-Fi system goes for $249.99 and the 3G system (supported by AT&T) is priced at $299.99. Additionally, the system comes with no internal storage, which means that just to play a game (which can cost between $30 and $50) you need a memory card, the cheapest of which, 4GB, rings in at $19.99. If you’re downloading your games from Playstation Network, a 4GB memory card will have room for two games at most. The next biggest memory card is 8GB and costs $29.99 and the largest available, 32GB, will set you back $99.99. In short, once you’ve spent over $200 on the Vita, you have a nice screen and a set of buttons that can do next to nothing.

The other large grievance I have to air against the Vita is the complete impotence of its remote play feature. On paper, remote play is possibly the coolest feature a handheld could have – giving players the ability to connect with and play their Playstation 3 games on the go with your Vita. Unfortunately, the only games that work with remote play are games you’re never going to play. Forget any fantasies you had of playing “Battlefield” or “Mass Effect” on your Vita while you’re walking to class because unless your favorite Playstation 3 games include “High Stakes Poker on the Vegas Strip” and the infamous PS3 flop “Lair,” you’re out of luck.

All these gripes aside, however, the Playstation Vita is awesome. Getting ahold of the system and its essential memory cards are a pain in the pocket and some of the bells and whistles are significantly less shiny than expected, but it’s easy to forget those things when you’re waiting in line out and about and playing a console quality game.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the Playstation Vita, however, is its future potential. Remote play is currently a joke, but who can tell what might become of it in the years ahead. And while the Vita titles currently available are great, upcoming games include “Resistance: Burning Skies” and “LittleBigPlanet” as well as entries in such A-list franchises as “Call of Duty” and “Killzone.” Make no mistakes, the Vita is the coolest handheld around, but it’s shaping up to get even better.

If you’ve got money to burn and you’re craving a shiny new gadget, go for the Vita. It’s not without its setbacks, but at the end of the day once you’ve gotten past all the financial annoyances, the Vita is impressive graphics, first-rate hardware and awesome games right in your hands.