The headline should add more weight to the following words.

As our loyal readers know by now, I've never been the biggest fan of handheld/portable gaming. I loved the original Gameboy but since that time, my interest in gaming-on-the-go has dwindled to almost nothing.

There are a variety of reasons for the aforementioned diminishing but I'll spare you the details and come straight to the point: I have questioned, wondered, and in some cases, even criticized Sony's new portable device. Some might be quick to blame this on my personal preferences, but I believe my critical observations leading up to the launch were both reasonable and accurate.

I've also made mention of the fact that I'm not as excited about new hardware as I used to be. As far as I'm concerned, Sony can hold off on the PS4 for another three or four years. All this being said – and bear in mind that I expected nothing less than a ho-hum response to the Vita – I have to say…I'm having a lot of fun with this thing.

Inside The Box

Look, every source on earth has done an unboxing (pick any YouTube offering you wish), and gamers won't be all that surprised when opening up their new PlayStation Vita. It comes with the standard hook-ups, including the power cord that hooks into the USB cable (which of course can be used for PC and PS3 connectivity), and the Vita itself. Now, what it needs is a memory card. Seriously. One of my few complaints is that considering the necessity of this accessory, it should be included; even the 4GB one would be something .

The media kit I received included a 16GB card already inserted into the machine (among a lot of other things) but I know the basic box for regular consumers doesn't have such goodies. However, if you were quick on the draw and took advantage of that Sony promotional deal with the 3G version, you got yourself an 8GB memory card, a 250MB/month data plan for 30 days, and a free PSN game. But Sony, the PS3 should come with an HDMI cable, and the Vita should come with a memory card.

Aesthetic Appeal

I've seen the pictures. We've all seen the pictures. But you don't quite get it until the unit is sitting in your hands. I would describe it as accessible simplicity and familiarity combined with slick, high-tech design. Above all else, it's the screen that leaps out at you. The 5" OLED high-definition screen is just aching for you to press the power button and when you do… Well, I'll save that for a more in-depth analysis of the visual presentation and graphics.

Interestingly enough, it seems this portable is specifically designed to enhance that screen. The dual analog sticks are probably smaller than you might anticipate (although they still work fine), and the face buttons and directional pad are also a touch on the small side. I'm not saying this to be negative; it's a positive because this style downplays the buttons and input pieces so as to place that amazing screen squarely in the limelight. That means your eyes are always drawn to the screen, even when the unit is off.

It's actually surprisingly heavy but then again, I said the same thing when I got my smartphone (Samsung Stratosphere 4GLTE, for a frame of reference). But the Vita is definitely a solid piece of equipment and at first, I was a little concerned. It's heavy enough to get annoying after extended play time, but I was remembering the PSP – had to use it plenty for work, after all – and the Vita is not the same. That big, bright screen means I don't have to keep the Vita as close to my eyes; I can prop it in my lap, look down at it, and be all sorts of comfortable.

Lastly, two cushioned indentations on the rear – at each side – creates a nice grip for your fingers.

Touchscreen Functionality and Other Features

I haven't had quite enough time to test everything the Vita can do (that's why this is called "Impressions"), but I'd have to say this is a capable and interesting piece of hardware that gamers are gonna love.

As a reminder, the Vita features front and rear touchscreens. I've grown used to the touchscreen feature now that I've entered the world of smartphones, but that rear touchpad was intimidating. However, after using it a bit, I've come to realize it's actually pretty intuitive. Your fingers – which of course are invisible being behind the unit – do tend to line up with your eyes. The only issue I have with this is that when playing a game that asks to use the rear touch pad, my grip on the machine has to change, and it's a little awkward.

Still, the touchscreen works just fine and is quite accurate and responsive. Thus far, I haven't come across some of the complaints I heard when the unit launched in Japan (I've also read it in some reviews of Uncharted: Golden Abyss ); i.e., that the screen won't always read your finger. I have had it happen, but it seems exceedingly rare. I'll have to play more to pass final judgment of course, and I should add that of the games I've played so far, I almost always invariably go with the regular controls.

However, moving through the menus with the touchscreen is easy as pie and I actually like having the option. Just to freshen up the experience, I will often switch to "touching" rather than "pressing." I've also tested out the camera, which works well, and I won't forget about other high-profile features, like the NEAR system, connectivity to the PS3, etc.

The battery life is a hot topic because, after all, it ain't that great. I was one of the first to go, "wait… how long will it last?!" But here's the thing- I never really sit down and play a video game for longer than 3 hours at a clip these days and in all honesty, nobody I know does, either. On top of that, think logically for a moment: if you're out and about, or even if you're traveling somewhere, how often are we away from a power outlet for longer than four hours or so? I only just thought about that.

Besides, given what this thing can do, perhaps the battery life isn't too surprising. I am hoping, though, that later models will offer longer life.

Games, Games, Games

With no less than 13 games to sample, I've seen a lot…and I've still got a long ways to go. Above all else, I think, is the available selection at launch and upcoming titles. With over 100 Vita titles currently in development and 25 ready for the system's official release next week, Sony is coming with the software.

Furthermore, I like the variety and diversity of the upcoming lineup. Just looking at the launch titles, you've got action/adventure in Uncharted: Golden Abyss , racing in Wipeout 2048 , puzzle/action type games in Lumines: Electronic Symphony and Super Stardust HD , an action/RPG in Dungeon Hunter: Alliance , sports games in Hots Shots Golf: World Invitational and FIFA Soccer , strategy in Army Corps of Hell , fighting in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 , a platformer in Rayman Origins , and miscellaneous stuff in Little Deviants . I mean, come on…what more can we really ask for from a launch lineup?

And looking not far down the road, we see Resistance: Burning Skies , Unit 13 , Escape Plan , Killzone , Gravity Rush , LittleBigPlanet , Reality Fighters , Bioshock Infinite and much, much more. Suddenly, I find myself begging to try 'em all. I can tell you right now that when we issue a final Report Card for the Vita, the software will at least get a B…and that's saying something for a PlayStation launch lineup.

Pricing and Availability

This is the tough category because the price is a major point of contention among gamers worldwide. At $250 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $300 for the 3G model, this isn't exactly a cheap machine. Plus, with no memory card, as mentioned above, you're looking at a potentially prohibitive starting price point for consumers, especially when you start tacking on the games and data plans.

And this remains the system's biggest obstacle in my eyes. I have the luxury of just getting it for the sake of coverage, so I have to put myself in a position where I'd have to pay for what I have. I knew this going in. But I was all sorts of convinced that at best, I'd be on the fence. I'd go, "you know, it's your hard-earned money, and we're talking a good four or even five hundred bucks if you want the full Vita experience with some games…and that's tough to recommend." Strangely enough, though, it actually isn't that difficult for me to recommend.

As for availability, I'll just assume Sony won't make the mistake they made with the PS3 and say there will be enough Vitas to go around. But it's a wait-and-see situation before we issue the final grades.

Brief Summary

I was all prepared to be a staunch critic. I really was. I don't understand this handheld fascination, whether it be a DS or a tablet of some kind. But here's the thing- I'm still not a big fan of that stuff, but I still love video games . And that's the kicker. The Vita is about the games . It's for gamers and that's really the only reason I love it so much. It's not about a gazillion useless apps or other completely trivial features that 15-year-olds find cool but I just find intensely boring. It's about the absolute best portable gaming experience available, with several modern, high-tech options.

And if we define it along those terms, how can one go wrong? The PlayStation Vita is definitely going over well with me and as I said at the start, that's saying something.

Early Impressions Grade: A-

Subscribe
Notify of
36 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Oyashiro
Oyashiro
8 years ago

Nice! I'll be getting mine tomorrow after work.

Does it have a nice solid feel to it? Sort of like how the PSP-1000 felt? Like it doesn't feel like it will break if you grip it to tightly?

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
8 years ago

Cool beans, can't wait to get my own Vita next week.
I just hope my local GS is doing a midnight Vita launch.

Shams
Shams
8 years ago

'Tis a good sign. Ben's no fan of portables, so an A- (90+) score which applies to elite products on his scale, means a lot. I'm getting mine next week to take advantage of the 8gig card $300 price point (the $350 launch bundle this week comes with Little Deviants which I'll pass on, a 4gig card, a cover, and the same extras). I've already paid for it, but this article makes me want to get it tomorrow. I have plenty to hold me over though.

Cpt_Geez
Cpt_Geez
8 years ago

Same here I have my vita paid off but I gotta wait another week.

Nlayer
Nlayer
8 years ago

Seeing Ben's high score makes me extremely happy. I'm really looking forward to picking mine up tomorrow! 🙂

556pineapple
556pineapple
8 years ago

Man, I'd love to buy one, but financial responsibilities won't let me. I guess I'll just keep trying Taco Bell for the time being…

JJJames
JJJames
8 years ago

Awesome, Thanks for the hands on review Ben!

___________
___________
8 years ago

thing im disappointed most about with the vita is not the ridiculous price, or stupid restrictions, its the ambition of it.
besides all its other flaws it just does not feel that amazing.
playstation products have always been so far ahead of their time, almost like they came from a alien planet.
but the vita is the complete opposite, not only does it not feel futuristic it does not even feel of its time!
in some areas it feels really out dated and thats really going to hurt it.
when i pay such a high premium for something especially as high as the vita i expect perfection, and we got well short of that!
im just worried now that this is the first playstation device not devised under father ken, every one from now on will feel the same.
only reason why ive loved playstation since the beginning was exactly because of that, it felt so ahead of its time.
im worried now thats gone, now that father ken has left the scene we will be seeing limited hardware.
if $ony is not going to push the hardware forward, then who will?
im just worried from now on playstation products will be like every other $ony device.
cheap, instead of the high premium amazing tech it use to be.

Neo_Aeon666
Neo_Aeon666
8 years ago

Don't know what you are talking about… Pretty much the strongest portable device out there… And as for ambition… Sony has plenty towards this machines future… You just say stuff but you don't explain why you feel that way.

For having played with it, I totally disagree with you.

___________
___________
8 years ago

stupid OS restrictions for instance, not being able to surf the web with a game open, not being able to have multiple games open, you know things apple has been doing for years!
just feels they could of done so much more with it!
graphics wise too, i mean golden abyss looks great but i expected allot more.
after playing infinity blade 2 on a freaking phone its really taken away the amazement of vita games, a device MADE for games!
i just expected allot more.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

Please don't feed the lunatics. It'll just encourage them to drool more.

coverton341
coverton341
8 years ago

The multiple games open is less a OS restriction and more a restriction of memory. Not the bad kind of restrictions either. Rather, the apple products run lean on memory and therefore don't have as big and ambitious of games. Apple games are bite size on the go casual affairs. The games on the Vita will be gamer games, games you can get into. I mean for christ's sakes it has a full fledge Uncharted title.

Though, I suppose arguing these points to you are moot because, well frankly you have made up your opinion and as much as I think your wrong I just stopped caring what you think about it.

___________
___________
8 years ago

right.
clearly youve never played infinity blade, or even modern combat 3.

gumbi
gumbi
8 years ago

Thanks for the hands on Ben. Now I really can't wait for my Vita to get here. According to my Purolator tracker my Vita is on the truck for delivery today. Hopefully I'll have it in my hands by this afternoon. Yay!

gumbi
gumbi
8 years ago

Update! My Vita just showed up. Haven't done much with it yet, but so far I'm impressed. Man it just feels good. It's a comfortable solid design and that screen just pops! So far the UI is feeling really intuitive and easy to navigate.

Trying to fiddle with it more but blast it all; work keeps distracting me…

0_o
0_o
8 years ago

"The Vita is about the games. It's for gamers and that's really the only reason I love it so much."

That exactly what I wanted to hear (or read!) the Vita is about the games not as some people complain about the camera not being better and about an app store like in android and that kind of nonsense, sure it would be cool but it would be much more expensive and besides if you want all that there is something called a smartphone! There is a reason why it's called PLAYstation Vita…

coverton341
coverton341
8 years ago

Dammit Ben! I keep wanting to dodge this and you made it infinitely harder. I haven't owned a handheld since the original Gameboy, the monochrome green screen deal.

If the thing will play PS1 games that I have downloaded from PSN then I think I'll have to get it, but I have heard numerous conflicting stories on this issue. Some say no, some say yes, and honestly I haven't been keeping up with the Vita because again, I was trying to dodge it completely.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

I'll try and download some PS1 games to see.

And if hadn't needed the PSP for work, I wouldn't have owned a handheld since the Gameboy, either. But I still have the latter; the original green monochrome screen, as you said. I lost the cover for the batteries, though, and it doesn't work so good anymore. 🙁

But you can't throw something like that away. 😉

coverton341
coverton341
8 years ago

Oh absolutely not! I still have my OG Gameboy floating around somewhere with Final Fantasy Legend II in it. Loved that game.

And thanks for giving the PS1 titles a shot. I'm hoping they won't play yet and I can wait for a software update before I have to make a purchase.

Nlayer
Nlayer
8 years ago

I think PSBlog said it wouldn't play PSOne games on day one. However, they are hard at work at making it available. So it'll probably be very soon when you can. You can always do Remote-Play and play them too, or at least I believe that's the case.

But, it won't be too long until PSOne games work! That's what the PSBlog live-stream said. No specific date, just "soon." They had to convert the PSP games first before they did anything to PSOne Classics. 🙂

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Nlayer, I won't know until I have one to test, but I was under the impression that the problem with PS1 classics on Vita was that the PS3 firmware didn't handle the activation process the way that Sony wanted it to be on the Vita. there was a recent firmware update (might have been 4) that upset PSP owners because it forced them to re-download PSP games and PS1 classics if they wanted to transfer them to their PSP.

So, this 'issue' may not be an issue at all…

gumbi
gumbi
8 years ago

I just got my Vita and will be downloading some PS1 games for sure. I'm sure they'll play, so if nobody else has updated by then, I'll post my findings.

Vita!

gumbi
gumbi
8 years ago

Well that was a short venture… All my PS1 games say they're not available for download on my Vita. Looks like it'll only download PSP, Vita, and minis games.

I sure hope Sony does something about this. No PS1 support is a damn shame. Lets go firmware update!

Although, maybe I can download on PS3 and transfer to Vita? Will have to wait till tonight to find out.


Last edited by gumbi on 2/15/2012 3:36:29 PM

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Gumbi, that was what I was referring to. but I don't know if it will work or not. I wait with baited breath to find out.

I can't think of any reason why the Vita would not be able to play PS1 classics, it's not like it's a hardware issue.

gumbi
gumbi
8 years ago

Certainly. PSP played PS1 games beautifully. I can't imagine why Vita would have any trouble with it.

I'll see if I can transfer from PS3 tonight. I've downloaded a couple PS1 games since the latest firmware update so I'll give that a go and post my findings.

I'll also be commenting on the remote play features as that was a huge selling feature for me.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Regarding PSP/PS1 games. the fact that the Vita can play PSP games is because it can emulate the PSP hardware well enough to run the binaries. PS1 games run on the PSP in software emulation mode as well, so either that same emulator running inside the PSP emulation, or a native rebuild of it should be trivial to the Vita hardware.

Not sure how mature the remote play facility is yet. It will more than likely work reasonably well on your own LAN, but be laggy over the Internet.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

After a bit more digging it seems that Sony is still saying that PS1 Classics *will* be playable on Vita, but *not* at launch time. There is apparently some kind of update required to make things happen. I don't for a moment believe that it's to do with the emulation not working well. This is undoubtedly related to either the store/delivery of content to Vita, or the activation process.

Frankly, it's this kind of stupidity that is gonna kill Sony if they can't stop doing it. If the PS1 classics aren't yet working on Vita because of some activation/security thing, then fix the activation/security thing before launching. Puttin gout a product and finishing it after launch is a Microsoft trick and I despise it.

gumbi
gumbi
8 years ago

So, like highlander said… no dice on ps1 games for now. it wont transfer any of my games over.

Remote play, for now at least, is no better than on psp. I cant do anything via remote play on my Vita that my psp cant do. havent found a single game (besides monsters and ps1 games) that work. I hope this is improved soon. It was a major selling feature for me.

The browser, however, has been a pleasant surprise. Its quite nice. Good touch controls, multi touch zooming. Quite responsive. I'm writing this post on it and having no troubles.

Hoagie324
Hoagie324
8 years ago

Can't wait to get mine… it's in transit right now :)Thanks for the impressions, Ben. It makes me even more excited to play that Vita!

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

Dammit! mine is not going to be with me 'til next week. I didn't opt for the early bird first edition one and got the basic wi-fi model so I could put a 3GB memory card in it. Amazon isn't shipping them out until next week. 🙁

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
8 years ago

32GB, not 3GB…LOL!

telly
telly
8 years ago

I'll get one of these eventually — I'm not a huge portable guy either, but Sony has some stellar game series and I'm sure nearly all of them will get chapters on PSV. Like Dutka, I'm just a lover of great games, so eventually I won't be able to resist anymore. What's basically a $300 entry fee, plus game costs, is making me wait for the time being though.

If they had launched with a God of War, man — I'd literally be taking a day off from work right now to play 🙂

Looking Glass
Looking Glass
8 years ago

In all honesty I wasn't particularly interested in getting a Vita for myself for a while. But lately I've been thinking that I probably will get one at some point. Possibly around the time Gravity Rush gets released.

berserk
berserk
8 years ago

I might get it at one point but games games and games don t matter if only 1-2 interest you that get out in the next six month .

That won t give me enough gaming time to warrant a 300 + buy .Might as well wait for some game price drop .

riptide8
riptide8
8 years ago

It going to be a pain in the A'' when those batteries need to be replaced and you get the bill"$$$$" from Sony. I have and always had a hard time buying anything that I cant replace a battery in myself.At least nothing with that price tag. I never bought an IPOD. Enough music fits on my droid and a 16 gig card that came with it. I get 12 hours with two batteries on my PSP 2000.Ill wait on this one. I need to see "must have" games, at least 10 of them for me to justify the purchase.

Spanky
Spanky
8 years ago

( Scratchin chin slightly intrigued )

Thing is $300 is a TON of money for me. Think of all the games I could add to my PS3 library for that. OR a new Iphone 4s 32g…new tunes for the Buick…. 🙂 you get the gist.