Vita Hands-On Impressions From A Portable Skeptic
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.
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.
2/14/2012 Ben Dutka