The Playstation Vita was released just over a month ago and is already doing quite well with a strong lineup of launch games, a processor that puts the PS3 to shame, and more inputs than you’ll know what to do with. It seems Sony has learned a lesson when it comes to having strong games to compliment a new system, even if the new system is a handheld. On day 1, new owners of the PS Vita could pick up the newest Uncharted game, Rayman Origins, Fifa Soccer, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 to name just a few. It’s clear as well that Sony wants to prove that the handheld’s many inputs are not just gimmicky novelties but truly immersive and intuitive controls. On the software side, the PS Vita all but removes the barrier limiting players to either the console or the handheld. Not only do many Vita games support playing online with both Vita and console versions of the game, but a few support true cross platform play (such as using the Vita as a controller or even continuing from a Vita save on the console version), with more on the way. Everything from the games, to trophies, to the PSN Store has been streamlined to create a universal experience across the various mediums. From the store, one is able to do most everything one can do from the console, such as downloading demos and apps, as well as purchasing digital copies of games.
This review is of just the wifi model of the PS Vita and not the 3g model. The only difference between the two is the ability to use a sim card, like those found in cell phones, to access the 3g network. Not only does this model cost an extra $50, but one must pay a monthly fee for the sim cards usage just like one does for a cell phone. As of now, there are two monthly plans available: 250MB/$14.99 and 3GB/$30. Considering how expensive this is, especially since wifi is available almost everywhere these days, this reviewer can’t recommend purchasing the 3g model. Just stick with the wifi, which is the same amazing system without the additional cost.
Sony has packed a considerable amount of hardware into this small black rectangle. On the outside, the Vita looks very similar to the PSP with the only main difference being an extra analog stick (which fans have been clamoring for since the first generation of PSPs) and a lack of any optical drive. It’s what’s on the inside that makes it so revolutionary, however. It’s Graphical Processing Unit is only slightly inferior to the PS3 while its CPU is very comparable. The Vita’s system RAM is double the size of the PS3 which allows for cross-game chat, something PS3 owners have been asking for for years. Aside from the technical improvements, the Vita also sports a surprisingly accurate touch screen and rear touch pad. The front touch screen is used exclusively to navigate the various menus and applications. The rear touch pad, however, is used mainly in games as an additional control which can usually be turned on and off at the player’s discretion. While the rear touch pad is more cumbersome than convenient, the front touch screen is so natural and intuitive that one forgets there was a time when touchscreens weren’t the norm for handhelds. Speaking of norms for handhelds, the Vita has taken a page out of iPhone’s book and includes both a front and rear camera. While including them was a smart move, especially considering the system’s augmented reality abilities, one can’t help but notice the clearly mediocre quality of the cameras. A 0.3 mp camera is hard to be satisfied with when most phones have at least 4.0 mp cameras. Even so, the Vita is fully capable of taking pictures and recording video at a steady framerate. The augmented reality recently mentioned more than makes up for this cut corner. Augmented reality simply means that the vita uses its main camera to create the background for a game by overlaying the game’s graphics on top of what the camera views. What makes this truly unique is that once the Vita recognizes the background’s parameters, one can tilt the Vita in any direction to see a corresponding tilt in the game’s camera. Before taking any pictures, playing any games, or doing virtually anything with the Vita, one had better buy a memory card. For all its strengths, a complete lack of onboard storage is a bit of a letdown. One can’t even save a game without a memory card. While this isn’t a dealbreaker, it is certainly something that should be kept in mind.
Games are what makes the purchase worthwhile with any console, and the PS Vita has quite the lineup, as mentioned previously. Three such games are: Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Modnation Racers, and MLB 12 The Show.
UMvC3 is a simple port of the console version for the most part, with the same story but a few small technical differences. The story is simply that a villain has merged two worlds (Marvel and Capcom) and the player fights through a Mortal Kombat style ladder before defeating the aforementioned villain and viewing the character’s ending. While by no means new, this style is consistently entertaining. As for differences, the touch screen is utilized. Also, the Vita can be used as a controller for the game on PS3. Aside from this, the differences are mostly negligible.
Visual/Audio: 9/10 The only detriment is a slight framerate issue when too much is being processed, such as during a long combo. Aside from this, everything is on par with the console version, no small feat. The audio is the same generic music as always, but the humorous dialogue more than makes up for it.
Gameplay: 8/10 Good or bad, UMvC3 for PS Vita is identical to consoles in terms of gameplay. This means that if you liked the console, you’ll like the handeld just fine. If you didn’t, then you won’t. Combos still make winning/losing occasionally based more on chance than skill. The added touch screen feature provides a different way of playing, but ultimately makes it too easy to win. The same team dynamic is there as always; a staple of the franchise.
Replay Value: Very High
Overall: Fantastic game with very few flaws.
ModNation Racers: Road Trip is a handheld sequel/companion to the PS3’s Modnation Racers, which was a Mario Kart inspired racing game using LittleBigPlanet style graphics.
Visual/Audio: 6.5/10 Modnation does nothing to stress the gpu, but then again isn’t supposed to either. It has a fun colorful look similar to LittleBigPlanet with the same generic audio. This isn’t to say that either are bad or inferior in any way, just that the emphasis isn’t on graphics and audio.
Gameplay: 6/10 This fun combat racing game has adequate controls except for the touch screen. Any part of the game requiring use of the touch screen (which is basically every menu and other various instances) is an instant fun-kill. It is truly amazing how horrendous the touch screen is in this game. Whenever used, it is responsive maybe ¼ of the time. Its only saving grace is that it is used fantastically in creating tracks. How it is so responsive and wonderfully implemented there while giving the impression that a 4 year old programmed all the other parts that use it is mind-boggling. Regardless, this brings up another aspect of the game; track creation. Anyone can create a track from scratch and customize it to their liking. This is the game’s singularly greatest strength. User created tracks can be just as fun and interesting as the main game’s, and sometimes even moreso. The same can be said for character customization. The level of detail one can put into their character truly makes it one’s own, and the amount of unlockables that can be used in customizing creates replay value. This customization is a double-edged sword however. While creating personal characters and tracks is a bundle of fun, it eliminates any identification with the characters, which is one of the strongest parts of other combat racing games such as Mario Kart. Also, the lack of multiplayer is almost offensive. It’s a racing game after all, and shadow races don’t count.
Replay Value: Mild
Overall: Some genuine fun can be had if one can look past the very significant flaws.
MLB 12 The Show is, like UMvC3, mostly a port of console versions but with some interesting twists. One still has the option of playing seasons with one’s favorite teams or starting a franchise, or even creating a player to work their way through the minors all the way up to the majors in the Road to the Show mode.
Visual/Audio: 9/10 Fantastic visuals for the most part, with only drawback being less than stellar audience animations. The commentary as well could have a little more variety but is good for the most part.
Gameplay: 9.5/10 Perhaps the best part of the gameplay is the ability to save data in the cloud and load it from the PS3. One can go back and forth from PS3 to Vita playing the same saved game as long as one owns both copies. For the Vita, responsive controls (especially the touch screen) really make this a fun game to play. The touch screen allows one to choose specifically where to aim a pitch rather than holding a joystick in that exact location. This makes the whole experience of pitching more fluid and fun. The rear touch pad always works quite well, too well in fact. When used intentionally, it is quite fun. However, if it is enabled, be prepared to make random pick-off attempts when you forget it’s there and slide your fingers to a more comfortable position. While not a huge deal, this could potentially ruin a game. However, that it can be disabled removes this danger (something Modnation should have done). Nearly all parts of the game can be customized to a player’s liking, from difficulties to controls to skipping scenes not involving you in RttS to realistic Umpire calls (accurate or not). A lack of Dynasty Mode is unfortunate, but not a big deal.
Replay Value: Very High
Overall: A fantastic baseball game that can be played in a marathon or picked up after a month with the same level of fun.
All Vita Games come trophy-enabled, a smart move. From the trophies app, one can even compare their Vita trophies to PS3 trophies. The PSN has also been streamlined such that from the Vita one can purchase anything on the store that is available to the handheld. This includes most PSN games and minis alongside Vita exclusives and all the movies. Apps are also making the move onto this new platform, with Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Foursquare already out just to name a few. Rumors of Hulu coming to Vita have also been circulating. This integration shows just how much of a competitor to the mobile market the PS Vita will become.
The PS Vita is an amazing accomplishment from Sony that will hopefully flourish and become the new standard of mobile gaming. It has the best of all worlds between input controls, technical specifications, and games.