PS Vita: A Leap Ahead

PS Vita: A Leap Ahead


Playstation Vita special: Sony learned lessons from the PSP and PSP Go and has built a device that ticks all the boxes. But great hardware isn't a guarantee for success. Can it breathe new life into its handheld business?

The PlayStation Vita (‘Life’ in Latin, but you knew that, smarty-pants) has some awkward boots to fill. The PlayStation Portable family has had ups and downs since the first PSP was released in 2005. Features such as UMDs have burst onto the scene and been thrown out quicker than you can say Betamax. By ditching the ‘Portable’ in its name entirely, Sony seem to be using the Vita to breathe new life (Aha!) into their handhelds. But will the Vita truly be the revolution that Sony promises, or just another PSP?

The PSP Go shook up Sony’s formula quite a bit: it saw the removal of the UMD drive, slimmed down the unit, and added a sliding panel that separated the screen and the controls. The PS Vita has stepped back from this ‘less is more’ approach, harkening back to the original, fatter PSP of yore. It ignores the sliding screen feature completely, but keeps the Go’s symmetrical, rounded style. Despite the Go’s leap forward in the design of the PSP, the Vita represents the first true revolution in features.

The Vita feels bloated with new features- instead of mimicking Apple’s method of retaining features for yearly iterations, Sony seem to really want to push the idea of a complete revolution in their new device. The PS Vita’s key features include a five-inch OLED capacitive multitouch screen, front and rear cameras that promise integration with augmented reality software, 3G connectivity, Sixaxis functionality and much, much more. Perhaps the best feature are its dual analog sticks. Yes, technology that Sony has been using since 1997, with the PS1, is finally here for your portable delight and has been sorely missed in the previous models.

With a list of new features that large, it’s hard to argue that the Vita is just another incarnation of the PSP. However, considering the aesthetics are so similar, does the Vita really call for a departure from the PSP brand? Sony Computer Entertainment President Shuhei Yoshida told Kotaku that with the PSP “We were too happy with ourselves, having a PS2-like experience on a portable at that time. We didn't go too much further from there.” Sony has made no secret of the fact that the PSP was essentially a portable PS2, and who can blame them? The PS3 wasn’t even announced until after the PSP was released in early 2005. But now, more than 4 years since the PS3 was released, the PS Vita should rightfully be able to pull off visuals and processing much closer to PS3 standard, becoming the PS3’s little brother in the same way that the PSP was the PS2’s.

In summary, the PS Vita takes many steps backwards from the PSP Go, and for the better. Retaining the silhouette of the original PSP is a comfortable move for Sony, whilst the new features ensure that hard-core fans will be very happy- and while have yet to see the true potential of many of these features, such as augmented reality gaming and the rear multitouch panel, and time will tell whether these features will truly revolutionise portable gaming or will fall into the ranks of failed gimmicks. For a good few years ahead, it seems that Sony’s portables will be playing catch-up to meet the power of their big brother home consoles, bridging the gap between PS3 and 4, etc.-and in this respect the Vita is just another beat of that drum. One thing is certain though, in my eyes- the PS Vita represents a significant leap forward from the PSP, and is deserving of its title, breathing new life into handheld consoles.