Bringing ‘life’ into handheld gaming
Or so Sony seems to like make you think, with their rather perplexing choice of name for their new handheld console. But given that the console was until recently known as NGP (next generation portable), it can perhaps be seen as improvement. We are not here to judge products by their name, however, so let’s take a closer look at what Sony is bringing us.
Design and specs
At first look, PS Vita doesn’t seem any different from the standard concept of handheld consoles. In fact, the case design is pretty close to the older PSP, other than being somewhat sleeker. On closer inspection, you will start seeing drastic differences, the main one being the addition of a second stick controller. This was definitely one of the worst set-backs of Sony’s previous handheld and forced game designers to come up with more or less successful compromises for camera control in games. In addition, you get camera lenses in front and back of the console. Another obvious addition is the second multi-touch screen on the backside of the console. It will be interesting to see how this is utilized by game developers and if it will get in the way with those of us with large hands. Unfortunately, the rear touch-screen also means that the battery will be internal and it will not be possible for casual users to switch it themselves when it breaks down.
The most important specs naturally concern the CPU and the GPU. The former is the mighty ARM Cortex-A9 and the latter is the equally mighty SGX543MP4+. Both processors being 4 core evolutions, it is clear that Sony is not shy about bringing some amazing power to your fingertips. The screen is a 5” (16:9), 960 x 544 resolution OLED screen with multi-touch capability and the size of the entire console is 182.0 x 83.5 x 18.6 mm (width x height x thickness). The PS Vita will include two slots for game and storage media. The game medium will be a flash card unique to PS Vita.
Controls and connectivity
Insofar as control methods are concerned, PS Vita will allow for tremendous flexibility. In addition to the two multi-touch screens mentioned above, the console will have internal six-axis motion sensing system, consisting of a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer as well as a three-axis electronic compass. Sony seems to have visions of games taking advantage of these in new touch, grab, trace, push and pull hand movements. And naturally you get the more traditional control methods in the form of two sleek stick controllers, the usual directional buttons, action buttons and two shoulder buttons. All in all, I’d recommend you to invest into a second set of hands (doubling the number of fingers, you see) before you buy this product.
And if all of the above was not quite enough, PS Vita comes in Wi-Fi and 3G versions and will also include a built-in GPS and Wi-fi location service support, possibly allowing you to find out where the heck you have ended up while you were concentrating on your game. Nah, there are some arguably more sensible uses for this feature: they allow you to keep track of your friends playing with their PS Vitas in the vicinity, join in on their games and let them know how cool you are as you share your gaming achievements with each other (yeah, right!).
Arguably a shortcoming in the connectivity department is the lack of video output connector in PS Vita, that would perhaps have allowed even more variety in the usefulness of this console.
As far as gaming is concerned Sony proclaims that you can hook the PS Vita up with your existing PS3 system and, if the game title supports it, seamlessly switch the platform that you play a particular title on. Like with the Wii U system, this seems to have been designed to allow other people in the household to actually use the TV sometimes.
Some of the new titles coming up for PS Vita include Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Dynasty Warriors, HotShots Golf (Working Title), Wipeout (Working Title), Sound Shapes, Little Deviants, Gravity (Working Title), Hustle Kings, LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers, Reality Fighters (Working Title), Super Stardust Delta (Working Title) and Ruin. If one of these doesn’t strike your fancy, I’m sure we will be hearing of a plethora of new titles in near future. After all, it is the selection of games that either makes or breaks a console, so this is certain to be one of the most critical areas of the launch of the PS Vita.
PS Vita is hitting the market running with its competitive pricing and truly extensive feature set in addition to the power of its processors. As such, it is just what the market needs at the moment: a reminder why handheld consoles are still the better gaming platform than the modern mobile phones. Coming next autumn and winter, the PS Vita will be released in phases across regions and it should hit most of the world by the end of 2011 at the latest.