It’s been six months since the PlayStation Vita launched in the West. Since that time, millions of gamers have slotted multcolored blocks, relived Nathan Drake’s untold adventures, and broken out double-digit combos with a colorful mix of fighting game characters. Six months is enough time to evaluate every step in the right direction, and every mis-step. And now, a half-year after unwrapping Sony’s handheld (and assessing it), it’s time for a status report. Let’s take a look at the Vita and focus in on what’s been great about the system, and what’s not so great...
Good: Great digital downloads, including PS One classics
Thanks to the addition of several PS One classics, there’s much more digital content to enjoy on Vita. While many of these games have been available on the PlayStation Portable for some time, Sony’s newer handheld adds a greater degree of visual luster to this roster of late 90s games, as we recently pointed out. It’s a screen that has better black levels than the PSP, yet it’s small enough to downplay the jaggies you’d normally see through your HDTV while playing on the PlayStation 3.
Bad: The PlayStation Store on Vita still needs work
Lots of PSP games (the most glaring example being Rockstar’s three Grand Theft Auto handheld games) are still missing from the download store. Also, the store suffers from similar problems that Sony had when other PlayStation titles offered up physical and digital versions: Physical games can be priced competitively, but it’s rare to see the same treatment in the online store.
Good: Solid post-launch titles have kept us using it
If you really wanted to look at a prime example, there’s Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. It’s a port of a 2007 PlayStation 3 game that is a port of a 2005 Xbox game that is a remix of a 2004 Xbox game.
Another genre full of egregious offenders? Sports games. Madden NFL 13 on Vita pales in comparison to the bright and exciting new console experience, and there’s no cross-save data between the two versions. MLB 12: The Show offers cross-play, but the experiences aren’t as gripping on the go. In the future, the Vita needs more games that are more creatively designed around its hardware, or at least more features that go above and beyond touchscreen minigames.
Good: Apps turn it into a mini-tablet (or a huge smartphone)
The Vita may not replace most peoples’ smartphones, but the implementation of apps such as Netflix, Foursquare, and Twitter have added nice touches. Flickr, with its ability to upload your in-game screens, is an especially useful addition that we’ve used quite a bit since the console lauched.
Bad: The battery
What good are those apps if you have to charge your system all the time? In sleep mode, or even powered-down, it seems like the battery slowly leaks energy like a poorly insulated window in wintertime. Whether it’s another hardware iteration or some firmware tweaks that will reduce certain apps’ juice drain, it’s something that could stand to be addressed.
This first holiday season brings three blockbusters: LittleBigPlanet, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified. Arguably, you can throw in Need for Speed: Most Wanted--though neither hide nor hair has been unveiled about it--and Street Fighter X Tekken, but it’s a port of a PS3 game that dropped around the Vita launch.
Otherwise, the big-scale game lineup looks rather threadbare. Tearaway doesn’t seem like it’s coming around the corner soon, nor does Killzone: Mercenary. If you’re jumping into the system this holiday season, there’s a decent catalog, but if you’ve been onboard since launch, it may be a different story.
The Future Could Be Bright
Although there are elements about the PlayStation Vita that could use more attention, there’s still lots of potential in Sony’s handheld. And let’s not forget that Sony kicked off the PS3 with a rather rocky start, but eventually righted the ship. Hopefully, in six months, gamers will be talking about solid PlayStation Plus integration that allows the sort of free game perks seen on the PlayStation 3.
Ideally, there will be more app partnerships announced that will increase its value as not just a handheld gaming system, but a portable entertainment option. Finally, with Sony’s push for indie games, there will be more excellent, creative titles that utilize the hardware outside of the big-budget realm. Look for an assessment when the Vita’s first anniversary hits.
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