Its been six months since the PlayStation Vita launched in the West. Since that time, millions of gamers have slotted multcolored blocks, relived Nathan Drakes 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 Sonys handheld (and assessing it), its time for a status report. Lets take a look at the Vita and focus in on whats been great about the system, and whats not so great...
Good: Great digital downloads, including PS One classics
Thanks to the addition of several PS One classics, theres much more digital content to enjoy on Vita. While many of these games have been available on the PlayStation Portable for some time, Sonys newer handheld adds a greater degree of visual luster to this roster of late 90s games, as we recently pointed out. Its a screen that has better black levels than the PSP, yet its small enough to downplay the jaggies youd 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 Rockstars 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 its rare to see the same treatment in the online store.
Good: Solid post-launch titles have kept us using it
Once the initial launch-time sheen of Lumines: Electronic Symphony, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!, and Uncharted: Golden Abyss wore off in early summer, the timing was right for a few more games to step in. Gravity Rush is among the years finest handheld titles. The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, though missing Peace Walker, is still a decent port in its own right. And with Sound Shapes, theres an excellent title that you can enjoy, tweak, and modulate whether on your Vita or at home on a PlayStation 3. Plus, LittleBigPlanet Vita is right around the corner...
Bad: Bland ports of PS3 games
If you really wanted to look at a prime example, theres Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. Its 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 theres no cross-save data between the two versions. MLB 12: The Show offers cross-play, but the experiences arent 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 weve 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 its another hardware iteration or some firmware tweaks that will reduce certain apps juice drain, its something that could stand to be addressed.
Good: Vita Cross Buy is a great step forward
With games like Sound Shapes, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault implementing a feature that lets you play games at home, then continue them while out and about, its a valuable bonus thats worth getting excited about. Perhaps not every game can offer it, but any steps in this direction are welcome.
Bad: The foreseeable future looks a tad thin
This first holiday season brings three blockbusters: LittleBigPlanet, Assassins 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 its a port of a PS3 game that dropped around the Vita launch.
Otherwise, the big-scale game lineup looks rather threadbare. Tearaway doesnt seem like its coming around the corner soon, nor does Killzone: Mercenary. If youre jumping into the system this holiday season, theres a decent catalog, but if youve 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, theres still lots of potential in Sonys handheld. And lets 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 Sonys 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 Vitas first anniversary hits.