First impressions of the PS Vita

I’ve never owned a Sony console before, so I was quite surprised that I wanted to pick up the PS Vita. There was something about it that seemed to address a large number of my frustrations with the current state state of mobile gaming, so I picked one up on a whim (narrowly missing the current $299 Little Big Planet Vita bundle, which is great value for money).

I’d previously tried the original Nintendo DS but the controls ended up giving me severe hand cramps which eventually forced me to stop playing the console. I’ve had similar issues with mobile phones and tablets; using a touch screen to emulate a traditional controller just ends up causing me large amounts of pain. In contrast, I’ve found that the PS Vita’s dual-stick control layout allows pain-free mobile gaming. This ability to play for long periods of time without my hands going numb is, for me at least, the single most important feature of the console and the primary reason I picked up a Vita over the 3DS XL. The stories of the severe hand pain surrounding 3DS games like Kid Icarus brought back really bad memories and put me right off the entire platform.

The other main advantage is that the Vita actually has games with slightly more substance and production value than most mobile games. Sure, some of the efforts from companies like Gameloft and Epic are extremely well done, but I’ve still yet to have a “console-like” experience on one of my many tablets or phones, regardless of whether it’s an iOS or Android device. The games are either designed for short play sessions and instant gratification or have a control scheme that doesn’t work or delivers a dumbed down game.

PS Vita

Rayman Origins running on my trusty Vita

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against games designed to pick up and play while waiting in line at the bank, but it’s not the sort of thing I want to play when I’m looking to take my mind off things and become fully absorbed in a game. Since buying the Vita I’ve played through Uncharted and Resistance, and I’m part-way through Rayman Origins and Little Big Planet Vita. All of these games have provided compelling experiences that can be played for several hours a time as opposed to a 2-minute casual session.

The Playstation Store provides the ability to download games direct to the device. It has a pretty wide range of titles, including old PSOne and PSP games It’s also the main delivery platform for new PS Vita games. I took to this concept like a duck to water, spending a fair amount on downloads within the first day. I only stopped spending when I ran out of room on my 16GB proprietary Sony memory card.

Running out of room on the card itself wouldn’t be such a huge issue if the games were small or if I could simply buy a bigger card to store more games on. Unfortunately most of the games are > 1GB, with Vita games being even larger, and 16GB is currently the largest card that I’ve seen on sale in Australia. Apparently I can import a 32GB card from overseas (which I will probably end up doing), but it’s still not a great experience for the average Australian gamer who’s just picked up their console in the shops. Add to that the cost of the proprietary Sony memory cards when compared to standard SD cards and the whole thing feels somewhat lacking.

To be fair you can back up games to a computer to swap them in and out, but this is a time consuming process involving a USB cable and slow transfer speeds. Besides, who connects their devices to computers anymore? The only thing I plug my phone or tablets into a computer for now is to quickly access photos I’ve taken on the device, and even then that’s becoming less common with Google+’s image sync functionality.

I’d love to have at least 64GB of internal storage on the device so that I can use it to its fullest. Instead, I’ve settled on a strategy of purchasing Vita games from physical stores so that they come on their own “Playstation Vita cards”. These games still need to be installed but they take up a relatively small amount of space compared to downloading the complete game from the Playstation Store. This means that now I have to worry about carrying about game cards as well as the console itself. This seems like a major down-side when compared to the experience I’m used to on tablets and phones.

Make no mistake, I’m really impressed with the console so far. It’s just disappointing that such an excellent system that has the ecosystem of the online store and downloadable games behind it is being hampered by a lack of local storage. We’re so close to having a device that combines console quality and controls with the ease of use we’re used to from Apple’s App Store (and to a lesser extent the Google Play store); all it would take is support for and availability of 64GB memory cards to turn the PS Vita into a must-have device.

About Garry

I'm a Solution Architect living in Perth, Western Australia. I work primarily with Microsoft technologies, but I have an open mind and like to branch out into other areas in my spare time. I'm also a Microsoft Virtual Technology Solutions Professional (VTSP) in the Integration space and like to stay active in the local development community.

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