All about PlayStation VITA
VITA was released mid-December in Japan, and while the rest of us have to wait until February 22nd, we can sit back and watch how bad or good the launch goes. As an added bonus for the waiting time, we’ll have more titles available to us at launch.
Sony can’t afford another failure on top of the disaster the PSP was, sales and support(from customers and publishers) wise, not to mention the late PS3 launch. It seems like they’ve learned form their mistakes from the PSP and have read up on their homework. With a large variety of new IPs for the VITA (and sequels to some strong well known IPs too), something innovative – that’ll be the rear touch panel – the social media hub (Facebook, Twitter and Skype as examples), and the really attractive price, it looks like a strong release for this handheld.
Hands-on with the new hand-held
I tried Resistance: Burning Skies which was a hoot. Just as every other reviewer who got hands on with this beast of a handheld machine, I was amazed right from the start by the beautiful and clear AMOLED screen. With the support from the quad core CPU this device sets a new standard for handheld devices when it comes to presentation and raw power. It comes with dual analogue sticks which works great in most games (mostly one for camera, and one for movement), especially in games with first person view.
Unfortunately i never got around to try out Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but the game was available at the menu before i started Resistance… if I just had known how little time i actually had to try it out at Beep 2011, a small electronics expo I attended in Denmark, I would have went with Uncharted over Resistance, but Titan the Robot announced it’s arrival to open the show for people who wasn’t a part of the press.
The menu seems smooth, fast responding and easy to understand, while many apps for the front end has been promised, only a few of them will be available world wide at the US and EU launch. Americans of course gets more than the rest of the world (you lucky bastards) because of US only services like Netflix.
Cameras, motion sensing and GPS
Almost every handheld gadget these days have an integrated camera and the VITA is no different. With a front and back camera, you can take self portraits and perhaps some video calling (this hasn’t been announced nor confirmed yet, but it seems obvious with video calling through Skype) not to mention the Augmented Reality games that the cameras will support.
There is of course a microphone to use with the Skype app and in-game chat – some games will also support voice commands – this is not a favourite gadget for me. The DS does this, and every time I’m not too happy to say or do (like clapping) something to my machine, as I feel a little too silly.
There will be a six axis motion sensing with build-in gyroscope: three way gyroscope and three way accelerometer.
The 3G version has GPS for using of maps and games that makes use of your localisation (finding fellow players nearby for example), while the wi-fi model are supported by the wi-fi network localisation.
How about battery life?
It looks like the VITA will be running longer on its battery than the Nintendo 3DS from what interested and passionated gamers has told other gamingsites. While the VITA doesn’t have a 3D feature, it does have a larger and more powerful screen, not to mention whats inside; a more powerful processor needs more power. But as is, VITA has a bigger and better battery than the 3DS and thus holds on for longer.
With the big 5 inch screen supporting touch abilities, we might even get to see iPad/tablet based games on the VITA. Perfect for tower defence and click management games such as Airport Mania, Diner Dash and Cake Mania – Plants vs. Zombies has already been confirmed.
You can customise the menu to your likings, making it easy for everyone to get a unique and optimal experience in between games.
The new thing
Many of the games in the launch line up seems to feature the rear touch panel, which are needed as this is the new thing that VITA will show the world. Touch My Katamari is one of them; swipe your fingers inwards and your ball will be a rolling wheel making new small and enclosed areas available for the player. Swipe your fingers outwards and the ball becomes a rolling stick – and making it easier and faster for the player to pick up stuff in an open area.
It looks like you can remote play games from your PS3 onto your VITA. VITA doesn’t have all the buttons that the PS3 controller offers, but the games make use of the touch on the back of the VITA. So if your boyfriend or sister or maybe even SO wants to watch TV and you want to play something on your PS3, it can be done – though you’ll have to accept playing with the small screen on the VITA.
It’s been announced that the VITA can be used as the ultimate controller for the PS3 version of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. How this is gonna pan out will be interesting. Though it’s going to be hard to hit the right buttons when you can’t feel where they are (onscreen controls are pretty confusing and annoying for me on my android tablet). I guess it’s a matter of getting used to it. Personally I think it’s an interesting idea, but i don’t think it will pan out in the end. Certainly not at big events with hardcore/pro fighters that needs to tug and push the buttons without looking at them.
Sony has confirmed to EGM that while using the 3G network, users of the VITA will only be able to download up to 20MB (many websites out there have mistaken it to be GB) of data. If this is downloading games only, I couldn’t care less, because when I’m on the road, I don’t really need to download new games, I’ll just buy and download the games at home on my own wi-fi network – if this is in general, people will have problems surfing on the device when on the road.
EGM expects buyers of the 3G version to be affected by this, while I think that only a minority of users will have problems with the intended limit. Besides Sony talks about changing this in future, perhaps when the handheld launch in Europe and United States next year.
While running a game, VITA wont let you use the browser, but it will let you check Twitter, Facebook, PSN friends list and even listen to music stored on the device. Andriasang reports that Sony promises a patch. http://andriasang.com/comz6e/vita_browser/
With “Near” you can challenge other players that are close to you, watch their stats, trophies, send and receive new levels and unlock items for games on your system. Games that support co-op gameplay will also be useful with Near. There’s no word if both players have to have the game to play together.
Speaking of multiple…
VITA will not support the use of several PSN accounts. We heard that the account was tied to the memory card and that way you could sort of easily switch between accounts by posting money into a second memory card. A new word is that the account also will be tied to the VITA itself – a factory reset is required before you switch accounts – and you’ll loose vital save games, and who wants that?
There’s word for and against this at the moment of writing, so I actually have no idea how it currently works with several accounts – if anyone care to elaborate after trying it out, don’t hesitate to comment below. And no matter how it works, Sony might change it in the future as it sort of feels like Japanese customers gets to be the open beta testers here.
There might be coming more services to the handheld system, and I’m pretty satisfied (at the Americans behalf that is) for what I can get on the system. If I was travelling a lot or had a lot of time to kill outside my home and away from my stationary consoles, I’d love to have this handheld as companion to watch movies and play games.
Not so much the PSP killer as the sister-in-law
While it has been promised that the VITA will be able to play regular PSP games via download, it’s another matter when it comes to the hard copies of the format UMD’s. Sony promises a solution of course for a small fee much like what we know from importing songs from one music game to another in the same series.
Not only this, but PSP and VITA will be able to talk together. If you give your friend your old PSP because you upgraded to the VITA, you can play PSP games together that supports ad-hoc multiplayer modes.
And all the games
Pledging to be unique games, not just PS2 and PS3 ports that were a part of killing the PSP, Sony focuses on unique, new and strong IP’s all at once. You have no idea how much I’m drooling over the launch lineup. Costumers were also confused what the PSP was all about, and Sony is now trying to focus more on the gaming experience when it comes to the VITA.
So called “Game Archives” games (that’s the umbrella term used in Japan for Sony’s retro games – PSOne and PC Engine/Turbografx-16, along with, a good guess, PS2) wont be supported at launch. Sony’s FAQ notes tells that more will be announced soon.
Digital copies will be cheaper than the hard copy versions, at least until stores decides they want to get rid of the games and decreases the price. Though, the digital copy will be a tiny bit slower to load than from the cards. Apparently the system flash cards are slower than the memory cards that stores the retail version.
VITA owners will be able to download at least three free AR games, once they’ve established an online connection from the VITA to the store. Six cards will be available at launch, same number as the VITA can read at once.
Below you’ll see some boxart (some are not the final work) for five of the most interesting upcoming titles, not in any particular order:
- Army Corps of Hell, Square Enix; (reminds me of Swarm)
- Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, Ubisoft;
- Dynasty Warriors Next, TECMO KOEI;
- EA Sports FIFA Football, EA;
- F1, Codemasters;
- Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (JPA title: Everybody’s Golf), Sony;
- Hustle Kings, Sony;
- Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7, WB Games;
- Little Deviants, Sony;
- Ninja Gaiden: Sigma, TECMO KOEI;
- Plants vs. Zombies, EA;
- Reality Fighters, Sony;
- Ridge Racer, Namco Bandai;
- Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, Acquire;
- Stardrone Extreme, BeatShapers;
- Super Stardust Delta, Sony;
- Top Darts, Sony;
- Touch my Katamari, Namco Bandai;
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, Capcom;
- Unit 13, Zipper Interactive;
- Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition, SEGA;
- WipeOut 2048, Sony;
- AR Combat DigiQ: Friend Tank Battalion
- Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft;
- Asphalt: Injection, Ubisoft;
- Ben 10 Galactic Racing, Bandai Entertainment;
- Bioshock, Take Two;
- Call of Duty, Activision Blizzard.
- Disgaea 3 Return, NIS America;
- Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, BBC;
- Dragon’s Racing, Ignition Entertainment;
- Dynasty Warriors Next, Tecmo Koei;
- Gravity Rush, Sony;
- Lumines Electronic Symphony, Ubisoft;
- Michael Jackson: The Experience HD, Ubisoft;
- Mortal Kombat, WB Games;
- New Little King’s Story, Konami;
- OddWorld: Strangers Wrath, OddWorld Inhabitants;
- Orc Attack, Casual Brothers;
- Puddle, Neko Entertainment;
- Pure Chess, RebelPlay;
- Putty Squad VITA, System 3;
- Rayman Origins, Ubisoft;
- Resistance: Burning Skies, Sony;
- Robot Rescue Revolution, Teyon;
- Ruin, Sony;
- Samurai & Dragons, SEGA;
- Silent Hill: Book of Memories, Konami;
- Sound Shapes, Sony;
- Street Fighter X Tekken, Capcom;
- Sumioni: Demon Arts, XSEED;
- Super Monkey Ball Banana Splitz, SEGA;
- Supremacy MMA, 505 Games;
- Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, Drinkbox Studios;
- The Treasures of Montezuma Blitz, Alawar Entertainment;
- Troopies, Bloober Team;
- Urban Trials, Tate Multimedia;
Sony is also hoping to target those iPad and tablet owners that crave a more console like experience on the go. I’ll quote SCEA marketing boss John Koller; “You’re going to see a lot of those mobile phone and tablet gamers come over to VITA“. While I don’t think this will stick as this will just be another device that people have to bring with them, which will refrain many, if not most, people from buying it, I still like the handheld.
Reality Fighters: Using the build-in camera (note that the PSP didn’t have this from scratch) to show the fighting arena (your living room floor, the grass in the park, your dinner table) and fight against your friends in this high quality fast paced fighting game.
So how did the launch in Japan go?
While the sales are pretty impressive for a Japanese launch (over 300.000 units) some of the buyers experienced unresponsive touch screen and system freezes, Sony responds by apologising for long waiting periods at the phone lines to customer support. A patch has been released too which hopefully had solved everything so far; hopefully all the teething troubles will be solved once the system hits US and EU store shelves.
Japanese customers don’t get too excited about action adventure titles, since Hot Shots Golf (known as Everybody’s Golf in Japan) beat Uncharted: Golden Abyss on pre-orders. Sony did try to lure them into the Uncharted universe though via some quirky media ads a while back.
Accessories: Pack your vita up in these!
BONUS: All the colours we’ll never see in our own hands…