The gaming community stood at attention for last week’s unveiling of its beautiful new PlayStation Vita. A next-generation handheld gaming device, the PlayStation Vita is the latest and greatest in what it means to game on-the-go.
Sony has really upped the ante on the portable gaming industry with the Vita. I was lucky to get my hands on a version before the launch and get a chance to play with it. And wow. It’s an amazing gadget that will draw anyone in, regardless of their gaming aptitude.
The Look and Feel
The first thing noticeable feature is how the gaming industry is taking a page from the mobile phone industry. As a step up from the former PSP (and the clam-shell design of the other handheld powerhouse, the Nintendo DS), the Vita is reminiscent of a big smartphone, with a large 5-inch screen and bright touchscreen display.
When interacting with the touchscreen and the colorful icons, the iPhone comes to mind. While the PS Vita is most certainly not a phone, it pretty much does everything else a smartphone does, including taking photos/videos (with front and rear-facing cameras), browsing the Internet, playing multimedia content, and of course, gaming. And the icons on screen for the various apps and games make it an easy-to-use interface that any smartphone-toting person will quickly adopt.
In addition to touchscreen controls, it’s a gaming unit, so of course it comes with manual controls on both the left and right sides. Any PlayStation gamer will immediately recognize the usual controller buttons that have the triangle, circle, square and X buttons. Another one of Vita’s claims to fame is its dual thumbsticks, as well as housing a touchscreen on the back of the unit, making for a more cohesive gaming experience.
While all these features are well and good, the whole point of the Vita is to game. Obviously. PlayStation Vita has launched with a series of Vita-specific games, but certain titles that worked on the earlier PSP model work on the Vita as well. As with any gaming console or device, you should rely on ESRB ratings to determine which game is age-appropriate for your child. At launch, some titles for the younger crowd are the following:
Games can be purchased separately (anywhere from $5-50) or can be downloaded directly from the PlayStation Network. It’s similar to iTunes in that it hosts a repository of games, TV shows, movies and other media content that you can download directly to the device.
So, as you can imagine, the innovative features, the cool interface, the sleek design will cost you a pretty penny. And you’re right. The PlayStation Vita is not cheap, starting at a cool $249 (WiFi version) or $299 (WiFi and 3G). The costs can certainly add up if you want to build your game collection and also add a data plan to download lots of multimedia and use the online gaming features.
The PlayStation Vita definitely takes gaming to the next level but due to the Internet connectivity, the access to social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), the range of mature content both with games and multimedia, it’s definitely not a “toy” that you’d get on a whim for a grade-schooler. This high tech gadget is definitely meant for serious gamers and is a gaming investment - but if you make the investment, you won’t be disappointed.
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