A week with the PS Vita

My first week of Vita ownership has not been without hiccups, but I’m overall very impressed with the system and launch games. Right out of the box, the Vita looks like a gorgeous piece of tech, not representative of a toy in the least. It feels solid and hefty in your hands without being too heavy. Clean lines and a large screen accentuate it’s beauty.

Plugging in and first turning on the system gives you your first glance at that OLED screen. Super dark blacks and great contrast are immediately noticeable. I have a Samsung Epic 4G phone, and I’ve been spoiled by its screen for over a year now. It’s so great to have a dedicated handheld console that can come close to matching that image quality. At times it’s almost like you’re looking at a sticker on the screen rather than something rendered.

The system setup when you first turn on the Vita is where I hit my first frustrating moment. During the setup process, you are required to log into the Playstation Network. I have a PSN account, no problem. Except, on day one, you are also required to download a system update before you can sign into PSN. You can’t complete setup without signing in. You can’t get the update until setup is complete. You can’t sign in without an update. A vicious cycle, no? I didn’t want the hassle of creating a new account, which was the only other option, but nothing else I did would let me finish setup. I finally chose that option and oddly enough it didn’t ask for any information. It just basically brings you through as a guest.

Ok, so it was frustrating, but my system was setup now and ready to go. The power plug uses a different kind of connector. No more mini usb. The analog sticks feels good, and the d-pad and buttons all feel clicky and responsive. Volume controls are on top now and thankfully show changes graphically on screen during games instead of just in the XMB like the old psp.

The sim card, memory card, and game card are all tucked away in compartments around the side of the unit with covers that are flush with the surface. Therein lies my other complaint. Popping that little cover, which is closely attached (lots of cameras use these covers), and trying to press your fingernail just right on the game card to pop it out is way inconvenient. Ditto for trying to hold the cover with a couple fingers and push a new game in securely. Ultimately it’s just a pain to change have cards and not a big deal in the grand scheme.

The game reviews will speak for themselves, but they look better in person than I imagined. Marvel, Blazblue, and Hot Shots look like PS3 games on a 5″ screen. The sound quality is perfectly fine for on the go, but paired with a nice set of headphones and I was pleasantly surprised at the full range and power. I have a pair of Ultrasone Pro 900s, and the music and sound effects from Lumines was just awesome.

I’m also quite impressed with the home screens which live on multiple pages and can each have their own background image. The touch controls are as responsive as any modern smartphone. I actually quite like the combination of capacitive touch and physical buttons. Some things feel natural for each. Dual facing cameras are a nice touch, and today it was just announced that I can get Netflix streaming on it as well. Nice! Plus you can put games and apps into the background and quickly switch between them without closing. Great features out of the box.

Awesome piece of hardware, and I’m loving the games so far. For me, 10x better than the 3DS launch and already more games I’d want to play on Vita than I still have for the 3DS. Judging by what sells well and what doesn’t sell in this industry, I apparently have no idea what the gaming population wants anymore, but I do know personally, I want more of this.