With the PlayStation Vita going on sale this Saturday in Japan, we're now nearing the home stretch as the powerful Sony portable gets set to follow up Stateside on February 22, 2012.
Sony brought the Vita to New York last week for a final tour before the new year. We're hearing it will make an appearance at CES as well, but we were excited to get some more hands-on time with the machine before next month's massive show.
Can the Vita succeed in 2012? First, let's recap what we already know:
The Vita will be available in two models and go for $250 for a Wi-Fi-only version or $300 for a Wi-Fi/3G version.
Armed with a dazzling 5-inch OLED capacitive touch screen, the Vita also lets players interact with games through a rear touch panel. Under the hood the Vita packs an ARM Cortex-A9 core (quad-core) CPU and a SGX543MP4+ GPU.
Its 16:9 screen sports a 960x544-pixel resolution, which is flanked by a front-facing camera that can take 640x480-pixel photos. An identical lens is placed on the back to bring "augmented reality to a new level." Like the 3DS, iPad, and iPod Touch, the Vita will make use of motion control. This is accomplished via a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer.
Vita games will ship on a Vita Card, but the device can also make use of a memory card slot, multiuse port (USB and so on), and accessory port. The PS Vita will accept Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and the 3G model can connect to AT&T's 3G network. Games can also be downloaded from the PlayStation Store, perhaps at a discounted download-only price.
For more of our take on the hardware, its screens, touch capabilities, and other specs, check out our E3 2011 coverage.
At the event in New York last week, we were once again blown away by just how light the unit really is. It'll be a bit of a shock to those familiar with the original PSP.
That said, we're not without our reservations. The PlayStation Vita's design, as large and reminiscent of the PSP as it is, might be its biggest obstacle. When you hold one in your hands, the size and quality of the screen and the added design tweaks become more apparent. Still, this is really a PSP 2 with a different name, and will likely appeal to the same audience.
Our recent time with the Vita consisted of various gameplay demos. A handful of titles were on hand, and here are our impressions of four titles. For other Vita games, make sure to check out our initial first take on a slew of titles from E3 2011.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss: The Vita's entry to the Uncharted franchise looks every bit as beautiful on the small screen as on its bigger PS3 cousins, but the gameplay has taken a downshift in favor of action to fit a handheld experience. In our limited time with the game, it's clear that the launch title is set to show off every Vita control function. You can use analog pads to move around, or touch the screen directly for less-challenging casual gameplay. In a sniper sequence, using the rear touch pad will zoom the rifle's sight in and out.
Touch My Katamari: Namco's Katamari franchise is lovable, and it's also quite old. However, this is the first good portable Katamari game we can remember, and it's largely thanks to the dual analog pads offering the same experience we fell in love with on the PlayStation 2. In a new wrinkle, your Katamari ball can be stretched into elongated shapes using touch control, which affects how the ball picks up stray random objects. Expect as much weirdness as before, of course.
FIFA: Playing FIFA on the Vita presents an experience never before seen in the franchise. Players have the option of passing through a series of taps, which certainly makes for more precise control over the flow as well as dictating your march down the field. Graphically speaking, the game looks marvelous, and the difference between it and its PS3 counterpart is negligible.
Escape Plan: One of our favorite games of the event, Escape Plan is a puzzle game featuring two lovable characters named Laarg and Lil. Players must use the Vita's unique controls to navigate the twosome through a series of booby traps and dead ends in order to progress through the campaign.
We'll have much more on the Vita come CES and of course our full review of the Vita U.S. hardware early next year.