The latest handheld game console from Sony, the PlayStation Vita, launched in Japan on December 18. Already, sister site GameSpot Asia has gotten its hands on a unit and published an unboxing and preview video.
We spent some time with GameSpot's unit and have to agree that the hardware is indeed attractive. Some of the launch titles, including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, and Touch My Katamari, look great on the 960x544-pixel display, and the ability to use the touch screen for certain navigation controls is refreshing for this PSP successor.
Now, you might be tempted to run out and buy a set imported from Japan, since that's the only country in which the Vita has been launched so far. It will hit the U.S. on February 22, and many countries in Asia will have to wait even longer.
Buying a Japan set seems to make sense--your local game shop probably has some units imported from the console's home country; Vita games are not region locked; and the unit's interface supports the English language. However, we have some misgivings about being an early adopter of the Japan set.
First, while you will be able to use the console in English, the games available now are all still in Japanese. Unless you know the language, navigating the games' menus and understanding the plot will probably require a lot of guesswork. Not to mention you'll miss the storyline (if there is one).
Secondly, there's the warranty issue. If you get a lemon, or end up breaking your unit, the retailer you bought it from probably won't be able to help much. The shop could send it back to Japan for repairs, but that is likely to be very expensive and time consuming.
Finally, and most importantly, you'll have to pay extremely inflated prices for a Vita now. The Wi-Fi version has a retail price of 24,980 yen ($320). In Singapore, it almost doubles to about $635. Games are also expensive at S$80 ($61) each.
Prices may vary between different parallel importers in your country, but we don't think they'll be much lower than what we've seen in Singapore for now. It may ease up slightly with the Taiwan and Hong Kong launch later this week, but if you aren't in one of the official launch countries, prepare to pay more than the suggested retail price for a Vita.
If you ask us, we'd say it's wiser to wait for an official launch. Aside from avoiding the inflated prices, those who can't read Japanese will appreciate having English versions of the games, too.
Of course, if you're a gadget geek with lots of cash to spare, then by all means, go for it. The envious looks from your gamer friends will probably be worth it for the well-heeled, and should overshadow any of the misgivings we've mentioned.