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Breaking Down and Buying the PSVita [Game On]

I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan all last week on business. I’m sure I’ve gone back and forth before about how I will never buy another handheld system and how the glory of iOS is meeting all of my on-the-go gaming needs, but I just couldn’t help myself. When you’re stuck living in a hotel for a bit, you can convince yourself to buy just about any frivolity imaginable in the interest of quelling boredom. That’s precisely what I did when my friend, Jared, innocently suggested I should buy one and almost immediately I agreed. So, we went to a local game store, where I plunked down nearly $300 for a PSVita, memory card, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Mortal Kombat. Thankfully, buyer’s remorse hasn’t caught up to me yet so I thought I’d take this time to talk about the system and share my thoughts on it.

For starters, the build quality on this thing is rock solid. It’s lightweight, but has a very tight feel to its sprawling, 5-inch OLED touchscreen and the inclusion of dual analog sticks should be heralded with the kind of momentous grandeur as a space shuttle re-entry. Seriously, why has it taken nearly a decade for a console maker to realize that dual analogs should be standard for portable games with 3D graphics capabilities? I don’t mean to get so huffy about it, but the fact that it’s taken this long for something so simple included is insane. Try making a regular console without dual analogs and see how well that goes. It’d be like driving a car where the steering wheel has been replaced with a tire iron- technically still functional but exactly as retarded as it sounds. So yeah, pretty happy to have two analog sticks is what I’m getting at.

Aside from being a system that’s well put together, we’re still stuck with Sony’s sadistic memory card practices. If you thought proprietary accessory wallet-rape was a relic of a time gone by, you’re in for a rude awakening, friend. Be ready to spend at least $25 for a whopping 4GB memory card that you’ll need in order to save game data, download new content, and save apps to the unit. Speaking of which, good on Sony for making a serviceable marketplace that’s chock-full of content. It’s disappointing that you have to leap the hidden-cost hurdle to get there once you realize the Vita has exactly zero internal storage to utilize, but realistically, even if it DID have any internal memory, you’d run out of space eventually anyways. Still, it would have been nice to plop in one of the dozens of SD cards I’ve got lying around to fill that data-hoggy void instead of buying whatever backward-ass memory card format Sony’s phoning in these days.

The vita also boasts a bevvy of connectivity options from Bluetooth to WiFi and even 3G if you’re into that sort of thing. Throw in front and rear-facing cameras (though sub-par compared to what your iPhone can capture) and a slew of pretty decent first-party apps pre-loaded and you’ve got a solid system here. This device feels like most of the sins of Sony’s past have been examined, rectified, and cut. I’m ESPECIALLY glad to see the UMD drive go away in favor of flash card games because there’s no point in adding more moving parts (see: potential failure points/battery hogs) than are necessary to get my Uncharted on.

Finally, how do those graphics look? In a word? Stunning. This is bar none the most beautiful handheld gaming experience available. Whether you’re running through the lush, jungles of Uncharted: Golden Abyss or flawlessly executing fatalities as Scorpion in the Netherrealm, the Vita’s screen is an absolute joy to behold. With graphics just (and I do mean JUST) shy of what the PS3 can push out, it’s absolutely marvelous. It really shows how far we’ve come from double-A draining boxes with 4-color monochrome displays that let us manipulate falling blocks to this sexy, well-designed monster that’s powerful enough to let players throw down in full-blown FPS experiences like Resistance.

To summarize, if hardcore handheld gaming is your thing then this system should have you salivating. If you’re more casual, you can safely skip it and stay in iOS land. But whatever anyone says, Sony’s done a marvelous job not only in producing a polished product, but also in ensuring that there’s plenty of content available for it.

What about you? Are you inclined to pick up Sony’s latest handheld or do your mobiles and tablets yet sustain you?

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