So, I Bought a Vita. Wanna Make Something of it?

By Ryan Winslett in Infinite Ammo
Friday, March 2, 2012 at 10:00 am
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At approximately 7:55 a.m. Wednesday morning, Feb. 22, I pulled into the parking lot of my local Target and fixed my gaze on the front of the store. A man in a bright red shirt had just finished wiping down the glass on the automatic doors and headed inside. He was shortly followed by a man that looked to be in his mid-twenties and in a hurry.


"I bet that asshole is here to get a Vita," I thought, exiting the car and making my way inside. "The store isn't even supposed to open for five minutes. This is bullshit."


I had not pre-ordered a PlayStation Vita, as I had not necessarily planned on getting one until the night before its release. As such, my fear was that my sole local provider of gaming goodness would be swarmed with nerds early Wednesday morning, eager to pick up one of the latest handhelds on launch day and leaving me to drive another half hour down the road if I wanted to snag one for myself.


The man in question, it turns out, was in the market for a car charger for his iPod. I was the only "nerd" in the electronics section at the crack of dawn, but at least I knew my recently made purchasing decision was insured.


This week I conclude my epic three-part series concerning the PlayStation Vita, (sort of) explain why I finally settled on picking one up, and give a quick-n-dirty assessment of the hardware and games.

 

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For the record, I start work at 8 a.m. in a building less than a quarter of a mile from the Target in question. Not that I wouldn't have gotten out of bed bright and early for the thing, just that it makes me feel less like a tool if I can defend my actions with "Yeah, well, it was on my way to work."


For the past two weeks I have pondered whether the Vita has relevance in the current gaming landscape and mulled over the effect hype was having on my original decision not to buy one just yet.


In case the headline didn't give it away the answer is yes, I caved like a house of cards built beside an oscillating fan. And yes, that was a terrible metaphor. But you get the idea.


The next console generation is just around the corner, but I honestly don't know how likely it is that I will jump on board as an early adopter. Put simply: I'm quite happy with the console setup I have right now. I've got plenty of games to play and the machines are packed with all of the features and apps I can envision myself ever wanting. The current consoles take care of my home entertainment needs quite nicely. I don't know what Sony's next box or Microsoft's rumored "Durango" has in store, but I doubt the features will be a big enough advancement to make me feel like shelling out $500 to get on board with a quickness.

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When it comes to portable gaming, though, I'm just not as up to speed as the rest of the world. I own a PSP, but I never picked up any of Nintendo's more recent handhelds. I also might be the last man on the face of the planet who doesn't own a smart phone, so I have no access to those apps and games that have been engaging folks on the go these past several years. As such, the leap from an original PSP to the Vita was a huge step forward for me; one that offered oodles of enhancements I had a genuine interest in and had no real experience with.


That, coupled with the system's interactions with the PS3 I already own, and all that hype that had my mind reeling into the night when I should have been sleeping, led to yours truly changing my mind for the umpteenth time and picking up a Vita day one.


And I'm glad I did. My first few evenings with the device saw me playing around with the features and games, only taking a break to grab dinner or refill my glass-o-tea (Bathroom breaks are for the weak). I can't remember the last time something held my attention so firmly for hours on end like that. My special lady-friend even started referring to herself as a Vita widow. I tried to explain that it wasn't a matter of me loving her less but rather of me loving the Vita more, but she just wouldn't listen to reason.


For Joystick Division's official take on the PSV, check out Rich Shivener's review. I agree with pretty much everything he has to say, as much as it pains me to admit it. The PSV is a slick, sexy piece of hardware that makes it fun and easy to game and stay connected. The system is light but sturdy, and I'm a fan of the button layout. And then there's that gorgeous screen. That, coupled with the breathtaking graphics, makes it feel like I'm playing a PS3 game on a 70-inch plasma.

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I've sent my first ever Twit-pic from the Vita simply because the device allows you to snap a photo and insert it straight into the tweet without leaving the program. Near seems to think I'm in Chicago half of the time, which has actually worked to my advantage. When the program has me in my real home, there are only five or so people playing nearby. When it thinks I'm in my fictional Chicago home, though, that number jumps up to 300. Way better for jumping into pick-up games and sharing gifts. I know that's not the point of the app, but who cares so long as I'm having fun, right?


Party Chat is a great addition that allows you to talk to friends across games, just like on the Xbox 360. And unless you're playing Lumines, you can also play your own music whenever you want.


As for the games, I've spent enough time with Lumines to see falling blocks in my sleep. Wipeout 2048 and Super Stardust Delta are identical to their console counterparts, which means the look, feel and top-notch action are all present. Most games make great use of the touch controls, tilt and camera, too, but none of them make it mandatory. You can play Touch My Katamari with surprisingly intuitive touch commands, for instance, or you can just use the sticks exactly like you would on a home console.


So, yeah, I caved. My resolve crumbled, I gave into the hype and I made a pretty hefty investment in a portable console that will never fit into my pocket. Something at the back of my mind tells me I should feel a little guilty for all of that but, honestly, I'm having too much fun to care.

 

Infinite Ammo is a weekly column by Ryan Winslett about video games, the industry that make them and the people who play them. He can be stalked via his blog at staticechoes.com and followed on Twitter @RyanWinslett.


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