The PlayStation Vita – A Big Bang in a Small Package

Originally Published on the Official Blast Away the Game Review Facebook Page
Written by Dustin Murphy

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You may remember earlier this year that Shuhei Yoshida considered the PlayStation 4, by statistics, a companion tool for the PlayStation 4. Unlike the PlayStation Portable, which was a handheld device in its own, the PlayStation Vita is much more diverse. With capabilities such as remote play, PlayStation Now, and soon PlayStation TV, the PlayStation Vita is a dominant device in what we can considered a symbiotic ecosystem thanks to this as well as PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and even PlayStation Mobile. Which brings me to my topic; what Sony did to make this thing the ultimate device on the market.

When we become gamers on the move, the most important thing we have is accessibility and portability. This is something the PlayStation Vita offers even as many say that it is a object that has been dying due to pricing. What pricing? Well first of all the memory cards can run you between 32.99 USD all the way into 127.99 for the top end 64gb memory card, which is something I’ve personally experienced buying. Luckily though, memory cards are interchangeable, which makes them nice to have around. Now the biggest thing I’d like to start off this entire topic is what the PlayStation Vita is doing right, which is where we will begin now.

-Part 1: The Library of Games isn’t Small-

The number one thing many gamers that are not owners of the PlayStation Vita will say is that it lacks in games. This is something that is both true and false in the same go. With the PlayStation Vita I’ve come to learn that the library is actually quite large, which is stunning. Even though I am a fan of Nintendo’s 3DS handheld; it doesn’t hold a candle to the Vita. Thanks to Studio Japan, XSeed Games, Atlus U.S.A., Koei Tecmo, and even Aksys Games, the Vita is not hurting for a library. Yesterday was the easiest example I could think of as I opened up my storage bag I keep all my PlayStation Vita games in and of course the fact my memory card has quite a few digital games, 31 out of 64gb’s of games for that matter. In that 31gb’s I counted almost 34 digital games alone along with the 53 physical games.

With the PlayStation Vita I have been hard pressed not to find a reason to support it or even not have one thanks to it also having PSP and PS1 game support. The only issue? Sometimes the PSP games do look a bit blurred as they seem to not come up to the 720p resolution the PS Vita supports all that well, but it’s a sacrifice worth making to re-experience many of these titles. The problem with this library? It’s lacking very heavily on the triple a titles it once had. We’ve yet to see another Killzone, Gravity Rush and or even Uncharted title on it. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t had any for the niche game crowd. The PlayStation Vita has had titles such as Soul Sacrifice Delta (digital only), Atelier titles (digital only), and even Persona come to it; all of these being huge hits and successes in the community. The problem though is; lack of physical games. This is not something that Sony has seemed to acknowledge as the PlayStation Vita has been almost blatantly ignored in the means of these titles having been launched as digital only. With memory cards being as expensive as they are, it can only make one wonder: is Sony doing this on purpose?

As one might think, there is a lot of indie support, and this is quite true. Thankfully that is something that the PlayStation Vita is becoming popular because of. With all these titles it gives users a lot of breathing room, that’s also not including the free titles users get with PlayStation Plus, which is highly encouraged for people who have PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and or PlayStation Vita. With these “free games” (requires active membership to keep using them) players can build a decent library in a few months, but the inevitable comes up in the next section: Cost.

-Part 2 : The Inevitable Money Sink That’s Well Worth It-

When it comes to new consoles and handhelds there is always a spending feature that comes along. We aren’t talking expenditure related to games, but we are talking spending related to accessories and or memory units if needed. The PlayStation Vita’s biggest sink is the memory cards. For people who are new to the PlayStation Vita, they usually come or are bundled with a 4GB memory card, which unfortunately is not enough memory for those who expect to play a more than three or four games or even downloading one to two games due to memory constraints. The biggest example of this is Borderlands 2 for the PS Vita.

Borderlands 2’s data with all DLC uses up roughly 5GB’s of memory, which unfortunately, means the 8GB memory card that comes with it’s bundle is barely enough to support this game and one more. This scenario would leave most of you a chance to upgrade your memory card to either the 32GB’s (recommended) or the highly recommended 64GB (59GB with system data). These memory cards would allow the heavier downloaders to obtain as many games as you can before feeling the heat once more to expand your memory unit once more. The downside? The fact users will be spending between 79.99 to over 127.99 USD in order to expand memory to a rather usable and enjoyable size. The other solution? Sony actually lowering the costs or allowing third party SD card creators make their own memory units to support the PS Vita so that it can be more affordable for everyone. This is something we can only hope for, but find it well worth the thought none-the-less. For now? Bite the bullet, grab the 64GB memory card, but know that there will always be the need for more upgrades in the future.

-Part 3: Console Companion and Cross-play/Save Capability-

Earlier this year we saw that Shuehei Yoshida (sourced article below) stated that many users are using their PlayStation Vita’s as an expansion of the PlayStation 4 rather than a handheld console. Doing this caused many of us to wonder if they have lost hope in the PlayStation Vita, especially after Sony dropped most of their first party support on the PlayStation Vita itself. Thankfully the PlayStation Vita has proved itself as an amazing companion to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 thanks to the system link capability; Remote Play. The remote play for those unfamiliar, is a function that allows the PlayStation Vita to take over the console (PS3 or PS4) and allow the user to play games or access console based apps. This means users can access games such as Warframe, the Last of Us: Remastered, Watch_Dogs and many more games. For those who are more into shopping while they are out, they have the option to access their console while connected to WiFi. Doing this will allow them to prepare downloads while they are running errands and or away from the house. Prime example of this was when I was out of state; I accessed my Warframe in order to get my daily login bonus, play a match for bonus XP, and even put my PS4 back into hibernate while away. Another good example is when downloading content from the PlayStation Store and then leaving home. Luckily this is something that remains fully functional and quite awesome, but do note, this does require the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita both to have strong and stable connections since you are streaming a decent amount of data.

The one nice thing though aside from the remote play is the cross-play and cross-save capability the Vita has; let alone the cross-bought DLC and games for certain titles. This is something that Sony has done that makes this console much more unique than it’s competitors. Though it’s not unheard of thanks to the techniques both Apple and Android have deployed well before consoles did, let alone PC. Though doing what they are is proving to be quite successful and encourages folks like you and myself to purchase titles with cross-buy capability. Most of these titles are indie titles or “arcade” titles, which is not a bad thing at all! Plenty of these titles actually have quite a high replay value and would truly offer an HD version of the title that was presented before hand. That goes not without saying that the PlayStation Vita, PS3, or PS4 versions may be more superior to one or the other depending on the way the game is meant to be experienced. One of these is the titles Titan Attacks! (review can be found linked below), which played best on the PlayStation 4 thanks to the larger screen, quicker reacting d-pad and the limited frame rate slowdowns that occurred when playing on the PlayStation Vita (granted they weren’t bad slowdowns, but they were present).

With the cross-save capability I’ve experienced this on more than one title, which allowed me to go from the PlayStation Vita version or PS3/PS4 versions to the Vita or the consoles. Such experience was made when playing Dynasty Warriors Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (review link can be found below) as well as One Piece Unlimited World Red (Review can be found below as well). Both of these titles allowed me to take my saves from the PS3 or PS4 versions and move them from my console, copy them to my PlayStation Vita, and continue where I left while on the go. This is a feature that has been creatively used by several studios and is one that I would hope remains to be experienced for games that do get PlayStation Vita versions of the title. Especially with how useful it is!

-Part 4: Not All that Shines is Gold-

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As much as I’ve been boasting how good the PlayStation Vita is, there’s always a bit of ugly behind it, and the PlayStation Vita does have that. Especially the 199.99 USD price tag and that ugly hidden cost of the memory cards that stands in place. This is something I experience firsthand, but was able to overcome in time. Let alone the fact that I am capable of downloading music, pictures, making Skype calls, downloading classic games, and even watching YouTube as well as surfing the web or checking email; there is still a lot the Vita needs done for it. The unfortunate part is, the future of the Vita seems unclear when it comes to how it will stand to social media thanks to places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sources taking off. Unfortunately, it only supports Facebook and Twitter, which to some alone is a drawback issue for the PlayStation Vita and those who want to immediately upload a screenshot or two since Facebook can tend to be a bit picky on how many pictures can be uploaded at one time. Granted it does have a lot of capability thanks to features such as Party Chat, Messaging, and even Friends Lists (all require PlayStation Network and an active online connection). These are just some of the social aspects of what the handheld itself can do outside of online gaming.

Even with these limitations, the PlayStation Vita has a wide array of apps, games, and even downloads that are available via the PlayStation Store. With these capabilities it is far from short on features and is actually quite diverse what it is and is not capable of doing. Overall, it’s powerful, has a lot of media, and can act as a social media device, gaming device, music device, movie device, and even a remote playing handheld console that is quite powerful for what it can do. However, like I said, it does have its drawbacks. Some of these can be spotted when playing some games that will disable online features, in-game requirements to login or even the inability to function without new updates to fix game crashes and other bugs. It’ll only be time before they also (hopefully) fix the weird app bubbles that seem rather annoying and even obnoxious. It’d be nice to have a more streamlined way to organize apps and functions.

-Part 5: Why the PlayStation Vita is a Force to be Reckoned With-

Even with complete list of costs that come with it, but even competitor devices, there’s one thing for sure: the PS Vita is a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to Nvidia Shield and Android Tablets, the PlayStation Vita sits in a very healthy for handheld competition and this is a field that it very well deserves to find itself in thanks to all the features it is capable of having. The only thing missing is a library of PlayStation 2 games to begin downloading since there seems to be a lot of them coming down the vine as of late to the PlayStation store! Even with all these I stated, the PlayStation Vita is a very capable device that definitely has earned itself the price tag, but also the title as a companion for both the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4. This device is something that Sony should be giving more attention to, but also be willing to put more titles on. Whether the titles are imports or not, the PlayStation Vita is very much alive and definitely has the third party support to keep it around much longer than it seems it will be around for.

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