Manhandling the Vita
Couple of days ago, we were invited to a hands-on event for the PlayStation Vita. The event kicked off with a presentation of the key features of the Vita by Mr. Katsuhiko Murase, Deputy Managing Director of Sony Computer Entertainment Hong Kong (SCEH). Murase-san touched on the key features of the Vita and seemed pretty hyped to bring the Vita to the Southeast Asian market.
Next up was Mr. Keiichiro Toyama, the producer of the Vita exclusive, Gravity Daze. Toyama-san proceeded to elaborate more about Gravity Daze, the background story of the game, and what made the game special as well as how it made use of the controls the Vita had to offer. It seems Gravity Daze is receiving some strong backing from Sony.
Toyama-san ended the presentation and then the press were given the green light to fondle, manhandle or just gaze longingly at the Vita. At this stage, there is still no official release date, though we do know that Singapore will be the next country to get it after Hong Kong.
Even though the Vita is a portable gaming system, it still feels kind of bulky in the hands. Luckily the mostly-plastic construction makes the Vita pretty light. Shape-wise, it doesn’t differ much from the original PSP, so Sony took the adage ‘Why fix something that isn’t broken?’ to heart.
In term of controls, the Vita throws in everything but the kitchen sink; with dual analog sticks, traditional D-pad and buttons, as well as the touchscreen and rear touchpad. Probably because of this, if you were to compare the controls and buttons to a PS3 controller, the Vita will feel cramped. But the buttons are firm and feel like they can take a lot of pressure before giving in, and I didn’t experience any awkwardness or upward learning curve when trying out some of the preview games available. If you’ve owned a PSP before, you’ll get accustomed to the Vita in no time, unlike the PSP Go.
Without sounding too much like a press release, here are the more important key features of the Vita and my thoughts:
- The front screen is a 5-inch multi-touch OLED. It looks fantastic, and from the few games I tried out at the hands-on, the multi-touch was very responsive.
- We all know there’s a multi-touch pad at the back of the device, and I can see gamers accidentally touching the rear pad during gameplay and possibly trigger some unwanted effect due to the large amount of space that it occupies. However, I didn’t have the chance to test this out as the games on preview did not make use of the multi-touch pad yet.
- Dual analog sticks, d-pad, and buttons. Pretty much what you’d expect in terms of functionality. The analog sticks might be a tad small depending on your thumb size and the usual amount of force you apply when you’re using the standard PS3 controller.
- Front facing camera which can be used for chatting or for use in games that will require an avatar. The rear facing camera can be used for augmented reality games.
- Similar to most tablets, the Vita possesses a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer. This allows motion sensing to be included in Vita games. During the preview, all three games (Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Little Big Planet, and Gravity Daze) incorporated some form of motion sensing control. I can foresee a lot of tilting, shaking, and stroking the Vita when it’s out.
- The Vita comes with 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. Playing with friends online will be more convenient, as well as purchasing games via PSN for those who don’t wish to purchase a physical copy. After all, if tablets and mobile phones have it, why not the next generation portable game console?
- The Vita will sport PSN features that will further highlight the social aspect of gaming on the Vita. “Near” allows users to identify their friends as well as they have been playing recently. Users can use the “Party” function to voice or text chat during online gameplay, or even when their friends are using different applications. More on these features when we actually get a set.