McGinnis: PlayStation’s new system answers portable criticsWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s odd that the major objection one hears nowadays to the release of a new portable game system is the easiest one to refute. Why, people ask, should I even consider buying a console that allows me to play games on the go when I can already do so on my smartphone or tablet?
The answer is easy: Gaming on a smartphone, by and large, sucks eggs. Small wonder — these wonderful inventions were not designed with games in mind, so a title designed for it must make torturous constraints to make itself playable. Every smartphone game that succeeds — “Angry Birds,” “Plants vs. Zombies” and their ilk — is a simple, casual title with little depth. Anyone looking for something more involved needs to look elsewhere. Recent smartphone adaptations of titles like “Grand Theft Auto III” showcase impressive technological capabilities, but their touch screen controls are tortuous to play.
Asking why someone would buy a portable gaming system is a little like asking why someone would buy a laptop to write with. I mean, you can type on your phone, why bother? Sure, the writing apps are rudimentary and simplistic, it’s hell on your hands and it takes forever, but it gets the job done, so why would you want anything else?
Because you want something that does it well, that’s why.
This has become more relevant since Sony released the PlayStation Vita on February 22, which is clearly the best handheld gaming device ever made. A technological marvel, the Vita not only makes great gaming experiences on the go possible, but takes advantage of new technology to give those experiences added depth without sacrificing quality. Add in an impressively deep library and compatibility with a wide variety of gaming applications, and this may be the device to silence the portable naysayers.
At first glance, the Vita seems like a minor redesign of its predecessor, the PlayStation Portable (PSP). But even a little time with the Vita changes that perception quickly. The new Organic Light-Emitting Diode screen provides the sharpest image ever seen on a handheld, and the sleek design makes the device easier to handle than the PSP. The arrow and control buttons are responsive and feel more sturdy than the PSPs. The biggest deal is the addition of a second analog stick, making the Vita the first handheld to be designed with emulation of modern console controls in mind.
The console also takes advantage of the touch phenomenon with a pair of additions — the front screen is fully touch-enabled, and it comes with a rear touch pad, as well. Unlike its smartphone counterparts, though, the touch controls are typically additional or optional, and most of your game play is executed using the traditional analog methods, which gives the device far more accuracy.
The Vita continues to impress with its graphics. The system’s early offerings deliver visuals which stand well alongside games on its flagship PlayStation 3 (PS3) console. Heck, in some cases, such as the beautiful space shooter “Super Stardust Delta,” the visuals seem to surpass their PS3 counterparts, thanks in large part to the beautifully sharp screen.
The system is designed to take full advantage of the Internet age, as well, with full connectivity to the PlayStation Network, the ability to earn trophies, shop for games, face other players online and more. It even comes with the promise of being able to play certain PS3 titles on the go. The system comes in two formats, one with basic Wi-Fi capabilities, and one with full 3G connectivity through AT&T. Though the idea of always being connected with 3G is appealing, the higher cost (and corresponding monthly bill) will likely cause most consumers to pick up a Wi-Fi system.
The initial offering of games also bolsters the system’s cause, with a wide variety of excellent games already available. Sony’s flagship “Uncharted” series comes to the Vita with “Golden Abyss,” an amazing title that underscores how close the system comes to emulating its console counterparts. EA Sports’ “FIFA Soccer” delivers what may be the best game of soccer on any console, with razor-sharp game play and intuitive touch additions. The great sidescrolling gameplay of “Rayman Origins” is ported to the Vita with no sacrifice of quality.
And great downloadable titles like the aforementioned “Super Stardust” provide awesome experiences on a budget.
At $249.99 for the Wi-Fi system ($50 more for the 3G version), the Vita seems pricey. But this is truly an instance of getting what you pay for — a device that delivers next generation gaming on the go, while making almost no sacrifices for portability. Anyone who takes gaming seriously will have their questions answered very quickly.
Email Toledo Free Press Star Pop Culture Editor Jeff McGinnis at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.