Viva la Vita: 5 reasons to buy a PS Vita right now
The PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) has had a troubled life. It’s not its fault, though; it’s a good little system. It’s well made, it’s got a lot of useful features, but the problem is that the world changed faster than Sony could anticipate.
Mobile phones are capable of playing games that look as good as anything on the PS Vita, and they’re usually cheaper as well. Generally speaking, people need mobile phones, and they have them with them all the time so it makes sense they’d morph into quick-fix gaming devices.
The other problem is the Nintendo 3DS. It’s a great handheld, and it’s building off the unexpectedly successful Nintendo DS brand. I can’t be the only one who remembers how many people were sure the DS was doomed to fail.
So the 3DS has the gamers, both casual and hardcore, the mobile phones (and tablets and iPods) have the kids and the less serious gaming adults, so what’s left for the PS Vita? Not a lot, it seems.
It’s by no means a failure, though, let’s get that out of the way right up front. The console has sold over 12 million units worldwide, which makes in more successful than the Wii U, but it’s a long way off its predecessor the PlayStation Portable (PSP) at 80 million or its direct competitor the Nintendo 3DS at 57 million. (Source: VGChartz)
It’s not dead, but it’s not exactly blowing up either. So the question is: if you haven’t already taken the plunge and grabbed a PS Vita should you do it now? And the answer is undoubtedly yes! And I’ll give you five reasons why.
1. The current library is pretty solid
The thing that matters most about any console is its games. Not its sales or the power of its hardware – it’s the games that matter. While the PS Vita may not have the biggest library it does have some solid titles that are worth checking out.
For one thing, there’s Persona 4: Golden, which is arguably the best re-release of the last few years. Tearaway is an outstanding showcase of how to use every one of the PS Vita features intelligently, and then there’s the final Wipeout game (and arguably the best) developed by Studio Liverpool – Wipeout 2048.
There’s also a number of HD remakes such as the God of War HD Collection and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD, but what really helps flesh out the catalogue is the indie games. Sony’s acceptance of independent developers and cross-buy means that there’s a ton of great little games to buy that you can play at home on the PlayStation 3 or 4 and on the go with you PS Vita with a single purchase.
Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number are absolute must-plays, as are VVVVVV, Limbo, Bastion, Super Meat Boy and the recently released stealth game Volume. Granted not all of these games are cross-buy, but it’s a nice little carrot to keep an eye out for. And some titles like Hotline Miami 1 and 2 feature cloud-saves so you can continue right where you left off when returning home or heading out.
On top of all that the PS Vita is region-free which means you’re free to import all you want from wherever in the world. Take that Nintendo! Even the current line up on the US store is pretty diverse, so if you’re into strange dating sims or new JRPGs you should give the PS Vita some serious consideration.
Just avoid the PS Vita version of Ridge Racer. I don’t care if it’s on sale. This is not a joke.
2. It’s better than your mobile phone
I’m not someone who likes to bash mobile gaming. I’ve played a ton of games that I’ve really enjoyed on my iPhone and don’t plan on stopping now. But have you tried to play Grand Theft Auto III on that thing? It sucks. Five-star reviews be damned, I need buttons!
The PS Vita is a console made for gamers on the go, and it’s great for casual play or marathon gaming sessions. If you haven’t yet you have to try Killzone Mercenary. It’s a solid shooter with a great campaign you can play anywhere alongside an online multiplayer mode for when you’ve got access to wi-fi. And thanks to the dual-analog sticks you can actually play the game and not have to cover up 30% of the screen with you thumbs!
It’s true that mobiles do have a distinct price advantage when it comes to offering a variety of .99c and free-to-play games, but if you keep your eye on the PSN Store you can pick up some bargains. The classic JRPG Xenogears? I got it for $3. Which leads me to my next point…
3. Backwards compatibility
Out of the big three players in the console market you have to hand it to Sony, they know how to keep their house in order. I bought Resident Evil 2 as a PSOne classic for my PSP years ago and I’ve since been able to transfer it to my PlayStation 3 and now on to my PS Vita.
You hear that Nintendo? I bought that game ONCE and it works on THREE systems. How come I can’t get my copy of Super Mario Bros. from my Wii onto my 3DS? I had better move on before I start ranting too much, but seriously Nintendo get it together with the NX.
Anyway the PS Vita is a retro-gaming powerhouse and as I mentioned before it’s got an extensive PSOne library. On top of that, there are a ton of great PSP titles on the PSN store, so there's plenty of opportunities to go back and discover (or rediscover) a classic series.
With just your PS Vita can play the Final Fantasy series right up to Final Fantasy X-2 (skipping the online-only Final Fantasy XI of course) plus the two of the Final Fantasy Tactics spin-offs and both Dissidia Final Fantasy games. I went back and played through the majority of the Metal Gear Solid series (with the exception of Metal Gear Solid 4, obviously) to prepare for Metal Gear Solid V. And I did it wherever I wanted.
Best of all the PlayStation Portable and PSOne back catalogue is pretty extensive, and the PSN Store has fairly regular sales, so there are plenty of opportunities to pick up a few gems for next to nothing.
I got Vagrant Story for $3 the other day. Enough said.
4. Build quality
Remember when the original PSP came out? Remember how bad it was? The disc tray felt flimsy; the square button often pressed up against the metal border of the screen underneath the console’s shell, the weak battery would give out at the worst times. It’s true that later models got much better (and slimmer), but early adopters paid the price for diving in too soon.
The PS Vita had none of that at launch. In fact the two models on the market right now, the original fatty and the new skinny version, are both well-built systems with their own strengths and weaknesses. Don’t care about size? Get the original, it has the superior OLED screen. Want more battery life and something that may actually fit in your pocket? The new slimmer model is for you.
I’ve owned both, and I can attest to their ability to withstand a number of falls (usually off the bed when I fall asleep) and their overall build quality. The face and shoulder buttons have a satisfying pop to them, the D-pad works great with fighting games, the capacitive touchscreen is responsive, and unlike the cheap conductive one used by Nintendo on the 3DS and the Wii U this screen is built to last. Pick up a well-used Nintendo DS, enter PictoChat and try and draw a straight line. You’ll see what I mean.
It’s true that the thumbsticks could be better and probably should be closer to the slider-style used on the PSP and the 3DS, but hey, at least, there’s two of them now.
There're no hinges to loosen up, no optical drive with a laser to move out of place, no spongy shoulder buttons, and the new slim model uses a standard micro-USB port for charging and not a proprietary cable like the 3DS and the original PS Vita. It’s a brilliant little console and a testament to simple, sturdy design.
5. It’s the new Dreamcast, for better or worse
SEGA were ahead of their time with the Dreamcast, and they paid the price because of it. And while many gamers do look back on some of it’s bigger titles a little too fondly (Sonic Adventure for one), it’s reputation for being an under-appreciated treasure is well deserved.
As much as I don’t want the PS Vita to suffer the same fate it does seem inevitable that it’ll join the Dreamcast, alongside the Neo Geo Pocket and the Game Boy Micro, in undervalued console heaven soon.
But so what? We’re gamers. Sales matter less than quality to us and the truth is the PS Vita is a fantastic little machine. It’s a rock-solid system that can play a diverse library of games that stretch back over 20 years, and though the light at the end of the tunnel glows brighter each day it’s not dead yet.
I got my first PS Vita a months or so after it launched and upgraded to the slimmer model around as soon as it hit the shelves. I have zero regrets. I’ve played through the original Resident Evil games, I’ve got a folder of JRPGs I really need to find time for like Chrono Cross and Suikoden II, and I have a collection of recent indie gems like Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty and Rogue Legacy.
More than that though I have a system that has proven to be worth my time and money. And one day I'll happily retire it with pride alongside my GameCube and SEGA Saturn in a box marked “too beautiful for this world”.
Viva la Vita.