If you love playing video games, then Sony's new PlayStation Vita was designed with you in mind.
If you have owned a Super NES, or a PlayStation, an Xbox or a GameBoy over the years -- I'm sure you'll be impressed by the Vita.
If you have a smartphone loaded with more games than social networking apps, the Vita could be for you too. If you've run through Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, Minigore, Tiny Wings and Infinity Blade and you're looking to take your gaming to the next level, you'll definitely want to give the Vita a close look.
The Vita isn't just for the casual gaming set. This is a gamer's gaming console.
Is this a niche device? Yes. In the age of the do-everything smartphone, the Vita will likely appeal to fewer people than it would have in 2004, when Sony released the PlayStation Portable handheld and when a cellphone and an iPod were exclusively separate devices.
So, now that we've established that the Vita is great -- and it really is -- let's get into what's so impressive.
The Vita brings traditional controls and combines them with new technologies previously confined to smartphones and tablets. The result is a gaming experience that is found on no other single device.
The Vita has a traditional directional pad, four PlayStation face buttons, left and right bumper buttons, and two analog joysticks sitting around a 5-inch OLED touchscreen. On the back of the Vita is a built-in touch panel.
Cameras on the front and rear of the Vita can be used for augmented reality gaming, similar to what is offered on the Nintendo 3DS.
The innovative control setup on the Vita oozes potential, and hopefully developers will take advantage of the hardware Sony has built.
If you buy a Vita, at this point, you need to pick up a copy of Sony's Uncharted: Golden Abyss, an adventure game that uses the traditional controls to move the main character, Nathan Drake, through jungle terrain and shoot some bad guys.
When you run into an obstacle you need to climb over or on, such as some ancient ruins, the front and rear touch panels come into play. At certain points, you can sneak up on a bad guy, tap the screen and silently throw the villain off a ledge or into submission. Uncharted helpfully alerts you with on-screen prompts when the touch controls are an option.
FIFA Soccer, from developer Electronic Arts, uses the rear touch panel as an option to point and shoot when trying to score. The longer you hold the rear panel, the harder your player kicks. Using a rear touch panel that you can't really see when playing is a bit of a strange idea -- at first. But it won me over. I'm a FIFA fan, and I've never had more fun playing FIFA on any console than on the Vita.
The graphics in some of the Vita's launch titles -- Uncharted, Wipeout 2048, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 -- rival what can be found on the PlayStation 3 home console, which is an astounding achievement for a portable system.
If PlayStation 3-quality graphics isn't enough for you, the Vita offers a feature called cross play, which allows users to play select games against their friends playing the same title on the PlayStation 3. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Wipeout 2048 offer cross play, and they also allow you to start playing either title on the PlayStation 3 and continue playing it on the Vita, for taking your gaming on the go. You can even use the Vita as a controller for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on the PlayStation 3.
In order to pull this all off, you have to buy the game for both the Vita and the PlayStation 3, which is a downside. But the feature feels like the future of gaming -- allowing you to play where and when you want without having to sacrifice control options or graphics.
Hopefully we'll see more developers make use of cross play -- and hopefully you won't be required to buy every game twice.
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