Friday Slide: Don’t Fear The Vita

As E3 was shutting down, and worn-out booth babes and costumed mascots sighed with relief, Slide To Play was lucky enough to receive one last demo. We were the last journalists to get our hands on Sony’s “next-gen portable”, PlayStation Vita. Should iPhone owners be worried?

No, they shouldn’t be. A healthy and competitive handheld market is good for the overall industry, especially at a time when sales of console games are declining. As much as we enjoy 99-cent apps, they’re dramatically changing the marketplace, and the PS Vita might be Sony’s last big push for console-quality handheld games.

It’s quite an effort, too. The PS Vita offers a massive touchscreen, absolutely dwarfing the iPhone’s screen. You also have all the joysticks and buttons you could possibly want, conveniently located not on the screen itself. It’s an absolute beast in terms of processing power, and it’s got a touchscreen on the back, too, for what we call “tickle control”. Coochie-coo, little Vita!

The games demoed on the PS Vita represent Sony’s best chance at ruling the handheld market. Uncharted and Little Big Planet, both first-party games, were fantastic, and a perfect replica of their PS3 counterparts. Our only confusion came from the uncertainty of whether a particular puzzle called for use of the front touchscreen, back touchscreen, off-screen controls, or tilt controls. It’s possible the Vita suffers from control options overload.

The other games we played were not quite as impressive. Sega’s Virtua Tennis, an augmented reality shooter, and a platformer from the creator of Everyday Shooter all could have been iPhone apps, although it was a relief to not have to cover up the screen with our hands.

And while Sony’s demo crew informed us that there are more than 80 third-party titles in development now for the Vita, we’re pretty sure that’s what the App Store releases every fifteen minutes. Most of it’s crap, sure, but for a dollar or five a pop, there’s still a lot more potential on the iOS platform for quality entertainment.

As impressive as the VIta is technically, it’s still not a phone. And at the end of the day, most people only have room in their pockets for one device at a time. The PS Vita is incredibly impressive in person, but the high price of games, questionable developer support, and overwhelming control options might be its undoing. It’s a beast of a portable gaming machine, but it may arrive too late to soften the iPhone’s meteoric impact.

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