Sony’s portable has struggled since launch, all the while building up a strong library of 900 plus games and plenty of developer love, not to mention the fact that developers love making games for it. Even still, the Vita has continued to struggle in finding a place in the lives of many gamers. Sony, as result, has brought us this newest and generally improved Playstation Vita, at a better price to boot. For anyone out there who has had even the slightest desire to own a Vita, this is the Vita to buy, and now is the time to buy it.
The original Vita was a beautiful piece of hardware that was well build and feature rich. Games like Tearaway and Killzone: Mercenaries showcased the systems capacity for intuitive gameplay and brilliant visuals, while the countless indie titles like Hotline Miami and Retro City Rampage showcased the system’s versatility and appeal to developers. A $249 price point, however, kept many would be players on the sideline, not to mention the fact that the Vita didn’t offer the best in battery life. That and the fact the the device was borderline unruly for those who carried it in their pockets.
Enter Vita 2014, a device that improves on almost every aspect of the first generation Vita. While the internals are unchanged, the design of the device itself has undergone some noticeable changes. The system is of a mostly plastic build now, which initially makes it feel cheaper than the glass adorned original. The benefits of this change are also immediately apparent as the Gen 2 Vita is noticeably lighter. Holding the device is more comfortable and the build quality is still surprisingly strong. No bending or sounds when applying stress to the device. It is also thinner, with the joysticks slightly closer to the device, making it much easier to slide in and out of a pocket. If the option is available I would still recommend putting it in a bag, but it is much more tolerable now in a front pocket.
With regards to battery, the Gen 2 Vita delivers on the idea of mobile gaming much more than its predecessor. While the Gen 1 Vita averaged 4-5 hours on battery, the 2014 edition will net you 7 or more hours of game time. Most of my time thus far has been spent playing Dragon’s Crown and Borderlands 2, neither of which drained the battery any more rapidly than the other. Sure, 7 hours might not sound like a lot compare to your tablet or high end smartphone, but talk to me when you can play Dragon’s Crown and Borderlands 2 on those devices. As a dedicated gaming device, the Vita can now outlast its 3D competitor while still providing better performance for the money.
Still, how does the Vita hold up now that mobile quad-core processors have not only become the norm, but have become considerably more powerful? Well, the Vita feels just as snappy as ever. The UI may still be mostly unattractive, but Sony has added a bevy of new features since the initial launch of the platform and it is no worse for wear. Obviously it is powerful enough to be capable of playing PS4 games streamed from the device. Remote play is a huge benefit of owning a Vita since you can even play your PS4 on the go. Playing on the PS4 proper will always be the better option, but the fact that you can be hundreds of miles away and still play your favorite console games is pretty awesome, and for some people that is reason enough to consider a Vita.
The device’s greatest weakness is still storage, which required you to purchase proprietary memory cards. Yes, this is annoying, even hardcore Vita fans will tell you this. Luckily, Sony has made a few user friendly moves that you will enjoy, the first being 1GB of internal memory. This is actually enough to hold a few games and most of your saves, but you’ll want to pop in the included 8GB memory card nonetheless. Yes, they include a card now, and 8GB is more than enough to house a decent library, especially if you prefer to own physical copies of games. Sony has also dropped the proprietary charging port in favor of a micro usb port, which means you’ll likely have about half a million places to charge it if the batter does get low.
For new users, this Vita experience is the best it has ever been. If you don’t own one yet, this is the Vita to own, but what about current Vita owners. We all heard about it when the device launched in Japan last year, the shift from the gorgeous OLED to LCD. Yes, our beloved color saturation has been replaced by a generic panel. However, and as an owner since launch I am very happy to say, the LCD display is actually quite good. If you have been spending a lot of time playing your Vita lately, the change will take some getting used to; a few minutes at most, but it won’t be as hard as you think. We are talking about a company famous for displays. The LCD still offers vibrant colors on top of the benefit of the better battery life we talked about earlier. No, it isn’t quite as nice as the OLED, but it is still an excellent display and is more than sufficient to enjoy games and movies. It also lacks the strange dark spots that littered the back of the original OLED displays, which in all honesty never sat well with me. If your only excuse for not upgrading was the display, you’re all out of excuses.
The speakers are a tad bit louder on the 2014 edition, but sound a bit strained at higher volumes. Odds are you’ll be using headphones anyway, especially when out in public places where it would otherwise be impossible to hear it, but it is a shame to have the extra volume but not want to use it. There is also the age old issue of lousy wi-fi. For whatever reason the Vita hates downloading things at a decent rate, even when the connection allows for it. It would have been nice to see this issue addressed in this new version, but with most games under 1GB it won’t be an issue for most people.
Buy a Playstation Vita. I don’t say that as someone who writes about games or out of loyalty to a company, I say that as a gamer. The more Vita owners there are, the more love the Vita gets from developers. There is plenty to do on the Vita that you can only do on the Vita. It is worth bring out in addition to your phone. As a gaming device, the Vita offers so much, plus the added benefit of being able to play your console games even when away from your console. At $199 with Borderlands 2 and an 8GB memory card included, the Vita has never been a better value. The Vita is still alive, and it is waiting for you.