Being the early adopter that it is, Hitbox Gaming felt that a hardware review for a nearly five year old console is the kind of hard hitting content we need to bring in the readers, especially if it’s published two days after the launch of the PS4 Pro.
With the sheer number of mobile gaming options out there, is the PS Vita even remotely worth getting any more?
Why bother getting a Vita when tablets are just as good for gaming?
Clearly we live in a different world than when the Vita launched in 2011. Smartphones and tablets were about but they were primarily used for internet browsing, shopping and social media. Fast forward to 2016 and mobile gaming on smart devices is huge. Successes like Pokémon Go, Candy Crush and Clash of Clans show the mainstream appeal of mobile gaming, so where does that leave dedicated gaming handhelds like the 3DS and Vita?
While there are a number of good options for mobile gaming in the form of smartphones and tablets, the mapping of buttons onto a touch screen for more complex games just doesn’t feel right. If you’re in the middle of fighting enemies or interacting with the environment, looking away from the action to see where you need to press on the screen is distracting. It’s also difficult to become immersed in a game if most of the screen is taken up by your hands.
PS4 Remote Play
Admittedly, one of the primary reasons for Hitbox Gaming buying a Vita was for the PS4 Remote Play function. With Remote Play, gamers can connect their Vita to a PS4 on the same local network or, interestingly, via the internet. The latter function transforms the Vita into a truly mobile PS4 system, allowing gamers to play games like Destiny or Skyrim: Special Edition wherever they have a WiFi connection.
The feature was tested with Destiny (obviously) and given the inconsistent nature of most remote access software, it was surprising how well it worked. The Vita connected to the primary PS4 via the internet and in about 30 seconds it was ready to go.
With Remote Play the PS4 does all of the processing and just feeds the display information to your Vita so with a decent internet connection, the games should look and play very similar. Obviously there’s some input lag, although it’s barely noticeable. While most games do a pretty good job of mapping the L2/3 and R2/3 onto the touchscreens, it still feels a lot different than the trusty DS4.
Unfortunately, during the first play through (Iron Banner Crucible, because loot) Hitbox Gaming killed nobody so it’s probably not the “squeeze in half an hour of seamless playtime at lunch” function you’ve always dreamed off. However, for easier content (like patrols/bounties in Destiny or crafting in Skyrim) it is perfectly adequate.
PS One Ports
Something the Nintendo handhelds have always done well is to evoke a feeling of nostalgia through the porting of classic games to newer systems. Playing Super Mario Bros 3 on the Gameboy Advance or helping Link through the Ocarina of Time on the 3DS is awesome and helps the consoles to appeal to an older generation of gamers.
With the Vita, Sony has replicated this feeling to great effect. Through the PS Store, players can buy, download and play a massive selection of PS One classics. Featuring games like Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider, Tekken and no less than nine Final Fantasy games, you would be hard pressed not to find your favourite PS One title.
The games have been ported well, managing to avoid the infamous frame drops that seem to be synonymous with other PSX emulators.
From Uncharted to Call of Duty, the Vita has a good number of its own versions of AAA titles. While comparing these to the gameplay of their PS4 cousins may leave gamers underwhelmed, they certainly have their own charm.
Games that have less reliance on graphics or don’t require much twitchy action really come into their own on the Vita. Genres like JRPGs feel great in a handheld format so native titles like the Persona series and The Legend of Heroes regularly appear in Top 10 Vita games lists and you can see why.
Getting handsy with the Vita
Having a good selection of titles, great features and nostalgic porting is all well and good, but it means nothing if the device doesn’t feel good. Luckily, the Vita is a pretty decent piece of kit.
The device feels good in your hand and the familiar buttons and and analogue sticks makes playing games comfortable and easy. Hitbox Gaming bought this trigger grip to transform the shoulder buttons into actual triggers, as well as making the Vita a bit more comfortable for longer gaming sessions. It made a huge difference to playing and for £25 is well worth the investment.
One thing that can cause stress on the Vita is the storage capacity. Every game you play requires space to save games and if you want to download any classic titles or purchase games through the PS Store you’re going to need to buy a memory card. Rather than allowing gamers to use the highly affordable Micro SD card, Sony has created a memory card just for the Vita. The price of these is quite frankly astonishing, with a 64gb card costing upwards of £100.
Performance wise, the Vita trumps most other gaming handhelds. For a five year old device, the quality of graphics and jitter-free gameplay is impressive and it really feels like a serious gamer’s handheld.
Getting hold of one
Due to poor sales in Europe, Sony has pretty much discontinued the console in the UK so getting hold of a brand new Vita without a bundle of Lego games is next to impossible. Hitting eBay for a good deal on a second hand device is potentially your best bet, with prices ranging from £70 for the original Vita to around £100 for the newer slim version.
While the thought of buying a discontinued console with a dwindling supply of new games and extortionately priced memory cards doesn’t seem like the most appealing thing, you may be right.
Then again, if you want a handheld device that plays games well, allows you to access your home console when you’re out, has a huge selection of nostalgic games, as well as some great native titles, then for £70, you’re probably not going to find anything better.