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E3- PlayStation Vita Hands-On

Veteran readers and podcast fans know that I am a PSP apologist. More than any other current generation system – even the full consoles – the PSP has earned a special place in SeanNOLA’s Gaming Valhalla. Naturally, when I got my hands on the PlayStation Vita (or “PSV” as it will be called henceforth) I was pretty ecstatic. A new, more powerful PSP with a bigger screen and 2 real thumb-sticks would have been enough for me, but all the over-the-top inputs, a promising launch line-up and a competitive price point made for some pretty nice lagniappe.

In case you hadn’t heard, the PlayStation Vita looks a lot like the PSP 3000, but a little taller to make room for its large OLED screen and additional analog stick. Although the unit is about the size of the PSP launch unit, but is noticeably lighter than a PSP slim – possibly due to the lack of a UMD drive – which took some getting used to but still managed to feel substantial in my hand. The screen responds to multiple touches, and there is also a touch surface on the back, so your fingers don’t get in the way of whatever you’re supposed to see. It has about half of the processing power of the PS3, which provides pretty convincing HD graphic on the 5” screen but most importantly, it has all the buttons and sticks you could want to have a full console experience on the go.

The greatest strength the Vita held was that it felt designed. Time was obviously spent working out the ergonomic issues that come from adding an extra stick and touch surfaces, and the result is that all of the controls work together to provide a potentially seamless experience. The new analog sticks (notice I said “sticks” not “nubs” or “circle pads”) nestled into the base of my thumbprint quite naturally, and the D-pad and buttons were placed just within reach, making it easy to jump back and forth between control schemes. The front screen is sized and positioned such that my thumbs could touch in the center, meaning I could give touch commands at any point of the screen without adjusting my hands or pulling out a stylus. Those all seem like small details, but they make a huge difference and open up a world of possibilities for potential developers.

The games I played showed a wide range of graphical chops, but the takeaway was that the Vita is perfectly capable of providing an HD console experience comparable to the games that released around the PS3 launch. Between the pristine screen, the comfortable controls and what is shaping out to be a strong launch lineup, the Vita might be the first real handheld contender to give Nintendo a run for their money – let’s just hope the dedicated handheld market is still around when it launches this holiday season.

About Sean Kirkland

A Tulane-educated Master of Architecture and Monster Hunter apologist, Sean "SeanNOLA" Kirkland might have relocated to trendy Angeleno suburbs, but his heart remains entrenched in the Crescent City.


  1. First.

    Now please explain this “lagniappe” business.

    • It’s one of the words they use in and around NO. Probably Creole or Cajun.

      • Every review, NOLA or Deagle have to put in one word we don’t know. I think TG is sponsored in part by people like you and well as the letter “M”.

    • “lagniappe,” pronounced “lan-yap” is a creole word that more or less means “bonus” or “extra.” So like I could say “Man, just getting to play as Sonic the Hedgehog was great on it’s own, but they threw some extra Werehog stages in for lagniappe!”

      Except I would never say that. Because that would be a lie.

  2. Thank god it comes with a power button.

    I’m glad Sean admits to being a PSFanboy. 😉

  3. I could be wrong but OLED screens aren’t affected by sunlight or am I thinking of AMOLED.

    Good write up.

  4. You know what info is conveniently missing from the spec sheet?

    Battery life!

    • I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t think they’ve finalized their battery yet. I mentioned in my writeup that the unit felt really light, and aside from not having a disc drive, I think part of that might also be that there weren’t batteries in the units on the floor. I’d be interested to know too, because my old Phat couldn’t handle the trip to and from work every day :\

    • Memory is missing too.

  5. Right now it looks like the right analog could get in the way of the “X” button.

  6. The VITA is cool and all, but Sony’s going to leave all the people who bought UMDs in the cold, which really sucks.

    3DS plays almost all the DS games, which is one in Nintendo’s corner IHO.

  7. “a promising launch line-up”

    Really which games besides Uncharted.

    • Hot Shots Golf, Dragon’s Crown, SoundShapes, Ruin and Wipeout?

      • Hot Shots has been sequeled to death and do you really need another Wipeout game? Both haven’t really done anything new in the last decade or so.

        Ruin looks like another Untold Legends. I’m not sold on the lineup yet.

  8. One of the podcasts said the face buttons felt pretty small. Do you agree?

    • DEagle thinks they are too small. We argued about that a lot at the show. The buttons themselves are small, but they are spaced far enough apart that it’s not like his fat fingers were hitting them all at once. You’re still hitting the same area you would be for the standard-sized buttons, there is just less actual button underneath your thumb.
      I think it might take some getting used to for some people, but honestly, I wouldn’t have noticed the difference had DEagle not been so insistent.

      • HA! How does Deagle get his fat finger around the trigger?

        I think Garnett Lee said the same thing about the Vita.

      • HAHA. How does Deagle get his fat pie eaters around a trigger.

        Garnett Lee had the same complaint.

      • Oh, shit it’s on now.

      • Yep, the buttons are fine if you have anorexic model hands like my colleague Sean. For men, it’s a different story. 🙂

        Honestly, they probably just take some getting used to. They are about the size of pencil eraser, so lets hope any shmups have an autofire option. I don’t even remember making that much of a fuss, just tempering Sean’s gushing about the hardware. He acted like it was his first kiss.

  9. Here’s a list of Vita games both announced and hinted at:

    Untitled Badman game
    Unnamed BioShock game
    BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II Plus
    Untitled Call of Duty game
    Dragon’s Crown
    Dynasty Warriors (working title)
    Hot Shots Golf
    Hustle Kings
    LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
    Little Deviants
    LittleBigPlanet (working title)
    ModNation Racers
    Monster Hunter Portable 3
    Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee
    Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
    Reality Fighters (working title)
    Untitled Resistance game
    Ridge Racer (working title)
    Ruin (working title)
    Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048
    Silent Hill: Book of Memories
    Smart As
    Sound Shapes
    Street Fighter X Tekken
    Super Stardust Delta (working title)
    Top Darts
    Uncharted: Golden Abyss
    Virtua Tennis 4
    Wipeout 2048

    • looks good, but I’d like to see a bit more 3rd party support. A portable Demon’s Souls would be great…

      • Source?

        I calling shenanigans as they haven’t used the name “Badman” in a long time.

    • Hustle Kings? really?

      One question for you guys- does it have a TV out like the PSP 2000/3000?

  10. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t picking one up at launch.

  11. Cool system and all but what a stupid name.

  12. Sean it right. Thats a fat thumb 😉

  13. I really thought the VITA would be $500 or more.

  14. Did you get a look at the media that it uses?

  15. Really nice read! Cannot wait for vita,.. It has more input methods than anything I have ever seen,.. Specs are beast also!

  16. Is GS taking preorders? They do want my money, right?

  17. Call me an optimist, but I think dedicated handhelds will always be around even if theyre pushed into niche territory.

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