Point of Contention: Power to the Vita

Greetings internet fiends, my name is Travis, and it would seem that I am joining this community of writers. Without diving into an elongated introduction, all I’ll say for now is that I look forward to a long lasting, fruitful relationship centered around shared interests and passion for thoughtful discussion and the occasional nerd rage. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to write the first episode of a series I call “Point of Contention”, an opinion column that will cover a range of topics.

Let’s talk Playstation Vita.

It was only recently that my opinion of Sony Computer Entertainment warmed to a positive degree. This came at a time when my mind decided to look at console differentials through a more objective and rational lens. With such an evolution from blind fanboy came the weight of realizing that every console has potential and strength. It is this mindset that convinced me to fall for the Vita.

This is the story of a gaming love affair.

Nintendo was the definition of handheld gaming for the majority of my life. To even think of giving my time to anything else was high heresy. The PSP had no Pokemon, no Kirby, and no Advance Wars. My rationality limited my scope, naturally, but I was content in my ignorance and nostalgia. I had no patience for Playstation because Playstation had not been a presence in my childhood.

To make a long story short, I changed my perspective, developed a love for new experiences that were not reminders of my rose-colored past, bought into the Sony community, and realized what I had been missing. Change, evolution, and experimentation. I’ll defend Nintendo’s importance and impact tooth and nail even today, but experiencing something so unprecedentedly different was a major shift in my video game ethos.

But perhaps I’m getting too deeply into a tangent. The Vita. That’s what I’m here to discuss on this quiet Wednesday, after spending the last several weeks slowly sinking further and further into Gravity Rush. Many of you with or without the Vita can already defend your stances on the system. Some say it has great potential but thus far poor execution. Some say it needs a price reduction to succeed while others still claim it to the be the dying breath of the long and weathered tradition of non-smart phone mobile gaming, with or without such a price change.

On a purely subjective basis, I can summarize my own opinion of the device with this statement: flawed but endlessly important. The Vita marks a profound change in Sony’s plan of attack. Where the PSP attempted to one-up any Nintendo offering by being ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’ in comparison, the Vita seems to ignore the 3DS altogether by dressing up as a smart phone from design (the metal colored edging, glossy front and back, and even small details like the volume buttons all scream influence from Apple’s iPhone) to function (mandatory swiping and tapping to navigate the UI).

This, however, is not merely a cheap copy. Gaming on the Vita is a fundamentally different experience than on smart phones and even tablets. Buttons are the true vehicles to successful gameplay design. Sony knows this, you and I know this. The majority of people who only ever experience games on phones, however, do not. The Vita is thus a trojan horse, designed to lure the casual with its promise of recognizable gimmicks and throw them deep into the world of true video games, made better by their belief that buttons and controllers are not as limiting as some believe.

And yet, on every front where the Vita seems to push this goal forward, it also stumbles. Left and right, its games seem to deem it necessary to thrust unintuitive and gimmicky motion and touch controls where they ultimately don’t belong. Thus far the major culprit of this heinous crime has been Uncharted: Golden Abyss, with its myriad touch and motion puzzles. Even Gravity Rush employs some of this, and the experience is often left frustrating.

The analog sticks too, which are perhaps the largest defense the Vita has that it can be hard core and traditional, leave room for improvement. They’re simply too small and have too little give that they do not offer the level of control that some might hope for.

But overall, the console is sublime. Even if it’s controls aren’t quite understood by the developers of its games, and even if the graphical power is already outdone by the iPad, this is a dream come true. The potential it has is unmatched, and I do not regret the purchase in the slightest.

If some of you are here for a recommendation, I apologize. My own general opinion of the device is that clouded by my irrational love of shiny things. I’d recommend it to everyone, despite its flaws, because I often fail to recognize that others may be looking for other factors when buying a console. Just know that at least one person loves his. And he is looking forward to many years of memory formative, enthralling, and unique video game experiences.

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One Comment:

  1. Pingback: Where the PSVita Fails | Moar Powah!

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