Hardware Review: PlayStation Vita Console

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The Road To Vita

Sony learned the lessons it could, well they hoped anyway as suggested in many communications out to the press. PSP2 had to come along as the PSP had actually done well in it’s 3 main forms, and the experiment monikered PSP Go! Had also taught Sony that customers were anything but ready for a download only console. The PSP2 rumours flourished, especially when the developers of the new Mortal Kombat (9) announced they were working on the machine and it would be pretty powerful. Makes you wonder how the hell Mortal Kombat wasn’t a launch title for the Vita!

PSP2 became NGP – Next Gen Portable when it was officially announced on January 27th 2011 during the infamous PlayStation Meeting, which had only been used in the past to announce new hardware. As with the PSP being closer to the PS2’s capabilities than the PS One’s, the NGP capabilities were suggested to be rather close to the PS3 (and, in fact , probably would have been even closer if it wasn’t for battery life issues and the potential to “set fire to your pants”, to paraphrase an SCEA rep.)

Within 6 months the NGP was the PlayStation Vita and Sony had announced that the machine would support “Vita cards” for retail game sales, replacing the now all-but-useless UMD format and memory card storage similar to that in the PSP (which used memory stick duos) but featuring much faster flash memory.

The six axis control system from the PS3 controller was announced to be appearing in the console along with two cameras, facial detection, head detection and tracking capabilities. Two analogue sticks were confirmed along with a touch screen, with one spec sheet mentioning a touch panel, though everyone pretty much ignored that thinking it was referring to the screen (whoops!). Software wise it was to include augmented reality gaming – naturally developed from the EyeToy and PSP camera games such as Invizimals and social connectivity (Facebook, Twitter etc.). New software services called Near and Party would allow and facilitate close-by networking functions and cross-game chat respectively – which the PS3 is still waiting for.

The links that the Vita has with Britain were unveiled for the first time too. The main CPU is a quad core ARM Cortex A9 MPCore from the British CPU technology developers that grew out of Acorn in Cambridge. The graphics processor is a PowerVR SGX543MP4+ quad core affair from the British tech company, Imagination Technologies of Kings Langley. It appears that SCE London Studio (EyeToy, Home, EyePet), SCE Studio Cambridge (Play TV, MediEvil) and importantly, SCE Studio Liverpool (Wipeout), had a massive input into the development of the hardware and the closer tied software. In fact it appears that if it wasn’t for input from Wipeout development team that second analogue stick wouldn’t have been on the machine, or might have been nubs or similar rather than sticks.

The first time I saw a Vita in the flesh was at an event in September 2011, although it was a non-functional prototype. However, the build quality of the device and design impressed everyone in the room, even if I had to correct the Sony reps doing the presentation about the Vita on more than one point…

I got my mits on a working early UK 3G unit with a 16Gb memory card and a whole plethora of downloads several weeks before the launch, even before the press got their mits on them, to aid me in getting pre-orders at my store. Suddenly that rear touch pad that had all but been ignored made a whole lot of sense when you booted up Little Deviants, and those I demo’ed the machine to might as well have been drooling over the obvious talents of the machine.

Sony’s pre-order campaign in the UK was nice enough – earphones and downloadable content including the rather fantastic Simon says variant, Frobisher Says! for the machine on launch day, as well as a choice of one of SCEE’s downloadable launch titles (that will be Super Stardust Delta thank you very much!)

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