Vita is Latin for life. Perhaps that makes it a bit ironic how quickly the PlayStation Vita seemed to die in the eyes of the general gaming public. So, here’s our 2021 Vita buying guide!
Having died at the hands of its maker doesn’t make the Vita a bad console. Even in 2020, it’s a system that feels incredibly modern and forward-thinking – even if it has some major flaws. And though it was never a major success, there’s no denying it found a dedicated niche of fans, ranging from home-brewers to collectors to even some folks who use it as their preferred modern handheld console of choice.
And despite my earlier statement and new physical games no longer being released for it, in technical terms, the PS Vita is very much so still alive. The vast majority of its online services and apps are still kicking, and it’s even had new games released for it as recently as November 2020.
I used to do a lot of buying guides on YouTube, and while I’ve since moved in a different direction on there, I have very much so wanted to dive back into the world of the Vita. While it may not be for everyone, I think there is a lot to love here and, for the right type of gamer, this could still be worth picking up.
As such, today let’s go through the PS Vita’s hardware, software, and accessories to decide if one of these is right for you! I know a lot of this info may seem redundant for diehard Vita fans, but it’s my hope that this Vita Buying Guide can help potential fans new and old shop for this system!
Starting off, there were three different models of the Vita released throughout its life. These were the launch PCH-1000 (which, thanks to its lovely screen, I’ll refer to as the OLED Vita), the second revision PCH-2000 – which most just refer to as the Vita Slim, and the PlayStation TV, which was known in Japan as the PlayStation Vita TV and was a PS Vita shoved into a streaming-box form factor that could be hooked up to a TV over HDMI.
The Vita was announced by Sony in January 2011, with the original OLED model being unleashed onto the world in December that year. It was leaps and bounds more powerful than its main rival, the Nintendo 3DS, and featured a quarter-HD touch screen, a rear touchpad, dual joysticks, games that came on cartridges, and even widely advertised 3G capabilities in addition to a slew of online capabilities that could be used over WiFi!
Of course, the Vita failed commercially for a reason, and some of these issues reared their heads at launch. It cost $250 when it first hit the market and didn’t even feature any internal storage space!
Despite being released in an era where Micro SD cards and Micro USB cables were prevalent, the OLED Vita not only required a proprietary charging cable but also hugely expensive proprietary memory cards! While memory cards were staples of game systems back in the days of the PlayStation 2, by the time the Vita came out, this appeared to be just an expensive hindrance that Sony opted for solely to squeeze cash out of consumers. Talk about the need for a Vita Buying Guide!
It didn’t help that the 3G features were only available with certain models, and even then, the only American provider who offered them was AT&T. Yikes.
That doesn’t mean the Vita didn’t have a strong launch library. Between Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and even the tech demo showcase Little Deviants, there was a lot to love here. Besides, the system itself was incredibly comfortable to hold, and I swear that even today, that OLED screen seems even crisper and clearer than even that on the Nintendo Switch – which many have dubbed a spiritual successor to the Vita.
Within a year, though, it was clear that the Vita was not reaching the same levels of success that Sony’s earlier PlayStation Portable had. Well, in the West anyway. While the Vita was by no means a hit in Japan, a steady stream of RPGs and visual novels helped it find a niche over there.
VITA BUYING GUIDE FOR THE SECOND AND THIRD REVISIONS
In 2013, Sony released the Vita Slim. I, unfortunately, don’t own one of these – despite having an OLED Vita and a PSTV as well – but I’ve played on them plenty of times. These are by far the most common Vita models. Perhaps it’s because they were a bit cheaper, or maybe because by 2013 the Vita was finding a niche in the West with indie publishers, but I swear these are way easier to find nowadays than the other two models. Plus, though the gorgeous OLED display has been replaced with a cheaper LCD display, the replacement of the proprietary charging cable with Micro USB support is much welcome.
It’s just a shame it still requires those memory cards.
Oddly enough, even the PSTV requires those expensive proprietary Vita memory cards as well. Sure, it came out the same year as the Vita Slim in Japan, but as nice as having a home console Vita is, this was marketed more as a streaming box/micro-console, aimed to compete with the likes of the Amazon Fire TV stick and Ouya.
It works well enough for the most part, but the PSTV also has its game library limited by Sony. Unless you perform a whitelist mod on yours (which I’d recommend), only certain Vita games are even playable on the PSTV. This was done by Sony as some Vita games are just a pain to play on it.
Some Vita games insisted on having touch controls in them – even where they weren’t necessary – and the PSTV uses either a PS3 or PS4 controller as an input method. As such, in order to mimic touch gestures, you have to push in and move around the thumbsticks.
But even then, though it’s a pain to do this, it’s still doable. Sony also hasn’t updated their own whitelist in a long while, even though I personally feel the whitelist itself was a bit pointless, Vita Buying Guide or not.
I think it’s no surprise that the PSTV was marked down to as low as $25 at Walmart within a year, and was discontinued shortly thereafter.
The Vita’s library was incredibly solid, though. This especially so goes for fans of RPGs, visual novels, and odder indie games. I know a lot of folks bought a PSTV solely to play Persona 4 Golden on their TVs. Personally, I bought one just to play Ys: Memories of Celceta.
There’s a ton of wonderful games on here though. Psychaedelica of the Black Butterfly, 99 Vidas, Gravity Rush, Touch My Katamari, and even the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection are all fantastic games that made the Vita well worth owning. Indeed, they’re all still a blast to play on the Vita today, particularly on the launch model with its gorgeous OLED screen. Plus, the addition of PlayStation 1 Classics from the PSN store shows that its potential as a great emulation machine, too!
However, much like with the PlayStation 3, many of the games that defined the Vita have since gotten updated ports and re-releases on platforms such as the PlayStation 4, Steam, and Nintendo Switch. I think it’s only a matter of time before they start appearing on the PlayStation 5 as well.
But, the Vita does have some neat features that are well worth exploring. It has remote play functionality with both the PS3 and PS4 (but oddly not the PS5), meaning that you can stream your console PlayStation games to your system! It’s not stable enough to be used on the go, but if someone’s using your TV and you in another room, this can definitely be useful!
Yeah, that’s a bit of a specific situation. It’s certainly no Nintendo Switch, and even then, remote play can also be done via the PlayStation App on smart devices and computers nowadays as well.
On the topic of the Nintendo Switch, though, Vita homebrew fans have made Switch-like docks for the Vita. While the Switch has bigger screens than the Vita and those nifty detachable Joy-Con controllers, the Vita is just more comfortable to me. Plus, the collector deep inside me still likes having it around for the sake of playing exclusive indies!
There’s also a whole world of Vita modding out there, which includes third-party adapters that let you use Micro SD cards as memory cards. Of course, my experiences with this are almost non-existent but just know it’s there and very prominent. Just know that through modding all things are possible, so jot that down.
The PS Vita is most certainly not for everyone. There are some incredible games, but many of the heavy hitters are now available on more easily available platforms. Stores such as GameStop are clearing out all their Vita stuff, and new systems and physical games aren’t even being made anymore.
But the PS Vita is still sleek. Comfortable. Stylish. My OLED Vita was bought for only $100 USD, and at that price, I think it’s well worth at least looking into. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend a Vita over a Switch, if you’re a collector, modding enthusiast, or fan of indie games, then there is absolutely a lot to love here!
The PS Vita lived a rough life. But, despite what many may say, it’s still around and kicking.