PlayStation Vita: First Impressions / by Allison James

I've already done one of these for Nintendo 3DS the day it came out in UK, so I think it's only fair I do one for Sony's newest handheld, since I got it today :)I've always been a Sony fan, ever since I first got the PlayStation. I've generally enjoyed its franchises the most, even though I wish more of them would carry through generations. Well, with their original developers, at least. (Hi, Skylanders, how're you doing?) I was huge on Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Ape Escape in the 90s, the Jak and Daxters, Ratchet and Clanks, Sly Raccoons and the GTAs on PS2 (back when the GTAs had at least a year of PS exclusivity!), and I've also loved PS3's continuation of Ratchet and Clank (bar All 4 One - bleh), as well as its Uncharted series - one of the big reasons I put down the Vita preorder so easily.So, before I even turned it on, the first thing I noticed was how damn shiny the thing is. Pictures of shiny devices never seem to illustrate just how so they are - Vita's press screenshots all made it look matte black. The entire device is shiny, even the rear touchpad! Second thing I noticed was the size of the device - it's like a PSP, but bigger. Maybe a slightly thin version of the original Gameboy, to compare it to something. I wouldn't call it a huge inconvenience with its size, though I never find myself needing to put such a thing in a small pocket, so it's no bother to me.It came with a selection of goodies. The pre-order bonuses are lovely, a good quality set of earphones in a metallic blue colour that are snug in the ears, and a little voucher code for £5 off one of four Vita games (Super Stardust Delta for me, following previously-planned-to-get Little Deviants' much higher price and average reviews), as well as some stuff like Frobisher Says and a few items for PlayStation Home. It also comes with a set of six Augmented Reality cards - a completely original idea that nobody has totally done before. (less sarcastic: the Nintendo 3DS came with a set of Augmented Reality cards...)Anyway, plugging it into the mains and turning it on brought up a flashy FMV sequence. I pretty much ignored it, thinking that if I could delete it from the system, I could probably use that space for game saves. Sadly, doesn't seem like this is possible. I was then chucked into some basic detail filling-in, and the ability to sign into my PSN/SEN account. Next, into the menu. Seems usable - very iOS - though I wish it could be navigated with buttons. When there are buttons on a device, I naturally tend not to want to smear fingerprints over the screen. I'm not entirely sure why they couldn't just evolve the XMB a bit more for Vita, though. I love the XMB! By the way, yes, the 5 inch OLED screen is absolutely beautiful. Vibrant, clear, high-ish resolution.I went into the Welcome Park but swiftly left it since it's just a big tutorial. For anyone used to touch and accelerometer based gaming on any mobile device or 3DS, you probably wouldn't need it. I did return to it eventually - it's a set of little games that are fun to try (with associated trophies!), but even though they save your fastest times, it's unlikely you'll revisit the app except to demo it to others. I had Uncharted: Golden Abyss sitting there, I wanted that, not swiping numbers in sequence!So yeah, straight into Uncharted: GA. I've not played a vast amount of it, but from what I can tell, it's Uncharted alright! The gameplay (and graphics!) are nigh on identical to the PS3 series, and therefore it's a bloody good fun game. The touch screen stuff seems relatively unobtrusive too, which was pleasant since it was my biggest fear of the game. Ignoring the option to use touch screen gestures for most of the main gameplay (no.), the only two mandatory uses I've encountered so far are for melee attacking enemies to death (swipes in prompted directions) and reloading the gun (just tapping on its icon on screen). I'm looking forward to getting properly into this game! I've also ordered ModNation Racers: Road Trip, as well as buying Motorstorm RC and Super Stardust Delta off the Store, though I've not got into those yet.I've given the AR stuff a quick go. They're pretty good, and certainly not complain-worthy given they're free with the system. All that rattled through my mind as I played them, though, was "3DS! 3DS!!!". Vita's AR seems slightly more accurate than the 3DS', though it's still not going to put you in a trance thinking "holy crap, there's an [x] that's just jumped out of my table!". Associated - I've not tried the cameras of the device, but I got a preview during the AR stuff since it streams the video from the camera as part of the gameplay. Verdict: okay. Certainly better than 3DS' camera, but no better than any good smartphone cameras out there.Other smaller points. The music played during the background of the menu is pretty annoying, though can be muted. The dual analogue sticks are very, very welcome, and certainly superior to the PSP's singular nub. I do wish they'd click in though - there's something satisfying about clicking an analogue stick in. The buttons of the device seem adequately placed and feel fine to use while playing games - I certainly had no issues and felt no discomfort during Uncharted: GA. While large, the unit is pretty light. Not cheap light, just nice light. I've not used it for anything but its Welcome Park tutorial, but the rear touchpad is responsive. However, it's awkward to judge where you're poking. I'm hoping most games that use it use it mainly for gestures rather than precision touching. And I love its incorporation of Trophies, as well as the fact that Trophies, Friends etc are synced flawlessly with PS3.In all, I'm pleased with the device. There were no inherent/immediate points that I found awkward. I feel like the Vita will mostly be for games, though - so I think the first impressions won't be the best impressions I get. There are at least 5-10 games I still want to buy for the system, and that's only its launch line up (3DS comparatively had zero games I genuinely wanted at its launch - really!).I've learnt from the 3DS not to dwell on first impressions though. With the 3DS first impressions, I was really happy with it. Then I stopped using it. Then Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land came out, and I played both to death and fell in love with the device. Now, it's dormant again!But the Vita is a PS3 but portable. And I goddamn love my PS3. What more is there to say?!