published Friday, February 17th, 2012

Sony Vita puts gaming console experience in your hands

Sony Vita puts the console experience in your hands.
Sony Vita puts the console experience in your hands.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

FULL LAUNCH

Almost 30 titles will be available for the Vita when it launches Wednesday. Here’s a rundown of what will be available and when:

FEB. 15

• “Asphalt: Injection” (Everyone)

• “BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend” (Teen)

• “Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational” (Everyone)

• “Little Deviants” (Everyone)

• “Lumines Electronic Symphony” (Everyone)

• “ModNation Racers Roadtrip” (Everyone)

• “Rayman Origins” (Everyone)

• “Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3” (Teen)

• “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” (Teen)

• “Wipeout 2048” (Everyone)

FEB. 22

• “EA Sports FIFA Soccer” (Everyone)

• “Ridge Racer” (Everyone)

• “Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen” (Mature)

• “Army Corps of Hell” (Mature)

• “Ben 10 Galactic Racing” (Everyone)

• “Dungeon Hunter Alliance” (Teen)

• “Dynasty Warriors: Next” (Teen)

• “Escape Plan” (Rating pending, downloadable)

• “F1 2011” (Everyone)

• “Hustle Kingating pending, downloadable)

• “Michael Jackson The Experience” (Everyone)

• “StarDrone Extreme” (Rating pending, downloadable)

• “Super Stardust Delta” (Rating pending, downloadable)

• “Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack” (Rating pending, downloadable)

• “Touch My Katamari” (Everyone)

• “Virtua Tennis 4” (Everyone)


SPECIFICATIONS

• Screen: 16:9 ratio 5-inch OLED touchscreen.

• Resolution: 960x544 (220 pixels per inch).

• Processor: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore.

• Video processor: Quad-core SGX543MP4+.

• System memory: 512 megabytes (128 megabytes of video ram).

• Storage: 4-32 gigabytes via memory cards.

• Connectivity: Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and 3G (on select model).

• Sensors: Three-axis accelerometer, three-axis gyroscope and three-axis electronic compass.

• Input devices: Capacitive rear touchpad, two analog thumbsticks, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons and four-way directional buttons.

• Camera: Front- and rear-facing, 0.3 megapixels each.

• Battery life: Approximately five hours.


MEMORY CARDS

The PlayStation Vita has no built-in storage. Saved games and downloadable content must be stored in flash memory cards, sold separately from the system except in limited-edition launch bundles. Capacities available at launch include 4 gigabytes ($20), 8 gigabytes ($30), 16 gigabytes ($60) and 32 gigabytes ($100).

With the North American launch of the PlayStation Vita next week, gamers will have nearly the full power of a home gaming console in their hands for the first time in decades.

The Vita is Sony’s second-generation portable game system, following the company’s first entry into the handheld market in 2005 with the PlayStation Portable. Gamers in Japan have had access to the Vita since its launch there on Dec. 17.

The launch of the Vita represents Sony’s continued commitment to competing in the handheld gaming market, an arena dominated by Nintendo for almost 15 years before the PSP.

With a screen that could display four colors — all shades of green — and only two buttons, the original Game Boy might not seem like an inspiring piece of technology to modern gamers. By 1989 standards, however, the device was a revolution, offering the first mainstream means of playing video games on the go and securing Nintendo’s long-term lock on the market.

Despite occasional challengers such as the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear, the Game Boy and its successor, the Game Boy Color, dominated for years, selling a combined 118 million units worldwide by the time the Color was discontinued in 1999, according to Nintendo sales figures.

Before the PSP, no other device offered Nintendo any serious competition. Aiming to attract gamers with technological superiority, Sony loaded up the PSP with multimedia capabilities, online connectivity, a larger screen and faster processor than its primary competitors, the Nintendo DS, released in 2004.

Despite having more powerful hardware, the PSP was criticized for having a weak game library, using noisy disc-based storage media and having only one analog stick. The latter was a sticking point for fans of first-person shooter games and other action titles, both of which are popular in Western markets, where the PSP performed consistently poorly compared to in its native Japan.

By the time Sony announced the Vita last February, the company had released three redesigned versions of the PSP that each reduced the system’s weight and added additional features. In the case of the 2009 PSP Go, the company removed the use of physical storage entirely in favor of an all-digital content system.

In spite of its shortcomings, Sony sales figures show the PSP and PSP Go sold a combined 71 milllion units as of last September. Although less than half the 151 million DS units Nintendo reports as having sold by December, the PSP’s performance was good enough to warrant a follow-up, and Sony paid attention to its critics.

With two analog sticks, flash memory-card storage and a launch lineup of almost 30 titles, including new entries to flagship Sony franchises such as “Wipeout” and “Uncharted,” the Vita addresses many of the criticisms leveled at the PSP.

The device faces stiff competition from mobile phone gaming and Nintendo’s newest handheld, the 3DS, which was introduced March 27, 2011, and is outpacing even the DS. However, Sony officials remain confident the Vita’s processing power, which is almost equivalent to a PlayStation 3, dual touch panels and strong launch library will sway handheld gamers.

“We do believe this is the best handheld device ever created,” said John Koller, senior director of PlayStation handheld consoles for Sony Computer Entertainment of America, in a promotional video released Feb. 9.

“We’re very, very excited about what PlayStation Vita is, what’s coming and what kind of gaming content is possible,” Koller added. “I think we’ll see some things we’ve never seen before in handheld gaming, and that’s real cause for excitement for a lot of our core gamers.”

APPS

The PlayStation Vita comes with a variety of already installed applications that allow users to remain connected with friends, expand their content library and access multimedia.

• Browser: View websites using the Vita’s native browser with full HTML5 support.

• Chat: Share texts or photoh up to three other users.

• Friends: View a list of favorited users you have connected with on the PlayStation Network and their recent gaming activities.

• Music/Photos/Videos: Browse your multimedia library via these separate folders as well as access the Vita’s two cameras.

• Near: Check in to real-life locations and share or discover unlockable content with other Vita users near you via always-on connectivity.

• Party: Voice and text-chat with up to eight users on the go in real time and instantly connect to their game sessions.

• PlayStation Store: Buy digital copies of PSP or Vita games and rent or purchase movies.

• Remote play: Register and pair your Vita with your home PS3 to access and view content stored on the console.

• Trophies: View achievements you’ve unlocked in PlayStation 3 and Vita titles, and compare your progress to those of your friends.

• Welcome Park: Minigames and tutorials help teach various ways to interact and use features of the Vita.

• Note: Additional apps will be available to download at or near launch, including PlayStation Vita versions of Netflix, Skype and social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and FlickR.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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