PS Vita: High end handheld gaming but strictly for the hardcore

Alright, okay. Calm down! Chillax! What’s all the hubbub about this bloomin’ PS Vita thing then? Well, with on-the-go gaming now done primarily on the good ol’ smart phone device, many other great tech and gadget websites have been arguing that it’s a little bit silly to be producing a brand new hand-held console in the rather sultry shape of the PS Vita. Indeed, first reviews have split opinion right down the middle.

PS-Vita
Image courtesy of iFixit.com

What do we think? We all know (yeah, that’s you as well…) that in this…. wait for it… poor economic climate (sorry… the phrase was necessary) that people (even avid gamers) don’t have as much time as they might usually, or as much money to spend… yeah, so money’s the main problem. Anyway, with that in mind, it begs the perfectly valid question: “Is a device that costs over £200 really going to make a difference and entice people part with their cherished pennies?” The answer, quite honestly is… maybe.

At first glance, this thing looks a lot like the PSP and the operating menu is a bit like the Wii (nice and clean with lots of room for manoeuvre) – don’t worry though, because the Vita is in fact, a lot bigger than the former, which in the gaming world is good… because it makes things a lot easier in terms of both readability, and playability…. you already knew that.

The reason why the PSP is worth bringing up here though, is because the Vita actually showcases the evolution of Sony’s very first hand-held baby – as such, it deals with a lot of the problems that were evident within that. This upgrade (kinda like the Robert Patrick’s T-1000 robot to Arnie’s The Terminator) is not so easy to damage – it has a strong reinforced shell which makes it much more durable and comfortable to play on the go.

Not enough for you? You’d like some other wonderful qualities? Since you asked, the Vita features the awesome double header of the PS3’s Dualshock controller which will lead to some delightful motion-sensor-related action, alongside a very credible attempt to recreate the dual analogue sticks, which though smaller (obviously), do most certainly help to reduce the desire that the PSP had to kill your thumbs. That is always a good thing, yeah? We really like our thumbs here at LG.

Another positive thing about the Vita is its diversity. It has the ability to stray into smartphone and tablet territory; there’s a wide multi-touch front screen (a teeny weeny bit larger, but equally as responsive as the trusty iPhone), and it’s got rear and front VGA (640 x 480 pixels) cameras that seem to work very nicely; a favourite feature for many people who will actually use them to full potential for in-game usage and photo manipulation.

One of the best options of course, has to be the Near GPS location service (pretty nifty) – it’s a multi-layered tool for locating other gamers as well as allowing the user to access a variety of movies, music and picture files that can easily be imported from home. Nice work. Did we mention the charming five-inch OLED display (which is particularly awesome), oh, oh also the four hours of quality battery life and audio (best experienced via headphones). No? Well, they’re treats that you are more than deserving of, dear readers.

The numerous game titles can either be bought in old’s cool (old school…) boxes or, in the deceptively… erm flashy new PS Vita flash-card format (which, before we slag it off, you can rather handily save games on), or downloaded from the PlayStation Network to an annoyingly tiny PS Vita memory card (’bout the size of your phone’s sim). The very unfortunate thing (which a number of other reviews have noted) is that both of these cards need to be attached through some of the most challenging access points that you are likely to find within the gaming world… collective sad face.

Some other quite negative points to take into account before we finish, are the fact that for one, there’s no storage internally, and even more astonishingly, the largest memory card available at launch will be 16GB at a cost of £45 – might be a tad too much, eh?. Also, each game that you play has to be terminated in order to start another… that’s a definite downer, but it could be worse , at least you won’t have loads of games running at once and clogging up your precious memory… nobody likes that. right?

In summary, the PS Vita is expensive, but with 25 games confirmed for the launch (including Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048) it’s set to keep avid games busy for a good long while, and (perhaps) establish itself as an innovative new cross-media platform.

The Vita is going to be available from February 22 at £230 for Wi-Fi-only, and £280 for 3G model.

Nintendo 3DS: Review round up and hands-on

Nintendo-3DS

The 3DS, successor to Nintendo’s uber-popular DS handheld console, has been much anticipated and long awaited among bloggers, gamers and tech obsessives everywhere. Finally, at the E3 conference last week, a few lucky journalists were able to get up close and personal with the device.

Almost as soon as the 3DS been unveiled by Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata, the blogosphere was awash with seemingly universal praise for the gadget. Keith Stuart at the Guardian was certainly impressed: “It works beautifully,” he gushed. “Nintendo is almost certain to have used an off-the-shelf lenticular screen technology, already seen in several mobile phones and laptops… Rich colours, a robust 3D experience and some intriguing games, this was my moment of the E3 experience so far.”

The Telegraph were quick to highlight the device’s impressive capabilities, (although Nintendo have yet to confirm the actual specifications): “Improving the hardware specifications of Nintendo’s best-selling DS handheld, the new 3DS gets improved graphics, a slide pad controller for more intuitive control and an internal gyroscope and motion sensor – like Apple’s iPhone. A slider at the side of the device lets users choose the intensity of the 3D display, from an extreme ‘in your face’ experience to a more subtle effect.”

The graphics were an obvious point of interest for many bloggers. Nintendo has long hinted that the gadget would boast crystal clear 3D graphics, without the need those silly 3D glasses, but have they managed to deliver? Wired thinks so, hailing the device as “unbelievable”. Chris Kohler wrote on their website: “It never feels like it’s straining your eyes and you don’t get any of that ghosting (when you can see a faint double image) you sometimes see at the movies. It’s was certainly the cleanest, clearest 3D we saw on the show floor, better than any of the 3D Sony Bravia sets we played PS3 games on.”

The picture-perfect graphics will also make gameplay much more satisfying, according to Mike Jackson at Techradar.com: “[The 3D graphics] made it easier to make acute judgments in the games. Flying through hoops or under bridges felt easier to accomplish just because you’re armed with depth perception like in real life.”

Amid the near-constant stream of kudos however, Michael Sawh at T3 noted a potential flaw: “The one slight let-down of 3DS is that nothing actually ‘jumps out’ of the screen in your direct vision. This is much more about what’s going on in the background.”

Suffice to say he wasn’t too disappointed though, as he then went on to claim: “Nintendo may have just created the most important piece of entertainment technology in decades.”

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long out to discover if this is true, but with no official release date (although a pre-Christmas roll-out seems likely) and no details on price (rumours range from £125 to £300), we’ll just have to twiddle our thumbs and be patient.

Nintendo 3DS Hands on (by Shem Pennant)

Nintendo were kind enough to invite Latest Gadgets to a top secret location in London town to have a hands on play with a prototype of their hot new handheld the 3DS.

Unfortunately they didn’t have a fully working unit, so no one was able to fully confirm any hardware specifications, release dates or prices. It was more an opportunity for us to hold units, watch units and go wow.

Hands on with Nintendo 3DS

Fortunately there is a lot to be wowed by. The glasses-free 3D works well with the 3DS screen and can adjusted (or switched off completely) by a little slider on the side – which may or may not be there in the finished model.

There are two cameras in the back that enable you to take 3D images. Whilst I wasn’t blown away by the quality of the images I took, it was a fun little feature and I’m sure if you are snapping something a little more interesting than a room filled with surly technology journalists you could probably get some decent images.

There was also a trailer for a 3D movie which you could play back on the device (although how you got them on there in the first place was “unconfirmed”.

I saw unplayable 3D demos for Kid Icarus, Mario Kart and Metal Gear Solid, all of which looked pretty impressive – the 3D seemed to benefit Mario Kart the most. There was also a playable demo for Nintendogs which showed off some of the 3DS’s face recognition abilities. As I moved the unit to my face a small puppy ran at me and licked my cheek. Tilting my head left or right caused the puppy to mimic my actions. All pretty kawaiii.

In addition, there were some playable demos of Wii titles on display. Kirby’s Epic Yarn was a cute looking platform game, where everything was made from wool and Metroid: Other M had an immersive soundtrack and storyline. There was some sort of dancing game, where lots of Nintendo staff were happily bopping to Vampire Weekend but I quickly ran past to get to Goldeneye, which was a remake of the N64 classic (Pistols, Complex, License to Kill = ultimate test of skill) – right down to the ability to play OddJob and annoy your opponents.

Unfortunately, everything was TBA (Soon, we’ll rid the world of T.B.A.!) but hopefully should be out in stores later in the year.