Initial impressions of the PlayStation Vita handheld gaming console

PS VitaPlayStation and I have had our ups and downs in the past year, but somehow I’ve managed to move past the whole account hacking, contested charges, and banning of my beloved PSN account. I recently picked up the new PlayStation Vita, and so far I am impressed.

For starters, the variety of new input methods seems to work well. The most obvious improvement over the PSP is the inclusion of a second thumb stick, making it possible to play console-quality games on the handheld. This was the #1 feature which held back the PSP, and the Vita knocks it out of the park. Not only does the unit feature a second thumb stick, but both thumb sticks feel like that found on the Dual Shock 3 controller, rather than the sliding disc found on the PSP. This alone improves analog input so much that it can’t really even be compared to the PSP.

As if adding a second thumb stick wasn’t enough, Sony added a high-quality OLED touchscreen, which I must say looks exquisite and reacts accurately to the commands of the user’s fingers. If you’ve used a high-end smartphone in the last year or two, you’ll feel right at home using the Vita’s touchscreen.

Another set of important additions are the front and rear cameras, along with a built-in microphone. This not only makes online gaming and voice chat possible without a headset, but the possibility for video and audio-based apps are almost endless. Apps such as Skype will be much more enjoyable than it was on the PSP, that’s for sure. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before we start to see apps taking advantage of these features.

Just to add some gravy to the mashed potatoes, Sony also added a touchpad to the back of the device, allowing users to tap, swipe, and draw with their fingers, without ever obscuring their view of the beautiful screen. While it feels like the least precise input method the Vita has to offer, I can only imagine the value it could add to gaming.

The questions I’ve yet to answer are: How will the multitude of input methods affect the quality of gameplay? Will it make playing certain games feel like a chore? Will gamers be able to deactivate the rear touchpad if it is not to their liking? Will Nintendo release yet another version of the DS which offers the same inputs, plus 3D? Hopefully in the next week or so, I’ll be able to answer some of these questions.