Sony's new handheld launches later this month

The Sony Playstation Vita will be available in the country on February 22 (unless there's a ‘situation' of some sort), incredibly, on same day as the United States and Europe. Gamers in Japan and some parts of Asia, however, have already logged several million hours of game time on Sony's new handheld, with the device having been launched in mid-December. No doubt Sony fanboys across the country are already planning a camp-out near their retailer of choice on the night of February 21, hoping to be the first to get their hands on this shiny new toy, but with a base retail price of Rs.19,990 (the same as a 320GB PS3), the Vita does feel just a little pricey. It remains to be seen whether a core gaming device such as this can stack up against casual gaming alternatives such as smartphones and tablets which are similarly priced. While the Vita has the potential to woo core gamers with its cutting-edge hardware, powerful launch titles and features such as PS3 interconnectivity and cloud saving, is it a viable alternative for someone in the market for a multimedia device that does a ‘little' bit of gaming?
The Vita has quite a few things going for it when it comes to its hardware. Playstation owners will feel at home with the button design, positioning of dual analog sticks, shoulder buttons as well as ‘start' and ‘select' buttons. After the shock exclusion of dual analog sticks in the PSP Go, their inclusion is sure to please gamers everywhere. The icing on the cake, of course, is the front 5-inch OLED multi-touch capacitive touchscreen and rear touchpad, both of which are sure to be put to good use, at least in first-party titles, and one can only hope that the technology is more appealing to third-parties than Sixaxis. Other bells and whistles include front and rear cameras, three-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, various connectivity options, a 4-core processor and 256MB of dedicated VRAM. The only downsides include lack of video output (which means you can't hook it up to your brand new 40” Bravia LED), proprietary storage (which means you will end up paying absurd sums of money to store your downloaded games), and unimpressive battery life (3-5 hours depending on level of use) which is understandable given the hardware it is powering. While one might expect a dedicated portable gaming device to clock more hours on the go, it is worth considering that an iPhone 4S running a resource-heavy game (by its own standards, not by Vita's) will give you similar battery life. Sold yet?
The on-board software, however, is a mixed bag. For the first time since the PSX, Sony has abandoned the XcrossMediaBar in favour of a touchscreen interface, which at first glance seems more logical given the hardware specifications, while the Vita's browser at launch will not support HTML5 or Flash. The line-up of launch titles in India, on the other hand, is pretty menacing, with the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, F1 2011, FIFA Football, Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7, Mortal Kombat, Rayman Origins, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour and Wipeout 2048 all geared up for release. Most of these games (like the hardware itself) are in the same price range as PS3 and X360 games, while more inexpensive games (such as minis and PSOne Classics) can be bought online at the Playstation Store. The Vita will also support digital versions of PSP games that were purchased online.
The Vita makes no qualms about the fact that it's a core gaming device targeted at core gamers, and as a result, isn't a likely alternative to portable media devices such as smartphones and tablets. The software is sure to be priced on a par with console games while the hardware itself is expensive, but it remains to be seen whether those factors will prove a deterrent when the launch line-up looks this good.

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