The PlayStation Vita is a pocket powerhouse, a device capable of replicating the home console games you know and love while out and about, boasting graphics you'd scarcely believe on a gorgeous OLED screen. Though Sony have failed to match the wealth of games available on 3DS, the Vita does offer some seriously impressive big hitters - while staunch indie support and compatibility with downloaded PSOne and PSP games provide a surprisingly strong back catalogue even for niche connoisseurs.
The Vita also offers a massive range of input methods, from a capacitive touchscreen to a rear-mounted trackpad, cameras and gyroscope... though in practice the second thumbstick is by far its most important feature. In addition, a handful of useful apps make it a surprisingly practical piece of kit, while its voice chat functionality is PS4-ready.
Now that UK retailers have decided to drop the price down to eminently affordable levels, there's rarely been a better time to pick one up. But when it comes to navigating the cheapest Vita prices, its two models, memory cards and essential games, there's a lot to consider. Luckily we've got you covered with a buyer's guide that's got the basics locked down.
Models & Memory Cards
Unlike the 3DS Family, the Vita is available in two versions in the UK, both of which are identical save for one notable difference. The cheaper Wi-Fi version is only capable of connecting to the internet and PlayStation Network via a Wi-Fi network, whereas you can pay for a 3G data contract on the 3G version. Erm, somewhat obviously. We're covering all bases here.
Personally, I'd strongly advise against buying the 3G version unless you can get it at a significant discount. It's a gimmick that's practically useless for online gaming, leaving its functionality extremely basic and not worth the additional cost of a contract. Don't bother.
Regardless of what model you choose, do be aware that the Vita's battery life is fairly limited and unsuitable for very long journeys, though perfectly suited for commutes and road trips. Here's the full hardware review.
Storage is a bit of a concern, especially since you'll likely want to take advantage of the PSOne classics, downloadable deals and PlayStation Plus offers (more on those later). In an irritating move that still annoys us today, Sony manufacture their own proprietary memory cards that are significantly more expensive than SD cards, and worse, switching between them is an aggravating faff. Plus, saved data is actually stored on the memory card - not the game card. To this end, I'd strongly suggest starting out with at least 16GB of storage if you possibly can - 4GB is useless and 8GB will still fill up fast, requiring you to delete content more often than you'd like.
Sony's subscription-based premium service is a no-brainer if you own a PS3 and Vita - and will be mandatory to access PS4's online multiplayer. If you already own or plan on owning at least two out of the three systems, you're probably going to get some serious value out of PlayStation Plus, such as constantly-reshuffled free games to download and various weekly discounts.
Sony is currently running an offer that gives you a free month of PlayStation Plus if you register a new Vita. It's a neat way to try the service out, but beware the toll it will take on your available memory space and the fact that contentcan only be accessed for the duration of your subscription.
The best Vita deal around at the moment is ShopTo's 10 game bundle: the console, 10 games to download including some of the best titles on the system and an 16GB memory card for £149.98. It's currently "temporarily out of stock," but available to back order. Whether it will arrive in time for Christmas, though, is a gamble. [originally reported by borismoose @ HUKD]
ShopTo are also running a £159.98 Tearaway bundle, which is decent value, though was briefly available via Play.com's marketplace at an extra £20 discount.
As far as games are concerned, you should definitely think about investing in the 10-game mega pack - which is available separately from Base.com for £29.89.
We'll continue to update this section throughout the festive season.
We've provided links to our (still somewhat quirky) price comparison engine, the smartest bargains and our reviews where possible. If you've found a cheaper price, let us know!
"Tearaway presents a charming and sumptuously beautiful adventure that begs to be played with, prodded, poked and tilted. A Christmas cracker for the Vita that shows off both the system's power and potential for its lesser-used input methods." - 8/10
For my money, this is the best game on Vita - and one of the best handheld games ever released.
"LittleBigPlanet Vita is a triumph of handheld development, an unprecedented creative outlet that will remain relevant, varied and important throughout the console's lifespan. The campaign is great fun while it lasts, and once the community gets into full swing, it could literally become the last Vita game you'll ever need." - 9/10
Killzone Mercenary is so polished that I actually critiqued it against home console shooters as opposed to other handheld games. In fact, I feel I might've underrated this impressive FPS - I'd write exactly the same words again, but change the weighting slightly.
"Killzone: Mercenary sets a new benchmark for handheld first person shooters, but takes absolutely no creative risks in the process. Though derivative to a fault beyond a versatile upgrade system, its gameplay is solid enough to impress and shiny enough to drop jaws." - 7/10
Costs £24.97 from Gamestop, which will save you 2p vs Grainger Games and a fiver on everyone else.
"Persona 4: The Golden is about as close to perfection as we're likely to see. It's the definitive version of Persona 4, a packaged experience that somehow manages to exceed all of our expectations and, as such, might just be the best JRPG ever made." - 10/10
"A staggering achievement and THE game to buy with your PS Vita. Golden Abyss carries on the series’ tradition of excellent adventure games with all the familiar elements working fantastically on the new handheld. The list of collectibles will have you replaying it obsessively too. The Vita’s unique control features are used to fantastic effect and avoid feeling like forced gimmicks. The bar has been set incredibly high." - 10/10 (not sure if I agree with the 10, but it's still an excellent game)
Currently free for PlayStation Plus members, or £19.99 on Amazon. This will effectively come free with your Vita if you register it to get the bonus month of PS+.
"Dragon's Crown is the sort of game I've been waiting for since the Mega Drive. A compelling side-scrolling fantasy beat em' up, that works in multiplayer or solo and can be played for hours on end thanks to the RPG components and never-ending loot." - 9/10
Costs roughly £28 from Play-Asia.
"The cheapest of the Vita's launch titles turns out to be one of the most enjoyable. A fantastic retro-flavoured racer with some wonderfully futuristic elements,MotorStorm RC proves that the Vita can carry off sub-£5 games with aplomb, and points towards some very interesting cross-platform opportunities to come." - 9/10
Costs £4.79 on PSN, or free for PS Plus members. You'll unlock the game on both Vita and PS3.
Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark
"A gorgeous and full-fat revamp of Curve Studios' majestically brutal stealth platformer. Vita owners should waste no time in jumping on board with one of the best (and only) exclusives of the summer, while cross-buying PS3 players have no excuse not to start dying, swearing and dying some more." - 9/10
Costs £7.99 on PSN. You'll get a free PSN version too, with cloud save support.
Other Games To Consider:
- Soul Sacrifice | 7/10 (neat but occasionally frustrating. Loads of free DLC.)
- Gravity Rush | 9/10 (though it's fiercely mediocre in my opinion. At least it's also free on PS Plus)
- Frobisher Says | 7/10 (free: get it get it get it)
- Rayman Origins & Rayman Legends | 10/10 in both cases. These are a perfect fit for the platform, both in terms of visuals and gameplay.