With Christmas and Black Friday fast approaching, it's time for our annual console buyer's guides packed with useful advice, cheap console bundle deals and the best games bargains for the hottest software.
The PS Vita is a premium handheld with incredible specifications and a deceptively deep games library. Despite having an unfair reputation for providing few AAA exclusives, Sony's portable offers some of the best handheld games ever made, on par with home console titles, alongside a thriving g indie scene, excellent localised Japanese games and a back catalogue spanning the PSOne and PSP. Not to mention nifty remote play functionality when twinned with a PlayStation 4.
Put simply it's a must-own device for gaming connoisseurs. In this guide we'll discuss the hardware, software and then the cheapest way to get up and running.
PS Vita Bundle Deals!
PS Vita bundle deals are fairly thin on the ground, but a few spring to mind. The first is the Slim console with an 8GB memory card and the 5-game adventure pack which includes some absolutely astounding games. Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush, TxK, Tearaway and Escape Plan can all be yours for £149.99 from GAME, saving you £5 versus Grainger Games.
Speaking of Grainger Games, they also happen to still be in stock with the 10 game Mega Pack Bundle, which will set you back only £154.99 compared to Amazon's silly £229.
Otherwise you can't go wrong with the action Mega Pack, which will cost you £159.99 pretty much everywhere (including Amazon if you want to try Flubit). I did say it was thin on the ground! It's likely that Sony and retailers want to prioritise the newly-released PS Vita TV, which we haven't yet tested comprehensively enough to recommend one way or the other.
PS Vita: The Basics
The PlayStation Vita is a premium handheld capable of running the most advanced handheld titles ever created. Two thumsticks allow for more genres to be supported, while a host of input methods including touchscreen, rear trackpad, front/rear cameras, gyroscope and microphone spoils developers rotten. It's a serious piece of kit. Here's the full hardware review.
However, it's also available in two versions. The original Vita shipped with a gorgeous OLED screen that made for a jaw-droppingly vibrant and crisp graphical experience, but this model was discontinued and replaced by a cheaper LCD-equipped version. The PCH-2003 -- "PS Vita Slim" to its mates -- is lighter, smaller, more comfortable and cheaper, though the screen is inferior despite still being of excellent quality.
Simple yet powerful firmware offers a robust online store, snappy internet explorer, Skype and other functions, alongside customisable themes and layouts. Sadly the massive cost of developing nigh-AAA games versus the Vita's small install base was too expensive for Sony to offer very many, but you'll find an eclectic and quite superb range of games from myriad genres. From Final Fantasy VII to Final Fantasy X HD, from Killzone Mercenary to LittleBigPlanet, from Lone Survivor to Danganronpa, you'll rarely see such an amazingly varied handheld ecosystem, even if the 3DS still delivers the goods more comprehensively.
Unfortunately, there's a problem...
Memory Cards & Extras
The Vita is an excellent console for downloading games onto, especially considering weekly deals and PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection freebies.
- Click here to buy a year of PlayStation Plus for £34.90 from CD Keys >>
- Click here to buy £25 PSN Credit for £21.90 at CDKeys (like on Facebook for extra discount) >>
Unfortunately there's a catch, in that Sony idiotically tried to push a proprietary memory card format that costs a bomb and makes securing a decent amount of storage an absolute mission. Your best bet is to get at least an 8GB card included with your first bundle purchase, potentially as part of a Mega Pack, then try to source a 32GB or 64GB card from a third-party retailer, eBayer or dodgy Hong Kong outlet. Perhaps just the first two.
- Click here to buy a 64GB Vita memory card for £56.60 on eBay (best-price-game, 99.5% feedback) >>
As a matter of course, I'd suggesting picking up one or more of the Mega Pack download bundles. One of the cheapest is the Sports and Racing Mega Pack, which includes eight download games for as little as £7.99.
Otherwise the PS Vita is chock-full of great games, even if many of them are what you'd call 'niche' genres. Here's just a sample of the best and most recent games on the system.
Tales Of Hearts R
"Tales Of Hearts R is a fantastic handheld RPG and one of the most impressive remakes of recent years. Expect a top-quality JRPG experience from start to finish, even if it's a touch familiar in parts." - 8/10 review
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
"Macabre yet playful, disturbing yet uplifting, thought-provoking and intensely compelling, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a masterpiece of storytelling and characterisation. So long as you're prepared for a visual novel as opposed to a full-blooded adventure game, it's a truly essential purchase, and a Vita exclusive you'll savour over two dozen rewarding hours."- 9/10 review
Spoiler alert, this will almost certainly be my favourite game of 2014 come end-of-year article season!
"Tearaway presents a charming and sumptuously beautiful adventure that begs to be played with, prodded, poked and tilted. Though there's scope for future games to make more of Tearaway's clever ideas, an irrepressible sense of fun and budget price point seal the deal.
A Christmas cracker for the Vita that shows off both the system's power and potential for its lesser-used input methods." - 8/10 review
- Click here to buy Tearaway for £13.99 from GAME >>
- Click here to buy Tearaway for £8.85 (like new) from Boomerang >>
"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." - review
Killzone Mercenary is so good that I subconsciously and unfairly compared it to home console shooters, not portable games, when writing the review. I can admit that now. To be honest, though my criticisms remain the same, I'd now score it an 8/10.
I'd also suggest looking at the wealth of great games from last year and on PSN, including Demon Gaze, LittleBigPlanet, Lone Survivor, Frozen Synapse Prime, Final Fantasy X HD and more!
Make sure to keep an eye on the latest console bundle deals, Vita deals and cheap game deals on the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Stay tuned for our 3DS and Vita buyer's guides throughout the week!