TSA’s Guide To The PlayStation Vita

On Wednesday in the UK, Europe and the US, Sony will release their long-awaited follow-up to the PSP – the PlayStation Vita. Because we’re awesome (and you know it) we’ve compiled a lengthy guide, with everything you might possibly want to know about the little portable that could.

So, what is this Vita thing everyone’s talking about?

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

PlayStation Vita is Sony’s next-generation handheld games device, combining pretty powerful specs with a whole barrel of new input methods.

What’s the deal with all the inputs?

Given the changing nature of mobile gaming since the launch of the PSP – largely down to the launch of the iPhone and App Store – Sony’s clearly realised they need to keep up. So, on top of the directional pad, analog sticks (there’s two now!), face and shoulder buttons, there are also two cameras (front and back), SIXAXIS motion sensors, an electronic compass, and two touch screens.

Woah, woah – two touch screens?

Well, one of them isn’t strictly a ‘screen’, more a ‘panel’. On the front, there’s a five-inch OLED multi-touch display running at 960×544 pixels. On the back is a pad covered in little PlayStation icons, which is also multi-touch capable. Whilst the back panel might sound like overkill, it’s worth checking out in person. It can be used for pushing items forward in 3D space (as in Escape Plan and LittleBigPlanet), but also as a substitute for the L2/R2/L3/R3 buttons that are missing in comparison to the Dual Shock.

I hear there are two models. What’s the difference?

Indeed there are: one model that has Wi-Fi connectivity only, and another that has both Wi-Fi and 3G. The obvious difference (apart from the £50 price difference) is that the 3G model includes an extra chip that not only has the 3G antenna, but also a GPS unit. So as well as being able to sign into the PSN wherever you like (rather than just wherever there’s a Wi-Fi connection), you can use the GPS to get a more accurate fix on your location than Skyhook’s hotspot database provides.

How does the 3G model work? Do you need a contract?

You don’t need a contract, no. If you buy the 3G Vita from anywhere except from Vodafone, you’ll just get the unit, with no subscription or SIM or anything. If you buy from Vodafone (who are the preferred provider for Vita 3G in the UK), you’ll also get a free 4GB memory card and a no-commitment pay-as-you-go SIM card – regular, not a Micro-SIM. If you then top up that SIM with £5 or more, you’ll be sent a code to get WipEout 2048 for free.

Correction: all 3G models come with the Vodafone SIM. You can use your own 3G SIM card if you prefer, of course.

A 3G SIM card from any UK operator will work in the Vita, so if you already have a SIM you want to swap in you can do so, but only Vodafone are providing the WipEout offer.

Are there any games that require the 3G model?

So far, only the Japan-only game Monster Radar and the downloadable game/app ‘[email protected]’ require the 3G unit, and that’s because they require the more specific location data that the GPS unit in the 3G model provides.

What’s under the hood?

There’s a four-core processor (ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore), 512MB of RAM and 128MB of VRAM (the PS3 has only 512MB of memory split between RAM and VRAM) and a four-core SHX643MP4+ graphics chip.

[drop]Hows the battery life?

The official word is about 3-5 hours of playing, 5 hours of videos and 9 hours of music.

Obviously the more apps you have running at once, the power required for those (Facebook won’t run your battery down as fast as Uncharted for example), and how much you’re using the network will all affect how long the battery will hold out.

Since the latest firmware update we’ve been getting consistently better battery life, too.

Okay, I want one. When can I get it?

Vita is out here in the UK (and in the EU, other PAL territories, and the US) on Wednesday 22nd February. It’s been out in Japan since December, and those who pre-ordered the US-only ‘First Edition’ package got it last week.

And how much is it gonna cost?

The official RRP for Vita in the UK is £229.99 for the Wi-Fi unit and £279.99 for the 3G and Wi-Fi version. It’s worth shopping around though: the Wi-Fi model is down to £210 on Amazon and ShopTo, and Asda are planning to sell it for £197 on launch day. Some retailers are also offering a pre-order pack of bonuses too ahead of launch, but you might want to double check – while HMV, Game, GameStation, ShopTo and more are, Amazon is not.

What ‘bonuses’ are we talking about exactly?

The pre-order pack incudes a pair of Vita-branded blue earphones, a Vita PSN avatar, some Vita-themed clothing items for Home, early access to WarioWare-style minigame collection Frobisher Says, and a £5 PSN voucher redeemable against Little Deviants, Super Stardust Delta, Hustle Kings or Escape Plan.

What else do I get in the box?

Not much to be honest: just a USB cable for connecting your PS3 or PC, a brief ‘getting started’ guide – the full manual is online – and the power supply and cable for charging from a wall socket. There’s also a set of cards designed for use with augmented reality (AR) games – Sony will be releasing a set for free on the Store shortly after launch.

Let’s talk software – what comes on the Vita itself?

The Vita runs a whole new operating system – so long XMB! – that presents games and apps as ‘bubbles’ which, when launched, will take you to a ‘LiveArea’ specific to that title. LiveAreas are auto-updated separately from the games themselves and can do anything from simply link you to websites and Store pages to displaying statistics and high-scores from inside the game itself. A further tap will launch the title.

Pre-installed on the Vita itself are a number of apps: Browser, Content Manager, Friends, Group Messaging, Maps (added in the most recent update), Music, Near, Party, Photos, Remote Play, PS Store, Settings, Trophies, Videos, and Welcome Park.

The Browser is basically what you expect – it’s not bare-bones basic, but there’s no Flash or Silverlight players, and HTML5 support is very sketchy. Content Manager is what you use to copy content between your Vita and your PS3, PC or Mac. Friends is quite simply your friends list, where you can add and remove friends, as well as viewing their profiles. Group Messaging is basically a text version of Party, and allows you to text chat with a number of friends simultaneously.

Maps is powered by Google Maps and offers a similar service to that on smartphones, allowing you to locate yourself and plan directions. Music is a simple audio player and can be used to play custom soundtracks in any game. Near is a location-based app (that works over Wi-Fi or using the 3G unit’s GPS) that will show you Vita users in your vicinity, allowing you to challenge them or add them as friends. You can also use Near to leave or pick up ‘game goods’ – bonus content that can be shared with others, whether something from a game’s soundtrack, a screenshot, or even something playable. Party allows you to set up a room with a group of friends, in which you can voice chat even across different games and apps.

Photos is where you take photos and videos using Vita’s cameras, and view taken, downloaded or imported images. Remote Play is just how you know it from PSP, albeit running at a higher resolution, and allows you to connect to your PS3 from afar. PS Store is where you’ll be able to purchase and download new games, apps and other content for your Vita. Settings is pretty self-explanatory.

The Trophies app allows you to view your trophies either overall or specifically for your Vita games, and compare with others. Videos allows you to play content taken with the Vita cameras or downloaded/copied over. Finally, Welcome Park is a collection of minigames that are designed to familiarise those new to Vita with all of its inputs – and it has free trophies!

There are also free apps for Facebook, Twitter (LiveTweet), Flickr, Foursquare, and Skype which should be available at or shortly after launch. Netflix and Music Unlimited apps are also on the way.

Can I run more than one app or game at once?

The Vita can support ‘running’ a maximum of six apps at once – apps are actually frozen when switched in and out of, but they keep their state as long as you’re still within that six – with some restrictions. If one game is open, you cannot launch another without closing the original. In addition, you cannot yet launch the browser without closing any open games you have. Should you launch another app with six already open, the Vita will automatically close the first in your stack.

That’s all well and good, but I’m buying for the games. What’s available at launch?

In terms of full retail games, there’s 23 confirmed for UK launch day, and you can read a bit about them all in Nofi’s launch lineup guide. They are (take a deep breath): Army Corps of Hell, Asphalt Injection, BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend, Dungeon Hunter Alliance, Dynasty Warriors Next, Everybody’s Golf, F1 2011, FIFA Football, Little Deviants, Lumines: Electric Symphony, Michael Jackson: The Experience HD, ModNation Racers: Road Trip, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, Rayman Origins, Reality Fighters, Ridge Racer, Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, Touch My Katamari, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition, and WipEout 2048. The games come at a number of price bands – £39.99, £29.99 and £19.99 at retail.

There’s also a number of PSN-only downloadable titles due on launch day (Escape Plan, Hustle Kings, MotorStorm RC, Super Stardust Delta, and Top Darts – prices here), and then a whole bunch of ‘launch window’ titles without specific dates: Plants vs. Zombies, Putty Squad, StarDrone, and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack on PSN; Silent Hill: Book of Memories and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz at retail.

And what about further down the line?

Following launch, we know a lot of games that are coming, just not when exactly they are. Ben 10 Galactic Racing, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7, and Unit 13 are scheduled for March; April has Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention; Mortal Kombat, Resistance: Burning Skies and Gravity Rush are due in May and the Madagascar 3 tie-in is down for June.

Beyond that, there’s Alien Spidy, Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, Sound Shapes and Urban Trials on PSN; Dust 514, LittleBigPlanet, Street Fighter X Tekken, Sumioni, and Warriors’ Lair (what you may know as Ruin) at retail. Vita versions of the Metal Gear Solid and Jak and Daxter Collections are confirmed, as are versions of the Final Fantasy X and Oddworld HD remakes. Also announced are entries in the Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, Call of Duty, and Killzone franchises.

Given Shuhei Yoshida’s recent comments that Sony plans to release “two or three [Vita games] monthly” combined with John Koller’s statement that “any big game in our ecosystem” would be coming to Vita, it’s a fair assumption to make that most of Sony’s big series (Infamous, SOCOM, EyePet, MotorStorm proper) will be making an appearance at some point or another.

How exactly do I get these games?

Sony’s plan is for every single Vita game, small- and large-scale, to be available on the PlayStation Store. A selection of those games will also be for sale at brick-and-mortar and online stores on proprietary ‘game cards’, with the download versions going up on the Store the same day the retail versions hit shops. For Sony releases at least, there will also be a small discount on the download version of these bigger titles over the retail RRPs.

Some of the retail ‘game cards’ will come with space for saves and even downloadable content to be stored on-card, but so far it seems like such cards will be in the minority. Most games will instead require a memory card to store patches, saves, and other contents. The majority of the games that save externally only use a megabyte or two, with the exception of Uncharted and FIFA, which require 64MB and 160MB respectively.

How big are the downloadable games?

The launch titles vary, with the average for a retail title sitting at about 1.5GB. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is by far the largest at 3.4GB, with Ridge Racer the smallest at around 600MB. The other launch titles (with known file sizes) work out as follows, largest to smallest: FIFA is 2.9GB, WipEout is 1.6GB, Dynasty Warriors and ModNation Racers are 1.5GB a piece, F1 2011 is 1.4GB, The Michael Jackson Experience is 1.3GB, Virtua Tennis and Everybody’s Golf are both 1.2GB, Little Deviants and Shinobido are almost exactly 1GB, MotorStorm is 750MB, Katamari is 700MB, Army Corps of Hell is 600MB, and Super Stardust Delta is 208MB.

Sounds like it could get expensive going download only – how much are memory sticks? Can I easily transfer games to and from the Vita?

There are four models of ‘PS Vita Memory Cards’ (as they are known), running in capacities of 4, 8, 16 and 32GB – although for some reason Sony isn’t offering the 32GB card in the EU at launch. The 4GB card goes for about £15, the 8GB card is about £25-30, and the 16GB is around £40. It’s worth noting that a number of retailers are offering free memory cards with Vita pre-orders and purchases – Amazon, for example, is giving away 8GB cards free with pre-orders.

Downloadable games on Vita work slightly differently on Vita to PS3 and PSP. Rather than storing the game, saves, and other data separately as before, they are bundled together as one package. This is both an advantage and disadvantage: if you patch a game, move it off to your PS3 and later return it to your Vita, you won’t need to bother updating it all over again; but if you delete a game straight from your Vita without backing it up, you’ll also lose your save. All content management is dealt with on the Vita itself, via the appropriately-named Content Management app. Whether you plug your Vita into a PS3, PC or Mac, you’ll be dealing with the same reasonably-simple interface to copy and move data to and from the device. You can also use the same app to completely back up your console if you’re planning to switch accounts, ready to restore afterwards.

[drop2]Will my downloaded PSP games play on Vita?

This one’s a bit confusing at the moment. It looks like the majority of downloadable, PSN-purchased games, are compatible with Vita – however, there are only a certain number of PSP titles actually up on the Vita Store itself. Instead, you’ll have to download your games on PS3, plug your Vita in, and copy the games over. There are also the odd games that don’t work at all as yet on Vita (it looks like Sony are working their way through the legacy titles and double-checking them before they post them up on the Vita Store, the current list being visible here) and the current closest thing to a list is over at NeoGAF. On the plus side, most of the biggest titles (GTA, LocoRoco and LittleBigPlanet for example) are compatible.

Is there any way of getting my UMD PSP games onto Vita?

Unfortunately not. At Japanese launch there was a registration program for UMDs that granted a small discount on download versions of that same title, but there is no similar scheme for the US or EU. Your best bet is probably to trade in any UMDs you have, redeem them against store credit, and purchase a PSN credit voucher – you might want to check that the game you’re trading in is actually available on the PlayStation Store first though, as not all PSP titles are.

What about my other PSN purchases – will they work?

Minis are in the same situation as PSP games in that the majority work, but only some are up on the Vita Store at the moment. It’s worth pointing out that certain Minis were deliberately stopped from working on PS3 (Tetris for example), so it’s entirely possible that some will be stopped from running on Vita too, although that’s currently unconfirmed.

PSone Classics are currently unplayable on Vita, but Sony have confirmed that they are working on fixing that – just that PSP legacy support was a higher priority. Downloadable PS2 titles (the recent, non-HD type) are also incompatible. However, downloadable NeoGeo titles are compatible.

Whilst PS3 games can’t be played on Vita (apart from selected titles through remote play), you might find that you’re entitled to a free download of the portable version – the PS3 version of MotorStorm RC comes with a free Vita one; if you’ve already bought Hustle Kings or Top Darts on PS3, you’ll be able to download the Vita version for free; and if you’ve bought WipEout HD and Fury on PS3, you’ll get free DLC packs containing that content for WipEout 2048.

So let’s talk PSN on Vita. What do I get?

There’s full access to the Store, your friends list, and – for the first time on a Sony portable – Trophies. There’s also cross-game voice chat, instant pop-up notifications when friends beat your scores in games, PS3-to-Vita messaging, and an activity stream that shows all your progress, trophies and interactions either for one game or across all of them.

Do PlayStation Plus members get anything?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything specific in terms of Vita content on Plus – likely down to the comparative lack of content as opposed to the offerings on PS3 and PSP. The official word from Sony: “There are no details to share on PlayStation Plus support at this time.” Shame.

[boxout]Anything else I need to know?

There’s little tips like the fact Vita will only continue downloading in the background if it goes to sleep itself, rather than if you turn it off, or that you can view a game’s activity feed by flicking up on the games LiveArea, but I like to think those sort of things come with the fun of exploring a new toy.

If you have any other questions about Vita, do post them in the comments and we (or someone from our esteemed community) will try our best to answer them. You can keep up with our Vita coverage over at the TSA Vita hub.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

56 Comments

  1. you can open the browser while playing a game theres awork around suspend the game open you twitter app select any link from your followers/followed and the web browser opens without closing the game you can then imput your own site in the bar and hey presto it works if a little slow though awesome!!!

  2. Thanks for this, really informative and answered a lot of questions that were on my mind. Looking forward to getting my hands on the Vita now.

  3. Great article, best Vita one ive read.

    With the idea of a combo deal for buying a game to work on both machines they could do something like this…

    PS2 HD collection games (Sly, GOW, Jak, MGS) are what? £20-£30 and new released games are about £40 to buy. so if they charge a extra tenner for it to be played on both machines, your getting the ability to play the game on the console and then carry on playing while taking a dump and they are getting a extra £10 from you.

  4. Yep, great article. Finally clarified the 3G deal for me!

    I’ve 100% decided now that I’m not going to pick one up at least until the 32GB card is available at a reasonable price, likely from a third party. Hopefully by then prices will have dropped a little for the console as well.

    I really want to go DL only on Vita, as I really liked it on my PSPgo. I’m happy to pay a couple quid more for a game if it means I don’t have to lug a cartidge holder everywhere with me.

  5. Interesting read! Definitely won’t be getting one, lol!

  6. Got mine a day early from amazon :D anyone unsure about picking one up, believe me, it’t worth it!

Comments are now closed for this post.