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SALT LAKE CITY -- Few things get tech geeks and video game fans more excited than the launch of new video game systems.
On Feb, 22, 2012, Sony will be releasing the PlayStation Vita, or PS Vita as it's also called, in North America, and gamers are already asking themselves which model of PS Vita they should buy, which accessories are worth the extra cost, and which games look to be the most promising.
I've put together a guide to answer some of these questions, and to help people make the most out of their PS Vita launch experience.
3G-enabled, or WiFi only? Which PS Vita model is right for you?
The PS Vita will launch with two different models. Both models have the same 5" OLED qHD touch- sensitive screen, two analog control sticks, the same buttons, identical cameras, a rear touch-sensitive panel, equal media capabilities, tilt control, the same WiFi standards support, and the same access to expandable memory via memory cards. Where the two models differ is that one model has built-in 3G support for mobile data reception, while the other model is confined to WiFi networks for wireless communications. The 3G-enabled PS Vita will cost $299.99 at launch, but a separate data plan, available exclusively through AT&T, will be required for data services. The WiFi-only model will cost $249.99.
It's not 100 percent clear how useful the 3G capability will be for the PS Vita at this point, but the handheld will be capable of posting to social media sites, handling certain types of online play via 3G, and browsing the Internet.
Due to latency concerns, it's doubtful that the PS Vita will see many action-orientated games make use of 3G online multiplayer. For people carrying around a cellphone with a data plan, the 3G functionality may be somewhat redundant, but it's still a cool feature to have available.
For an extra $50, it's worth paying the price if you are worried that you'll miss out. Just remember, the fee for a 3G data plan from AT&T will cost $14.99 for 250MB or $25 for 2GB of data usage per month (contracts are month to month with no commitment).
The accessories you need
The PS Vita supports Sony's newest memory stick format, which is being called the PlayStation Vita Memory Card. It's not known if other Sony products will eventually use the standard, but it will be a required accessory to save your game progress, to store media for playback on the go, and to download new apps and games from Sony's online store. Some games actually require a memory card to even run, so keep that in mind. These memory cards range in price from $19.99 for the lowest capacity card (4GB) up to $99.99 for the highest (32GB).
If you're not interested in downloading games from the PlayStation Network or using the PS Vita as a media playback device, the 4GB card will be plenty of storage to handle your game saves and take a decent amount of music along with you. You really only need the higher capacity if you prefer to purchase your games digitally rather than from retail stores or if you're planning to use the PS Vita as a movie player.
As mentioned, the PS Vita has a 5" OLED touchscreen, but unlike the Nintendo 3DS, the hardware does not have a folding design. Ever since I saw the screen in person when I was first able to play the PS Vita at E3 last year, I knew that protecting that screen would be priority No. 1. And while the screen is made of durable plastic, you'll still want to protect it with sturdy carrying case to prevent unsightly scratches. There will be a variety of cases available, but you shouldn't expect to pay more than $5-$15 for a good one. With the system's reported 3-5 hour battery life, a case that allows you to bring the charger along would be a good idea as well.
The must-have games available on launch day
The PS Vita has an excellent lineup of games that will be available at launch. Here are the titles that I feel will be the best of the bunch:
- Little Deviants
- Uncharted: Golden Abyss
- WipEout 2048
- Lumines Electronic Symphony
- Rayman Origins
- Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
- Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational Also, upon launch, many titles that were available for Sony's first handheld system, the PlayStation Portable, will be available for download on the PlayStation Network. There are plenty of great games to choose from, should you feel like seeing what you may have missed out on if this is your first Sony handheld system.Is it necessary to pre-order?
When most new consoles and handhelds launch in the United States, they usually sell out and are hard to find for a few weeks or months. And while Sony has stated that they should have plenty of PS Vita handhelds to meet demand, a pre-order ensures that you won't be left driving from store to store to find one.
If you're sure you want to get a Vita on launch day, pre- ordering is not a bad idea. And if you're especially eager, Sony is offering a First Edition Bundle that will allow you to receive it a week ahead of the official launch date, but only the 3G-enabled model is available and it comes packed in with some additional accessories. The First Edition Bundle will cost $349.99 and is only available through Sony's official online stores.
Jeff Rivera is the owner and EIC to the independent video game news and reviews website, www.GamerTheory.com.