The PlayStation Vita - Sony's quad-core power portable, the true successor to the PSP, and a fearsome rival to the Nintendo 3DS - launches on February 22nd. Yep, tomorrow.
If you're planning on getting your mitts on the new system, you might want to check out our how to get the cheapest PS Vita feature.
Done? Okay, then let us be your guide to the world of Vita.
This feature will tell you everything you need to know about the new portable, and detail every launch game. That way, you'll be ready for the world of Vita.
The essential questions
Is the Vita backwards compatible?
Sort of. There's (currently) no way to get your PSP UMDs running on the system, but most of the PSP games that you can download from the PlayStation Store will work.
The PSone classics you've downloaded are sadly not compatible at launch, though you can get some very select PSone games from the PlayStation Suite (the store that's open to Vita customers and owners of PlayStation-certified Android phones).
Most PSP Mini games will be playable on the Vita, by the way.
How do PSP games play on the Vita?
Early reports suggest that they play surprisingly well. PSP games that used the little stick-on camera now work with the console's embedded snapper. You can also turn on Bilinear Filtering to make the game look all smooth and sultry on that big old screen.
For PSP games that used the face buttons as a camera - like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Syphon Filter - you can actually swap them out for the right analogue stick. It will give those stodgy hard-to-aim games a new lease of life.
Is the Vita region free?
Yes! You can import games from Japan and play them on your European Vita. But, you can only have one account activated at a time, and online passes - those codes that some games use to give you access to online play - are region restricted.
Do I need a PS3 to download digital games?
Nope, there's a PlayStation Store on the device itself where you can grab downloadable games. But, if you prefer, you can download stuff to the PS3 and then transfer it across - using a USB cable - to get it onto the handheld.
Do I need a memory card?
Yes, absolutely. There are a few games that can save directly onto a memory card, but a lot of games, plus the Photos app, require a memory card. They come in 4, 8, and 16GB versions, and they are hideously expensive.
What's the point of the 3G version?
For a little extra cash (and a few bob to your network operator each month), you'll get the ability to use all the online interaction - including Near, online multiplayer, and Twitter - without needing a wi-fi hotspot.
You can use any 3G SIM card from any UK operator in the Vita, though Sony is pushing you to use Vodafone. As such, the 3G model ships with a blank Vodafone SIM card in the box, and topping up £5 on that SIM nets you a free copy of WipEout 2048.
You don't actually need 3G for anything, so far. Once you're in a wi-fi hotspot, you can connect to the web and use all those nifty online features. Even Near works without 3G, though you'll be relying on wi-fi triangulation, which isn't very fast or accurate.
The Vita has a knockout launch line-up, including a huge selection of heavy hitters. There's a brand-new Uncharted game, a whole new WipEout game, and fresh IPs from Square Enix and Zipper.
Here's the complete line-up of games that will be available in shops and on the PlayStation Store on February 22nd. You'll also find a link to the online store that's selling it for the best price we could find, and, of course, our reviews.
By Bigbig Studios - Best price: £17.99 at Amazon
A zany mini-game collection that aims to show off all the gadgets and gizmos embedded in the Vita: from the augmented reality-capable camera to the touch-sensitive rear panel.
We gave it 6/10, saying, "There's no better game to demonstrate the cool new ways to interact with the Vita, but Little Deviants's long-lasting appeal is minimal, relying on too few gameplay ideas over too long a period of time."
By Novarama - Best price: £17.99 at Amazon
A one-on-one brawler that uses the Vita's camera to put you, your mate, or your mum into the game. We didn't like it much, giving it a lowly 6/10 in our review.
Peter "Wordsmith" Willington said the game "isn't particularly rewarding and it's a bit shallow, though it's a novel release and a showpiece for the possibilities of integrating cameras into traditional forms of play."
By Namco Bandai - Best price: £14.95 at The Hut
The latest drift-heavy racer from Namco - and available at a mercifully budget price. Along with wi-fi for online play, it uses Near to swap ghosts (which mimic your best laps) with nearby players.
We gave it a Bronze medal in our review, calling it "the champ among arcade racers, and a living breathing classic. Its wild speed and crazy powerslides are as enjoyable as ever".
Our only issue is a dearth of actual content. A slim collection of cars and an embarrasing three tracks are all you get to choose from.
By Studio Liverpool - Best price: £26.99 at Choices UK
Chronologically, this anti-gravity racer takes place long before the rest of the series, and demonstrates how the high-octane sport kicked off in the first place.
We gave it 8//10, saying "Some minor multiplayer issues and overly long load times do little to change the fact that WipEout is back in the palm of your hand, and it's better than ever."
By Zipper Interaction - Best price: £27.97 at Choolshop
Feisty third-person shooting from the creators of SOCOM.
There's a complete single-player campaign to play through, though it comes alive online: be it in online co-op, when swapping scores over Near, or downloading the latest daily challenge.
Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen
By Namco Bandai - Best price: 24.95 at The Hut
Some kind of stealthy ninja game. It's apparently set six months after the events of Shinobido: Way of the Ninja, but I've never heard of that game either. Was it any good?
There's some cool uses of the Vita functionality in this title, mind. The Near feature lets you boost your inventory by receiving items from other players. You can also tap the rear touch panel to automatically zip the camera towards an enemy who has spotted you.
By Clap Hanz - Best price: £27.95 at The Hut
A cutesy golf game that hides a surprisingly deep sports sim beneath a layer of colour, charm, and anime-like characters. When you're online, you can engage in fast-paced live tournaments, or go turn-based and take your shot when the time suits you.
We gave it a whopping 9/10 and a shiny gold medal. "A superb golf game that's extremely easy to pick up yet as deep and complex as any 'serious' game," we said.
ModNation Racers: Road Trip
By Sony San Diego - Best price: £27.95 at Zavvi
A DIY racer where you build your own tracks, cars, and characters. Once you're online, you'll find a huge collection of hand-made levels to download and race on.
We weren't particularly impressed with this one, and slapped a stinky old 5/10 on it. "ModNation Racers on the Vita is a boring, unfair, and wholly unnecessary release," we said. We don't mince our words.
We quite liked it on PSP, however, but this Vita version "manages to be worse than its previous handheld outing despite the Vita's technical superiority over the PSP".
Dungeon Hunter Alliance
By Gameloft - Best price: £23.98 at Cool Shop
Diablo by any other name.
Dungeon Hunter is a hack 'n' slash dungeon-crawler with loot and spells and classes and skeletons. The "Alliance" bit of the name refers to taking the game online and pottering about in dingy monster-filled crypts with three other pals.
Michael Jackson: The Experience
By Ubisoft - Best price: £17.99 at Amazon
The "Experience" being: tapping and swiping and fingering the screen while Michael does a little jig. There's plenty of cool stuff to unlock if you're a Smooth enough Criminal (sorry), including magic gloves that give you super powers. Not even making it up.
We haven't played it yet on Vita, but we liked it on iPad. In our 7/10 review, we said, "A slick port of a proven formula. Michael Jackson fans, of which there are many, will find much to enjoy."
Army Corps of Hell
By Square Enix - Best price: £19.95 at The Hut
Square Enix's Vita debut is like a cross between Pikmin and Overlord. You might be the King of Hell, but with your powers sapped, you'll have to rely on helpful army of goblins to stand a chance in battle.
To command your 100-strong battalion, you can make gestures on the rear touchpad. You can also team up with friends to take on bosses together.
We gave it a 6/10. Our reasoning: "At times, Army Corps of Hell is an adrenaline rush of swift tactical fighting. It's also, however, incredibly repetitive and far too drawn out." Oof.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
By Sony Bend Studio - Best price: £34.95 at The Hut
400 years ago, a Spanish expedition was massacred in the heart of Central America. So, it's up to affable half-tuck hero Nathan Drake (and some companions) to head into the jungle, climb around some old ruins, shoot some baddies, and nick all the leftover loot.
We gave it a generous 9/10 in our review of the Japanese version. "A triple-A title that you can carry in your pocket," we said. "Mobile gaming doesn't get any better than this," we stated, while being rather hyperbolic.
By Electronic Arts - Best price: £34.95 at Zavvi
More footy fun from EA.
This time, you can use the Vita's touchscreen to pass, defend, save, and boot the ball - though you might find it easier just to use the physical controls. FIFA Football ships with everything you'd expect: an online head-to-head mode, a full career to waltz through, and real-world players.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
By Capcom - Best price: £29.99 at Amazon
A barmy fighter that pits Phoenix Wright against Ghost Rider. Or Viewtiful Joe against The Hulk. If you're new to the fighting scene, you can perform special moves with basic touchscreen swipes rather than endless streams of button taps.
Here's the best bit: any DLC you've bought on PS3 will also work on the Vita edition. Henshin a go-go, baby.
We lobbed a 7/10 review at the game. "Whether you're a combo master or a button-masher, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has got you covered," our Japanese correspondent Alan Purvis said.
By Sumo Digital - Best price: £24.95 at Zavvi
Realistic racer F1 2011 contains all the cars and blokes and tracks and stuff from the real world of F1. That includes Lewis Hamilton, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, and Monaco.
The game also features multiplayer races and co-op, where you go through the career as a pair.
By Ubisoft - Best price: £23.98 at Coolshop
A bouncy, buoyant, and elasticated love letter to the glory days of platformers. Limbless hero Rayman bounds through 60-odd levels that are packed with secrets and challenges to bring peace to the Glade of Dreams.
There's even some Near functionality to swap odds and ends with other players.
In our hands-on with the game, we said, "Controls are tight, and guiding Rayman through the environment feels immediately natural," and "The sumptuous cartoon visuals of the console version are rendered exquisitely by the PS Vita's OLED screen, creating a painted glass effect that's truly a sight to behold."
By Gameloft - Best price: £17.99 at Amazon
Gameloft decided that it should release its Ridge Racer clone at a higher price than the actual Ridge Racer, and that's just really funny.
Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition
By Sega - Best price: £24.85
Tennis! The sport with the ball and the bat and Tim Henman. You know the one. On Vita, you get touchscreen controls, online play, and the ability to import your own face into the game via the camera.
We produced the following noises when we went hands-on with Virtua Tennis. "Virtua Tennis: World Tour Edition is shaping up to be an attractive and versatile addition to the handheld's impressive list of launch titles."
We also made a "keep your eye on the ball" joke, but the writer has been fired and killed, so it's okay.
Lumines Electronic Symphony
By Q Entertainment - Best price: £22.97 at Coolshop
Funky block-dropping puzzle action from Q.
The best bit of this game is its cracking soundtrack, which is filled to bursting with electronica greats.
"Q Entertainment has gathered together an imposing group of artists to supply the playlist, with the likes of Aphex Twin, Amon Tobin, The Chemical Brothers, and LCD Soundsystem all bringing a song to the party."
Touch My Katamari
By Namco Bandai Games - Best price: £19.95 at The Hut
Once again, step into the pint-size shoes of the Prince and roll up a bunch of stuff for the King of All Cosmos. The right analogue stick will actually make it vaguely playable this time around - something the godawful PSP game isn't.
In our import review, we gave it a 7/10. We said, "Touch My Katamari is a great little timewaster. All of the fun and craziness of the series, coupled with the best controls the game has seen."
"If you've never played a Katamari game, there isn't a better place to start than right here," were our official words on the subject.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend
By Arc System Works - Best price: £29.95 at Amazon
A frantic fighter with gorgeous 2D visuals. It's packed with content, including all the DLC from the PS3 version, right there on the little plastic cartridge.
If you're new to the game, this Vita edition includes the original Calamity Trigger story, so you can play the epic saga right from the beginning. If, on the other hand, you're a veteran, you can leap online and show everyone what you've got.
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