The Sony PS Vita

A few days ago, I came across one of those flyers from Sharaf DG lying around at home (promos starting February 23rd). I have no idea where it came from, probably in some newspaper. Anyways, I turned the pages, looking at what they had on offer: laptops, phones, tablets, TVs, an ultrabook, few printers etc… Then I turned to the video games page and something caught my eye…

They were selling the Sony PS (PlayStation) Vita, the latest handheld gaming device out at the moment (specs here)! Given the date they set for the offers, they started selling the Vita just a day after its launch in Europe. Sharaf DG currently have 4 options available:

  1. BD119.900 – The WiFi version of the PS Vita with nothing extra.
  2. BD138 – The WiFi version of the PS Vita with a 4GB memory card plus a game.
  3. BD156.900 – The 3G/WiFi version of the PS Vita with nothing extra.
  4. BD180 – The 3G/WiFi version of the PS Vita with an 8GB memory card plus a game.

They also have some extended warranty programs if you think you might break your Vita on its 2nd year :-P! They may seem cheaper online, but given these are the first batches of Vitas, you don't want to send your faulty console back to Amazon if it is DOA.

I decided to treat myself, I have been wanting to get a super Android tablet, but they are still not selling it here (the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime). The PS Vita was the opportunity cost at that moment. I opted for option 4. Note that you do not get to choose the game! You get the Vita's box, a game on it and the memory card packaging, all shrink wrapped in plastic. The game that you get is Little Deviants, an AR (Augmented Reality) game with arcade-ish gameplay. Little Deviants interacts through the world around you (AR), the front touch screen AND the back touch pad which gives you a feel of the Vita's full gaming capabilities.

After unpacking the beast (4 cores CPU + 4 cores GPU!!!), I noticed that it seems like the ones they are selling are not just European versions but EU destined for selling in the Middle East since one of the quick start guides is in Arabic. They also include a bunch of weird looking cards that are used to play AR games you can download for free from the PSN (now Sony Entertainment Network: SEN). I followed the quick start guide and within minutes had a Vita that was online both through 3G and WiFi. However, I had to update the firmware before being able to access my PSN account (for some reason I had to log in as a trial PSN user in order to get the update). Most of the interactions you will end up doing will be through the touch screen interface.

Once the Vita was up and running, I decided to get a few demos downloading. The AR games that you can download for free are OK to start with although I can see them getting boring and even tedious to play over time (remember the cards? You have to keep them in range of the camera constantly). Little Deviants looks childish to play if you are used to shooting, slashing and killing in your games, but hey it was included. The best demo I have tried at the moment is Unit 13 (launching in March). I did enjoy remote controlling my PS3 and even managed to stream a movie from my PC to the PS3 onwards to the Vita :-P!

Inevitably, I ended up buying a $50 (which costs more than $50…) PSN card online in order to buy Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Seems like no one is selling the games yet in Bahrain (the guy at Sharaf told me they are coming in a month, that's what they said about the Transformer Prime a few months ago…), but if you have a credit card it will be much cheaper and easier to download them than carry a bunch of memory sticks (unless you are low on memory).

Is the PS Vita worth it? Right now, not really given the limited range of games currently in the Bahraini market (and God knows what price they will charge!!!!). But it is worth it if you enjoy its other features (as a portable media player for example) and prefer getting the games from PSN directly.

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