After being blown away by Persona 3 FES and Persona 4: Arena, I was absolutely eager to play Persona 4: Golden. I was so eager, in fact, that I caved and went out and obtained one of the neat Assassin’s Creed Liberation Vita bundles – just to play Golden. After playing said game for nearly 150 hours, I feel like my purchase was for the most part justified. However, after examining and getting to know the Vita, I notice several missing features and functions that would make the handheld – in my opinion – much better.
These are mostly minor nuisances and probably aren’t game changing if you’d planned on picking up a Vita yourself, but I honestly believe Sony could address them to make the console much stronger.
I’ll list these issues in order of relevance.
Compatibility with PlayStation 2 Classics
The Vita has been emerging as something of a platform for ports and enhanced remakes. Furthering this reputation is Persona 4: Golden – the best reviewed game for the platform – as well as forthcoming titles like Final Fantasy X HD, Muramasa Rebirth, Malicious Rebirth, and the numerous Plus re-releases. I don’t have a huge problem with this (though I definitely wouldn’t object to more brilliant original titles for the console), but the Vita’s library and functionality would be inherently magnified if it was compatible with the PlayStation 2 Classics.
The Vita isn’t quite a portable PlayStation 3, but PS2 Classics compatibility would essentially make it a portable PlayStation 2, which would be formidable. This would give players the ability to discover dozens of PlayStation 2 games that they either already love or have always wanted to try. It would be amazing to play Persona 3 FES – which is ultimately the game that pushed me to get a Vita – while on the go (although Persona 3 does have a portable PSP entry).
I also never got to try Odin Sphere or GrimGrimoire, and I be even further compelled to download them if they could help fill out my Vita’s slim library. The console can run the PlayStation One Classics, so hopefully compatibility with PS2 Classics isn’t out of the question.
I understand that the Vita is a gaming device and is not tablet. I get that. But with a front camera, a rear camera and two touch screens, the device has at least as much functionality as a tablet. It is also more expensive than some tablets. So where are my apps? Other than Near, the Welcome Park, and the other rather unexciting group of apps that come preinstalled on the console, there aren’t any cool free apps available for the Vita.
I’m not asking for apps just for the sake of having apps – I mean again, this is a gaming device and not a tablet. But it seems so strange to me that the app selection for the console is so poor when the hardware is apparently so strong and so well suited to them. The Vita has the potential to run apps that could improve and expand the overall experience of playing games on the console. The Nintendo 3DS comes preinstalled with a very cool Activity Log application that automatically keeps track of every game or app you play and for how long.
Not to mention it counts the number of steps you take, keeps track of this data as the years go by and much more. A similar feature is missing on the Vita and a cool free app for it could and should be released. The Skype, Twitter and Facebook apps are great but they’ll only go so far. Sony could generate more overall interest in the Vita – and further satisfy those who’ve already purchased one – if there was more support in the way experience enhancing apps.
Universal Custom Soundtracks
This is something that the PlayStation 3 never really could get under control and something that the Xbox 360 executes without a hiccup. It’s also not really a big deal to some players and very important to other players; I’d be one of the latter players. I enjoy playing games – especially action and fighting games – while listening to my favorite Japanese electropop tunes. This was only possible in certain PS3 games (with Sony pushing the responsibility for the feature onto developers) and it seems like the Vita is going the same route.
If you’ll already have the device doubling as a music player, why shouldn’t you be able to listen to a custom soundtrack while playing games on it? If you play a song in the Vita’s music player and then start a game, the song will pause immediately and it will only resume once you’ve closed the game software. This is a major shortcoming if you ask me. If an update doesn’t add universal custom soundtrack support to the console, it will probably wind up becoming a feature exclusive to certain games once again. Is this kind of multitasking really too intensive for what is technically the strongest new handheld game console?
I would probably never use my Vita for listening to music alone (it’s rather large and oblong compared to my iPod), so if I can’t listen to it while playing my favorite portable games, I’d have no reason to put music on the console at all, which is pretty sad and something of a waste.
Customizable Menus and Dynamic Themes
This is a much smaller issue than any mentioned above, but still an issue nonetheless. The Vita has a lovely little OLED screen and the presentation of the home menus is nice initially, but it gets boring fast. Really fast. Unfortunately, there are no dynamic themes available for the console and the appearance of the home menus isn’t very customizable. You can change the background image, but this only allows for so much differentiation.
The PS3 has dynamic themes which change the appearance of the entire navigation interface and sounds and feature constant motion. I quickly tired of the big thick circles that make up the navigation interface on the Vita and at this point I absolutely hate seeing them, but unfortunately I can’t change or customize them in any way. It seems weird for Sony to introduce players to the custom themes on the PS3 and then not include them on their newest handheld. You can even create dynamic themes for the PS3 and download themes created by others to use.
This fun customization is nowhere to be found on the Vita, and while it isn’t a huge deal, you definitely miss it.
We could also discuss the Vita’s relatively modest software library or the astoundingly expensive memory cards and other accessories, but those are more major issues. I should also at least mention the way the console only allows linking to a single PSN account, but I think I can understand the reasons for that limitation. Again, these complaints can be considered minor and I certainly don’t think they’ll make or break anyone’s decision to invest in the console, but I personally would get much more enjoyment out of the Vita if it offered these features.
Fortunately, these are all software related issues, and we can be hopeful that Sony may add some of or all of these features at some point in the future.