Towards the end of its life, the PSP was often overlooked and outshined, mostly because people stopped having reasons to care about it. Even in this last year there has been some solid games released for it, but you hard pressed to find someone that actually played them. From the start, the system had problems that both gamers and developers had trouble overcoming, and it caused a portable with potential to fall to the wayside. The PlayStation Vita fixes just about every single one of those problems.
From a hardware standpoint, it's an impressive device, being able to run intense games seamlessly, and have processor power leftover to run background applications. The screen is gorgeous, and while it may take some time to adjust to touch controls, they ultimately work well in the end. The dual analog sticks feel good, and hold so much promise for the system that they might be the Vita's most important hardware feature. Even the back touch screen begins to makes sense, when used in the right context. If you can get past the fact that it is a little bit bigger than the PSP, and it probably won't fit comfortably in your pocket, it's a great device if you plan on serious gaming away from your PS3.
On the software front, the launch line-up is really solid, and should offer something for fans of every genre, from action fans to puzzle lovers. Looking forward to the horizon there are some even more impressive titles lined up for the system, that could round out a library that might even make console gamers jealous.
The portable's biggest problems are in its neglect of an installed fan base. Forcing PSP owners to repurchase their UMD-based games if they want to play them on the shiny new system is a bit of a kick to the people that have been supportive for the last seven years. If you step outside of the backwards compatibility issue, the device delivers on almost every level. Sure, a longer-lasting battery would be nice, but you can say that about any portable device. The Vita's other shortcomings only come in Sony's stodgy ways; requiring the purchase of a proprietary memory card to play retail or the use of a proprietary USB cord both stink of Sony trying to cash in on a hungry audience.
That being said, the device is still pricey, costing gamers $250 for the WiFi model, or $299 for the 3G enabled one. That's a steep investment, but the quality hardware and firm software offerings could rationalize the purchase if you have the cash. If not, you might want to start putting some money aside to pick up one down the road.
Overall, the Vita feels like it was crafted to be an extension of the PlayStation 3 (and probably the PlayStation 4 eventually), and with such a robust offering, on both the hardware and software front, it actually feels like it succeeds. If Sony continues to put a lot of support behind the device, it really could have the potential to finally give its more established competitors a run for their money.
Note: The unit we tested was the 3G model, but no sim card was provided to test 3G gaming via AT&T's network.
Keep checking back to MTV Multiplayer as we'll be keeping you updated with PS Vita news, reviews, and coverage right up through launch on the 22nd, and beyond.