Nevertheless, despite an apparent lack of interest, Mini Gamers was determined to get to grips with, what could potentially be a very interesting piece of gaming technology. So, what's so good about the PS Vita?
The PS Vita is definitely a lot thinner and lighter than its predecessor, with a sleek finish on the outside. We immediately notice several new additions to the usual PSP-type design. Small, round silver power and volume buttons at the top of the console, add to the stylish feel of the console, and a lit up 'Home' button, featuring the Playstation logo is found on the left hand side.
Furthermore, the usual UMD-slot has now been replaced by a nifty cartridge slot. However, unlike the 3DS, whose cartridge slot is open and easily accessible, the PSV's new slot is covered (a bit like a mobile phone's charge slot) and proved quite tricky when we eventually placed our first game cartridge into it. However, after a bit of practice, we were fine.
The initial menu screen seems a lot sharper and brighter than ever before, and features many items which were not available on the PSP. Many of these new features (such as 'Near' and 'Party') are to do with the concept of multiplayer and social online interactions, which is also a heavily-promoted feature in many of the PSV's software titles.
PS Vita Home Screen: LiveArea
The main screen of the PS Vita interface is called: Live Area. From this menu, players can interact in online social forums, check the progress of any current downloads and access games and game information.
The best thing about this area is that it is entirely controlled via touch. For example, to select a game, players only need to tap on any icon with their fingers. To close an open Live Area application, simply peel the displayed 'page' away from the screen. This is both stylishly accomplished and very futuristic.
Our first introduction to the new features of the PSV were via the console's Welcome Park, this interactive tutorial proved very useful in showing us all the varied touchscreen or tilt aspects of the new console, and also gave us an opportunity to earn some interesting trophies.
For those of you who haven't got a PS3 console at home, the concept of trophies will be brand new to you. Basically, for every game that you play on the PSV, you will be awarded certain trophies for different achievements. For example, in Everybody's Golf, you can unlock a trophy by simply competing in the Daily International Tournament just once.
This gives added incentive to play PSV games, furthermore, the details of your latest Trophies can then be shared with your fellow PSV gamers via the 'Near' social interaction application if you wish.
When the Nintendo 3DS first came bundled with its own set of Augmented Reality Cards, we were totally bowled over by the sheer quality of them, that was until we managed to have a look at Sony's PS Vita collection of wide-angled AR Cards.
Although the cards are quite plain in appearence and certainly less colourful then the yellow and black 3DS cards, they can be used with standard PS Vita games such as Reality Fighters (see screenshot above) and also come with its own set of AR Mini Games, which can be downloaded for FREE from the PSN Store.
The first set of PS Vita AR games are Table Football, Cliff Diving and Fireworks, which is not actually an AR game in and of itself, but can utilise the AR technology to create stunning real-life backdrops for the virtual firework displays.
Sony also intends to create more free AR software for PSV users in the future. This brilliant Youtube trailer shows the range of AR Mini Games which should become available over the next few months:
Our next stop was to check out some PS Vita goodies from the PSN store. Here we also noticed that Sony's promise to have EVERY PS Vita core title available for download was being fulfilled. Every launch title was definitely available for download, as well as some PSN exclusive PS Vita titles like Escape Plan, which was available for download at the stunning price of £9.99!
Nevertheless, Mini Gamers wanted to really test the PS Vita's downloading prowess, so we opted to download a couple of films instead. Normally this would have taken around two hours on a standard
PSP console, so we were pleasantly surprised that it only took around twenty minutes on the PS Vita!
The best thing about the PS Vita's downloading process though, was that we could check the progress of the download in the main LiveArea, but were able to continue playing our new games and exploring the console while the download was taking place. This was never possible on the original PSP console as was a really refreshing aspect of the new handheld.
Mini Gamers will be looking at some of games available for the PS Vita more closely in the coming days, so we won't dwell on any specifics here, but we do feel the need to mention how sharp and clear the graphics were in the games which we tried. The games appeared to be of Home Console quality rather than that of a mere handheld.
Furthermore, some of the finely-tuned Vita only controls really led to some quality gameplay, such as the ability to trace a pathway for Nathan Drake with our fingers in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but that's another story...
The debate over whether the PS Vita is a good or bad console continues, but our first impressions of the device is that it is both gaming-centred and socially-orientated meaning that it creates its own exclusive community where people can now play their favourite handheld games not in isolation, or with a sparse collection of friends, but together, through a solid worldwide network, online.
The PSV has a lot of good aspects to it, such as a touch screen interface, sharp, quality graphics, fast downloads and multimedia functionality, which are all fantastic qualities for such a tiny handheld to possess, but which are somewhat shared by other handhelds (3DS) and gaming tablets (iPad 3) in the current entertainment market, which may help explain why the PS Vita has not yet managed to achieve dominance in this field.
However, the PSV has been able to offer some great gaming titles during its initial launch, and this has also been enhanced by a fully-working download service and Internet Browser, which was something that the Nintendo 3DS was unable to do for several months after its initial launch.
All in all, the PS Vita is most definitely a next-generation handheld, and it offers a range of fun and interactive ways for PSP fans to play the latest range of top-quality Sony games, without needing to fork out for an expensive PS3 console. This handheld definitely deserves some respect. Overall rating: 10/10.