Remote Play. The second analogue stick. Digital backwards compatibility with PSP and PS1 games. These are some of the Vita’s standout features and, rightfully so, are frequently praised whenever the relevant topic comes up. However, the Vita is also home to numerous features that don’t get praised as much but, in my opinion, are just as deserving, which I will be looking at today.
The first is its incredible battery saving. If a smartphone, 3DS, Switch or any other portable device is left in standby for a week or more, chances are it will have low or no battery when you return to it, meaning you have to turn it off completely if you plan on going on a hiatus. The Vita, however, is different. Through technological wizardry that even Stephen Hawking probably didn’t understand, the Vita is able to hold its charge in standby mode for weeks at a time, and there’s been many a time where I’ve returned to my Vita a month after I forgot to turn it off fully, only to find it has almost the same battery level as I left it. It’s something that remains almost unrivalled today, which is an astronomical feat that deserves more recognition and widespread implementation.
Another feature is its multi tasking ability. The Vita is able to do many things at once, including listening to music while playing a game, suspending a game to browse the Internet, have a game, the photo app and the PlayStation Store open at once and more. This may seem like a bemusing inclusion given smartphones can do that very thing, but in the world of video games, its multi tasking abilities is a standout of the industry. Looking at Nintendo’s offerings, the 3DS (released the same year as the Vita) has limited multi tasking capabilities, and even the later Switch doesn’t feature as many multitasking options or, with cases like downloading in the background, can still struggle from time to time.
Moreover, you don’t even need to compare to rival brands; although the PS4 has solid multi tasking, parts of it feel inferior to the Vita’s offerings. For example, if I am playing a game on PS4 and want to follow a guide with the console’s built in browser, the browser needs to reload the webpage every time I go back into it. In contrast, the Vita perfectly suspends the page and immediately brings it up when jumping between game and browser. It’s a luxury that means you can keep your attention on your console rather than having to micromanage the console and your phone. The Xbox One is probably the only console that rivals the Vita in this area currently, which says a lot for the Vita given it 1) released a few years before, 2) is a portable device rather than a home console, 3) wasn’t designed specifically as an “all in one” system, unlike the Xbox One that was originally intended as being as much a gaming console as a DVD or music player (hence Xbox “One”, referring to its all in one intention).
Another underappreciated feature is its digital manuals. In previous generations, part of the fun of buying a game was reading the manual, as they often included fun world building, amusing jokes and were generally a joyous supplement to the main course. They have largely been neglected this generation, however the Vita has kept them alive. Almost every game comes with a manual that you can read on the Vita’s home screen at any time as long as the game is installed. While most of the Vita’s manuals are admittedly rather barebones, the PSP and PS1 manuals are usually packed with enjoyable messages from the developers, intriguing insights and more. Being able to glance at these whenever you’re out but don’t feel like playing a game is a neat novelty, and something that only enriches your love of your favourite games.
Lastly, the Vita has brilliant multimedia abilities. Beyond games, the Vita can play digital versions of movies, TV shows, any mp4 videos on the browser (including YouTube), music and more. Again, this may seem inconsequential in a world of smartphones, but the luxury of being able to switch between all of these formats in one place is a superb trait, especially given the portable element. This is exemplified on the original model, because it has a beautiful OLED screen that makes viewing media on a joy and, arguably, an improvement over most smartphones that have less vivid screens like LEDs.
Overall, the Vita is packed with features that give players something extra to do beyond button mashing and screen poking. It’s a definitive entertainment product as much as it is an elite gaming device, despite Sony only ever promoting the console as the latter (well, arguably they didn’t even do that, but I digress). Some of these features I didn’t even know of until years later (like the instruction manuals), which shows how much time and love was put into this fantastic system.
What are your favourite Vita features? Are there any other underappreciated ones you think I should have mentioned, like pressing the PlayStation button and Start to take a screenshot? Let me know in the comments or via my Twitter profile @JoshsJots. Make sure to follow me there so you don’t miss my weekly Vita uploads; you can read previous ones here.