IRL: A look back at the original PlayStation Vita

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL: A look back at the original PlayStation Vita

For now, the new PlayStation Vita is available in Japan only, which leaves US gamers with a tough predicament: pay through the nose to import it, or settle for the old model. Even our own Mat Smith, who owns the original Vita, is finding it tough to recommend it over the 2013 edition. But oh, how he does miss that OLED screen.

While wrapping up my review of Sony's new Vita, it was also a good time to reassess the original. It's heavy, thick and the battery life stinks -- most of which we mentioned in our review. However, the Vita still offers the closest approximation of portable console-level gaming -- something Sony's finally realized, with its vow to make every (yes, every) PS4 title playable on the handheld through Remote Play. I've tasted the future, and I like it. After trying Knack on a Vita during TGS 2013, I thought I'd give the existing Remote Play feature a go. Not many games let you, which is probably why Sony is forcing the issue this generation. I do own the HD remakes of Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, both of which were made compatible with an after-release patch.

So, after loading up the Remote Play app on my Vita -- and pairing it to my PS3 -- I gave it a try. It's amazing, though there isn't the same leap in graphical proficiency when playing a PS4 title on the handheld. It's also a little too temperamental on the wireless connection, often timing out as you happen to leap from the back of a 100-foot giant to deal the final blow. There's plenty that still amazes me: the bright, vivid screen, useable analogue sticks on a handheld and the ability to play entire PS1 games. Technically, the last one might not sound that amazing, but because the Vita transposes controls so smoothly from the original PlayStation controller, games are a joy to play -- most of the time.

Using the rear touch panel just about covers the lack of L2 and R2 collar buttons, but this is just one of the many things the newest model does better, with a smaller rear panel making inadvertent presses even less likely. But the original model can still claim one advantage: it does have a (marginally) better screen, with improved color accuracy and contrast as a result of the OLED panel (which sadly bit the dust on the newest Vita). You'd have to be really picky to still want the old one, however, because the latest model, still only available in Japan, does everything else much better. I'd wait on that domestic launch announcement -- or take another look at the import costs.

-- Mat Smith