I would have put this up sooner with the exception that my trip back to Australia happened to be flying out of Japan the night before release. Didn't take me long past returning home to pick up a Vita though. Ended up going with the Wi-fi only version.
Of note: this is my first real long-term exposure to a touch device. I left Aus originally just as my old phone contract ended and never bothered purchasing a smart phone. Also have avoided the iPad temptation to this point. So all my previous touch-pad experiences have been limited to borrowing of friend's gear etc.
The set-up is all incredibly straight-forward and they have also added a 'welcome park' application with some simple games and such to get you used to the front and rear touch screens, the camera, the mic etc. All able to be skipped and thankfully they make it obvious how to skip it all straight away. Given the aforementioned touch-noobness, I bothered with the touch tutorial and ditched the rest.
Simple, easy to navigate, and all languages available out of the box from pick-up here.
Playstation store. Incredibly impressed with how much content is already available; a stack of PSP original titles, the ability to purchase Vita titles digitally, you can rent or purchase movies (e.g. rent Harry Potter & deathly hallows for 400 yen, purchase for 2,500 yen - as a new release. Batman returns for example is 350 yen rental, 800 yen purchase). There is also a 'PC engine' category listed which appears to have a whole bunch of old-school PC games available.
塊魂ノビ－タ. Main reason out of the launch titles for me to get a Vita now rather than hold out for any early hardware revision that may come along. The game title in Japanese is a pun - Katamari no bita - Vita's Katamari or Katamari nobita (nobita translating as stretched). For anyone that watched the trailer or is familiar with any of the previous Katamari games, the gimmick addition in this one is that you can use the rear touch panel to stretch out or squash your katamari to add efficiency to the collection process/get in to or out of tight spaces. I'll admit I haven't played more than about 2 hours yet but I'm really enjoying it.
The new game storage media, replacing the god-awful UMD found in the original PSP. I haven't done it yet but it is actually possible to register your original UMDs and transfer the game data/ownership to the Vita. So you don't have to go re-purchasing any of your back-catalog in a Sony-we-love-money-fashion.
New Sony memory sticks. Not much to say other than I forked out 5,500 yen for the 16GB one.
So far I'm quite impressed. I was a little concerned at the slightly chunkier size of the Vita compared to the PSP, and I'll admit it'll no longer fit snugly in my jeans pocket once it has a case on it, which is a bit of a downer when it comes to the portability factor. But it is still compact enough to not feel burdened about taking it around. The screen is incredibly high quality and while the game I've picked up isn't graphics-oriented, I'll be picking up another title soon enough (Wipeout 2048).
The controls so far have been wonderful. The dual analogue sticks are a great improvement over the original PSP, especially when it comes to Katamari (original PSP version would result in crab-claw hands after about 15 minutes of play). The d-pad and buttons, while rather small in size all feel comfortably positioned and responsive. The integration of touch functionality when it came to playing the game also worked out being pretty damn good. As a quick run-down, there seem to be two control styles. One way is to use the front panel for the basic game commands, move forward, dash, jump, turn, quick 180 turn, and the rear panel for stretching/squeezing the ball. The second method is using the two analogue sticks for usual movement and the rear panel in the same way. After the in-game tutorial I ran with the second method, feels very natural and I'm really happy with the mix of traditional control methods plus touch integration.
For owners of a PS3, the remote play functionality is pretty amazing. A rather unnecessary but awesome example is that my girlfriend has to go to work tomorrow. However no students are back at the schools over here yet and her day will be spent in the staff room. PS3 gets turned on before she leaves the house, she takes the vita with her, connects to the Wi-Fi at her work and can stream television via the PS3 to the Vita.
I can't help but feel that the success of the Vita in Australia will partially come down to how well the Playstation Store is supported, how much additional functionality is supported (another example here relating to streaming tv, we use Torne over here, think it is called PlayTv or similar back home. There is an app for free on the PSN here that we fetched. It allows for sync of shows you've yet to watch on your PS3 to be transferred to your Vita. For obvious reasons I cannot comment on the 3G functionality but in a place like Japan, if I knew I were staying here for a longer period (only have 7 confirmed months left), I would have picked up the 3G version in a heartbeat.
Early thoughts so far is that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a Vita to anyone who found enjoyment out of a PSP. Better graphics, crisp controls, the touch functionality works well so far & the size isn't xbox-huge. I can't really see the product pulling anyone away from something like an iPod touch or encouraging someone who enjoys Angry birds and the like on their smart phone to step up and buy a portable gaming console. Which really brings me to my final thought. I am so incredibly glad that Sony didn't deliver a Mylo, I'm glad they didn't deliver an iPad with analogue sticks, I'm glad I cannot make phone calls with my Vita (oh wait Skype). I wanted a portable gaming console and I got a portable gaming console.
And now I'm going to go enjoy it. Or enjoy it on the train. Or enjoy it during quiet times at work. Thanks Sony. Shony.
tl;dr : har har I could impulse purchase a Vita before you could.