Sony's latest handheld launched this week, a classy, powerful unit dubbed the Vita. At $250 for a base model, Sony seems to have spared little expense, providing a breezy user experience, hefty selection of launch titles, and likely soon-to-be app-loaded device.
And yet, it's easy to feel torn about the whole thing. The Vita can power through a AAA console game-like experience as if it's nothing, yet tradition holds that portables are more of the dessert, not the main course.
Take for instance last year's Thor. On the Xbox 360, this was a burly 3D brawler that emphasized scale and size. Over on the DS, treasured developer WayForward delivered a pixelated 2D edition that resurrected the play style of 16-bit platformers. With the Vita, there's no need for a second tier of development; the hardware can hold its own.
In a way, it's not unlike the arcade shakedown. As the PlayStation began to grab hold and usher in an era of mass appeal, there was little need to rush to the arcades anymore. Not only was the home experience identical, in most cases, it was better, deeper, and fuller.
Now, we've arrived at a similar impasse, although one that (potentially) could save the dedicated handheld in a world obsessed with iOS devices, not kill it. You can take your save of MLB: The Show from your PS3 and continue it on your Vita, the transition seamless given the visual and aural prowess capable on that drool-inducing screen.
Still, I think something will be missing as this hardware ages. Time will move on and lines will blur while those used to a slightly degraded experience will miss the charm. Restrictions are a breeding ground of creativity, hence the creation of a Thor. I can't say if the appeal will remain the same if the experience comes through the handheld unscathed.