A 2016 Review of PlayStation TV (or, "why you should buy one"); A Roundabout NX Discussion

EvilTw1n

Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Moderator
#1
The Strange World of 2 Years Ago

Everything you're reading about the PlayStation TV in 2016 is wrong. Well, almost.

That's because everything you're reading now was written in 2014. For what it's worth, I'm sure that the problem of missing software content was real enough two years ago. ...well, relatively. If you didn't own a Vita in 2014 (which, face it, most people didn't), you would have had "only" 143 compatible games serving as launch titles. So yes, PS TV didn't launch with new system-selling exclusives, but in relative terms? Yeah, that's a lot of games. Wiki now lists 1,351 compatible games, making it unlikely that the average gamer won't find a good dozen titles worth playing.

The UI complaints listed in those other reviews, though? Not just stupid, but the obscenely stupid sort of groupthink "gaming journalism" indulges in from time to time. "It's designed for mobile and thumbs!" Really? Turn the Wii U's squared menu into circles. That's the Vita's UI.

So. An arguably meh UI and some missing compatibility (which has been largely mitigated through nips and patching tucks) hardly seem like the sort of tragic flaws to cause this thing to have flopped so badly. There were two other, bigger factors. One was price; to buy a PlayStation TV bundled with a controller in 2014 ran you about $140. And if you were dumb enough to buy a bigger/overpriced memory card with it, congrats, you were basically in used 360/PS3 territory. In 2016, this is an issue that has been tamed if you know where to look, and if you plan on using the machine to play Vita games only (the memory cards are still not a great idea unless you really, really, really, really love the PS1 and PSP libraries).

The other big issue? We'll get to that (and more) in due course.

So, What Do You Get in 2016?

Firstly, a bargain. With a caveat. You can buy a PS TV for $30 used/refurbed from GameStop, but only in-store. And there aren't that many of 'em. Amazon has new units for $40 if your GS is SOL (I wouldn't wait on Black Friday for one of these; they're already in limited supplies and were discontinued to NA/EU earlier this year...but as they're still produced in Japan, it's not quite a dead product, either).

Vita.jpg

It's so damn small and runs so cool that I keep it on top of my Wii U. My TV only has two HDMI-in slots, and one is accounted for by the Blu-Ray player, so I swap the cable back and forth between Wii U and PS TV. It feels a bit dirty, using Nintendo's included HDMI to use a Sony product (sort of like watching the McChicken sandwich video), but I'm willing to indulge in such filth for the right price.

When you first boot the console up, you'll be asked to hook up a controller (see next section) to sync. Then, you set the time/date.

That's it.

You're ready to play. Perhaps it's because this is a cartridge-based system, or because the system has an OS that isn't overly ambitious (and had already gone through troubleshooting on the normal Vita), but within 4-5 minutes, including plugging in power and HDMI, this thing is ready to play. That's pretty refreshing after waiting for the day-one patch on Wii U and the silly-long installs on PS3. I don't remember - because it was so quick - but I don't think I even had to do an OS update at first (there was one, but I think it was prompted by trying to install PS Now). This is how a console is supposed to work. Plug in. Done.

It isn't overly fast in booting, mind you. 10-15 seconds from a cold boot, 5-12 seconds from standby (+/- 2 seconds; I was probably counting slow). Not as fast as keeping your 3DS in standby, but faster than booting your Wii U. Strangely, PS TV is clever enough to turn your TV on for you when you turn on the console, but not the opposite.

You're getting a not-insubstantial library, especially if you are a Nintendo-only gamer. All of Vanillaware's best stuff is here - Muramasa Rebirth, Dragon's Crown (with PS3 cross play), Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, and soon 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. If you love beautiful 2D adventure/RPG gaming (Child of Light is also available) this is the best and cheapest way you're going to find it. You also get the definitive version of Persona 4, a well-done Killzone (if that's your bag), a few good MonHun clones, Sine Mora (although MEMORY CARD dammit), the FF X/X2 bundle and MGS collection, Blaz Blue and other fighting games...and plenty of weird ish. Such ish includes a metric f-ton of Japanese oddities, and a dedicated Uncharted - if you like "playing" your videogames. Maybe you like the idea of PS Now remote play, and streaming PS3 games, or maybe you don't mind buying a costly memory card because it means you can store and play every PS1 and PSP game worth playing. But honestly, for this price? The Vita physical release library is more than enough.

So long as you already have a controller, that is.

Dual Shock - Two In the Wallet, One In the Brink

If you've got a PS3 controller, then you're in luck and you get to buy a PS TV with the potentially-biggest cost baked in. But if you don't, then you've got some decisions to make. Because although everyone loves a bargain (y'know, like a $30 console), the magical land of eBay is not to be trusted. For example, this fine looking specimen. Looks legit, great price. Too bad it's a "3rd party replacement" and "unbranded/generic. This look more authentic? Read the comments. Also fake. If it's eBay, and if it's shipping from Hong Kong or China, do not buy it.

As I see it, you've got five choices here.
1.) Pony up and buy a DS3. You know it'll work, and it'll double up and work as a good controller for PC use (just install Motion in Joy - in Win10: update and recovery > advanced start > advanced options > startup settings > disable driver signature enforcement > restart > profit).
2.) Buy a DS4. On sale, they're as much as a new DS3.
3.) If you're OK with wires, you can try this with a used PS2 controller. But I, y'know, wouldn't. It might work, and it's a cheap option, but the PS TV uses the home button. And you won't find one on a DS2.
4.) Go to a pawn shop. You're more likely to find a legit DS3 for cheap there than on eBay.
5.) Watch Amazon for warehouse deals on used items from Sony.

One thing Sony's controller has going for it? The D-Pad is in the right place. I'm borrowing a friend's controller for the time being, and this thing certainly is not a Nintendo D-Pad - or anywhere close, if I'm honest - but it's in the right place ergonomically if you plan on putting hours into Vanillaware games like me.

Still, you'll have to look for a deal if you're budgeting. This is the biggest challenge for this console in 2016, but it's manageable if you choose carefully. If you're not already in Sony's ecosystem with a compatible controller, you can more than double the price of the console itself. The good deals are out there, and if you dig, you'll get a PS TV and a controller together for $60 (or less).
 

EvilTw1n

Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Moderator
#2
But How Does it Look?

So, setup aside, how does a small-screen device translate to a bigger screen? OK. The Vita may only have a 960 x 544 resolution, but it scales up to a bigger screen...serviceably. Not great, but OK. "Bigger" screen is relative, of course. I'm using a 720p / 32" television; you likely would notice more aliasing and jaggies on a bigger screen (although it probably depends on your TV's scaler, too), especially since more than a few Vita games use lower-than-native to pull off more onscreen effects. Still, you're spending $30-$60 here. Your expectations should be kept in check when you're considering that you're buying a gateway to a neat library of games for the equivalent price of a tank of gas.

On my TV, the only time jaggies are noticeable in a game like Muramasa are when the cut scenes pan in. But as that's a 2D game that would look good running on a computer with Win95, I held off on posting this until I got a good 3D game. Everyone talks up Killzone: Mercenary, but that game has melee kills in which you stab people in the balls and the...arm pit? C'mon, that's not OK.


So I did a bit of searching and discovered Freedom Wars. A Monster Hunter-meets TPS-meets Attack on Titan game. Made by SCE Japan. An exclusive with real pedigree. And it looks...

...

...

...

...


...

...

...

...

...good.

It looks sort of like a premium upscaled Wii game, but without good aliasing. Which makes sense, of course. There are jaggies, but...it's still a good looking game. Maybe it's more of the anime aesthetic and wise allocation of polys, but it doesn't look like something I would toss out of bed for eating crackers. The Vita's native resolution may have been conceived with the idea of a 5" screen in mind, but the resolution basically works out to be between PAL 16:9 (wider but not taller) and 720p, upscaled to your TV.


[The Vita's resolution is technically "qHD," or quarter HD. Essentially one-quarter of 1080p. So carry over that PAL blue area to halfway of that image's width, and leave the height about the same. That's PS TV on your actual television. It's not that far off from 720p.]

TL;DR - PS TV likely looks better upscaled to a 720p set than it does to a 1080p or 4K set. You will notice some jaggies and blurs. Again, cost of a tank of gas.

What Don't You Get in 2016?

Vita games that rely on the touch screen are a no-go, which is to be expected. As discussed, you don't get a controller, but you can deal-hunt your way around that. However, the most egregious AWOL feature?

Netflix.

Seriously. What. The. Shit.

Sony, you had one job. You made a micro-console to compete with set-top boxes. So it needed to, y'know, stream frickin' media. And the nail in this thing's coffin as being a weeaboo box was only having Crunchyroll work on it. Seriously, if my 2DS can run Netflix, why can't this? If the normal Vita runs Netflix, why doesn't this? I'm sure there are vibrating cock rings that can run Netflix, but PS TV can't.

This was the single biggest failure of the PlayStation TV in 2014, and it is still the biggest failure of the PlayStation TV in 2016. Toss all of the other problems aside - stupid remarks on the UI, some incompatible software, the cost versus other set-top boxes, whatever. No Netflix on a set-top device sealed this thing's fate before it ever launched. I know, I know, I know. There are ways. But people don't generally buy consoles (or set-top boxes) to hack them, and having to re-hack it every time you turn it off and on is pretty stupid.

"But Smart TVs! And people own other consoles!"

Not excuses. When Nintendo is ahead of you on technological compatibility, you're fucked. You are more fucked than a snowman in July. I'd honestly have kept my PS TV plugged in the past couple of weeks, but y'know why I haven't? Yeah. Because every time I want to watch Netflix, I switch the HDMI cable back to my Wii U. And everytime I'm doing that? I'm not using a Sony console, and I'm more likely to play my Wii U backlog / terrible eShop-shame-list-of-games-I-should-have-beaten-years-ago (I see you there, Child of Light, honest). The idea of any console is to hook people into your ecosystem. The idea of this console was to hook people into Sony's ecosystem for a smaller relative price. Y'know how you prevent people from being hooked into your ecosystem? Making them turn off your console.

And that, in a nutshell, is why the PlayStation TV didn't just fail, but was doomed to fail - pay more for a box that won't even Netflix.

But.

In 2016, You Should Still Buy One. Because It's a Time Machine.


Seriously, for this price? Its failure to stream Penny Dreadful notwithstanding, and as inexcusable as that is, you're getting exclusives and multiplats out the business-end-of-a-pole-dancing-racehorse. I hate that the best it's going to stream is Attack On Titan (or Cute High Earth Defense Club Love, because Japan), but again - $30-$60. For a gaming device of this pedigree? Just go with it.

If Nintendo had put Muramasa on the NA eShop and let me remap the jump button, I would have legit paid $30 for that. I would've paid $50 for a Muramasa Rebirth physical release, even. But noooooo, Nintendo decided that fun is a bad thing. So instead, I've gotten access to a pretty underappreciated lineup of software for the same price. Seriously, this might be the best deal in gaming right now. Unless you're a top-tier graphics whore, or someone who buys games for the purpose of leaving cellophane upon your purchases, this might top the 2DS as the best value in gaming right now (yep, I too wrote off the PS TV back then).

But here's the thing, if you're a Nintendo fan. The worry you might have about a handheld also working as a "regular" home console? It's overblown. It's way overblown, because the proof of it is already here. The PS TV is the quietest, saddest, most overlooked "what could have been?" of modern gaming. This thing should have been the tiniest-of-all-boxes that could. But, for whatever reason, Sony declined to take up the mantle. In a very Nintendo-esque sort of way, they fucked the PS TV over in the most egregiously obvious "oh yeah we shoulda done that"-way possible. They dicked it harder than a frat boy frustratingly losing his virginity to an unimpressed worker of the night. Sony's treatment of the PlayStation TV is the biggest screw-up of their modern(ish?) renaissance. This should have worked. It didn't, because Sony.

The dry run for a small, efficient, practical, powerful piece of hardware that can double between home-console ambition and small-screen convenience and ingenuity? It's already been made. It was simply done incorrectly. NX could rectify the mistakes, not just in pricing and streaming and compatibility, but in creating a device that literally does both ends of the spectrum in a way the Vita and PS TV showed glimpses of, yet never fully delivered on.

But until then? You can test drive what-could-have-been on the cheap. Gaming on a PlayStation TV in 2016 and early 2017 is a glimpse into a past that should have been, and a future that could still occur.
 
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Shoulder

Your Resident Beardy Bear
#5
One of the first things I was thinking about when you bought the PSTV was if it could do streaming with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Now I have my answer, and it's unfortunate considering it would've been a great little media device.

I'm still holding out for that perfect media device that'll do all of that, plus be able to hook up an external HDD, and watch almost any type of vid on it.
 

Karkashan

Married to Chrom
#7
I got myself one of those adorable PSTV's and I love it. I don't use it as often as I probably should but then again I like jumping between 7 consoles or more frequently. But whenever I get the urge, I hook up my S4 controller, plug in my HDCP stripper, and go to town.

praisegrima
 

Odo

Well-Known Member
#8
Sweet device.

PS TV (and Apple TV + Apple Devices) are somehow what I think NX is going to be (if the rumours are true) as I said before. It's not going to be bad, but it's going to be just some sort of handheld (more premium for "gamers" than PS TV and Apple TV) that let you play on your TV. It's really Nintendo getting out of the console business and selling something in the middle between a console and a TV cheaper box.

Don't get me wrong, if the rumours are true I still believe that Nintendo would be delivering cheap material. However, those sort of cheap stuff is exactly what parents of this century want to buy for their children. So, Nintendo going to the cheap market might be a brilliant move.
 

EvilTw1n

Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Moderator
#9
I'm gonna use this space for quick hitter thoughts on Vita/PSTV games and more NX-y relation thoughts. Beat Momohime's story, so the rest of Muramasa is up next.
One of the first things I was thinking about when you bought the PSTV was if it could do streaming with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Now I have my answer, and it's unfortunate considering it would've been a great little media device.

I'm still holding out for that perfect media device that'll do all of that, plus be able to hook up an external HDD, and watch almost any type of vid on it.
Yep. I have no clue what the hell is wrong with Sony. Netflix works on the Vita. This thing is a Vita without a screen. You can go to the online store and download Netflix. But they won't let you use it. It's absurd bordering on farce.

Usually, with a dumb decision from a developer, I can at least say "I do see their logic in it, though." I can understand why there's no voicechat in Splatoon, or why there's no Wii U port of MH4U. But no Netflix on PSTV is a 100% stupid thing. It's less a self-inflicted wound than a repeated self-inflicted wound.
I got myself one of those adorable PSTV's and I love it. I don't use it as often as I probably should but then again I like jumping between 7 consoles or more frequently. But whenever I get the urge, I hook up my S4 controller, plug in my HDCP stripper, and go to town.

praisegrima
Duuuuuuude. We need to play some Dragon's Crown and Freedom Wars together.
Sweet device.

PS TV (and Apple TV + Apple Devices) are somehow what I think NX is going to be (if the rumours are true) as I said before. It's not going to be bad, but it's going to be just some sort of handheld (more premium for "gamers" than PS TV and Apple TV) that let you play on your TV. It's really Nintendo getting out of the console business and selling something in the middle between a console and a TV cheaper box...
Purely as a gaming machine, PS TV is not a dumbed down device, man. Its game are not unambitious (and Vita was definitely built with gamers in mind first). I mean, it's playing the best versions of Persona 4 and FF X (in addition to the best versions of games like Odin Sphere and Muramasa). You can make assumptions on handhelds, but they are far more console-like and console-quality than ever before. It's not a matter of consoles being light years ahead anymore in the design of their games.
 
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Odo

Well-Known Member
#11
You can make assumptions on handhelds, but they are far more console-like and console-quality than ever before. It's not a matter of consoles being light years ahead anymore in the design of their games.
I still believe that home consoles are light years ahead of any handheld on the market today. I do love handhelds though.
 

EvilTw1n

Even my henchmen think I'm crazy.
Moderator
#12
Well, people can believe what they want. That's certainly not how I see it.
I don't have Freedom Wars but I do have Dragon's Crown, so that can be a thing sometime.

praisegrima
Just give me the where and when. Maybe we can talk @CitizenOfVerona into some co-op action.

I dunno how you feel about TPS*, but so far Freedom Wars is intriguing. Can be had for under $15, too.

[*TPS...ish, that is. You can always melee and use your vine to jump onto giant things and beat them up.]
 
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