Old Faithful. That’s what I call my Vita, or at least that’s what I would call it if I was the type of person who had nicknames for their video game consoles and, for whatever odd reason, felt compelled to utter them out loud. I’d call it that because no matter how long I go without playing it, the damn thing always seems to have some battery life in it. For years I’ve taken its relatively efficient sleep mode for granted, but in the twilight of the handheld’s lifespan it’s become my favorite feature.
The Vita gets a lot of shit for its lack of must-play games, its unnecessary touch screen, and its proprietary memory cards, which to this day cost almost five times what an equivalent SD card does. It has plenty of virtues, though. When it launched, Sony claimed the Vita would average three to eight hours of battery life, which is slightly worse than the 3DS and slightly better the Switch several years later. When in sleep mode, however, it can last for what feels like an eternity. Few talk about this, but diehard Vita fans know it to be true.
When I bought my Vita, used, in 2013, I didn’t think much about its energy usage. I played it in fits and starts, and since I wasn’t commuting to work at the time I never had much occasion to take it outside the house. Fast forward to 2018, and almost half of everything I play is while waiting for or riding on public transportation. Now that I use it more regularly, I’ve come to rely on its generous and flexible battery life. Without ever planning ahead, it’s almost never dead when I need it.
I also have a Switch, but, unlike my Vita, I can’t remember how many times I’ve turned it on only to be greeted by the ominous white outline of the empty battery icon. In the morning when I wake up; in the evening when I’m about to get on the bus, it’s always a coin flip whether Hollow Knight, Dead Cells or whatever other game I’d been playing and refusing to save and turn off will let me pick back up from where I left off. So many dark, cold nights I’ve walked onto the subway platform or bus terminal only to feel my heart consumed by the void after finding my Switch’s charge has once again scattered into the ether.
Yes, I could be more diligent about turning my electronics off when I’m not using them. But it feels like the Vita was built precisely for staying on constant standby, to be picked up and played at a moment’s notice. When my subway or bus stop comes up mid-game, I quickly hit the power button, sending my Vita into a light dream state. The hours pass. The days pass. Even weeks go by as it sits in my bag, or out on the coffee table, slowing collecting dust and leaching battery power. One time I swear I’d abandoned it in the side-table drawer only to pull it out a month later when a new slate of PlayStation Plus games had hit, and you know what? Right back to the boss battle in whatever PS1 classic JRPG I’d been playing so long ago.
I don’t want to completely abandon my Vita, but I’d be more than happy leave it at home most days. It’s seven years old, after all. My hands start to hurt after cradling it for too long. And mostly I’m just tired of buying new games for a dying platform. Maybe I could use my Switch more if I didn’t depend on my Vita always having just enough power left.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Nintendo is planning to release a redesign of the Switch potentially some time later next year. There are lots of areas the new model could improve upon the old—better Joy-Con, a smaller bezel, higher resolution, even longer battery life. Those would all be nice. More than anything, though, I hope they somehow manage to make the sleep feature work as well as the Vita’s. Then I can finally let my Vita rest in peace.