Those who have not been living under several piles of rocks have undoubtedly heard quite a bit about the Nintendo 3DS -- which is, by all accounts, the most impressive thing since God invented the Sun -- a device that creates a new kind of gaming experience, one that has to be seen to truly be comprehended. With a $250-300 price tag it's quite an investment, but the payoff could be well worth it, should this first-of-its-kind handheld rise to our expectations. Even without the 3d goodness, the impressive hardware will run games like Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, Super Street Fighter 4, and others. Combine that with a 3D camera and the familiar touch screen, and you've got a gadget that is nothing if not nifty.
Amidst the dissonant chorus of "oohs" and "aahs" that surround the 3DS, Sony is plotting something fierce. With the rust around the wheels of the PSP coming more sharply into focus as time rolls on, there are whispers of a heir to the throne. Very little is known about the PSP's successor at this point, but the rumor mill is abuzz with claims of touch-screen functionality, HD graphics, twin analog sticks, a camera, and an inexplicably-present rear-mounted touchpad. I can't shed too much light on the matter -- with no official word from Sony, we're left only with speculation as to what may or may not be fact -- but the PSP2 is expected, like the PSP before it, to be the powerhouse of the handheld gaming market.
Now let me say that i loved my PSP -- or at least i tried to love it. For all its technical magnificence, i couldn't help but think that it found its origins in some backroom Sony meeting that started with the words "Alright, here's the pitch: We take the PS2, make it smaller, less powerful, and offer a catalog of primarily mediocre games. The kids will love it." Yes, it had some good games (GOW: Chains of Olympus, MGS: Portable Ops, and for all its flaws, Crisis Core), but its selection was nonetheless terribly lacking, and almost entirely dependent on those UMD discs that sounded like screeching metal whenever the system needed to access them. Part of the allure was that it was, in theory, a multifunction device; but this didn't work either. The mp3 player was bare-bones, setting up video playback was a chore, and the web browsing was, gently put, terrible. The PSP Go wasn't much better, trading the grating racket of the UMD for digitally-downloaded games. While incredibly tedious -- especially for those of us with a less-than-reliable internet connection -- it at least showed some foresight on Sony part. It did not, however, address any of my other qualms with the system, and i found it much less comfortable to hold and operate than its predecessor.
With all that said, my money is definitely on Nintendo this time around. While Sony is bent on the old "faster, sleeker, more powerful" model for growth, Nintendo has taken the path of inventiveness. Here is what i believe to be Sony's fatal flaw: No matter how preposterously powerful and expensive the PSP2 will be, it will never be a PS3. "But that's not the point," one might protest. "No, it's not a PS3, but it's still going to be amazing for a handheld." And that, in my opinion is the point -- "For a handheld." While Sony stuck rigidly to the PS2 model for the PSP, Nintendo created an entirely new animal -- not just a souped-down Gamecube -- with the DS. Now, with the 3DS, they're further distinguishing their portable platform while giving developers a whole new avenue for creativity and ingenuity. And if history is any teacher, Sony will be busy trying to play catch-up, as evidenced by the "Move" motion controller and their apparent newfound interest in touchscreen technology. But in spite of it all, i'm not bitter. Like a wistful lover who sees in those time-ravaged eyes the one for whom he used to feel such tenderness, i can't quit you just yet, Sony. I want to love you again -- really, truly, i do -- i'm just not sure that i can trust you anymore.