It's not here yet completely, but it feels like we're about to move into the next console generation cycle. The Wii U has already been announced, and rumors about the successor to the X-Box 360 are already flying.
Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
I recently jut got a 3DS - which is obviously the next generation for the Nintendo DS System. I'm very impressed by it -- the 3D isn't as nearly eye-straining as people have said, at least on the titles I've played (Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7) What I've been most impressed with is the wealth of other features - Augmented Reality Games, Gameboy and DSi Ware downloads. The only problem I've had with it is the joystick. I'm always more comfortable with a D-Pad. It works fine for games meant to work with a D-Pad, but not for nuanced control with older platforming games. This is mitigated by a D-Pad provided right below the joystick - and works well - except for the fact I found it squeaking when using it for a long time. It went away - but it's making me keep hold of my old DS Lite, just for DS games needing a regular D-Pad. Also a word of caution - know what kind of buttons you'll need to use when buying downloadable Gameboy games. The Legend of Zelda Links Awakening plays great, but pressing the select, start, a and b buttons all at the same time - which is how you save the game - is nearly impossible. Luckily saving in-game is made redundant with the Restore Point Save feature.
Oh yeah - and I don't like the Street Pass. I turn it off every time - I wish Nintendo would stopped pushing it at us so hard. It's far too easy to press Power Off, when you're trying to press Start.
Anyway - the 3DS, while having a disastrous start out of the gate earlier this year, looks to be improving. The new lower price and release of quality games obviously being a factor.
The faltering release of the 3DS, though, makes me worried that Nintendo might have become too arrogant about their success with the Wii. I believe their over-reliance on cool gimmicks might have tripped them up. Steps being taken by the company just bring to mind a possible repeat of the 3DS' release. The Wii U's unveiling left fans more confused than excited. We're all taking a step back and relying on the usual dependability of Nintendo - but a second screen controller just seems too weird; like they are trying to do something new just for the sake of doing something new.
What concerns me the most, though, is their proposed line-up on Wii U games. They are obviously trying to bringing back hardcore gamers -- but for me, games with blood and guts doesn't always mean quality or a mature game. I've in fact been a little dismayed with some of the thinking Nintendo has given to bringing us quality games for these systems. Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, and Legend of Zelda are their obvious successes -- but looking at Pilot Wings or Steel Diver being launch titles is just disheartening. I was also surprised with Nintendo not bringing over Xenoblade Chronicles Wii. They have since changed their minds, and are releasing it this April. I hadn't been expecting that game either way, but once word of mouth began to spread, it seemed foolish that Nintendo didn't release it in America to begin with. It sounds like an excellent game - and the reasoning for not bringing it over becomes doubley baffling when you consider they released it in Europe, so a translated version WAS made!
Decision making like that makes me concerned about Nintendo's entry into the next console generation. The only title I'm so far excited about on the Wii U is Dragon Quest X -- with a monthly Online fee already being a concern.
For Microsoft and the X-Box 360, they seem to be going in the route of creating a true multi-media gaming machine. Not just for playing games - but also having TV, Internet, and other features. That's all well and good - but it's not immediately appealing to me. I only want my console to play games - not become a host to iTune video downloads. (I don't need more ways to waste my money).
I am somewhat biased about this, though - as I never got an X-Box 360. It looked like a fine system, but their over-reliance on multiplayer games, and requiring a fee for X-Box services shied me away. The one game that was making me consider buying that system was Blue Dragon. I didn't like seeing such frame-rate stuttering in videos, and a total of 4 disks to contain the game... I haven't seen something like that since the Playstation One.
For the PS3, like the 3DS it had a somewhat shaky start. I was one of the original adopters, getting the larger 60 GB version of the system. They have since made the system cheaper and thinner -- but I was really happy with how it turned out, as I love having the backwards compatibility of PS1 and PS2 games. Also handy for the occasional Blueray movie! I've generally been pretty pleased with the system -- with the large exception of their loss of User Information to hackers.
The biggest thing about the transition from this console generation to the next is about graphics. With HD Graphics both the X-Box 360 and PS3 have created some truly beautiful and stunning games. Add to that the higher degree of computing power - and the games also became more and more technically impressive. And it's not just been about slapping on a better coat of paint - developers have simply been able to do things on these systems that they could never have done on the likes of a PS2. The graphics have actually become a bit too impressive for some systems to handle. I was very, very excited about LA Noire - but was very unhappy to see it crash and overheat my system. The fatter PS3 apparently was most susceptible to this. I don't know if those issues where ever fixed - but for me, it made buying the game a horrific experience. I was luckily able to return it and get my money back. That title is probably one of the rarer games I've seen technical faults on, though. News of the glitches and lag in a title like Skyrim on the PS3 was very disheartening; and surprising too, since I played both Fallout 3 and New Vegas without much trouble. (Fallout 3 did have some game-stopping glitches at first - but they seemed to be weeded out with patches. Every once in a while something would freeze the game - but generally they both where excellent experiences for me.)
That's the thing the PS4 has to do! The same goes for the X-Box 360 -- dependability! The advent of HD Graphics has sort of made video games, visually, hit a wall in terms of getting better. Now all we need from our systems are the same excellent graphics and technical prowess - but without any of the hassle. Video games, nearing the end of a console cycle, usually always show signs of developers trying to do something newer, and better, that the hardware can't always handle. Like their ambition is outstripped by their ability. The next generation of consoles should aim to make a system better able to utilize that ambition to it's fullest, with room to grow.
Sooooo... in short - I'm anxious and concerned about this upcoming console generation - but in generally am pretty please where video gaming has gotten us already. They only need to make it more reliable.