There’s big business in the retro console market with AtGames’ line of mini Sega Genesis consoles on shelves in places like Bed Bath and Beyond and Nintendo’s NES and SNES duo of classic consoles selling out and becoming hot ticket items. Seeing the money that could be made by packaging classic software in an adorably small nostalgic box, Sony decided to release a micro console of their own, the aptly titled PlayStation Classic, which houses twenty titles in a shell meant to mimic the casing of the original PlayStation. The PlayStation is one of the most important consoles in video game history and its library of games, which debatably may not have aged quite as gracefully as those from the 8 and 16-bit era, are still among some of the best pieces of software ever released. There’s enjoyment to be had with the PlayStation Classic and it sure makes a great first impression when taking it out of the box, but there are far better – and cheaper- ways to relive your nostalgic memories of Sony’s debut video game console.
The best thing that can be said about the PlayStation Classic is that the packaging and the console itself sure look nice. When you open the outer casing, you’re met with a simple white box with a black PlayStation logo that looks really classy and housed within it is the base console which is no bigger than the cases that original PlayStation games were sold in.
The PlayStation Classic comes with two controllers that mimic the pre-DualShock era of PlayStation controllers that launched with the system. Though small, they feel good in your hands and while the analog sticks and rumble afforded by the DualShock is surely missed – prepare to experience phantom thumb syndrome as you slide in the middle to find nothing there – they work well with the included software. It’s disappointing to play Metal Gear Solid without analog sticks or have Psycho Mantis move the controller across the floor with his mind, but the absence of such things don’t make the game exactly unplayable either.
Your mileage will vary however depending on whether or not you grew up with early 3-D games and the growing pains that developers had getting used to building games with the extra dimension. If you’ve spent hours with Rainbow Six: Siege, you’re not going to be able to comfortably play Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six without any analong sticks to speak of and something like Syphon Filter may turn you off within its opening minutes for example. For a lot of the included games though, the controllers are comfortable enough, and certain games like Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo play better with just a directional pad anyway.
Aside from the controllers and the console itself, the PlayStation Classic comes with an HDMI cable for video output and a USB cable for power. What can only be assumed is a cost saving measure, Sony didn’t include an AC adaptor to plug the USB power cable into, but any generic smartphone charger base will do and certain TV’s will also power the unit if you plug the USB cable directly into them. No matter what option you use, plugging into an outlet or your TV, prepare to sit very close to your television as all the included cables: the HDMI, controller cords and USB power cable are all very short.
The power button turns on the console and you’re immediately graced with the same sounds you heard when you botted up the original PlayStation which is a nice touch that will surely put a smile on your face if you ever owned the system this is emulating. The reset button will bring you back to the menu of included games and create a save state for whatever you’re playing and finally the open disc button will switch discs in games that originally came on two discs like Metal Gear Solid.
Like last year’s SNES Classic, Sony’s machine comes with twenty pre-loaded games, some of which are absolute classics like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil: Director’s Cut while others like Cool Boarders 2 and the above mentioned Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six could’ve been axed for any number of games that were left on the cutting room floor for one reason or another. The complete list is as follows:
• Battle Arena Toshinden
• Cool Boarders 2
• Destruction Derby
• Final Fantasy VII
• Grand Theft Auto
• Intelligent Qube
• Jumping Flash
• Metal Gear Solid
• Mr Driller
• Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
• Resident Evil Director’s Cut
• Revelations: Persona
• Ridge Racer Type 4
• Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
• Syphon Filter
• Tekken 3
• Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
• Twisted Metal
• Wild Arms
The list is a mix of absolute classics, games that are big PlayStation brands now that had their roots in the original PlayStation like Revelations: Persona and whatever Sony still holds the rights to that they don’t have to jump over any licensing hurdles to use. No matter what games were included, there was no way to please everyone, and a big problem with the original PlayStation is that the games that made the PlayStation a household name like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon weren’t technically first-party games even though they were sold as such.
Then there’s titles like Gran Turismo and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that include things like licensed music and cars that were never going to make the cut regardless of how important they were to the PlayStation’s legacy. Other games, like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, were seemingly held back so Konami could sell it on its own on PSN and the same could be said of Resident Evil 2 as well as MediEvil that both have remasters coming in 2019.
What’s most important about the games on the Classic is how they look and feel, and that brings up the biggest issue with this endeavour from Sony: these games, even ones like Cool Boarders 2, deserve better than what they get here. There are no options to smooth out textures like you can with original PlayStation games when played either digitally or on disc on the PlayStation 3. Games can only be played in the 4:3 aspect ratio too though given that’s how these games were originally experienced, it’s not exactly a deal breaker in that regard. Some games look so dark that you can’t see objects in the environment like Resident Evil: Director’s Cut for example, while not a bright and sunny title for sure, but not so much so that items like precious herbs blend into walls and there’s no graphical options built into the system out of the box to fix this. Dialogue coming from certain characters in Resident Evil have weird audio pops as well. Others titles like R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 open with poorly rendered FMV’s that even the most casual eye will pick up to the fact that something’s not right.
It must also be addressed that certain games on the PlayStation Classic – ones that open with warnings in green letters or have copyrights for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe like Jumping Flash! – are not running the games as they were published in North America, but rather the PAL versions that were released in Europe. These games will feel differently from what you remember because of how they were programmed for European PlayStation’s and while some fare fine, like Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, others like Tekken 3, a game that demands precision, feels very off whether or not you’re familiar with the PlayStation original. You’ll either think that it’s a bad game or hate it because it doesn’t play like you remember it and that shouldn’t be a case for one of the PlayStation’s marquis fighting games on a system that celebrates the legacy of the original PlayStation.
The big question surrounding the PlayStation Classic is who is this for exactly? Those who love to take deep dives into emulation will assuredly be disappointed by the PlayStation Classic and the price tag: $99 MSRP is too high to be an impulse buy for casual fans or lapsed players who have nostalgia for at least some of the included games. There’s fun to be had with the PlayStation Classic, and at the very least something like Intelligent Qube which isn’t on PSN is a terrific game to discover if you’ve never played it, but nearly every game included in this box can be played better – and cheaper – on either the PlayStation 3 or the PS Vita. Should Sony try something like this with say, a PlayStation 2 Classic, hopefully they’ll learn a lot of lessons about what not to do.
The PlayStation Classic is available now. This review is based on a purchase made by the writer.
- The design of the packaging and the console shell is top notch
- Controllers feel good
- Features some all-time classic original PlayStation games
- Can only play games in 4:3 and there's no option to smooth out rough textures
- Price tag is a little high and no included AC adaptor
- Certain games have graphics that are too dark and PAL games run worse
- Some games aren't exactly "classic" and no rumble on controllers