The original grey PlayStation console is considered by many gamers as the reason gaming matured to what we have today. Before its launch around the world in the mid-90s, gaming was considered something only nerds or geeks did. It was very uncool to be a gamer and the PS1 was the console that finally broke down those barriers to become the most sought-after piece of tech in that era. Sony has taken that legacy and flushed it down the toilet with the release of their PlayStation Classic.
There’s no denying that Sony gazed at Nintendo’s very popular mini-consoles and figured that they should get a piece of the pie too. With that, we have now received the PlayStation Classic that is 45% smaller than the original console was. In the box, you’ll receive a USB cable to power up the console, an HDMI cable that’ll connect it to your modern television and two controllers (which I’ll touch on later). The PlayStation Classic itself is absolutely gorgeous and for the lack of a better word, cute. Each and every bit of detail, right down to the parallel I/O port which is obviously not functional and iconic air vents down the left and right side of the console has been painstakingly replicated. The power button does what it says, the reset button takes you back to the menu and the open button lets you switch discs for games with more than one disc to complete it. On the bottom, there are bits of material that’ll stop the unit from moving on slippery surfaces. In terms of its physical appearance, it’s a real winner. Unfortunately, it’s everything else that has been left to fate, and fate has not been kind.
As soon as you hit the power button on the console you’ll be greeted by the iconic Sony and PlayStation intros.
Thankfully there are two controllers included in the box, which means that you and a friend or family member can get cracking with two-player games without having to spend an additional cent. The cord that connects to the console is not that long, though it’s at the very least longer than those laughable NES mini controller cords. These two controllers are an exact replica the original launch controllers. In other words – all the original buttons are there, but there is no rumble and no analogue sticks that made many games way more playable from 1998 onwards… and it shows.
It’s after all not the cure for hairy palms
As soon as you hit the power button on the console you’ll be greeted by the iconic Sony and PlayStation intros and end up on a menu displaying the 20 games on offer. A quick glance and you’ll realise there is a very small number of PS1 games that exceed the 1997 mark – Tekken 3, Mr. Driller, Syphon Filter and Metal Gear Solid. Start up something like Metal Gear Solid and you’ll recall that the game controlled much easier than it does now. It’s because you used an analogue stick to control Snake and not a D-Pad. Having Logan aim his reticle in Syphon Filter is an even bigger task, though the auto lock-on does help. Tekken 3 plays perfectly using a digital controller, but you’re not going to feel the impact of each punch and kick in the controller, as was made popular at the time. Thanks to Sony deciding on the original digital controllers they have in turn limited the games they can choose from in their wide catalogue, but the remainder of older titles are exceptionally questionable too.
We already have an amazing fighter in Tekken 3, why include the sub-par Battle Arena Toshinden? Destruction Derby?! Why? Where is Gran Turismo? Grand Theft Auto hasn’t aged well at all, so how about Driver? Jumping Flash was a unique take on the platformer genre at the time, but with something like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, even with the recent remakes, it’s a no-brainer what it should have been replaced with. Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Wipeout, Dino Crisis, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and many more – I could go on for days. I’m sure some of these games have license agreements holding it back from appearing on the list, but it still does not make the current selection of games ‘Classic’. Sadly, as lacklustre as the selection might be, it’s not where the biggest headache lies.
Don’t overestimate the power of PlayStation
As I’m quite sure you will know by now, many of the games are based on the PAL 50Hz region (Europe) instead of NTSC/U 60Hz (US). What this basically means is that you receive a game that runs at a slower speed than it should. Jump into an NTSC game of Tekken 3 and follow that up with a PAL session and you’ll see just how much it slows it down. It’s a major oversight (and yes, South Africa, back in the day we had the 50Hz version). In 2018 PAL and NTSC is not a problem anymore and should have been fixed by default. Since release we have had people hacking the console to fix this blunder, though this review is based off the stock console you’ll get out the box without having to tamper with it. There are a number of NTSC games included, just not the ones that matter. There is also no ability to add some filters to any game you’re playing. Scan lines could have made the onslaught of pixels a bit better to deal with. The biggest mystery comes in the form of a head-scratching wasted opportunity.
The PlayStation Classic is a megaton missed opportunity
Start up your PS3, PSP or PS Vita and the PS Store will give you access to a huge number of PS1 games. Why, oh why, did Sony not include the ability to link this little unit online? If it’s to try and avoid piracy or the homebrew scene I have bad news for them – people will likely work that out anyway (In fact, at the time of writing there is already ways to get roms running on it). It’s a massive oversight and considering that the words ‘preloaded and ready to play’ appears on the box, it eludes to it allowing you to play more games than what was finally packed in.
After all these blunders there are at least some bits of light shining through the dark clouds. Each game comes with its own virtual memory card that saves your progress and some of the games, like Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Rayman, play quite well. This is due to the games being based on more traditional 2D platformers of the time. The truth of the matter is that this entire era has not aged well. Start up an N64 or SEGA Saturn game today and you’re going to be admitted to the hospital for retina removal. The games are also much more clunky to play as developers were still finding their feet thanks to that extra dimension and it’s no more obvious than in the early-released games, which majority of these games are made up of. Classics like Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil Director’s Cut are a welcome addition, but I have a feeling you would have downloaded it to one of your other Sony products if you had an interest in it… or you bought the Resident Evil remake and waiting for that Final Fantasy VII remake. The other bit of good news, for those wondering, is that the important bit of information for Metal Gear Solid is ‘on the back of the package’.
The PlayStation Classic is a megaton missed opportunity. Fans craving that bit of nostalgia will find a game or two appealing to them, but there just aren’t enough games to pull you back for just one more go. The hardware looks visually gorgeous, but don’t judge this book by its cover. Unless you’re a collector this isn’t classic enough to warrant your attention.