Bottom line: The biggest complaint with the PlayStation Classic seems to be the game selection. While several hit titles made the cut, other iconic offerings are noticeably absent. Sony could solve a lot of these issues (although not all due to licensing disputes) by opening an online ROM store and selling games for $0.99 each.
Sony forever changed the trajectory of the video game industry with its PlayStation console. Arriving in the mid-90s as a byproduct of a failed partnership with Nintendo, the PlayStation was a smash hit with more than 102 million consoles sold during its 12-year production run.
Following in Nintendo’s footsteps, Sony earlier this year announced a miniature version of its beloved console. The PlayStation Classic launches on December 3 for $99.99. It comes with 20 pre-installed games including hits like Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, Twisted Metal, Destruction Derby and the original Grand Theft Auto.
Is it everything retro gamers are hoping for? In some categories, it absolutely is and in others, not so much. Let's see what the experts have to say.
Matt Leone from Polygon discusses build quality:
Much like with the NES Classic and SNES Classic, the first thing that stands out with PlayStation Classic is how small it looks. Being shorter than its controllers, it looks like a hobby model that you’d put on your desk, or one of those game-branded cartons filled with candy.
It’s also extremely light and feels durable, seeming — like any good toy — like it would be fine if you threw it against the wall. The controller feels similarly light, as expected, given the lack of rumble motors and analog sticks that have since become standard.
The console has many of the details you may remember from the old days, down to the ridges on the sides and a fake expansion port panel in the back. While neither that slot nor the “lid” opens, the three buttons on top of the unit all work. Power does what it’s always done, while Open now serves as a virtual disc-swap button for games like Metal Gear Solid. Reset has also changed its functionality, which I’ll get into shortly.
CNET’s Sean Buckley on the PlayStation Classic’s replica controllers:
That extra level of detail carries over to the PlayStation Classic's controllers, too. Overall, they're pretty basic gamepads: simple, but excellent replicas of the PlayStation's original controllers. They feel right, and the separated PlayStation d-pad and face buttons feel authentic -- but my favorite thing about them isn't the gamepads themselves. It's their connector.
Rather than using a proprietary connector or miniaturizing the original PlayStation controller connector, these gamepads use standard USB ports to plug into the Classic console. Not only do the thin USB plugs slide perfectly into the miniature controller ports, but each USB plug is framed with a piece of plastic designed to look like the original PlayStation gamepad connector. This means that when the gamepads are plugged in, they look like the controllers are actually plugged into the console with a miniature version of the original gamepad connector.
Chris Kohler over at Kotaku talks about game saves:
PlayStation Classic assigns a separate virtual Memory Card to each game. When you exit out of a game you’ve saved and go back to the menu, there’s a Memory Card icon below each one that will let you view or delete your save data, just as you did on the original PlayStation. The save data icons that show up in this menu are just as they were on the original, so your first Final Fantasy VII save will be represented by an icon of Cloud, the second by Barrett, and so on.
I’m less impressed with the way the Classic handles its “save anywhere” feature. You only get one such slot for each game. When you press Reset, your game will be automatically saved in that slot. Start the game up, play some more, and press Reset again, and you won’t be offered a second slot to save in. You’ll just be asked if you want to overwrite the game saved in that one slot. Nintendo’s systems have four save slots, which would have been nice to see here.
Did Sony get the game list right? Nick Pino from TechRadar elaborates:
While Sony could’ve followed in Nintendo’s footsteps by releasing a retro console that plays it safe, the PlayStation Classic is somewhat of a maverick: it doesn’t include the console’s greatest hits - games like Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider or Final Fantasy 8/9 - and instead opts for some cult classics among a few well-received titles.
Using Sony’s retro console is therefore a lot less like walking down memory lane, an experience we had with the SNES Classic and NES Classic Mini, and a lot more like a sample platter of what the PlayStation had to offer 20-some-odd years ago.
If that sounds like it could be divisive, you’d be right.
Fans on both sides of the fence have already taken to Twitter to praise/deride the console for including/snubbing their favorite games - us included. But after playing with it for ourselves, it’s easy to see both sides. Would we have liked to see personal favorites like The Legend of Dragoon or PaRappa the Rapper on Sony’s first retro console? Absolutely. But do they deserve a spot over the likes of Jumping Flash or Rainbow Six?
Actually, yeah, they probably do.
But some folks might have a real attachment to games like Destruction Derby, Ridge Racer Type 4 and Intelligent Qube - and if that's you, then the PlayStation Classic is going to be everything you've ever wanted in a retro console.
Martin Robinson with EuroGamer has another take on the game selection:
Some problems are more specific to the PlayStation Classic, though again they're ones you can't necessarily blame Sony for. The game selection is, to put it politely, anemic, with titles that made PlayStation a household name - WipEout, Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider - entirely absent. Part of the problem is also part of the original PlayStation's pioneering; as arguably the first console of the modern era, it's also one of the first bogged down with issues of licensing when it comes to music tracks brought in from elsewhere, or in the case of Gran Turismo with auto manufacturers. Getting hold of those licenses again could be a pain - in some cases, it's an impossibility.
The result, though, is that next to the stellar line-ups of the NES Classic and SNES Classic, it all feels underwhelming, and not exactly representative of the original PlayStation in its prime.
What is gaming like on the PSC? Engadget’s Andrew Tarantola shares his thoughts:
The PSC also delivers another '90s throwback: heavy pixelation and blocky polygon rendering. Battle Arena Toshinden, Jumping Flash! and Cool Boarders 2 were the most egregious examples, though in their defense, they are all some of the earliest titles available for the PS1 and the state of technology in 1996 was archaic compared to modern consoles. Later titles like Mr Driller, Rayman, Revelations: Persona, and Tekken 3 are all much easier on the eyes and, to a degree, illustrate just how quickly video rendering technology was advancing at the end of the last century. That said, the image quality on modern 1080p sets was not great, rather fuzzy where it wasn't pixelated. What's more, the games all resolve at 4:3 aspect ratio so you're stuck with wide black bars on either side of the screen. I didn't see any option to stretch the display or otherwise fit it to today's 16:9 screens.
Mini console fans are getting exactly what they want, says Nick Statt from The Verge:
Still, if you’re a fan of the mini-console trend and a sucker for retro gaming nostalgia, the PS Classic is going to satisfy most of your needs. Sony invited members of the press down to its San Mateo, California offices earlier this week to get a good look at the console and play any of its games for a few hours. The most obvious takeaway I can provide is that the device is everything you’d expect.
The console is well-designed and adorable. It’ll be an instant show-stealer of a collectible for those who miss the old-school console aesthetic and are already making room for it on their shelf or in their living room gaming setup. As for how it functions, it’s just like Nintendo’s devices, down to a near-identical carousel interface for selecting games and managing saves.
One final take, this time from Jonathon Dornbush with IGN:
And your enjoyment of those trips down nostalgia lane will define whether the PlayStation Classic holds your attention for more than a couple hours. I undoubtedly had my fun with a few entries, and could certainly see myself being sucked back into more of Midgar or Snake's exploits. The list isn't packed with heavy hitters, though, and knowing what defined the console but didn't end up being included, along with the lack of nostalgic bells and whistles, can make even those great aspects of the PlayStation Classic feel like part of an incomplete whole.
Thumbnail via John Kim, CNET