PlayStation Classic Review

PlayStation Classic Review

When I first turned on the PlayStation Classic, I was instantly teleported back more than two decades thanks to this iconic splash screen and sweeping synth sound. Unfortunately, this nostalgic wave soon subsided once I started scrolling through the short menu of just 20 included games. As this adorable miniature version of the most popular gaming console of the 90s, lacks too many big names to truly live up to the classic label. The PlayStation Classic is a pint-sized recreation of the original and arguably most iconic PlayStation ever made. It’s preloaded library of games does feature a handful of the greats, but it’s missing the likes of Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider, Wipe-Out, and Crash Bandicoot, making for a compilation that doesn’t come close to reflecting the platform at its’ best.

The shrunken system itself looks spot on and comes bundled with a pair of controllers that recreate the look and feel of the PlayStation’s original joypads, albeit with a meter USB cord attached. Unfortunately, this does mean they’re missing the analog sticks and vibration that would later come via the Dual Shock, and as a result many of these 3D games feel pretty cumbersome to control by modern standards. This clunkiness is felt most keenly in the racing and shooting genres, but while siphon filters stilted third person shooting is mostly saved by its’ lock-on targeting, Rainbow Six’s rigid button based reticule movement makes it borderline unplayable to the extent that it’s baffling as to why the game was included at all. (rapid gunfire) The primitive controls create a slight barrier to the fun, but it’s the visuals that I found to be the most off-putting.

The graphics of these games simply haven’t aged well, particularly when you stack up their low polygon characters, textures, and environments against the ultra-detailed high-definition game worlds of today, or even the still superb pixel art of the finest Super Nintendo games. But what really magnifies the problem, quite literally, is the fact that 3D games just don’t seem to upscale as well as the sprite based games from the 8 and 16-bit eras when played on the large 1080p or 4k panels found in most households in 2018, to the point of being pretty uncomfortable to look at for prolonged periods.

Many games that I remember as being cutting edge now merely resemble a mess of cutting edges, and menus can be particularly hard to read. Is that even in English? Perhaps the harshness of the upscaling could have been mitigated had Sony included any alternative visual filters, such as a CRT simulation to soften the image as found in Nintendo’s rival Micro Machines. But sadly, there are no visual settings to adjust whatsoever, which is disappointing. The 2D games hold up a lot better visually and perhaps that’s why I spent most of my time with the PlayStation Classic returning to beat my best scores in Mr. Driller and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which both remain as wonderfully addictive today as ever. (male grunting) I was also delighted to return to the original Rayman to find that it is still a fun platformer, largely because its’ main character and enemies endure by being so endearing.

Then there are the headliners, Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid. Both are landmarks for their respective franchises and comfortably among the best games of the era, if not all-time, so not much else needs to be said. Although, in terms of the latter, it is a shame that the absence of controller rumble means you’re robbed of one of the greatest fourth wall breaking moments in gaming history during the Psycho Mantis boss fight. – Now I will move your controller by the power of my will alone. (crickets chirping) – Still, it’s these top tier games that, along with Tekken 3 and Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, perhaps best live up to the Classic moniker.

(characters fighting) So it’s just a shame that there aren’t more of their ilk included. There may be a number of reasons as to why the likes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night didn’t make the grade, but no matter what the behind the scenes circumstances may be, the end result is that the PlayStation Classic just doesn’t feel as fully formed as the NES Classic or the Super NES Classic. And since there’s no official support for additional game downloads, this system will ultimately go down as something of a missed opportunity. The PlayStation Classic feels more like a half-hearted acknowledgement than a top-shelf tribute to Sony’s era defining console. The list of 20 games seems to miss more of the system’s greatest hits than it manages to include.

Furthermore, the progress of time and television technology has not been kind to the look of many of these early 3D titles. And the inclusion of digital only controllers makes many of them feel unwieldy by modern standards. The PlayStation Classic is a neat collector’s item that will look great on a shelf in your games room, but it’s a much more attractive ornament than it is viable gaming system. For more PlayStation reviews, check out our verdicts on Spiderman and Astro Bot VR.

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