Here we are again retro gamers, it is time to review another retro console!
As the title suggests, Sony’s remake is on my agenda, today.
In this Playstation Classic review, I am going to explain why it was a mistake. Sony clearly rushed the release of this unit to try to take advantage of the micro-console trend.
Nintendo kicked this trend off with their NES and SNES Classic, and Sony did not even bother to come up with a different name. There was plenty of room for improving the tiny console, but Sony preferred not to.
This leaves consumers with a machine with an unusual (to put it mildly) collection of games and an awful controller that most notably, betrays the memories of their retro gaming fans (you have got one here).
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A disappointing remake – but someone might like it anyway
I do not mean to sound overly dramatic. Those younger gamers who did not grow up with the original might end up liking it. At least, this gives them an opportunity to get familiar with the first generation of 3D titles, although they turn out to be too ugly and clunky to play for that long. Its price point does make it an easy gift option. Even so, it is still hard to not feel let down.
While the PlayStation Classic looks exactly like the original, it is 45% smaller. There is a make-believe disk tray cover (it will not open, you are wasting your time) and power, reset and eject buttons.
By pressing the reset button, you can go back to the PS Classic home screen.
The eject button allows you to virtually swap disks for longer games like Metal Gear Solid or FFVII.
Its two wired controllers rely on USB connections. The back of this tiny console has an HDMI connection and a mini-USB port for power, although apparently Sony forgot to include a USB AC adapter in the box.
Maybe Sony thinks everyone has one at home these days. They recommend powering the unit using one. Technically, the unit can be powered by any USB connection delivering 1 amp of power. But that leaves out every generation prior to USB 3.1.
I tried several options, until I found my neighbour had an adapter he was not using. Despite this, I gave it back to him 3 days later.
Although personally I was not too disappointed by the omission of the AC adapter in the box, I can well imagine the cries of gamers unable to hook up their new console, on their much anticipated Saturday after-dinner party with their long-time friends (at least since the 90s).
Sony was obviously trying to cut as many corners as they could get away with, to initially keep the price tag near the century mark.
Where have the old features gone? – oh, another short-cabled controller
While sticking with the original design for the controllers brings its fair share of nostalgia, it seems like Sony wanted to save money by omitting features like Dual Shock and vibration.
This sounds pretty odd, especially considering the inclusion of titles like Ridge Racer Type 4 and Metal Gear Solid, which were developed with these features in mind.
To make matters worse, the cables are only 4.9’ long. Although better than the SNES Classic, it still fails to naturally reach my sofa. I had to re-position furniture to play it comfy.
Although you could theoretically use USB extension cables to add a bit more length, I did not have any of those just lying around the house.
Booting up the machine will take you to a home screen that reminds you of the CD player on the original. A carousel will then feature all the games and a virtual memory card that you can access.
While that works the way you would anticipate, you are also able to create a save point anywhere in a game by simply pressing the reset button. It does not allow you to create multiple save points, which is another big disappointment. Creating a new save point wipes out your last one.
A couple of gems are not enough – frame rate and graphics are an issue
The included games are kind of a mixed bag. Some have been remade well. For one thing, I launched Final Fantasy VII and I continued to play until I met Aeris (first love is never forgotten). Other games, like Destruction Derby (which, admittedly, I had overlooked in the past), was a great window into the early days of 3D.
Metal Gear Solid looks as amazing as ever, but other games, like Persona (which I loved back in the day), does show its age.
The emulation is not always consistent. There are remarkable frame-rate dips and jittering that makes playing Ridge Racer Type 4 a real pain. That is not nice one bit.
This title was a milestone for the 32-bit era and deserved better treatment.
It was hard to steer without analog controls, but other than that, I wonder where the car speed has gone. Did it stay in the past?
It is amazing that Namco’s developers have not complained that Sony has managed to completely turn one of their top titles into an impossible-to-play old game.
However, even when the games are properly emulated, the muddy textures and simplified 3D models of the past simply put you off. Let us be honest, they look horrible on 720p, HD and 4K televisions. The old school standard definition sets were actually perfectly suited to the 32-bit console era, since they concealed flaws well.
Unexpectedly though, the 2D games included in the bundle actually look a lot better than 3D ones on today’s TVs. This leads me to believe that Sony had an opportunity to spruce up the rendering for all of the included games and decided against it.
A bad surprise – the PAL glitch
The biggest flaw of this console is also its most confusing. Nine of the 20 games are the European PAL versions, which were designed for 50Hz TVs, instead of the 60Hz standard that was/is used in the US and Japan. Getting these titled ported over to play on newer TVs results in the mess you would imagine.
There is some annoying judder when playing the PAL titles. This also ended up slowing game performance, making it feel like you are playing the game in slow motion. You can forget about timing any of those tricky combos for games like Tekken 3.
Although Sony have not said why they opted for the PAL versions, I personally believe it has to do with their wider language support. It avoids the letterboxing that occurred in Europe when porting the other way, but it is small consolation.
Sony have managed to preserve the worst versions of these games, not to mention poor emulation. This is a big let-down to any retro gamer and it will give Generation Z a wrong view of what the original PlayStation was like and capable of.
It does not surprise me that Sony are not offering a way to play more games on this machine.
At the end of the day, that gives them an opportunity to sell more retro systems down the road, forcing players to spend even more cash. That said, Personally, I am more than reluctant to buy another console remake by Sony, at the moment.
Maybe I was expecting too much from this remake. I bought it out of nostalgia, but my unit actually collects dust better than actually being able to play for hours at a time. This is similar to how I felt about the Nintendo Classic’s 8-bit lineup.
The SNES Classic – on the contrary – is in a different league. Its sprite-based graphics look much better on today’s televisions, and featured a much better array of titles.
Final impressions – a wasted chance
Honestly, it is safe to say that you have already got better ways to play most of the original PlayStation’s games. Just grab an early generation PlayStation 3 featuring all of the PS1 hardware. Job done.
You know how much I love the PSX. I was in awe when it was first released, and I wrote a two-part retro story on this very blog about it. Even so, I struggle to imagine the PlayStation Classic as anything other than a disappointment.
Although casual gamers and younger players may not see its flaws, those flaws will cut any avid retro gamer to their core. This should serve as a reminder to console makers: retro consoles are not just an easy way to increase their bottom line.
Till next retro review!