Nothing will ever compare to the thrill of unboxing a brand new PlayStation console, straight out of the '90s – except, perhaps, cracking open the PlayStation Classic.
The device is a diminutive version of the iconic console (this version is smaller than a DVD case) and contains 20 games pre-installed and ready to play for just under $100. It's an experience that's very clearly targeting anyone who grew up with the system and can't resist the allure of a tiny console (like me), as well as those who can't get enough of playing old favorites and want a legal way to do so without the messy entanglements of things like emulators.
Set-up of this mini system is easy: all you need to do is plug it in to enjoy plenty of the old games you likely enjoyed when you were younger. It comes with two PlayStation controllers as well, though not of the DualShock variety – in fact, these feel decidedly cheaper than the originals did, but that's to be expected given the price point and the mass manufacturer. It does mean, however, that there are no analog sticks to use with the games that sorely could use them.
The PlayStation Classic includes the following games:
- 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
As is evident from the list, there are some fantastic choices here, such as Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Wild Arms, Resident Evil Director's Cut, and Revelations: Persona. The inclusion of Intelligent Qube is a great surprise as well, considering it's on the rarer side of the gaming spectrum and can be pricey when purchased separately.
You can enjoy each game by selecting them from a special carousel menu with box art for each one. Simply choose the one you want to play and you're off to the races. No lengthy setup required. You do have to reset the console to switch games, however – would it have killed Sony to include an easier way to change which one you're playing, like Nintendo did with its NES Classic and SNES Classic?
There are save states you can use, though, which make the experience a bit less frustrating. Similarly to how you would use memory cards back in the system's heyday, you use save states to mark your progress, in line with regular emulators, meaning you don't need to reach a set save point. Overall, it's very easy to use and has a clean, easy to follow interface.
However, there's one glaring issue that should keep curious buyers wary when looking to purchase a PlayStation Classic. Many of the games, such as Tekken 3, are actually based on the European PAL release, with lower refresh rates. Many games that you might expect to run at 60 frames per second are actually running at 50hz, and cause issues with the way you see the games and how they perform overall.
It's very disappointing to think that, out of all the things Sony could have done to make a phenomenal product, this is one of the major missteps the company made. Battle Arena Toshinden, Grand Theft Auto, Destruction Derby, Cool Boarders 2, and Oddworld: Abe's Odyssee are all affected by this same issue. You may be able to get by in games that don't require the same lightning reflexes that fighters do, but that doesn't make this egregious problem any less so.
For the games that aren't affected, there's still plenty of fun to be had here. You can experience the greatest RPG of all time in Final Fantasy VII and see where the cult classic stealth-action series Metal Gear Solid first took off, and they're well worth playing, even if you've come back to them many times over. But the real question is whether it's worth spending $100 to do so.
The bottom line is, unless you have $100 burning a hole in your pocket and you just want to include another mini console in your collection, you can do without the PlayStation Classic. If you don't mind spending a bit of cash to collect some of the system's best games (minus quite a few) in one place and want to proudly display the system on your shelf, go ahead and pull the trigger.
If you're in it solely for a way to play classic games, you're better off curating a physical collection, nabbing a Framemeister for your television, and nabbing your favorite games. Alas, this isn't an absolutely essential purchase, even for avid gamers.