Leading up to its release, there have been a number of warning signs that the PlayStation Classic plug-and-play system wouldn’t be everything that it was cracked up to be. The lack of an AC adapter, some questionable choices of games, and now word of a lower resolution left some folks fearful that the new console wouldn’t replicate the fun of the original.
But now that we’ve gotten it in our hot little hands, what’s the verdict? Well, let’s just say that Sony needs to do better the next time around. Like, a lot better. Because this system, while delivering some level of fun, just doesn’t “get it” when it comes to recreating a nostalgic era.
First, let’s get to one of the more appealing factors about the system -- size. Somehow, Sony managed to pack a whopping amount of games into what appears to be a very small system. In fact, it’s almost smaller than the DualShock controllers that have been making the rounds lately. That says a lot when it comes to putting the system into your collection, as it won’t take up that much space at all. The newer PS One model might be a smidgeon smaller, but it’s really tough to compare.
But then comes the downside, and that’s the controller. I forgot how uncomfortable the original PlayStation controllers were without DualShock functionality, but the PlayStation Classic is a not-so-subtle reminder. While the controls are responsive, the pads just feel weird without the analog sticks. And what’s more, some games just don’t function well without them. Retro-themed gamers may not mind as much, but this is one instance where Sony should’ve invested the tech and made the more recent PlayStation controller model happen, instead of this somewhat average one.
Then we get to the way that the system is set up. Right off the bat, a lot of people will be frustrated by the fact that an AC adapter isn’t included. Sure, you could buy your own, but what’s to happen if you give this to someone Christmas day and they have no way to power it up?
There is a USB cable included, but it wouldn’t respond half the time to the power sources that we tried to plug them into to get the system working. Something tells me that Sony is going to get a lot of calls about this come Christmas day, just as it did in the past with the “disk read error” issue with the PlayStation 2. Only this is likely to make customers angrier.
By the time we did power up the system, we were treated to a rather plain menu. Sure, the games are easy to select here, but that’s it. No frills, no museum, no behind-the-scenes data...it’s lazily built, and it shows right up to selecting the games. Granted, you won’t be hanging out here all the time, but even the NES and SNES Classic Editions had better screens than this.
That brings us to the games, and there’s disappointment here two-fold. The first is with the emulation of some of these games, which is just...bland, really. Not that the games are horrible, but there are some that deserved to run at a better resolution than 50hz. In fact, that still hasn’t been fully explained by Sony.
As a result, some games lose their zippy framerate. Ridge Racer Type 4 just doesn’t look the same as it did running on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita; Grand Theft Auto is a chaotic mess that’s only worth trying a couple of times; and even Tekken 3, one of the biggest games in the collection, can throw you for a loop because the timing can be so off with the resolution and the response.
The rest of the games are okay...but this issue just can't be overlooked.
Then there are the actual games, and while there are a few winners here, like the awesome Intelligence Qube, the addictive Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (still a gem, literally) and the action-packed Jumping Flash!, there are also some stinkers.
We can start with Battle Arena Toshinden. A decent fighter? Sure. But time has not been kind to it; and the game just looks incredibly old. This is one instance where I would’ve taken Soul Edge or even Tobal No. 1, as both of those would’ve been possible.
Also...why is Mr. Driller here? It’s not really a “classic” like the Namco Museum games or even Pac-Man World.
And Cool Boarders 2 can go die in a fire. When people think PlayStation sports games, they think Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 or 2 right off the bat. But, alas, there’s this crappy snowboarding game, and it just needs to go.
Could it have hurt Sony to include Twisted Metal 2 instead of the first game? It’s good, but the sequel went miles ahead with its map design and functionality.
And that’s not even counting what’s missing here. Parappa the Rapper, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and even cult classics like Einhander and Xenogears are all nowhere to be found. Oh, but there’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. Nice.
There are some third-party games that deserve credit. It’s good seeing Metal Gear Solid again, though you can play it on PS3/Vita with greater functionality; and the original Resident Evil is still a trip, even with its tank-like controls. And the original Rayman definitely has something going there, even though it’s available for other platforms. (Vita, for sure.)
Overall, though, this collection lacks balance, and a majority of it will likely be ignored in favor of more popular favorites. Which is a shame.
In the end, PlayStation Classic just fails to entertain. The system is decently made, but the controllers and menu are cheap substitutes for the real deal; the game selection is highly questionable, and I’m not convinced that Sony couldn’t have brought some of the more noteworthy titles with a little discussion over the licenses; and the resolution issue is just plain unforgivable, when the games run worse here than they did on the hardware that came out more than two decades ago.
It’s supposed to be a tribute to the days of old, but it simply screams out, “CASH IN!” instead of being something actually meaningful. This is one of those instances when Sony should’ve thought things through and made the system improved across the board, instead of rushing it out for the holiday market.
I do hope there’s a lesson learned if the company ever considers a PlayStation 2 Classic. Recreating a long-lost era is one thing -- but it’s important -- no, vital -- to do so with accuracy and love poured into the product. Do yourself a favor and hunt down a real PlayStation instead, or get the classics on PlayStation 3 and Vita instead. You will feel soooo much better.
WWG’s Score: 2 out of 5.