Sony’s Playstation Classic has officially launched at its $ 99 MSRP, and reviews of the device have started to come in. We’ve rounded up reports from PCMag, The Verge, and Polygon to get a sense of whether you ought to buy the platform in the first place. Whether the PSC appeals to you may depend in large part on what you’re hoping to get out of it.
According to everyone, the presentation is incredibly bare-bones. Where Nintendo added features like backgrounds and four save slots for each game, Sony has only opted for a single save slot for each title and lacks the SNES Classic’s Rewind function. There are no filters or other options to improve graphics quality and the split between the titles gamers wanted and the titles gamers got is recognized as a major negative. There are reasons why certain beloved titles may not have appeared on the games list, many of them to do with remake launch schedules and music licensing rights, but whatever the cause, the games aren’t here. As PCMag notes:
This is a “classic” machine that doesn’t have a Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, or Tomb Raider game. For any gamer who remembers the late ’90s, that’s absurd.
Games like Grand Theft Auto or Revelations: Persona may be the titular first entry in long-running series, but they’re ultimately poor examples of how those franchises would evolve. Furthermore, output on the game console starts at 480i, before being upscaled first to 720p, and then to either 1080p or 4K. This results in exceedingly muddy-looking output.
There are no graphical options to tweak or scanline filters to add. Games are presented in alphabetical order in the menus, with no option to filter or sort titles. Sony’s decision to use the original PS1 controller instead of a later DualShock model means no dual sticks, even though some of the games included support dual stick controllers. The Verge notes that the PSC serves as a sort of time capsule, showing off the ways developers were attempting to adapt to 3D spaces.
Is Syphon Filter fun to play in 2018? Not especially. You need to dig through a menu to do something as simple as swapping your gun, and playing a third-person shooter without the ability to control the camera is incredibly frustrating. But as a snapshot of early 3D action games, Syphon Filter is a fantastic choice. The same goes for a number of other titles. Intelligent Qube is a fairly simple puzzle game that’s heightened by dramatic camera angles and music that create a sense of tension that wasn’t possible with previous technology. Jumping Flash feels like a mess today, but its vibrant world is a great example of how designers struggled to translate platforming gameplay to three-dimensional spaces.
It was a genuinely strange time in gaming. Developers took more chances and kicked bizarre products out the door to see what worked in 3D and what didn’t. Also, some are unhappy because the US versions of certain titles come from Europe and are based on the 50Hz PAL standard rather than 60Hz NTSC. The games affected by this are:
Battle Arena Toshinden
Cool Boarders 2
Grand Theft Auto
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Resident Evil Director’s Cut
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
These games may run more slowly than you expect due to using a 50Hz PAL version.
Polygon pulls no punches. According to that site, Sony’s attempt to emulate Nintendo “lands with the grace of a belly flop.” Dual Shock 4 controllers are not supported, despite the use of USB. There’s no power adapter included in the box, so you’ll need a device that can provide power over USB or a separate adapter.
PCMag’s final conclusion speaks for all the sites we’ve read: “Sony could have done so much more here with just a little extra effort put into the emulation code and presentation, and a little more thought put into the game list. To be clear, the PlayStation Classic isn’t a bad retro game system. But considering the original PlayStation’s legacy, it’s a disappointing one.”
If all you want is a barebones reprint of a classic experience, you’ll be happy with the PSC. Everyone else should steer clear.