Sony enters the retro console marketplace with the PlayStation Classic, a plug-and-play console that looks like a miniature version of Sony’s 1995 debut system. The PlayStation Classic comes out on December 3 and will cost $100.
Nintendo has helped make these mini consoles popular with its NES and SNES Classic Editions. The PlayStation Classic follows the same formula. You can connect the machine to a modern TV via HDMI and then play built-in games (20 of them, in the PlayStation Classic’s case). Really, the quality of these things comes down to two factors: Does it feel right? Is the library good?
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What you’ll like
Authentic PlayStation experience
Starting up the PlayStation Classic transported me back to the ’90s. Just hearing that iconic jingle (or … ambient sound … thingy) when you turn the console on gave me a nostalgic rush. Holding the controller gave me the same feeling. Sure, the PlayStation controller hasn’t changed a ton through the years, but I forgot just how good and distinct that original, analog stick-less joypad feels.
The UI is simple and clean while keeping in line with the classic PlayStation aesthetic. It’s easy to find games and play them, and it looks nice. That’s pretty much all you could ask for there.
The games themselves run great. I didn’t notice any significant lag or other hiccups.
Some great games
The PlayStation Classic’s library includes some of the systems best games, and they still hold up as enjoyable experiences. The PlayStation came out in one of the most interesting times in game development history. Studios were figuring out how to make 3D gaming work best while also pondering the future of 2D titles. It was an era of experimentation and constant breakthroughs, and it produced some of the most memorable games ever.
Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII are the two biggest heavy-hitters here. Both games took presentation and spectacle to new heights, but they aren’t just technical achievements. The games have strong personalities that shine through over 20 years later.
Then you have memorable PlayStation staples like the car combat game Twisted Metal, the first-person shooter/platformer hybrid Jumping Flash, and the survival horror innovator Resident Evil (specifically, the director’s cut). You can spend a lot of time playing laying through the best of the machine’s games.
The PlayStation Classic is also fun with a friend. The device comes with two controllers, so you can play together immediately. A good amount of the games offer multiplayer support. Sure, you may not want to play any of them for hours upon hours in row, but you can have a great evening surfing around the multiplayer offerings.
As I mentioned, you have Twisted Metal, which almost feels fresh again since the car-combat genre has gone dormant. Fighting game fans can play Battle Arena Toshinden, an early 3D fighter that is a bit wonky but has a lot of charm (and an incredible soundtrack). You also have Tekken 3, one of the best 3D fighters of the era.
Ridge Racer Type 4 is actually my favorite of the multiplayer games. Heck, it’s one of my favorite games on the PlayStation Classic in general. I never really played much of this series before. I had no idea what I was missing. Even with its primitive graphics, Ridge Race Type 4 just exudes this chill, ambient racing experience with its beautiful tracks (both of the racing and musical variety). Having a chance to experience older games that I missed the first time around is one of the reason I love these retro consoles.
What you won’t like
Subpar and missing games
I don’t love all of the games in the library. Cool Boarders 2 plays like an awkward mess that has me pining for 1080 Snowboarding. The original Rayman is fine, but its nowhere near the best 2D game the system could have included, especially when Klonoa: Door to Phantomile isn’t on the list. And as much as I love the recent Persona games, I don’t think anyone needs to play through the series’ cumbersome first installment., especially when PlayStation RPG classics like The Legend of Dragoon and Suikoden II aren’t on the console.
Then you have other disappointing absences like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Crash Bandicoot, Jet Moto, and Wipeout. Licensing may have played a part in keeping some of those games out (I’m sure the music in Tony Hawk made it difficult to include), but I wish something could have been done to include them.
Also, sometimes I’m disappointed by the game Sony chose to represent a series. Why put in Twisted Metal and Jumping Flash instead of their superior sequels?
Another short controller cord
You know what other idea Sony took from Nintendo? A frustratingly short controller cord. Look, I understand why the controllers aren’t wireless. Having that physical connection to the console is a small part of the retro charm (although one I’d probably get over missing). But I wish the cord would still reach from my TV to my couch. I’m old now; it’s not comfortable to sit on the floor in front of the TV.
The PlayStation Classic is a great trip through your 32-bit memories. If you’re looking for a fun way to play games like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, and Ridge Racer Type 4, this machine gives you a great experience.
But the library does feel lacking. Some of the included games feel unnecessary while real PlayStation classics are sadly absent. And it is this middling library that makes the PlayStation Classic fall just a bit short of the high standards set by Nintendo’s mini consoles.
The PlayStation Classic comes out on December 3. Sony provided us with one for this review.