Unfortunately, there are many bad and wrong opinions circulating about Sony’s Playstation Classic. Set to be released on December 3, it’s a nostalgic mini-console replica of the original PlayStation from 1994 that comes preloaded with 20 games like Final Fantasy VII, Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid, Twisted Metal, and Jumping Flash!
I played the Playstation Classic over the weekend, and then made the mistake of googling other people’s opinions about it, my favorite way to ruin my own good time.
“There’s nothing wrong with the PlayStation Classic if you want to drop the cash on another hunk of plastic that’ll gather dust below your television,” Motherboard writer Matthew Gault wrote in September when Sony announced the system. Respectfully, I do want to have this thing gather some dust on my TV stand. It is exactly as-advertised: A novelty system for playing a bunch of old games. It's far from perfect. To be honest, the device itself and many of the games included with it are kind of messed up and broken. But so was the original PlayStation and many of these early 3D games, so in a way it's a faithful recreation.
Reviewer assessments so far have ranged from “incomplete” to “bare-bones.” As someone whose first hands-on experience with the PS Classic was not in PlayStation’s San Mateo headquarters with a Sony representative breathing down my neck—but rather from my bed, in my pajamas, as Ken Kutaragi damn well intended—my review of the system is: It’s fine.
If it had a feature that simulated my little brother erasing all my Final Fantasy VII save points to spite me, I’d be into that, too.
I’m a big believer in realistic expectations when it comes to tech made to elicit hype, which is what all classic/mini/retro consoles are. It’s the holidays, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are upon us, and we’ve all got mouths to feed—gaming monoliths like PlayStation included. After the retro mini console successes of the SNES and NES Classic systems, PlayStation went and put all of my favorite original PlayStation games on a glorified USB stick and housed it in some cute mini-console packaging. That’s chill with me.
With this very low bar set, here are a few thoughts on the components of the PlayStation Classic.
The most fun parts about this system, for me, are some of what others seem to find most annoying. The first thing I noticed is the controller wire, and how short it is. I have to sit four feet from the TV, which in itself is nostalgia—I used to rearrange my parents’ living room several times a week trying to get close enough to the TV when playing the PlayStation. When Mad Catz came out with PS2 controller wire extenders and I could sit on the couch? That was true luxury.
The second things I notice is the lack of thumb joysticks, but only out of habit from my PS4 controllers. PlayStation didn’t introduce analog joysticks on its controllers until the Dual Analog controllers in 1997, so there were only three years before gamers could leave stick-less controllers behind. (Just for fun: anyone remember this monstrosity, the PlayStation Analog Joystick? I’d buy it.)
Holy shit is everything harder to play without joysticks. I’m constantly groping for them when trying to adjust viewing angles or move around. This isn’t a complaint, it’s fun. I spent the first 10 minutes of Resident Evil spinning in a circle because the perspective is fucked up and forward means backward. You’re buying the thing to reminisce—so reminisce on how hard we had it back in the day.
Other reviewers have complained that having to press the physical reset button on the PS Classic console to return to the main menu and switch games, instead of using a controller button, is a pain in the ass. I agree, but again, this is arguably part of the experience.. Besides, I’m already sitting tits-close to the thing; I want to hit the button. I hit the button just for the hell of it. I wore my first PS One out hot-swapping music CDs into the console during paused games to make my own custom soundtrack for Cool Boarders and Jet Moto. It was great!
Annoying, friction-adding aspects of the system like the wired controllers and these pointless console buttons add to the nostalgia, for me. If it had a feature that simulated my little brother erasing all my Final Fantasy VII save points to spite me, I’d be into that, too.
It’s definitely strange to see old favorites on my HD television—the early 2000s 3D aesthetic looks like ass on my 2018 TV screen. But this, also, is fine.
I don’t want these games to look better than they did. We relearn this lesson every time a franchise tries to do a reboot. When PlayStation released its reboot of the Crash Bandicoot series for PS4 with the N. Sane Trilogy last year, it tried to replicate the 20-year-old original while remodeling it for current-day players, including rendering every hair on Crash’s already-freakish orange body. I really didn’t need to pick out each fiber in his jeans.
In these PlayStation remakes, like the new Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro, it’s jarring to see characters and worlds that once only rendered as a loose facsimile—blocks and cubes for feet, watercolor backdrops for scenery, paper dolls twitching and copy/pasted to make crowds—suddenly displayed with photorealism. It’s like reading a good book and being disgusted by the movie. It will never live up to what you made of it in your own mind. Original 3D games let me fill in the blanks with my imagination. When it comes to retro games, I don’t want to be shown the real world; give me the cave wall.
PS Classic Game Review Speedrun
Presented in the order in which I randomly picked them from the carousel menu, here are 20 one-sentence reviews of each of the games on the Playstation Classic.
An acid trip involving an astronaut rabbit attempting to save the world (not clear which world).
A snowboarding game where a guy whose rattail you can hear in his voice abuses you for ping-ponging off cliffs.
Grand Theft Auto
I was never allowed to play GTA as a kid because it was too violent; the first thing I did in the game today was walk straight to the train tracks and fry myself on the third rail.
The sound of the “Sweet Tooth” clown truck cackle has haunted me for almost 20 years.
They got some really fucked up raccoons in Raccoon City.
A bunch of kids fuck around and get haunted. Having never played a Persona game before, I’m into this Twilight Zone meet Twin Peaks in an anime RPG aesthetic.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
Absolutely wild that they let Tom Clancy turn a book into a video game. Can’t get over it.
Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Some people call this game a "classic," and one of the best puzzle games ever made. However, a Street Fighter game with no fighting? I call that "dumb."
The beloved debut in the stealth-action series that had to go to the PSP to finally die forever.
What if Final Fantasy was a Wild West RPG? Alternatively, What if Red Dead Redemption 2 was anime?
Battle Arena Toshinden
It would be easy to write this game off as proto- Tekken, but according to this 1996 IGN article, it invented the side-step maneuver, taking the fighting genre into “true 3D.” That’s cool I guess but I’d still rather play Tekken thanks.
This is the greatest thing Ubisoft has ever done. It’s been downhill since 1995.
I’m an anime miner baby in a onesie who demands to be called “mister.”
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
This is a game about organizing one’s place of employment against the ruling class.
Was King a furry?
Metal Gear Solid
How could I say anything but nice things about the franchise that would eventually bring me this early YouTube artefact.
I only ever got to play the version of this game that came on a PlayStation demo disk, but the full version is just as much an existential horror as I remember. You’re a tiny man in a suit running from huge endless cubes!
R4 Ridge Racer
This is a good game but the intro is terribly, improbably horny. Hornier than it has any right to be.
Dunno why they put this, R4 Ridge Racer, and Twisted Metal on here, but okay. Could have saved one of these racing game slots for Gex but OKAY.
Final Fantasy VII
I have never felt anything more deeply than my eight-year-old self felt Aerith’s death. That said, Team Tifa forever.