Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Even though I know all these retro consoles are largely an effort turn my nostalgia into big-time corporate profits, they’re damn hard to resist. There’s just something about gray plastic and the old school boot up sound that hits a deep part of my brain as few things do, so when I heard Sony was making a retro revival of the original PlayStation, I thought “Great, another mini console to add to the collection.” But after getting to check out Sony’s take on a throwback gaming machine, I feel a bit shortchanged.

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Before we get to the PS Classic’s scattershot list of bundled games, let’s talk about its hardware. Like the NES and SNES Classic, the PlayStation Classic is a pint-sized version of the original from 1995 (or ‘94, if you lived in Japan) that’s just under half the size, which makes it kinda cute. All the buttons on top are functional, though some have been repurposed due to changes made to the system itself like the CD tray being permanently shut. On the PS Classic, the Reset button is actually more of a home button that brings you back to the system’s main list of games, while the Open button is there to switch between disks in games like Final Fantasy 7 that originally shipped on multiple CDs.

Sadly, like the CD tray, the PS Classic’s memory card slots don’t open either, though Sony does provide a virtual memory card so you can save your games on blocks just like you used to. But in what seems like a weird affront, the PlayStation Classic doesn’t come with a power adapter. In the box, you get two controllers, an HDMI cable, and a micro USB cord, but you’ll still need a brick to plug into the wall. Luckily, the PS Classic’s power requirements are relatively minimal (Sony says you need 5V, 1A adapter), so it’ll work with pretty much any old smartphone power brick you might have lying around. But as one of the most expensive mini retro consoles at $100, not including one seems like a weird omission.

Because of the wired cords, if you don’t have perfectly placed outlets, you’ll probably end up playing the PC Classic sitting cross-legged on the floor like did when you were a kid,
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

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The controllers, on the other hand, are probably the best part of the entire kit. While they feel a tiny bit lighter than their 20-year-old counterparts, they’re arguably even more solid, and the buttons have a nice tactile punch to them. Some people probably wish that Sony had gone with Dual Shock controllers instead of the vanilla models, which is fair, but the PS Classic does make up for that somewhat by including two controllers in the box.

Also, as a nice bonus, since the controllers use cords with standard USB Type-A connectors, you can plug them into a PC—where they show up as generic controllers—and then easily configure them for use in Steam via Big Picture mode. So at the very least, the PlayStation Classic’s controllers could see extra lives when used to play other retro games on PC.

Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

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OK, now back to the system’s bundled games. (For a full list, scroll to the bottom or click here.) For the kind of library the PSX has, the PS Classic’s choice of games is pretty disappointing. The only way it makes sense to me is that Sony is treating this thing as a PlayStation origin story instead of a greatest hits collection (Or, you know, it couldn’t secure the rights to better titles). While you do get some gems like Tekken 3 and Metal Gear Solid (which totally hold up), there’s no Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Tomb Raider, or Crash Bandicoot to be found. Instead, you get titles such as Intelligent Qube and Jumping Flash which speak to the awkward birth of 3D graphics but don’t quite hold your attention in 2018.

Then are weird choices like the original Grand Theft Auto, which I tend to associate more with the PC, or (nearly unplayable) Twisted Metal, and Syphon Filter. These were all fine in their own time but have more engaging sequels that were also available on the original PSX. And when you look at the PS Classic’s 20 bundled games to the 21 titles available on the SNES classic, Sony’s console is burdened with more throwaways or niche titles that won’t hit with a lot of people, which is sad, because back in the day, the PSX had one of the biggest and deepest libraries ever.

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Another minor gripe is that unlike the SNES Classic, there’s no option to add old-school scan lines to games or to cover up the unused portion of today’s widescreen TVs with a PlayStation themed background. Even the PS Classic’s save state support is incredibly minimal. After you’re done playing a game, you can back out by hitting the Reset button, at which point the system will automatically create a resume save so you can pick up where you left off. But that’s it, there’s only one save state you can resume from, and there’s no rewind functionality like you get on the SNES Classic either.

Still, thanks to the PS Classic, I was able to instill a new love for Mr. Driller in my girlfriend, and I am thankful for having a decent way to replay Wild Arms. But where’s Suikoden (I’d take either one), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (again, you can’t go wrong with 1 or 2), my boy Parappa or Silent Hill? Seriously, why Destruction Derby and not Gran Turismo 2?

In the end, your ability to appreciate the PS Classic will boil down to three main things: What you think of its hit-or-miss game lineup, whatever mileage you can get out of classic PlayStation Controllers with USB cords, and how much money you’re really willing to fork over for a smaller, cuter PSX body to display on a shelf somewhere.

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Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

But if you step back a bit, between the PlayStation Classic’s general lack of extras, minimal save state functionality, and missing power brick, it’s hard to view Sony’s retro console as much more than a minimum effort to capture some old-school gaming nostalgia. Sure, $100 isn’t that much compared to modern consoles, but I still think the PSX deserves better than this.

README

  • The PS Classic doesn’t come with a power brick, so hopefully, you have a spare smartphone charger you don’t need anymore.
  • There are almost no bonus features, and the save state system leaves a lot to be desired.
  • The PS Classic comes with two controllers, and they even have USB ports so you can plug them into a PC.
  • The 20 included games are very hit or miss.

GAMES LIST

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 • Rayman • Resident Evil Director’s Cut • Revelations: Persona • R4 Ridge Racer Type 4 • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo • Syphon Filter • Tekken 3 • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six• Twister Metal • Wild Arms

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