After Nintendo experienced huge success with its diminutive console reissues, the NES Classic Mini and SNES Classic Mini in sequential years, it was only a matter of time before other manufacturers would follow suit.
Sega is due to release its own mini Mega Drive, while other retro consoles and gaming computers, such as the C64 Mini, have appeared in recent times.
Now it’s Sony’s turn, with a tiny version of its first foray into home consoles and, while it comes with several caveats that prevent it being perfect, the PlayStation Classic is a retro gamers’ dream.
The PlayStation (eventually to be renamed PS One) was, quite literally, a game changer when it appeared in 1995 (’94 in Japan). It was the first console to be more widely adopted by older generations – even those who had never picked up a game before.
It wasn’t the first to use discs for its games – Sega had released a CD reader for its Mega Drive (Genesis) at the beginning of the 90s and Philips, Panasonic and Atari dabbled with the CDi, 3DO and Jaguar respectively. But, it was the first to be hugely popular with the format. It was also the first to combine pop culture and gaming in such glorious fashion.
Smaller by design
- 45 per cent smaller than the original
- 720p video through HDMI
- 4:3 presentation for games
The PlayStation Classic doesn’t have a CD drive, of course. It looks identical to the original, but a darn sight smaller (45 per cent) and, effectively, is just a case for decent emulation tech. It comes with two controllers exactly the same shape and style as the original DualShocks, albeit with different, USB connectors, and has 20 games of varying fame and quality pre-installed.
You get a HDMI cable in the box, to suit modern TVs, but only a Micro USB to USB lead for power. There is no adapter, so you’ll have to have a spare USB plug or power port to hand. This is something we’re seeing more and more of these days, as manufacturers unify devices across global markets and their differing power point standards.
The console itself is capable of outputting 720p video, upscaling the original 480p images to look (slightly) better when blown up to larger screens than most will have ever plugged their PS Ones into before.
To be honest, the menu system and in-game graphics are left largely untouched, presenting the originals in as authentic a way as possible. That might be a bit of a shock at first, especially if you’re playing on a 65-inch OLED and wearing rose-tinted spectacles, but you soon get used to the rough and ready approach.
We’d have liked to have seen more options for the games themselves. Nintendo’s equivalent machines give you a few different graphical styles and aspect ratios to choose from to best suit your visual requirements, but the PlayStation Classic is largely devoid of choice. All games are presented in 4:3, which centres them with black side bars on a 16:9 flatscreen. That’s your lot.
Purists will say that’s all you need, but we’d at least have liked the option to change the sidebars to something more creative – PS logos or even game cover art. But it is what it is and when you are playing a game you soon shrug it off.
Bare bones menu system
- Virtual memory card built-in for saves
- Physical reset button on console
The main menu is designed around the first user interface for the original PlayStation. It is extremely basic, with the 20 games featured on a carousel – represented by their original artwork. There is a sub-menu for a virtual memory card, as the first console required dedicated plug-in cards to store save games on. There is also a section explaining what the buttons on the top of the console do, but that’s about it.
None of the games come with extra details or even instructions. You get a QR code to point you to a website on your mobile device instead. As retro games connoisseurs it would have been nice to make more of the library, maybe even adding a brief history of each game or screens, but sadly nothing like that is present. It really is a simple portal to get to each game on offer and that’s it.
As for the hardware itself, you do get power and reset buttons in exactly the same places as they were originally. There is also a disc button that actually prompts disc swap for multi-disc games. That’s a great nod to authenticity.
There is one problem though; much like with Nintendo’s reissues, if you want to play a different game to the one on screen, you have to press the physical reset button on the Classic itself to go back to the menu. There is no way of resetting through the game controller.
That means you can’t hot swap between games easily. And, although the console saves progress in a game as a snapshot when you do press the button, it’s a pain to have to head over to the machine each time.
Coming up a little short
- 2 x USB DualShock controllers
- 1.5 metre cables
It's also a shame that, like with the NES Classic specifically, the 1.5 metre leads on the included controllers are too short for most living room environments. They do come with generic USB connectors though, so you can just use a USB extender and there are third-party accessories to help out. We might even see some wireless controllers from other manufacturers in future.
While the existing leads are short, the controllers are excellently made and feel exactly as they did in the early to mid-90s. Anyone with experience of the latest DualShock 4 PS4 gamepads will be amazed how dinky the Classic originals feel, but they are spot on. They are well made and sturdy too.
We had hoped, considering they are USB enabled, the controllers would also work on a PC or Mac but while recognised by the system on the latter (we haven't tested with PC) the keys don't seem to be assigned logically for compatibility. Maybe someone will produce a correct driver in future, however.
Needless to say, they work wonderfully well with the PS Classic itself.
All about the games
- 20 games pre-installed
- Support 1 and 2 players
Now we come to the included games and that's where the console will ultimately be judged. There are plenty of old school gems that are a joy to rediscover. But, and this is the biggest caveat, there are also some glaring omissions.
Of those included with the console, we are particularly fond of eight of the 20 titles: Cool Boarders 2, Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil Director's Cut, Grand Theft Auto, Destruction Derby, Final Fantasy VII and R4 Ridge Racer Type 4. There are some other good games, such as Rayman and Oddworld: Abe's Odyssey, that can be classified as classics but the other eight are the ones we'll return to time and again.
We can take or leave the other 10, to be honest: Battle Arena Toshinden, Intelligent Qube, Jumping Flash, Mr. Driller, Revelations: Persona, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Syphon Filter, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Twisted Metal and Wild Arms.
They might float others' boats but not essential on our list.
We'd much rather have had Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Wipeout and Gran Turismo 1 or 2. And how about a Parappa The Rapper or Crash Bandicoot? Indeed, any of the famous 3D platformers or rhythm games of the time?
There are actually decent explanations for pretty much every exclusion. In Wipeout's case, clearly the music licences for each of the amazing tracks on the original have expired, likely also the Tony Hawk's licence for Pro Skater. And Parappa The Rapper and Crash have both featured in remastered versions lately, so they were hardly going to appear in their older, rough and ready editions when the shiny updated variants are still available.
It's a still a shame, however, as without some of the greatest games of the period any PS One reissue seems incomplete. What is there is welcome, but you can't help feel it could have been better.
So the overall games list is where the PlayStation Classic falters a touch. We could even live with the short leads on controllers and sit closer the TV if we were careening around corners in Gran Turismo or spelling out horse in Tony Hawk's two-player competition.
Instead, as it stands, the reimagined console is a great but not perfect bundle of blasts from the past that anyone who lived through the era the first time will savour. Even though, at £90, it's an expensive trip down memory lane.
We doubt those who didn't will be as excited to play these classics as much as the Mario-filled ones on Nintendo's equivalent machines, but those of a certain age will be glad to see some old friends again.
Even if others turned down the invite to the reunion.