PlayStation Classic, analysis: when nostalgia is a necessary condition but not enough to sell a product

The past month of September Sony gave the surprise and was united to the tendency initiated by Nintendo. Announced the PlayStation Classic , a mini console that was born with the aim of rescuing the joys that once brought the original PlayStation . We already had the opportunity to offer some first impressions , but now we have been able to go further with this analysis.

In fact we had this console in for a few days to analyze it, and there was special desire to discover if that magical experience had managed to overcome the passage of time. In a way it has done it, but I would say that Sony has lost here a clear opportunity to recover all the magic of that legendary console.

A faithful design to the original in almost everything

More than two decades have passed since Sony launched the original PlayStation – I owned one of them , so this analysis has a special personal component – and logically in all this time the technology has evolved so remarkably that this powerful console Today you can emulate without problems from any decent half mobile.

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That makes the space needs to integrate the components needed to complete the product are much lower, and in fact the PlayStation Classic is almost half of what was the original model in terms of size. It is also much lighter, and in fact holding it in your hand almost looks like a lying console because it is so light.

The outward appearance is practically identical, although in this edition there are several “pious lies” . The top cover that was opened to give access to the CD player is not so, it is “stuck” to the top cover, and the “Open” button that in the original allowed to open that cover here does not do it, but allows to change the “virtual unit” if the games needed several CDs during their development.

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The “Power” button does work as expected and only serves to turn the console on or off, while the “Reset” button is probably the most important since it allows you to restart the console to change the game you want to enjoy, apart from another relevant function that we will talk about later.

Special mention deserve the controls of the PlayStation Classic, which are a faithful reproduction of the original controls in terms of design and materials: that crosshead so characteristic, those triggers and those gummy buttons of ‘Start’ and ‘Select’ really help give back to that experience of the past.

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They are still controls with cable – there is not a step to the wireless world here that would have been interesting – but the length of it is enough to play comfortably. What does change is the connector, which happens to be a conventional USB instead of the proprietary connector used by the original controls of the PS1.

Some may miss the DualShock controls with the analog sticks that were added to the crosshead, but the truth is that although in some games those controls helped (and a lot), the console seems to be a specific tribute to that original version, including controls.

The experience: perhaps too faithful to the original?

When turning on the PlayStation Classic we find a simple and functional interface that first shows the list of games in rotation -we can move to one or the other with the command easily- and that also allows access to a very basic menu of options.

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In that carousel is shown a miniature capture of the cover of the game, the title and developer, the year of release and the number of players it supports. There are no great boasts in that presentation of the titles, although at least that interface does take advantage of the panoramic format of the televisions or monitors to which we connect the console: we must remember that the maximum resolution offered is 720p.

That support of the panoramic formats disappears when executing the games: Sony has not adapted these titles to modern times and there is practically no scaling , because the 4: 3 format with which they were programmed is maintained to preserve that original aspect ratio .

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To a certain extent it is surprising to see how large black bands appear on both sides of the games , and often black bands at the top and bottom also “box” that game experience that also has another handicap: that the graphics have evolved a lot in all that time.

That is perhaps easier to accept for games of the old 8-bit platforms, but at least in my case the memory I have of the original PlayStation was that of a machine that made a brutal graphic leap. I remember seeing ‘Gran Turismo’ for the first time and then thinking that it seemed impossible that a car game seemed much more real than that .

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In many of the games included in the PlayStation Classic reality smack is remarkable, and for example ‘Grand Theft Auto’, ‘Cool Boarders 2’, ‘Resident Evil Director’s Cut’, ‘Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six’ or ‘Destruction Derby’ they have horrendous graphics and development now that I look at them from a distance. They may have their charm, but in gameplay and in the visual section the final result ends up dusting the memories he had of those titles.

With others the experience is fortunately different: ‘Metar Gear Solid’ clearly shows its pixels and its lack of resolution, but the perspective of the game itself and its development has shown that some titles win over time: that game was like that. 20 years makes it clear that it is a jewel of that time .

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It is also probably the ‘Tekken 3’, a true wonder in graphics and gameplay that still retains all the magic of yesteryear. I played a lot to this title and others of struggle that I miss very much (like ‘Soul Blade’ (also known as ‘Soul Edge’), and obviously the preferences weigh here , because my reaction to other titles like ‘Final Fantasy VII’ It’s quite neutral: I did not play it then because it did not catch my attention, but it’s probably one of the big stars in this official Sony selection.

Beyond how well (or badly) they have matured, we were surprised by the loading times, which we expected faster considering that current storage systems might offer more visible advantages in this case. In that experience we also find another small handicap: the games are only available with audio and texts (if present) in English .

Even memory cards are virtual

As we mentioned before, there is an especially useful button in this console, and it is the “Reset” button with which we access the option to restart it to move to another game instead of the one we were enjoying at that moment.

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In doing so, however, a special option appears: the interface asks us if we want to save the game we were playing, one of the most interesting features of this edition.

In the original PlayStation some games allowed you to save games when you reached certain points of development, but in this reissue we can save the games where we want to then resume them.

Each game will have 15 virtual memory card slots that can be managed from the PlayStation interface. This function of the virtual memory card integrated in the device is somewhat more advanced than that allowed by the Memory Card in the original consoles, and of course it is a small point in favor of this development.

Emulating that is gerund

The keyword of that previous section is “emulate”. As in other mini-consoles that have already appeared on the market, the PlayStaiton Classic does not use the same hardware as the original, but uses a small miniPC on which runs the emulator that gives access to all this nostalgic experience.

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This emulator has not been developed by Sony, interestingly: it is an Open Source emulator called PCSX-ReARMed, precisely compiled for ARM processors and is a derivative version of the well-known PCSX-Reloaded, in development since 2009.

As commented our fellow Engadget, this emulator is the same as using the platform RetroArch , but unlike integrated in this platform in this release will not have some interesting options such as network game or feature “save rewind” with which We could go back (little time, yes) in our recent games to be able to try new ways, for example.

The controversy is served with the list of games included

Everything said so far poses a balanced solution in terms of design, hardware and features: the PlayStation Classic does not shine especially in anything , but certainly facilitates access to those games of the past and does so with great fidelity even in loading times that they are longer than one might expect.

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The real problem comes with the list of games included . Sony has decided to pre-install 20 titles on the PlayStation Classic so that we can play any of them when we want, and are the following alphabetically ordered:

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

The lists never end up being accurate in everything for everyone, and this is no exception. Sony released it weeks ago, and since then the debate among the user community has been huge: many former owners of the console protest the lack of titles that are not and the inclusion of others that Sony has decided to integrate into this pack.

My feeling is the same, and it is the problem of wanting to offer a list that tries to please all audiences. I understand that games like ‘Final Fantasy VII’ have been part of the selection although it is not my personal preference, but for example others like ‘Jumping Flash’, ‘Mr Driller’ or ‘Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo’ are not precisely mythical titles of the console and they almost look like filler games that could have been replaced by much more popular ones.

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Here it is impossible to guess with everyone, but perhaps it would not have been a bad idea to include a ‘Tomb Raider’, a ‘Crash Bandicoot’, a ‘Gran Turismo 2’ or a ‘Driver’. And like these, dozens and dozens of titles that surely many potential buyers will miss so much that they could decide not to buy the console .

The real problem is not so much that as the fact that Sony has indicated that there will be no option to update and expand that list of games available in the future . These 20 titles will be the ones that can be played now and, a priori, forever, something that represents a huge lost opportunity for Sony.

We believe that having integrated any expansion solution that list would have been a very wise decision so that each player could “adjust” your console to your preferences as to the list of games, but this unilateral decision by Sony would get you out very expensive to the company and this nostalgic project.

The charm of the PlayStation Classic is undeniable : like other products in this category, the possibility of going back in time and enjoying some legendary titles is really tempting.

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The problem is that nostalgia is treacherous, and although it can be an important ingredient for the success of solutions such as Sony’s, it is key not to condition that experience as Sony has. There are clear successes here, but also errors that we believe weigh on a product that could have given much more of itself .

Among those successes are that design is a tribute (in small) of the original console and the adoption of ports such as HDMI or USB that “adapt” the experience to new times. The inclusion of HDMI and USB to Micro USB cables is appreciated, but it is a pity that the power adapter is not included although Sony understands that all users already have one at home.

However, there are points against making the purchase recommendation more and more difficult as we go into the equation. There is no connectivity to the internet – imagine an online mode for some of these games would have been great – and the representation of the games is perhaps too faithful to the past.

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In fact, the loading times are sensitive, there is no scaling and the black lateral, upper and lower bands mean that in the end a large part of the viewing area of ​​modern screens is wasted. It’s good that Sony wants to maintain the original experience, but an option that gives access to a scaled (and perhaps softened) graphics would have been interesting.

That snag actually falls short in front of the two main ones. The first is the list of non-expandable games . Not being able to go beyond the selection of games by default is a clear problem that imposes an obvious sacrifice to the players of this console, and although unofficial firmwwares may appear that invent methods to overcome that barrier, the ideal would have been for Sony to open the door to said option.

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The second is the price : other retro consoles have appeared on the market with lower price and a very similar proposal, and here the 100 euros that Sony asks for this console seems excessive.

It is true that the presence of two controls helps from the first moment to enjoy the console with friends and family, but with everything and with that it is difficult not to compare it with those other models of the competition or even with current models: an Xbox One S comes out for 200 euros for example in many current offers .

The options are so many – you can get an original PS in second-hand markets without too many problems – that Sony’s proposal here faces significant barriers. Too many shadows in a product that perhaps gives too much prominence to our nostalgia and not to the fact that it could have made an even better tribute to a console that is already legendary.

Kim Hostler
I studied Communication Sciences because as a child I always wanted to be an announcer and make drawings for advertising campaigns. Life took me down another path and now I am a Communicator who has worked for Nokia, and Motorola. Where now instead of drawing, I take pictures, and instead of talking about my passion.
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