PlayStation Classic: Must-Have or dust collector?

At this year’s Tokyo Game Show, Sony announced, to the great delight of many nostalgics (and those who still want to become nostalgics), to celebrate the 20th anniversary of PlayStation in style with an HDMI-enabled mini version of its classic, including two dozen pre-installed games. Now it is also known which games these will be, so it is high time to take a look and discuss the question: Is the purchase of the PlayStation Classic worthwhile at all?

First of all, it is already clear that the answer to this question – surprise – depends to a large extent on one’s own memories and expectations, but not only. Here, at any rate, we want to weigh up the pros and cons as justifiably as possible. For this reason, we’ll first take a closer look at the game selection and then look at the software that emulates the PlayStation hardware .















The games

After announcing the PlayStation Classic, we all probably had a more or less clear wish list of games in our minds that we would have liked to see on Sony’s mini console. With Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Resident Evil Director’s Cut and Tekken 3, Sony has undoubtedly added key classics to its portfolio that should not have been missing from the mini version of the PlayStation. In addition, Sony has taken care of a balanced selection of different genres and put together a colourful mix. The following games are included:

  • 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
  • Ridge Racer Type 4
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo┬«
  • Syphon Filter
  • Tekken 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Twisted Metal
  • Wild Arms

Beat-em Ups/ Fighting Games

Battle Arena Toshinden (1995 – Tamsoft) is Sony’s answer to Sega’s Virtual Fighter. It has introduced the mechanics of the sidestep – as it was used later in Tekken 3 – into the genre, as it were, and thus opened up the third dimension for the first time. In addition, the polygon warriors here alternately rake themselves with the most different cutting and stabbing weapons. For historical reasons and its role as avant-garde, Battle Arena Toshinden is by no means insignificant. Whether it can, however, be regarded as a central part of PlayStation anthology can be doubted, given the strong competition from titles not considered. If it was a Battle Arena Toshinden, one of the later series parts would certainly have been more suitable.

With Tekken 3 (1997 – Namco), Sony not only added the commercially most successful part of the series to PlayStation Classic, but also the fourth best-selling game in Playstation. Building on the strengths of its predecessors, the third entry in the series now made it possible to avoid enemy attacks by taking clever steps to the side (in or out of the background). A manoeuvre, which gained playful importance not least by the fact that the jump height of the characters was significantly reduced and jumping was therefore no longer a tried and tested means of resisting all enemy attacks.













racing games

Cool Boarders 2 (1997 – UEP Systems) is a snowboard racing game whose predecessor, Cool Boarders, can be described as a pioneer of more famous and better extreme sports games. Tony Hawks would have been the better choice, although this would have been more difficult to achieve in terms of rights.

R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998 – Namco) is, nomen est omen, the fourth entry in the Ridge Racer series.

The fact that the most sold game of PlayStation, Gran Turismo (1997 – Polyphony Digital), is missing on the Classic can also be explained by licensing problems.













Combat Racing Games

Destruction Derby (1995 – Reflections Interactive) impressed at the time with its own physics simulation, individually deformable car bodies (depending on impact speed and angle), flying splinters, as well as an associated damage model, which also affected the controllability of the drivable vehicle; for example, destroyed cooling led to overheating of the engine and thus to involuntary stoppage of the vehicle.

Twisted Metal (1995 – Single Trac/ Sony) is in contrast to Destruction Derby no real software implementation of the American Demolition Derby, respectively European Stockcar, but a weapons based scrapping round of motorized companions with their own history: On Christmas Eve in (then still) distant 2005 the drivers hand-picked by Calypso by mail met for the 10th time. Anniversary of the annual Twisted Metal Tournament to life and death (further proof that a solid background story, though desirable, is not everything).













(Japanese) RPGs ([J]RPGs)

After porting to numerous other platforms, Final Fantasy VII (1997 – Square) – the second most sold PlayStation game – can now be enjoyed on PlayStation Classic in the near future (a remake is currently being created). Together with Cloud Strife and his cronies, we explore the planet, later baptized Gaia, and defend ourselves in turn-based tactical battles against the unwilling. Already the intro, the city of Midgar surrounded by smoking industrial chimneys, refers to the criticism of the technical-industrial modernization inherent in the title and is thus (unfortunately) as topical as ever. The story of Cloud and main villain Sephrioth is more than deserved part of the repertoire. The only criticism is that only the seventh part made it to the Classic. But with an upper limit of 20 titles, this is understandable.

With Revelations: Persona (1996 – Atlus) the first and therefore in my opinion not quite representative part of the – just like Final Fantasy – still continued and well-known Persona series on the Classic is included. Persona is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series, which deals with the occult. The first part also deals with a school class whose students are able to conjure up physical manifestations of their psyche – the persona that gives the title. In the first-person view, we explore dungeons (in the typical manner of a dungeon crawl such as Eye he Beholder or some recent Legend of Grimrock) and fight randomly generated, turn-based battles through our persona against all sorts of undead and demonic socks that infest the city of teenagers. Not least because of the unsuccessful localization – characters were adapted to the American market using the most questionable stereotypes, references to Japan as well as a whole quest were simply removed (first of all in 2009 the original was ported under the title Shin Megami Tensei: Persona for the PSP) – the second part would have been the better choice, even though this one (from today’s point of view) primarily still relies on elements untypical for series production.

Wild Arms (1996 – Media.Vision) is the third role-playing game in the group, which also stands out due to its western atmosphere. It is a classic role-playing game whose story takes place in Filgaia, a planet on the brink of destruction, characterized by vast deserts, dry landscapes, huge gorges and canyons (in the mid-90s it was apparently clear that global warming was not to be trifled with and could have been dealt with as soon as possible). At the beginning there are three protagonists to choose from, whose prehistory can first be explored separately from the other two characters, before they meet in the course of the story and then roam together through the land of Filgaia. In turn-based battles, the group sets out to save the world, how else could it be? Highlight of the game is surely the lovingly drawn and orchestral animated intro.





















Action Adventure

Originally released for MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows, Grand Theft Auto (1997 – DMA Design) was also implemented for PlayStation with a few months delay. The first part of the cult series shows the events, as well as the second part, from a top-down view. In three different cities we accept orders and make the game world unsafe on foot, but especially in the car. In GTA we hang out for the first time in Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas. All three cities will be visited again in later parts. For, once again, historical reasons, it makes sense to include GTA in the illustrious series of PlayStation Classic games. Maybe GTA 2 would have been the better choice, although the setting was a futuristic one, because some mechanics were sharpened again and it offered a rounder gaming experience.

With Metal Gear Solid (1998 – Konami), the third part of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series, one of the most important pioneers of the stealth genre, has been included in the PlayStation Classic game selection. As Solid Snake we infiltrate a nuclear weapons factory on Shadow Moses, a remote island of the Fox Islands of Alaska, to stop the renegade special unit FOXHOUND. For the first time the event takes place in a three-dimensional environment. Solid Snake itself is no longer controlled from an isometric perspective from above, but not really from a third person view, but from a rather elevated camera position.

With the Resident Evil Director’s Cut (1997 – Capcom), Sony has included an update of the first entry in the Resident Evil series and packed the classic survival horror into the PlayStation Classic with it. Originally released in 1996, the Director’s Cut was released the following year to bridge the long wait for Resident Evil 2. Even though there is now a (very successful) remake of the game for pretty much all current platforms, the Director’s Cut is certainly still worth a visit to admire the roots of the series in their full glory. We can also be curious whether we will now receive a console version of Resident Evil for the first time in Europe, which contains the uncut and colorful intro video, in addition to the PC version, or whether the hedge trimmer has been unpacked again in order not to disturb the American and European audience years later.





















Puzzle Games

Intelligent Qube (1997 – Epics) is one of three puzzle games on PlayStation Classic and an insider’s tip. We control a figure on a playing field composed of dice, which is four blocks wide and varies in length depending on the degree of difficulty. A certain number of blocks rises from the playing field and moves towards us to push us off the field. The task is to use the character to mark certain squares to resolve the dice that are moving towards us.

Mr. Driller (2000 – Namco) was originally planned as the third part of the Dig Dug series, but was released as a stand-alone game. In a combination of Dig Dug and Tetris we dig our way through cubes, which mainly have four main colours (red, blue, green and yellow). Cubes of the same color can combine to form larger shapes from four pieces. The goal of the game is therefore to remove certain dice in order to achieve the highest possible combinations and at the same time not to be crushed by the dice.

The completion of the puzzle genre makes Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (1996 – Capcom). This is a game inspired by Puyo Puyo and Tetris. From the upper edge of the screen, gems tied together in pairs fall down; sometimes in the same colour, sometimes in different colours, sometimes in combination with special stones. The goal again is to create combinations to dissolve the gems. As the name already announces, the playable figures are taken from Street Fighter. These are displayed as animated avatars in the center of the image. A real Stree Fighter Beat-em Up instead of this puzzle game would also have been acceptable.



















Platformer/ Jump `n` Run

The beginning in this section (according to alphabetical order of the games) is Jumping Flash! (1995 – Exact/ Ultra), which promotes Sony as “one of the first 3D platformers”. According to Wikipedia, it even holds the Guinness world record as the first real 3D platformer. We slip into the metallic shape of Robbit, a robot-rabbit, whom we steer jumping through the levels in high arcs from the ego-view.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee (1997 – Oddworld Inhabitants) is now again not only a real classic, but also a wonderfully bizarre game. The protagonist is the title-giving Abe, who not only experiences a truly crazy odyssey here, but tells the same story at the same time. Abe is a Mudokon and therefore a member of the slave race in Oddworld. Accordingly, he works as a cleaner at RuptureFarms, a meat processing factory run by Molluck the Glukkon. With RuptureFarms products running out of ingredients for their most sought-after products, the management and board are simply planning to forge their own slaves into a new delicacy. Abe gets wind of this plan and decides to flee. In a classic side-scroller manner (comparable to Prince of Persia) we steer Abe through the levels and help him and other Mudokon escape from RuptureFarms. The game is also puzzle-heavy, because it’s always about avoiding or eliminating the trigger-happy guards by using all Abes abilities.

Rayman (1995 – Ubi Pictures), the creature with no connection to his extremities, has also found his way to PlayStation Classic. In Rayman’s world, the great Protoon provides harmony. But as we learn in the intro, one day Mr. Dark steals the same thing, throwing the electoons orbiting the Protoon off balance and scattering to the winds. Various monsters appear, catch the electoons and lock them in small cages, which guard them distributed over the different levels. Now with our help, have Rayman rebuke it and recapture the Protoon. As the adventure progresses, Rayman gains more and more abilities: he can only run and jump at the beginning, he soon learns to swing his fist and hurl it away from him, to turn his hair like a propeller and thereby float briefly or plant seeds to grow flowers that will serve him as new platforms from now on. A beautifully drawn 2D side scroller that was the dark soul of my childhood, with the difference that I never saw the credits. Rayman was and is really difficult.



























Shooter

Syphon Filter (1999 – Eidetic) is, just like Metal Gear Solid, a representative of sneak games, which, however, puts a much stronger focus on shooting inserts and thus on action. We control Gabriel Logan, an agent, from a third-person perspective. Together with our partner Lian Xing we are on the hunt for the terrorist Erich Rhoemer, whereas the investigations lead us deeper and deeper into the criminal network of an international pharmaceutical and biotechnology company.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six (1999 – Red Storm Entertainment) was first released for Microsoft Windows, just like GTA, and first ported in the following year for the then current console generation and Mac OS. The first part of this series of tactical shooters is played from a first-person perspective, as is typical of series production. Before the missions it is necessary to plan these on the drawing board in order to swear the AI colleagues on their own plan. I don’t think it really needed that title. Neither has the series had a special impact on PlayStation, nor has the title aged particularly well. It’s a pity about the place you got, especially in view of all the titles and series that didn’t make it to the Classic (but more about that now).















This would briefly describe all 20 games of PlayStation Classic, arranged by genre. As a lover of the PlayStation classics, however, I remain somewhat perplexed. Where have all those series/titles gone that are inextricably linked to PlayStation: Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Spyro, the already mentioned Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Wipeout, R-Type, Silent Hill or Parasite Eve, to name just a handful of missing classics? Some of the titles selected by Sony could have been replaced without hesitation by one of the ones listed here, if not necessary.

But as the English-speaking world population says, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” Sony’s selection will also find its supporters, and that’s a good thing. After all, one should never take oneself so seriously as to be embarrassed to raise oneself and one’s own opinion to the level of all things, especially where it is primarily about questions of taste.

With this conciliatory final word to the game selection we want to go over to the emulator of the PlayStation Classic, which in my opinion is the actual crux of the matter and which makes the whole undertaking appear under a completely different light and thus becomes fundamentally critical.

The emulator

While Nintendo developed its own software solution for the mini versions of its Nintendo Entertainment Systems (NES Classic Edition) and Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems (SNES Classic Edition) to emulate the corresponding hardware, Sony has opted for an open source variant with the PCSX ReARMed. This is now anything but a bad emulator. On the contrary. I am by no means criticizing the quality of the software, but rather the practice of Sony that accompanies this decision. Because, as already mentioned, the PCSX ReARMed is an open source emulator that Sony is now commercializing. The story is particularly piquant because Sony has already taken legal action against the manufacturer (Bleem!) of a commercially distributed emulator. Sony will have made sure that the use of ReARMed is legal. However, from a business ethics perspective, this approach remains more than questionable. And even if the PCSX ReARMed is a good emulator, due to its nature it can’t work as smoothly as emulators developed by Sony itself, because it has to get by without intimate knowledge of PlayStation and its software; knowledge only programmers and constructors of Sony can possess.

This raises the question why, apart from ethical and moral concerns, users should spend additional money on this solution if they already own the games in question or can purchase them cheaper in the original than PlayStation Classic itself? In this case, the games can be played on an emulator of your choice, which can also be individually adapted. Thanks to the rampant retro wave, there are now numerous possibilities and instructions to assemble your own small retro console. For example, we refer to a Raspberry Pi with Retropy or Recalbox as operating system and emulator.

In addition, the attraction of the collection of original hardware lies in the fact that the games can be played on a native environment, in this case an emulation solution specially developed by Sony, on the one hand in order to guarantee a smooth gaming experience, but above all because the software is also part of the collection. We were cheated of this double pleasure by choosing an open source emulator.



3. (preliminary) conclusion

What remains after a thorough pre-check of PlayStation Classic is a pale aftertaste. While Sony has carefully selected the 20 pre-installed titles to represent a wide variety of genres in a balanced distribution, it has not taken into account the countless classics that once shaped PlayStation and has sometimes preferred lesser known genre representatives. Thus, the choice of games itself is not a mandatory recommendation to buy. This is accompanied by Sony’s questionable decision – from an ethical, moral and performance perspective – to use the PCSX ReARMed as an open source emulator rather than a native interface. However, since this emulator is available to us free of charge anyway, it does not make an immediate compulsory purchase of the PlayStation Classic either. Maybe the basic quality of the machine will pull the rudder around again and wipe away my objections. The release of the same on December 03 will show it soon. The voltage rises.

What is PlayStation Classic? A mini replica of the first PlayStation console, with 20 cult games pre-loaded.
Developer / Publisher: Sony
Release: December 3, 2018
Link: Official Website