PlayStation Classic review

Not even the promise of nostalgia can save the PlayStation Classic

The PS Classic is a cute collectible, but not a great gaming machine.
The PS Classic is a cute collectible, but not a great gaming machine.
The PS Classic is a cute collectible, but not a great gaming machine.

Highs

  • Looks good on a shelf
  • A few gems in the game lineup

Lows

  • Mostly dull selection of games
  • No analog sticks on controllers
  • Missing USB AC Adapter
  • High price point for what you get

DT Editors' Rating

Classic mini-consoles, a trend Nintendo set on fire with the NES Classic, are the perfect blend of nostalgia and modern technology. You get a compilation of your favorite classic games on an adorably compact platform that easily connects to your TV. There’s no need to buy confusing wire adapters or surf eBay for games.

It’s no wonder gamers love the concept, but Sony’s PlayStation Classic doesn’t quite meet the expectations set by Nintendo’s hugely successful mini-consoles. In fact, it doesn’t even come close.

Dude, where’s the games?

When the PlayStation Classic was first announced, the hype was real. Finally, my favorite console company would be putting out their very own collectible mini console. Visions of playing all my favorite retro platformers and Japanese role-playing games swam through my mind. Even without knowing the full list of games, I was positive I needed to have it.

Then the list came, and it was…disappointing. A few noteworthy titles like Metal Gear Solid, Rayman, and Resident Evil Director’s Cut speckled the collection, but overall, it was underwhelming.

Where are games like Suikoden 2, Valkyrie Profile, Crash Bandicoot, Gex, Tomb Raider, and Tomba? These are the titles that helped define the PS1 era. Sure, I could turn on my PS3 and play those games for a small fee, but what’s the point of a PlayStation Classic if it doesn’t have the games that make it a classic? Without an option to even download PS1 games purchased in the PlayStation Store, it makes you wonder who Sony had in mind when putting this list together.

sony playstation classic review 10
Les Shu/Digital Trends

Names like Grand Theft Auto, Twisted Metal, and Revelations: Persona might stir up a glimmer of excitement, but these games do not hold up well and, in the case of Grand Theft Auto and Revelations: Persona, seem included only because more recent titles in each respective series are mega-hits. The likelihood you’ll play any of these again once you realize that is slim.

In a league of its own

I could overlook the dull collection of games if the PlayStation Classic shined elsewhere, but it stumbles just about everywhere else the other mini-consoles shined.

The NES Classic comes equipped with 30 signature titles and a vibrant side-scrolling menu with bubbly chiptune music. Each game has four save states and can be played in three different display modes — CRT, 4:3, and Pixel Perfect — each of which looks great on an HD screen.

The PlayStation Classic, on the other hand, only comes with 20 mediocre games, an uninspired, silent menu with only one save state for the entire system, and no cool display modes (or any bonus features to speak of).

Worse, many games on the PlayStation Classic don’t hold up well when scaled up to 720p. The major sellers of the console like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, and Resident Evil Director’s Cut will all have you squinting at muddy polygons as you try to make out what exactly you’re looking at. Some custom display modes and a more sophisticated upscaling method could’ve partially resolved the problem.

If you do manage to squint your way past the graphics, you’ll be exasperated by the controllers, which have no analog sticks. Playing games that require more precise movements, like Tekken 3 and Syphon Filter, can become incredibly frustrating.

Even the SNES Classic, which comes with two controllers and 20 games, has a clear advantage over PlayStation’s mini console. With the same number of offerings, it’s priced at a tidy $80, while the PlayStation Classic comes in at a whopping $100. That’s a steep price point for a mini console that doesn’t even have the courtesy to include its own USB AC adapter.

A missed opportunity

The PlayStation Classic comes with two wired controllers, an HDMI cable, and a USB AC adapter cable that works with just about any cell phone USB charging plug. The mini model sports faux memory card slots but uses a virtual memory card for in-game saves. The power, reset, and open buttons are functional, though the disc drive doesn’t open. Instead, the open button is used to virtually switch CDs on multi-disc games.

sony playstation classic review 2
Joel Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The PlayStation Classic isn’t all bad. Some of these features are clever, and if the software was there, it could make for a pretty nifty console. It’s a cute replica of the PS1, about 45 percent smaller than the original. And you’ll find some gems tucked away in its list of games. Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Rayman, Jumping Flash, and Wild Arms are fun, memorable games even today.

It might seem like I’m being unfair, especially to those who might see the PlayStation Classic as a neat trinket to keep around the house as eye candy or the occasional party trick. Yet its price makes it hard to justify as a novelty, and it lacks key games that true PlayStation loyalists would want. It feels like Sony didn’t consider its audience when putting this console together.

Our Take

The PlayStation Classic lacks some signature titles that defined the PS1 era, and it offers no exciting bonus features that might make purchasing it worth the $100 price tag. Poor design choices like a lack of additional save states, a missing USB AC adapter, and controllers with no analog sticks, give the impression the PlayStation Classic was slapped together with no love for its legacy or consideration for its fans.

It’s a missed opportunity by Sony, and a disappointment to those who anticipated an ode to an era of games they loved.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. The Nintendo mini consoles are not only cheaper, but of better value and long-term worth. Sony also makes many original PlayStation titles available on other consoles through re-releases or PlayStation Now, and that’s a better way to enjoy them.

How long will it last?

The PlayStation Classic loses its appeal once you’ve sampled its selection of games. Replayability for most of the titles is low, and while the console is cool to show off, it has low entertainment value overall.

Should you buy it?

No. Don’t buy the PlayStation Classic if you’re looking for an ode to an incredible era of games because you will be sorely disappointed. It’s a fun collectible, but nothing more.

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