PlayStation Classic review
Sony’s PlayStation Classic aims to celebrate its first games console. The release of the original PlayStation shook up the status and gave Nintendo and Sega stiff competition in the 90s console wars. The PlayStation introduced CD loading, pushed 3D graphics on consoles, and introduced the world to the best Japanese games.
If you’re new to retro gaming then take a look at our guide to the best retro gaming consoles available now. If you want to get into game design we have a feature on the best tips to start a career in game art and advice on how to become a concept art.
This PlayStation Classic review looks at the replica model and how it reveals Sony’s design thinking and I take a look at its emulation, which leaves something to be desired. But, can that hit of nostalgia overcome any shortfalls? Maybe, read on to find out if the PlayStation Classic is worth the price.
PlayStation Classic review: in the box
The unboxing of the PlayStation Classic is lovely. There’s care taken by Sony to make experiencing the PlayStation replica from out of the box a moment to remember; the busy main packaging reveals a clean white inner box, and inside the PlayStation Classic is framed by a thick white card holder. It’s lovely.
Below this aren two USB PlayStation Controller replicas, a HDMI lead and a USB-C lead. Like many other retro gaming miniature consoles the PlayStation Classic comes without a USB-C power adapter, which is a little irritating (but by now we all have these things going spare, don’t we?).
Setting up to play is easy and swift, and as simple as plugging in the leads and pushing the big Power button. The classic PlayStation logo appears on a white screen just as I remember it way back in 1998 when I got my first PlayStation. You’re ready to play.
PlayStation Classic review: the design
The PlayStation Classic is suitably tiny and compact, as you’d expect from a retro console replica. It’s 5.8 x 1.3 x 4.1 inches, which is roughly 50% smaller than the original PlayStation. Its size showcases the original console’s unique design that placed the CD centrally and built around it, making the uniqueness of having a CD-based games console its defining feature.
The large Power button is in the same place, and is used for the same function. The button’s size and placement is mirrored by a Disc Swap button. On the original PlayStation this opened the disc drive’s lid, here it swaps out virtual discs so there’s a nice continuation of thought. Likewise the old Reset button is used to jump out of a game and back to the main menu.
The stars are the small PlayStation Controllers. In an old interview with Next Generation magazine from 1997 the PlayStation designer, Ken Kutaragi said: “We probably spent as much time on the joypad’s development as we did on the body of the machine”. You can tell, the controller is flexible and intuitive, whether you’re laying down, lounging, or holding it in odd ways. Of course we’ve moved on the DualSense but the DNA of modern gamepad design is here, if smaller.
We continue to love the design influence of Sony’s PlayStation Controller, and you can find deals on new PS5 controllers in our buying guide.
PlayStation Classic review: the experience
While the replica itself is beautiful and care has been taken as to how to interpret the original console’s design into a new mini, once you hit Power and start playing things take a little downturn.
The game selection screen is bare-bones. There are no options or menus to dip into and learn more about the games. There are no graphics options to, for example, emulate CRT displays or sharpen pixels or smooth polygons. This is odd, as even back on the PlayStation 2’s built-in PlayStation emulator you could do some of these tasks.
PlayStation Classic games list
Battle Arena Toshinden
Cool Boarders 2
Final Fantasy VII
Grand Theft Auto
Metal Gear Solid
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Resident Evil Director’s Cut
Ridge Racer Type 4
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
More so the PlayStation Classic feels a little thoughtless with its approach to emulation. It mixes NTSC and PAL games together, ensuring famerates differ (NTSC games generally run at 60hz while UK PAL games under 50hz). It results in some games looking blurry and even playing slower than on the original PlayStation – Tekken 3, for example, is distinctly muddy in its responses.
That aside, the games list is interesting. Sony has managed to pre-install 20 games that made PlayStation a success, managing to include some big-hitters alongside curiosities and games even overlooked at the time. Highlights remain those games simple enough to last or with the kind of game design that still stands today – Mr Driller, Final Fantasy VII, and Ridge Racer Type 4 remain playable.
There are some interesting additions, for example few people would have played Intelligent Qube (but should have), Wild Arms’ 2D Zelda-like gameplays remains a draw, and Resident Evil Director’s Cut is still fantastic. I’d caution getting too excited about Metal Gear Solid’s inclusion, as without a DualShock and packaging you miss some of the meta-fun of Psycho Mantis.
Also, some classics that helped define PlayStation are noticeably absent, for example Crash Bandicoot, WipEout and Tomb Raider – how can Sony release a PlayStation Classic without Lara Croft? (Admittedly, she first appeared on Sega Saturn.)
PlayStation Classic review: the price
The PlayStation Classic retails for $99.99 / £89.99 but unlike some mini retro consoles this one hasn’t soared in price, which means you can pick up one for less than the launch price. You can find deals on Amazon and other sites for around $10 / £10 less. Hunt around and you can likely find a PlayStation Classic for as little as $60 / £50.
This is largely due to the emulation and retro game communities snubbing the machine, and the limited games list. If, however, you have a passing interest in PlayStation’s history or simply want to re-experience some classic games in an easy plug-and-play manner, it’s a good buy at these prices. Remember, you also get two USB PlayStation Controllers that can be used elsewhere, on a PC or PS4, for example, out of the box.
PlayStation Classic review: should I buy one?
If you’re a hardened emulation fan or a serious retro gamer then you will be unhappy with some of the decisions Sony has taken with the PlayStation Classic. The emulation could be better and the level of detail put into extra features and options is lacking.
With that said, the replica itself is excellent and makes clever use of PlayStation’s original design to turn old features into new functional buttons. The PlayStation Controllers are excellent, and remind us all how much influence Sony’s design has had on gaming.
The games list is good if lacking, too. Some are more playable today than others – I’d absolutely recommend everyone experiences Ridge Racer Type 4 – while others are more interesting than fun (Rayman, just no). If you grew up on PlayStation there really is no excuse not to find some love for the PlayStation Classic.