PlayStation Classic Puts Power of Nostalgia to the Test

There are a number of iconic games on the mini-console, but is the power of re-living the past enough to court consumers during the loaded holiday season?
Courtesy of PlayStation

Just how powerful is nostalgia?

Sony is intent on putting that question to the test with its new (old?) PlayStation Classic system, a nearly half-size remade version of its classic console from the mid-1990s that is equal parts cute and powerful. 

Loaded with 20 games — some of which are undeniable classics and others that are, well, less so — the PlayStation Classic offers a lot of content for both retro gamers and younger audiences searching for a look back at the good old days. 

While many of the titles included are fantastic staples of PlayStation's heyday (Final Fantasy VII, TEKKEN 3, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Twisted Metal are all still a blast 20 years on), a number of iconic games are left out, and their absence is felt. Given that both Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot — the two PlayStation mascots that helped launch Sony's foray into the world of video games as a viable competitor against industry juggernaut Nintendo — have both enjoyed remakes in the last two years, it's not entirely surprising that none of their games were included on the PlayStation Classic. Still, it's hard to really feel like it's 1997 all over again without the colorful purple dragon or jorts-wearing Isoodoon traipsing around the screen.

Also missing is Lara Croft, as Tomb Raider is not included. Leaving out three of the most recognizable faces certainly hurts a marketing strategy that is almost entirely based on product familiarity, but it is also unavoidable in some ways, as licensing laws put a very real wet blanket on the nostalgia slumber party. What is perhaps worse is that favorites are replaced with games that even some diehard PlayStation fans might not remember. There are likely not a lot of lifelong Intelligent Qube or Cool Boarders 2 fans who have been counting the days for their re-release. 

The games all run well, however, and the sounds, visuals and gameplay are all pitch-perfectly re-created, including the very familiar PlayStation launching sound before every title's opening screen. It's a welcome sight (and sound). What has aged less well, however, are the controllers (the console comes with two). Unlike the past few generations of controllers, the original system's lacked analog sticks. That's fine when replaying old games initially formatted to not need them, but it does take a while to get used to and is not nearly as big of an issue as the fact that they are not wireless. While authentic (the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 did not have wireless controllers, much to the consternation of clumsy parents worldwide in the '90s), the technology does exist nowadays, and it is one area where the gaming industry should never look back. 

The biggest inconvenience of the PlayStation Classic, though, is its power cord. For some bizarre reason, the console comes with micro USB-to-USB cable that is meant to be the system's main power supply. Unfortunately, it does not include an adapter for the USB to plug into an outlet, so users will need to have their own on hand. It's not an incredibly rare piece of hardware to find squirreled away in some drawer around the house, but it is an odd choice and adds an unnecessary step in booting up the console.

On the positive side, the PlayStation Classic's interface is great and makes cycling through games easy. It also has a built-in memory card system that saves the player's place whenever they want to switch to another title. However, in order to hop from one game to another, players must physically push a button on the console itself to return to the main hub interface — there is no button on the controller (though it is on a short cord, so at least it's not a far walk).

Overall, the PlayStation Classic is a product that will appeal to gamers of a certain generation without offering enough to entice a new audience to pay the $99.99. It does many things very well, but unfortunately, it also fails to learn from the same pitfalls that affected Nintendo's previous nostalgia mini-consoles of the past few years. 

For those looking to see Cloud Strife, Solid Snake and Jin Kazama in all their pixelated glory, the PlayStation Classic delivers, and for that dose of nostalgia, it can't be faulted. After all, those seeking innovation by looking to the past are misguided. But it still would have been nice to enjoy Ridge Racer more than 36 inches away from the television. 

PlayStation Classic is on sale Dec. 3. Here's the full list of games loaded with the console: 

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