The PlayStation Classic: Is This Thing Worth It?
As this goes to press, the PS1 Classic should have just become available for purchase at all sorts of retail stores. Sony's attempt to horn in on the Christmas Cash Flow of Nintendo's NES and SNES retro mini-systems comes bundled with 20 preloaded games. At a retail price of $100, that's $5 per game plus a living room conversation piece / collector's item and maybe something that appreciates in price over time.
Now, that's a good value if we're talking about 20 great games ... unfortunately we're not talking about 20 great games. More like 10 or so good games and 10 that are some level of Questionable.
Here's the full list, with inline links to the ones we have existing reviews of:
Let's start with the good - the unimpeachable landmark titles that not only deserve to be here based on historical importance to the PlayStation platform, but also still hold up today. The two biggest on the list are Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid; I don't think two titles did more to build the PlayStation brand in the early days than these, and they both are still worth playing (I prefer the original MGS to the Gamecube remake). You can also throw Oddworld, Rayman, Resident Evil and Ridge Racer Type 4 into this bucket, though they are more individual-taste-specific. And Jumping Flash is an underrated 3D platformer that actually predates Mario 64.
The next bucket illustrates a key issue here - games that are very good, but made their bones in the arcade and then just got ported to the PlayStation. These are Mr. Driller, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and Tekken 3. Are they worth a $5 investment each? Sure. But these slots maybe could have been filled with titles more unique to the PlayStation specifically.
But that at least gives you 10 games worth playing. Now we're starting to move to the wrong side of the tracks.
Let's get the ones I'm not familiar with out of the way first. I have no idea what Intelligent Qube is. I've never played a Cool Boarders game, but there were an absolute poopton of decent snowboarding titles coming out on the PS1 and N64 in the mid-late 90s so it's probably one of those. So those could be good for all I know.
So first up on the shit list. Battle Arena Toshinden. This was very popular in the earliest days of the PS1 ... but only because there were like literally no other 3D fighters available on home consoles except for Virtua Fighter on the Sega 32X (which no one had). Once better options were available, everyone forgot about it, because it's a bad game. There is no reason to remember or celebrate this, and if you absolutely had to represent the series for some reason, there were later entries that might have been better (never tried them).
Grand Theft Auto. Like, the original 2D Grand Theft Auto from the mid-90s. The one Rockstar had been giving away as freeware from like 2005 to 2015. Why. It was an OK game in the 90s but has aged really poorly and was known as a PC game primarily.
Persona would eventually become a beloved RPG series. It wasn't because of this title, at least not in the West. The first game is the worst of the series, clunky and did not age well, and I cannot see most modern gamers trying to sit through this.
Syphon Filter is great if you like the idea of playing special ops missions as a drunken sailor.
Rainbow Six is very important historically. It founded the popular "tactical shooter" genre, and in turn is critical to the development of several major esports like CS:GO and of course the modern Rainbow Six. I'm not sure why anyone would want to play this original release, though. I'm guessing the Venn Diagram of people who might like this game and people who are already spending their time playing modern superior tactical FPS are basically just two circles right on top of each other.
Twisted Metal was novel in the mid-late 90s but has not aged well. Same story with Destruction Derby. Wild Arms is just an OK-ish RPG weighed down by combat that gets progressively more terrible and tedious as you go.
So I don't know what's going on with half of these choices. More PS1-specific and more timelessly playable options that got snubbed here include: Final Fantasy Tactics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Suikoden 1 and 2, Chrono Cross, Crash Bandicoot, Monster Rancher, Parappa the Rapper, Silent Hill, Spyro the Dragon, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. Is that 10? Feels like 10. If you want to get into more questionable deep cuts, but games that represent unique PS1 flavor, how about: Tecmo's Deception, Vib Ribbon, Croc, MediEvil, Hellnight, Fear Effect, Bushido Blade or Ape Escape? Or throw in Dragon Warrior VII for some serious RPG meat.
Now - hardware concerns. Sony learned zero lessons from the NES and SNES launches it seems. There's no way to (legally) add games to this - very odd given Sony has actually been one of the best companies about digitally preserving classic titles through the PlayStation Network and making them available across their new devices.
Second issue - the pack-in controllers don't have analog sticks. Granted, most of the library here was released before the DualShock was a thing. You can technically play Metal Gear Solid without a DualShock and vibration ... but do you actually want
to? The gamepads are special USB devices, not the original pads, so no idea right now if there will be some USB converter way to get a DualShock hooked up to these things. It may not even have internal support for them.
Also, no memory card support, so dash your dreams of digging up old save files.
Sony's own consistent support for digital downloads of their old titles actually hurts the value of this thing - why buy this weird package for $100 when you can just pick out the games you want on any other Sony system for a few bucks each? Maybe purely as a nostalgia piece, but if that was the target market you'd think they would have had a more appropriate game lineup. I feel like this is gimmicky and Sony cocked it up, and I'm not sure how happy someone will actually be with this in their Christmas stocking.
Other options for playing PS1 games: