The PlayStation Classic is a copycat, and Sony seems largely unashamed by that fact. The device, a retro miniature console launching next month for $99.99, is nearly identical in every way to Nintendo’s NES Classic and SNES Classic devices, save for its slightly more up-to-date library of 20 PS1 games and the noticeable shift from 2D to 3D graphics many of those titles represent.
Still, if you’re a fan of the mini-console trend and a sucker for retro gaming nostalgia, the PS Classic is going to satisfy most of your needs. Sony invited members of the press down to its San Mateo, California offices earlier this week to get a good look at the console and play any of its games for a few hours. The most obvious takeaway I can provide is that the device is everything you’d expect.
The console is well-designed and adorable. It’ll be an instant show-stealer of a collectible for those who miss the old-school console aesthetic and are already making room for it on their shelf or in their living room gaming setup. As for how it functions, it’s just like Nintendo’s devices, down to a near-identical carousel interface for selecting games and managing saves.
Similar to Nintendo’s mini-consoles, Sony is even replicating some of the frustrating elements of 32-bit gaming, including a lack of wireless gamepads. Granted, you do get a longer 1.5-meter cord for both of the two included classic PlayStation controllers, which is a huge plus. And those controllers use standard USB, not a proprietary connector.
But Sony says the controllers can’t be plugged into other USB devices, like a PC or PS4. And unfortunately, there’s no button on the controllers themselves that kick you back to the menu, meaning you have to physically press the reset button on the PS Classic to leave one game and open another.
The same issue exists on the NES Classic and SNES Classic, and it’s a huge pain. One workaround has been using retro Bluetooth controllers from a company like 8bitdo, but it’s puzzling why Sony didn’t see this issue with Nintendo’s devices and try to solve it.
One other complaint you could probably make about the device is that the games may not hold up that well, at least not like the 8-bit and 16-bit classics you get on Nintendo’s consoles. I struggled to wrap my head around the controls for Cool Boarders 2, and I found the original Metal Gear Solid to be alarmingly obtuse, having last played it maybe 15 years ago.
Now, if you’re a hardcore fan who remembers those games like you played them yesterday, you’ll probably be fine. But it’s worth noting that this era, while a golden one for a certain type of game fan, is not going to be quite as accessible as the SNES generation of hits. The Verge will have a more comprehensive evaluation of the PS Classic’s lineup later this month when we get our hands on a proper review unit and spend some more time with the device’s library.
All that said, the PS Classic is a faithful and well-made little device, and it’s easy to see how popular it will be among former PS1 owners. Given the likelihood that Sony will also make enough of these devices to go around, that makes the prospect of buying one at some point in the future a lot more justifiable, knowing you won’t have to furiously watch out for flash sales at Amazon or GameStop. (You can preorder a PS Classic right now.)
The device starts shipping on December 3rd, and the $99.99 purchase gets you two controllers, with quite a few of the titles supporting local co-op. Even as a dedicated Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 3 machine — one that’s a lot of fun just to look at — that’s not a bad deal.