PlayStation Classic Review – Too Little Too Late

The first impression you get when holding Sony’s $100 PlayStation Classic is that it’s a well-made little device with some great details on the surface. Memories of gaming in the ’90s will likely come flooding in, and if the cute console wasn’t enough, the classic and quaint PlayStation controller will almost certainly get you in the mood for some Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid, or maybe even the original Resident Evil.

Upon booting up the system and diving into the main menu, you’re greeted by the bright color scheme of the original PlayStation’s memory card and CD player menus, albeit with a carousel of the 20 available games ready for perusal. So far so good. Pick a game and you’re seconds away from revisiting some of the iconic games from Sony’s debut console.

That reintroduction, however, may not go as smoothly as you’d expect. As someone who regularly plays PlayStation games today on both HD and SD displays, take it from me: The PS Classic will give you a false, negative impression of what PlayStation games should look like. Even if you don’t want to go to the trouble of playing with the real thing, you can always emulate games on a slew of devices–including a PS3–and have a far better experience than the PS Classic offers.

PlayStation Classic Review - Too Little Too Late

It’s well known that mid-’90s 3D games can look rough around the edges, so it’s not surprising to see jagged 3D models and crummy textures on the PS Classic. You may also recognize the familiar screen door-like dithering effect over large parts of the screen, though because you are playing on an HD flat screen and not a CRT monitor, the effect is very pronounced. All of these caveats are part and parcel of the PlayStation experience and could in theory be forgiven, but not in practice. The PS Classic is configured in such a way that the overall image is rendered blurry at 720p due to poor image stretching, which consequently muddies up graphics that were already borderline ugly to begin with.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the PS Classic’s implementation is that some games exhibit frame rate issues, Tekken 3 being the most obvious example. This is because Tekken 3 and other games noted below are based on the PAL release from Europe, where analog video standards limited refresh rates to 50hz. NTSC regions, including North American and Japan, ran at 60hz. Regardless of the cause, if you’re used to Tekken 3 running at 60 frames per second, prepare for additional disappointment.

Going back to the notion of playing on a CRT, the difference between analog and digital display technologies is one that can almost be overcome with the help of a scanline filter that blanks every other line of resolution. Lots of emulation devices, such as the NES Classic and SNES Classic for example, offer this setting. It’s a divisive trick that doesn’t suit every player let alone every game, but it’s a nice option to have when faced with games that are made unsightly due to the increased scrutiny when playing 240p or 480i content at 720p.

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