Sunday 19 May 2019

PlayStation Classic console review: Retro revival can't keep pace with the past

★★★

PlayStation Classic
PlayStation Classic
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

If a new product drops in price by 40pc just weeks after its launch, you know something's amiss. Most surprising is that the item comes from Sony, purveyors of fine hardware and wildly successful games consoles.

The cost of Sony's new PlayStation Classic retro console plummeted from an RRP of €100 to €60 before Christmas, barely a fortnight after its December 3 debut. Clearly, the message has got out to retailers and punters that this attempt to jump on the retro bandwagon has gone astray.

In recent years, Nintendo has nailed the appetite for replicas of its classic consoles, with scaled-down versions of the NES and Super NES featuring perfect emulation of its seminal games. At first blush, Sony seems on the right track with the PlayStation Classic, which accurately recreates the 1994 machine that elevated the Japanese firm to gaming godhood.

At half the size of the original and sensibly incorporating two full-sized controllers (something Nintendo skimped on with the NES), the dinky hardware strikes all the appropriate notes. But inside that solidly made plastic body lies the problem. Ironically, Sony has an excellent history of building software and hardware that effortlessly emulate its previous generations of machines. The PS2 could handle PS1 games, as could the PSP, the PS3 and the PS Vita. Few titles were compromised much by their host console.

Yet in the Classic, the emulation is so variable and at times ropey that it's difficult to believe it could come from the same company. Some titles play OK but several others are distressingly compromised by the failings of the emulation software.

Some of the 20 games bundled in memory (alas, no more can be added, as was the case with the NES/SNES) are bound to tickle the nostalgia bone of many an older gamer like myself who recall the originals more than two decades ago. Younger players may be curious to see what the first Grand Theft Auto or Metal Gear Solid was like.

Even with rose-tinted glasses, though, you'd be hard pressed to fall in love with their blocky 3D and blurry polygons, especially when the frame rate chugs into what seems like single figures due to poxy emulation.

About half the games are just about worth revisiting (Oddworld, Rayman and Final Fantasy VII, for instance) while the rest are either filler or handicapped in some way. Nintendo didn't get it perfect with its two retro consoles but they look like works of art compared with the PlayStation Classic's curate's egg line-up and unforgivably careless performance.

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