Released today, the PlayStation Classic is the latest mini-console to hit retailers, following in the wake of two official Nintendo offerings - the NES and SNES Classics - and a host of third-party gadgets featuring titles from Atari and SEGA, as well as a host of old-school arcade games.
These diminutive contraptions, containing as they do a stack of pre-loaded games curated for nostalgia-tickling appeal, certainly appear delightful. Miniature versions of the Commodore 64 (the C64 Mini) and the Atari 2600 (the Atari Flashback 8) really do look the part, beside your modern-day PS4s and the like.
Plug them in, though, and for the most part these mini-consoles don't maintain their appeal. Sketchy selections of games, basic emulation, controllers that just don't feel right... They quickly begin to reveal their shortcuts, their cheapness.
It's only, really, the two Nintendo offerings that, for my money, have (so far) been worth yours. And with some of the best-ever Mario, Metroid and Zelda titles bundled with them, the SNES and NES Classics really are deserving of that particular c-word.
The PlayStation Classic brings another c-word to mind, however: compromised. You may have already read about how the Classic packs enough punch under the hood to run its 20 games with ease, but does only the bare minimum, using open-source emulation. It outputs at 720p, same as the SNES Classic, but Nintendo's dinky system came with a selection of display options, while there are no filters or scanlines on the PS equivalent.
What appears on screen is a lot less sharp than what Nintendo has managed, too, with a distinct blurriness muddying the likes of Metal Gear Solid and Destruction Derby. This is really obvious in a lot of on-screen text, which looks absolutely horrible (and had me cleaning my glasses, even though they were spotless). Additionally, some games seem to, well, not glitch exactly, but not run as smoothly as you'd hope.
Reading around elsewhere - most notably Digital Foundry's great analysis of the mini-console - this is down to the fact that the Classic outputs at 60Hz, but the PAL-region games - nine of the 20 - run at 50Hz. The result is dropped frames, and stuttery rather than buttery play, which really becomes a headache on driving and fighting games. It even interferes with the platformer Rayman - don't be surprised to find yourself not quite landing a jump where you thought you would.
The 20 games on the PlayStation Classic definitely don't represent the very best the console offered, during its 12-year lifespan. Tekken 3, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil: Director's Cut all qualify as essentials for the system - but I'm not alone in questioning the inclusion of Jumping Flash and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six.
If you really want to play the best games on the PS Classic, there are other ways to do so, mostly, without picking this mini-console up. Metal Gear Solid, for example, can be downloaded right now for £7.99, for PS Vita, PSP or PS3. And on the Vita, at least, you can often find PS1 games reduced - it's how I've got Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (why isn't that on the Classic?) and Final Fantasy IX in my backpack right now, for the combined cost of a couple of pints.
As a gadget-y gift for a lapsed gamer, the PS Classic will light up a few nostalgic eyes this Christmas - and if you forgive its performance hiccups, you'll surely get a few afternoons of fun out of it. Maybe more, if you really get sucked into Final Fantasy VII again, or dive into Revelations: Persona, the schooldays JRPG that kicked off the popular series. That it comes with two controllers also helps the out-of-the-box, around-the-tree multiplayer appeal. Winner-stays-on Tekken, anybody?
But for those who really loved the PlayStation, you're better off sticking to the versions of these games that you already own on 'proper' consoles.
The complete list of games featured on the PlayStation Classic is as follows: Battle Arena Toshinden, Wild Arms, Destruction Derby, Cool Boarders 2, Final Fantasy VII, Revelations: Persona, Rayman, Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, Grand Theft Auto, Intelligent Qube, Jumping Flash, Tekken 3, Mr Driller, Twisted Metal, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, Resident Evil: Director's Cut, Syphon Filter, Tom Clancy's Rainbox Six, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. The mini-console's RRP is £89.99.
Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.