Does the PlayStation Classic's Lineup Live Up to the Original System's Legacy?

The adorable PlayStation Classic packs some great titles, but is its lineup a good representation of the original machine?

December 14, 2018

The console race of the 1990s has reared its head again in recent years. However, this time it’s presented in a miniaturized format. What started off with the now iconic NES Classic from Nintendo soon gave life to a whole range of tiny machines imitating the heavy hitters of days gone by.

Since then, we’ve seen Nintendo jump back into the fray with a rendition of the SNES, SEGA kicking things into high gear with its upcoming tiny Genesis, and even the ’80s-era Commodore 64 getting a bite-sized new lease on life. Of course, with the wheels officially in motion, it was only a matter of time before Sony Interactive Entertainment dipped its toe in the water to bring new life to its oldest gaming conquest: the PlayStation.

The PlayStation didn’t just feel like a console, it felt like a movement; a gargantuan push forward towards a more advanced gaming world.

The PlayStation Classic is tasked with carrying the weight of a generation-defining machine on its tiny shoulders. When the original PlayStation launched more than two decades ago, it changed the way we play video games forever. It bravely made the leap from 16-bit gaming to fully fleshed-out 3D experiences, a generational leap the likes of which we’d never seen. It gave birth to a number of titles and characters who have since become household names, and it did it all with a hyperactive edgy overtone that would appeal to players in their teens.

Put quite simply, the original PlayStation was ground-breaking. Its shockwave was felt throughout the gaming world and its effects have spilled over to the subsequent generations of consoles that followed. The PlayStation didn’t just feel like a console, it felt like a movement; a gargantuan push forward towards a more advanced gaming world. The edgy titles and attitude that coincided with it were rebellious in nature, and it genuinely felt like gaming was growing up from its childhood years to embrace a more mature outlook on life.

Is it possible to instill that feeling, that effect, and that attitude into a device that can fit into the palm of your hand, or is the PlayStation Classic doomed to fail? In order to decipher this, we’ve got to take a look back at what the PlayStation really brought to the table, and what games are included in its cute little modern outing.

The PlayStation’s “I-don’t-care” attitude didn’t just come from its completely over-the-top advertising campaigns which embraced the true nature of just how wild the 90s could be. No, instead it was the games that really propelled the machine. Looking back now, more than two decades after the system first exploded onto the screens of our old CRT TVs, there are a number of titles that instantly come to mind because they changed the face of gaming forever.

First and foremost there was the machine’s unofficial mascot, Crash Bandicoot. Crash, like any characters that could be referred to as a mascot at the time, starred in platforming games. Proudly sporting its cartoonish 3D graphics, this anthropomorphic little animal sprinted through busy levels while spinning his foes into oblivion. The fast-paced, reckless nature of the game made it an instant hit and the system followed up with two direct sequels, each of which improved upon the original’s rocky beginnings, and a number of off-shoot titles which saw the cast of the Crash’s universe engaging in go-karting (which is getting its own remaster very soon) and other silly party games.

The unfortunate truth is that a good chunk of games that would be seen as PlayStation heavy hitters are similarly tied up in this day and age.

Something about Crash Bandicoot stuck a chord with players and, although he has appeared on Microsoft and Nintendo consoles since, he’s seen as being synonymous with the original PlayStation. Unfortunately though, possibly due to the recently-released Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, the crazed jeans sporting animal didn’t end up making a triumphant return on the PlayStation Classic.

The unfortunate truth is that a good chunk of games that would be seen as PlayStation heavy hitters are similarly tied up in this day and age. The 1990s’ adorable little dragon, Spyro, for example, has also recently starred in a gorgeously remastered rendition of his original adventures. Old Sir Daniel Fortesque of MediEvil fame will also be seeing a PlayStation 4 remaster in the near future, so that pretty much crosses the concept of his title making an appearance off the list too. The same could be said for fan-favorite Castlevania: Symphony of the Night which was recently included in a downloadable bundle.

Next up is the now iconic Lara Croft. The first Tomb Raider title has aged surprisingly well throughout the years. Overshadowed in many ways by Tomb Raider II, 1996’s original introduced us to a character who dominated the gaming scene for the remainder of the century. Perfectly timed and riding the wave of the Spice Girls’ movement of “girl power,” Lara Croft was a no-nonsense action hero whose ferocious combat skills and agility were surpassed only by her boundless intellect.

Lara Croft quickly became another iconic face of PlayStation, and indeed the face of gaming during that era. She appeared in soft drink advertisements, toured with U2, and made the cover of then-popular magazine The Face, and this was all before Angelina Jolie portrayed her in 2001’s major motion picture adaptation of the franchise (and the accompanying 2018 film starring Alicia Vikander). Bizarrely though, she too seems to be absent from the PlayStation Classic’s lineup, likely because of the recent reboot titles from Square Enix.

It would be unfair to say that there aren’t any fantastic games pre-installed in the cute little machine.

The list of classic characters and games that haven’t made the cut for the PlayStation Classic seems to go on and on. Early PlayStation titles such as Loaded would have fit right at home on the bite-sized device, as would the likes of Die Hard Trilogy. Iconic characters such as PaRappa the Rapper and memorable games Pandemonium! didn’t make an appearance either, and neither did any of the entries in PlayStation’s signature futuristic racing franchise, Wipeout.

With all of these games lacking, what exactly does that leave for the PlayStation Classic when it comes to representing the era it came from? It would be unfair to say that there aren’t any fantastic games pre-installed in the cute little machine. Final Fantasy VII, for example, leads the charge and is regarded by many to be one of the greatest games ever created. Tekken 3 is by far the best 3D fighter that the original console had to offer, and it still plays fantastically today. Grand Theft Auto is a fun little title that now serves as an interesting history lesson for fans of the series and Rockstar Games, proving that great things are possible from incredibly humble beginnings. This top-down 2D title laid the groundwork for what was to become one of the most successful franchises of all times. Then there’s the bizarre but charming Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee that certainly deserves a slot, as does the original Destruction Derby for nostalgia’s sake.

To top it off, there’s no denying the sheer power and influence that the original Metal Gear Solid had over gaming as a whole. It integrated cinematic story-telling into video games in a way that we’d never seen before and single-handedly revolutionized the very concept of narratives within games. Again, this is a front-runner on the PlayStation Classic, and rightly so. It has earned its place as one of the system’s greatest and most well-loved titles.

Following these stellar games, though, are some seemingly bizarre choices that tend to miss the mark again and again. Mr. Driller and Super Puzzle Fighter II: Turbo both seem entirely out of place here, almost like last minute choices that simply didn’t pay off: Intelligent Cube also falls under this category. Cool Boarders 2 is a nice addition, but could and should have been swapped out for Tony Hawk: Pro Skater 2, which is superior and infinitely more popular in every way.

The PlayStation Classic sadly seems like it will go down in history as a misfire.

None of these titles are bad. They are all decent in their own rights, but they are by no means classic, especially not when compared to heavy hitters such as Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Medal of Honor, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Rollcage, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, Driver, or Dino Crisis. Even choices such as Twisted Metal seem a little unusual considering how badly this particular game has aged. It seems stranger still when you consider that its vastly superior sequel Twisted Metal 2: World Tour still plays brilliantly in 2018.

There is a sea of phenomenal games spread across the original PlayStation’s thick and robust catalog, but it simply seems like all we’ve got here is wave after wave of wasted potential and missed opportunities. What should have been a sure-fire line-up of stellar genre-defining titles wound up being a mishmash of games that might make you think that there was a misunderstanding about the definition of the word “classic.”

The PlayStation Classic sadly seems like it will go down in history as a misfire; a half-cocked attempt to follow in the footsteps of Nintendo’s miniature consoles but without truly knowing what made Sony’s original voyage into the world of gaming magical. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned here, and we’ll see a revised release at some stage in the future. For now, though, the PlayStation Classic seems destined to sit in the shadows of Nintendo’s outings to think about where it went wrong until it eventually drifts into obscurity.

Eoghan Murphy

Eoghan is a gaming veteran with over 25 years of button mashing experience under his belt, and a particular interest in eSports. When not playing or collecting games, he can be heard presenting and producing radio shows in Ireland.

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