Retro consoles like the PlayStation Classic are a kind of historical document. Their carefully curated lineups tell the story of their individual time period, the innovations that occurred, and ultimately, what made them special.
The SNES Classic was perhaps the best example of this. Its heavy focus on RPGs like Final Fantasy and Super Mario RPG highlighted Nintendo's special relationship with Squaresoft in the 90s. Its inclusion of Star Fox 2 was a unique treat for retro gamers. There were a couple omissions—Chrono Trigger for example—but otherwise it was just about perfect.
The PlayStation Classic, by contrast, lacks many of the games that helped define Sony's first console. It has Final Fantasy VII, but not horror pioneer Silent Hill. It has the original Persona, but not cult favorite Suikoden 2. It has Cool Boarders 2 (?) and Destruction Derby (??), but not Spyro or even Crash Bandicoot—early mascot platformers that helped put the PlayStation on the map.
Some of these choices can be blamed on one major disadvantage Sony has compared to Nintendo: the comparative lack of first-party favorites. Nintendo can throw in Metroid, Zelda, and Mario, where the original PlayStation was defined in large part by its third-party releases. That means Sony has to work twice as hard to get its best games while contending with publishers like Konami that have neglected its own back catalogue for years (Konami reportedly offered the bare minimum of support for Castlevania Requiem). Music licenses are another bottleneck for getting favorites like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.
But that doesn't explain the absence of nostalgic favorites like Colony Wars, an underrated classic space shooter, or The Legend of Dragoon. Indeed, almost none of the games from our big PlayStation Classic wishlist made it into the final collection.
If the final list does anything, it's to unintentionally remind us of how much shovelware got pushed on to the PlayStation. Third-tier releases like Battle Arena Toshinden and Cool Boarders 2 were a common sight in dollar bargain bins in the late 90s. Even Grand Theft Auto doesn't inspire much more than a shrug, as the series didn't truly take off until Grand Theft Auto 3 arrived on PS2.
Where the PlayStation Classic succeeds is mostly in its smaller choices. Mr. Driller is a delightful arcade puzzle game that definitely deserves to be highlighted. Ridge Racer Type 4 is considered by many the best in the series. Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo is a wonderful multiplayer game. Even Wild Arms has that kicking soundtrack.
But as a curated collection that highlights the very best of the original PlayStation, it's definitely wanting. To be brutally honest, you're not going to find anyone demanding to play Destruction Derby or Intelligent Qube (even if Intelligent Qube is quite rare). You will, however, find plenty of people who would love to revisit Valkyrie Profile, Legacy of Kain, Soul Reaver, Final Fantasy VIII, Crash Team Racing, PaRappa the Rapper, Chrono Cross... the list is longer than you think.
Classic game experts may not think much of retro consoles in the long run, but they do make for a neat bit of living history. I often return to both my NES Classic and SNES Classic, both of which give me that feeling of playing on a classic console that tends to get lost on RetroPie. The PlayStation Classic might have addressed many of the common complaints around those consoles by including the ability to connect to an online store. It might have surfaced PS1 classics that haven't seen wide release, like the aforementioned Valkyrie Profile. Instead it's a fairly middle-of-the-road release that doesn't come close to capturing the greatness of the PS1.
The 32-bit era will always be a weird period of awkward adolescence for gaming. It marks the beginning of the medium's genre, but its blurry polygons are rough on the eye these days, and its mechanics are often outdated. Nevertheless, the PlayStation is still loaded with amazing games that hold up very well today. It's just a shame that only a tiny fraction of them are actually represented on a mini-console that's ostensibly intended to celebrate a formative moment in Sony's gaming history.
If Sony ever makes a follow-up, hopefully the lineup will be more comprehensive. Until then, there's always the Japanese PlayStation Classic, I suppose.
Major Game Releases This Week: October 29 to November 2
- Diablo 3: Eternal Collection [Switch, November 2]: Diablo 3 goes portable for the first time with this intriguing Switch port. Will it hold up? Check back for our thoughts when the embargo lifts tomorrow morning.
- The Quiet Man [PS4, PC, November 1]: Heavily promoted over the summer, The Quiet Man launches this week with nary a peep from its publisher Square Enix. That may be due to the mixed reception afforded its teaser trailer and hands-on demo at PAX West, which has variously been called "bizarre" and "bad." We'll see how the final game holds up later this week.
Mike's Media Minute
It's a boring week and past weekend at the box office, so let's talk about other things. Like horror shows!
Over on Netflix, The Haunting of Hill House ends up being a fantastic adaptation of the classic horror novel by Shirley Jackson. Instead of bringing a cast of colleagues to the house to explore their psychological states, the Netflix series reframes it as the story of a family. The show has its feet in two time periods: when the family moved into the house, and many years later, with all of the kids as broken adults. It's a great haunted house horror story, plus a solid family drama. The entire series was directed and co-written by Hush, Oculus, and Ouija: Origin of Evil director Mike Flanagan, so the pacing is solid and it looks great. Well worth your time.
Syfy is currently airing the fourth season of Channel Zero, its horror series based on internet creepypasta stories. Channel Zero is an anthology series, so each season has a completely different cast and premise, unlike American Horror Story, which tries to keep some loose ties. Season 1 was Candle Cove, a solid start. Season 2 was No-End House, which was simply amazing. Season 3 featured the story of Butcher's Block, which didn't entirely land for me, but took some great shots. Season 4 is The Dream Door, a suitability creepy story about a couple who move into a house, only to find a door in the basement that wasn't there previously. Each season is six episodes, so it's easy to get in and out.
If you missed it during the rest of the season, AMC ran The Terror this year. That series is based on Dan Simmons' novel of the same name, focused on the final fate of the Captain Sir John Franklin's lost expedition to the Arctic in 1845. The men of the expedition have to not only survive the cold and lack of supplies, but also the unknown thing that's stalking them on their trek. Great stuff, and a second season with a different premise is coming in 2019.
Caty’s AltGame Corner
It's almost Halloween, and to gear you up, itch.io has a pretty stellar Halloween bundle on sale right now. It's just $11, and packs in five stellar games to get you in the spooky spirit. The games included in the bundle are WitchWay (an adorable puzzle-platformer starring a witch—extra great if you spent the weekend binge watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina like me), Helping Hand, The Shrouded Isle, Monolith, and The Darkside Detective. The bundle disappears in just under three days, like Michael Myers waltzing out of a house after murdering a babysitter.
This Week's News and Notes
- Happy Halloween! I've always found Halloween to be the most suitable holiday for games. Sure, you can get dressed up as your favorite video game character, but it's every bit as fun to stay home and play a classic horror game. How are you planning to spend your Halloween?
- Nintendo Switch Online has its issues, but its ever-growing retro game collection has proven to be a pleasure. On my flight to Seattle over the weekend, I unexpectedly got lost in Gradius and Donkey Kong, two arcade ports that did very well on Switch. The Switch Online collection is still missing many major games, but Tecmo Bowl, River City Ransom, and other smaller releases make for addictive little chasers to more involved games like Hollow Knight, and that is almost enough to make it worth the annual subscription fee.
- Most of the discussion around Red Dead Redemption 2 thus far has concerned its ancient control scheme, which many people consider to be archaic at best. Mike weighs in with his own thoughts in the story linked above.
- The Steam Halloween Sale 2018 is officially underway. Some of the highlights include Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 7, and my personal favorite, Darkest Dungeon.
- I recently got to check out Tetris Effect, which won't have competitive multiplayer according to developer Enhance Games. It serves to highlight two aspects of Tetris' heritage that sometimes conflict with one another: the cool, calm meditative element, and the more intensive competitive scene. But as I write, it's not a bad thing for Tetris Effect to favor one over the other. To be honest, a rebalance was kind of needed.
- Fallout 76 was never likely to make it to Switch given its intense online hooks, but just in case, Bethesda confirmed over the weekend that a port is all but impossible. That doesn't mean it's completely ignoring Switch, as Wolfenstein: Youngblood, which is much more intriguing, has been confirmed for a Switch release.
- ICYMI: Contributor Jeremy Parish continues his History of RPG series with a look at the imitators inspired by Dragon Quest, both for better and for worse. You can read the full series here.
- Axe of the Blood God: In honor of Red Dead Redemption 2, we pick our favorite RPG cowboys! There are more than you think! Subscribe here for the full podcast!