Game console manufacturers want to cash in on your childhood, and they're employing adorable tools for the war. Today, Sony announced the "PlayStation Classic" is coming on December 3, exactly 25 years after the release of the PlayStation in Japan. It includes two PlayStation controllers (which utilize a USB connection), all the better to play the 20 games pre-loaded onto the wee chunk of PlayStation-shaped hardware.
Yes, the PlayStation Classic is following up the act Nintendo put on with the NES Classic and the SNES Classic. No surprise there: Nostalgia is a hell of a profitable drug. Sony's not lacking for content capable of making people sigh wistfully, either. Just last month, I wrote about PlayStation nostalgia taking over Twitter for a day, and I also relayed my own soft spot for Sony's great grey lady.
But while Nintendo and Sony both have command of strong nostalgia magic, they're different kinds of nostalgia magic. Nintendo is associated with Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Earthbound—all properties that appear on the NES Classic and SNES Classic in some form. The PlayStation's lineup, though great, drew its strength primarily from third-party developers.
If Sony wants the PlayStation Classic to make numbers comparable to Nintendo's retro boxes, it needs to lean on (good) games that aren't already easy to download and play on rival platforms. Nintendo obviously has a lot of control over where its best-loved retro games wind up, but a lot of the big-name franchises that made the PlayStation a must-own in the late '90s left home a long time ago (hello Crash Bandicoot. Hello, Spyro).
We've yet to see a full line-up of the games on the PlayStation Classic, but we already know we're getting Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild ARMs. I'm excited for the inclusion of Wild ARMs. Though its monster models don't exactly hold up, it's a great RPG with a magnificent soundtrack that got trampled in the wake of Final Fantasy VII's popularity. It's a great addition to the PlayStation Classic because a lot of people missed out on its initial release, and it's not a game you can play outside of Sony's consoles. Jumping Flash! is also a good addition because it's a unique game that didn't travel far after it came out in 1995. Mind, there's a good chance its polygonal 3D platforming might not hold up in a post-Super Mario Odyssey world—but at least it's a game the PlayStation Classic can truly claim as its own.
By contrast, Final Fantasy VII is everywhere. Nintendo might've even purloined the PlayStation Classic's thunder by announcing the arrival of Final Fantasy VII on Switch. I already plan to buy Final Fantasy VII on the Switch because I'm excited to play a portable rendition (never mind my Vita copy). I'm less excited about the prospect of playing Final Fantasy VII on a television yet again, even if my TV is hooked up to a very small and very cute imitation PlayStation.
I understand Final Fantasy VII is a "Well, duh" inclusion for the PlayStation One. Its identity is inseparable from the PlayStation's: Here's the game Squaresoft "betrayed" Nintendo to make, here's the game that made Westerners fall in love with RPGs, finally. But I'm bringing Final Fantasy VII up because the PlayStation Classic only has parking for 20 games, and we already know what five of them are. Those remaining 15 need to be special games that aren't easy to come by. The Suikoden games and the Mega Man Legends titles would be decent additions, as they're still bound tightly to Sony hardware. Mega Man 8, Mega Man X4, and Mega Man X5 would be poor additions, however, because all those games are playable on the multi-platform Mega Man and Mega Man X Legacy Collections.
I love my SNES Classic because it showcases some of the best RPGs in the genre. Ideally, I want to see the PlayStation Classic revel in its own beautiful RPG history, chunks of which are still nigh-inaccessible. Wild ARMs is a great start. Now give me Breath of Fire III, Valkyrie Profile, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy Tactics, and for God's sake, load Lunar: Silver Story Complete on there. Let's be honest with ourselves, the more the PlayStation Classic focuses on the PlayStation's excellent / rare RPGs and 2D platformers, the less we'll have to struggle with tank controls for dated 3D games. Again, nostalgia is power, but so is the allure of analogue sticks (which the PlayStation Classic's controllers lack) and in-game cameras you can freely control.