To probably no one’s surprise and to the sheer delight of many retro gamers who grew up with the original PlayStation and iconic games like Final Fantasy VII, Sony has announced the PlayStation Classic. It’s a $99 mini console that ships with 20 popular PlayStation games and two redesigned DualShock controllers. But there’s one crucial thing missing from this release that Nintendo’s SNES Classic has in spades: lasting appeal.
The first PlayStation was lauded for pushing polygonal 3D graphics into the gaming mainstream, and it definitely succeeded. Ambitious titles like Final Fantasy VII had graphics that, at the time, we called jaw-dropping and realistic. But it’s also a machine that packed only 2MB of system memory and 500KB of texture memory.
In 1997, developers like Square were absolutely making technical compromises to bring their creative visions to life. And 21 years later, it’s glaringly obvious.
But forget the technical restrictions. We have to agree that games like Final Fantasy VII and Gran Turismo and Tekken 3 looked incredible! They don’t look incredible anymore. In fact it’s a bit of a struggle to revisit them these days. Your rose-tinted glasses may shatter.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Sony executive Jim Ryan thinks about the company’s older games, via my colleague Ollie Barder.”
“I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”
He’s not wrong. Let’s take a look at Gran Turismo (admittedly, a game I sunk so many hours into that it probably affected my health. And the included manuals were outstanding). Skip to about 4:15 which is where gameplay starts.
Let’s watch the intro sequence to Final Fantasy VII.
I don’t feel the same way about games from the SNES era. In 1994, the same year PlayStation launched, a 16-bit game called Donkey Kong Country would somehow impress the world more than many of the 32-bit juggernauts Sony and Sega were unleashing. You could cite technical reasons for this, such as Rare’s utilization of Silicon Graphics workstations or simply the brilliant art direction, but from a subjective point of view, well, those 16-bit games still feel timeless.
Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Contra III. These were games whose characters and worlds weren’t trying to evoke realism like Tekken 3 or Gran Turismo with technology that simply can’t deliver it like it can today.
With older polygonal 3D-based games, our imaginations filled in the gaps between what was presented onscreen and what we perceive as being realistic. There’s actual science behind that; the same thing happens in VR. With the 16-bit era, the cartoonish appearance of the worlds and characters happened because of the limited technology available, and I think that era is better for it. Developers embraced the limitations and, for the most part, created timeless games.
As Sony’s Jim Ryan so bluntly expressed, these PlayStation Classic games really do look ancient. They were absolutely phenomenal for the time period, but they don’t feel evergreen like the majority of SNES games.
And please understand something, I’d write this exact same article if an N64 Classic was announced tomorrow. As legendary as they were, I have no desire to play GoldenEye or Perfect Dark or Turok again. Not even Super Mario 64.
I’ll still buy a PlayStation Classic because of course I will. I have fond memories of that console and so many of the games released for it. But I think the novelty will wear off quicker than I’d like once the eyesore of early 3D graphics starts to seep in.
Wanna talk about it? Reach out to me on Twitter and Facebook.
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