It seems like gamers are getting their fill of “classic” and “mini” consoles these days. Retro consoles aren’t all that new if you really think about it as fans have been brewing up systems like the Retron 5. However, you needed the actual game cartridges to actually play the games. Enter the NES Classic, a miniaturized version of the extremely popular 8-bit console made my Nintendo themselves. You didn’t need to buy extra game cartridges since the NES Classic already had the games built in them. After that, it’s like everyone started jumping on the bandwagon.
Nintendo followed the NES Classic with the Super Nintendo Classic, which was a smaller version of the Super Nintendo with 20 games ready to play in the little box. The recently released NEOGEO Mini mimicked SNK’s arcade cabinet styling fine but the system was missing some important stuff that you had to buy separately. The C64, a tiny version of the Commodore 64, had a rough launch but got better with some firmware updates wherein you can play downloaded games on it. Sony wasn’t also far behind as they just released the PlayStation Classic, which should have been a home run but it’s barebones user interface and weird game choices left some fans, including myself, having second thoughts about getting one.
There are going to be so many more coming in the near future. Rumors of a Nintendo 64 has been circulating for months now and SEGA is working on an “official” Genesis system that’ll be leagues better than the 3rd party offerings of the past. That’s all well and good but there is one “classic” system that’s been announced that I’m really not all that excited about. In fact, I think it’s a waste of money.
That would be the PC Classic.
Now, the PC Classic isn’t a “real” thing yet. The company that conceptualized it, Unit-E Technologies, has just started their crowdfunding campaign (although I still haven’t been able to find the page to link to it) to make the PC Classic dream into a reality. But I’m really wondering if this product is actually needed.
Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s a good idea in theory. There are a few things that I do find appealing. I do like the retro look to the PC Classic. Yes, it’s not exactly the most pretty mini console out there, with it’s off-yellowish hue color and extremely boxy designs. But this is what old PCs looked like in the ’80s and very early ’90s. Growing up, I used to play on an old IBM AT computer, which was honking huge, by the way, and it had the same kind of style. The disc drives were on the right side of the thing and the vents were on the left, which is the direct opposite of where they’re placed on the PC Classic. The “smoker’s teeth” yellowish color doesn’t come standard but that’s what most old computers will eventually look like.
After the rather okay aesthetic choices Unit-E made designing it, nothing the PC Classic will do appeals to me. Basically, it’s all downhill from here.
First off, they haven’t released an official list of games yet. Unit-E claims that they’ll have 30 fully licensed games ready for it when it launches. But what games? They did show a few games in their announcement trailer, namely Doom, Jill of the Jungle and Commander Keen 4. Are these really the best games to show off what the PC Classic can deliver? To be fair, they were just demos because they probably haven’t obtained the license for them but that doesn’t really give me much hope.
That’s really disheartening because what games you’re going to be putting in your retro console is a huge selling point. If you disagree, then I refer you to the disappointing game lineup of the PlayStation Classic, a retro console that left out heavy hitters, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Tomb Raider, Gran Turismo, Parappa the Rappa and Crash Bandicoot in favor of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, Destruction Derby and Battle Arena Toshinden. Yes, I’m still upset with this unsatisfactory choices.
For argument’s sake, let’s say Unit-E, a company that music arcade games, manages to get some heavy hitters. Let’s say they get some gems that defined the PC gaming era such as Sim City, Civilization, Maniac Mansion, the Ultima series, and many more. I mean, they do have to obtain the licenses for the songs for their music games, so it isn’t an impossibility (even though I suspect getting the license for songs is radically different than for games). Will a strong games lineup change my mind? In a word, no. That’s because the basic concept of the PC Classic is flawed.
Take a look at the previous retro “classics” that have come before the PC Classic. They’re all built on the premise that all you’ll need to play the same games you played growing up is by plugging some device to your TV, turning it on and, boom! You’re playing some retro game goodness and reliving your childhood. Is that what the PC Classic is doing as well? I’m asking because I don’t remember playing any PC games on the television in my living room or bedroom! I played those old PC games in front of a desk and staring at my monitor, which is exactly what I’m doing now while I’m typing this piece up!
Also, I honestly don’t remember playing that many PC games using a joypad, which is what they PC Classic is for sure going to be bundled with. You know all those games I mentioned earlier? Games like Sim City, Civilization, Maniac Mansion and Ultima? I didn’t play any of them using a joystick! I played them using my trusty (and extremely clickedy sounding and satisfying) IBM keyboard. You know, the one where the function keys were laid out on the entire left side? Yeah, it was weird but that’s where they were placed!
Anyway, I used to play PC games using the computer. I still do most of the time and never with a fangled joystick. In fact, I feel playing PC games using something like a joypad would feel weird since I’ve gotten so used to using a keyboard. Well, if that’s the case, why don’t I just get some retro games over from Steam or GOG.com and play them on my PC? I’m pretty sure I can do that without a problem!
You see, one of the biggest selling points of retro consoles is that we get to have the same experience of playing those old games with the same controllers that came with those old systems. Getting retro games has become so easy in the digital age as you can download them. But to truly get the same experience, you need the same controller. It’s practically a must to get the same retro feel of before.
Let me give you an example: I can go play Castlevania: Requiem and play both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night on my PlayStation 4 right now but it’s not the exact same experience as before, especially if you consider the Turbografx/PC Engine’s original controller had the same blocky form factor of the original NES controller. Yes, these are the same games but the way you’re playing them, how you have Richter Belmont jump and navigate the world of Castlevania, is not.
With the PC Classic, that’s not going to be a problem as any keyboard will suffice! I will have pretty much the same experience since each and every keyboard layout had fundamentally been the same. Sure, there have been some minor tweaks over the years since the early days. We now have dedicated arrow keys instead of just the number pad. I already mentioned that the function keys have moved to the top instead to the left. But otherwise, it’s the same! Heck, if you have a good/hefty mechanical keyboard, it feels the same as the old clunky ones of yesteryear!
I don’t want to crap on the PC Classic all that hard, though. I’m sure there’s a market for it as there are probably some old school gamers that just want a dedicated system they could plug in and play games like Doom but I just think that market is severely limited. This is especially true with the advent of being able to get most older games on Steam and GOG.com. Heck, those sites don’t even have to make you fiddle around with DOSBox anymore!
I can appreciate what Unit-E is doing and I do wish them the best… but the PC Classic seems like a waste of money.
What’s your take on the PC Classic? Let me know in the comments section below!