Sony are in a bit of a pickle at the moment. They’ve just had their credit rating trashed, they’re haemorrhaging money and sales of their latest portable hardware are woefully slow. It’s a far cry from the halcyon days of the original Playstation, deftly releasing classic after glorious classic.
But with their recent move into mobile gaming (let’s face it, it’s the future) with the release of the Playstation Mobile store, they’ve got an opportunity to really get a grip on the changing face of gaming. Will they take it?
The short answer is: no. No they won’t. The strength of the Playstation brand is almost entirely based on its catalogue of exclusive games, ranging from nostalgia-inducing heroes such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro to modern marvels like Uncharted and Infamous. We would expect most companies to capitalise on our rose-tinted memories of gaming history by offering those classics for use on our smartphones; the popularity of the Sonic and Broken Sword series on iPhone show how profitable retro gaming can be.
But if you delve into the shiny new Playstation Mobile app store (currently only on Android) expecting to be able to drop a couple of quid on Wipeout, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. There aren’t any PS1 classics at all, just a random selection of glorified minigames and card game collections; nothing that will inspire you to forgo the App Store for any length of time.
Luckily there is a solution. If you’ve got a jailbroken iPhone and the aforementioned couple of quid, there are a number of Playstation emulators that will keep you (virtual) button bashing for many hours to come. Apps such as PSX4all and psx4iPhone are readily available from Cydia for around £2, and after a slightly tricky initial set-up they’ll be ready to play pretty much any PS1 game you can remember.
There are a couple of downsides to using Emulators though. Phone touchscreens are great for really simple games like Jetpack Joyride and Angry Birds, but when you get to those that require more complex interaction you sometimes find the phone gets a bit stuck; drifting in Crash Team Racing for example is almost impossible, and the lack of a physical analogue stick renders many of the later games a bit of a chore.
There are also some legal ramifications to using iPhone emulation. Downloading the ‘bios’, an essential part of the console’s programming, is mired in legality issues and so you’ll have to take it upon yourself to source it from the internet. Downloading game ROMs (the files that act as the game disc) is also frowned upon, though if you own the game in disc form you should be covered.
Don’t let any of this put you off though; firing up Spyro 3 and flaming some baddies on the train to work is something that shouldn’t be overlooked; it saps away the minutes and leaves you delving into childhood memories, filling up the spare moments with Final Fantasy storytelling, Gran Turismo crashes or Metal Gear Solid thrills.
When you compare it to Sony’s current offering, there’s no competition. They must know that modern smartphones have emulation capabilities, but they’ve refused to make PS1 classics available to us, driving people to make progressively better apps to satisfy our retro-gaming appetites. Until they beef up their mobile platform, there will only be one choice: grab yourself an emulator and revisit the glory days of gaming.