PSN Pundit: The PlayStation Store Is a Museum Within a Bodega
When the Wii went old-school with its Virtual Console, I wondered how long it would take Microsoft and Sony to do the same. Would online experiences involve games as history lessons mixed with shooting, running, jumping and/or role-playing fun? Well, Microsoft decided to concentrate on new games for the Xbox Live Arcade, which is cool, even it does leave many original Xbox games playable only on that insufferable brick of a machine. The PlayStation Network, on the other hand, now has more than a smattering of original PlayStation games, all reworked for your HD screen. No, there's no new content in these games, but there's no original content for the old games that come to the Virtual Console, either.
Think of these games as an interactive trip to a popular art museum, except in this museum, you can curse and yell and eat Cheetos without having a security guard escort you out the door. When you do open up, say, Crash Bandicoot with its jingly-jangly African-inspired indigenous-goes-pop music, memories of the first time you played it will flow forth as if your head had been attached to some memory-inducing machine created by Crash's enemy, Dr. Cortex. Me? I remember that my then-girlfriend Marielle was so into the game that she couldn't stop playing. I liked the game, but she raced to finish like a girl who was demon-possessed. I prefer to savor environments, so I had to stop to look at the rushing river water and the massive palm trees and imagine that I was in the thickest, most verdant of jungles. The critic in me liked to see how close I could get to a tree or a rock before it became pixelated. I was a slower gamer then. Heck, I'm no speedmeister now, either.
I wanted to check out all the old-school games at the PlayStation Store, but they aren't sorted as such. Old-school is mixed in with new-school downloadables like Pain and PixelJunk Monsters, so I have to scroll through 13 pages of games to find old PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games. Why can't the navigation of the PlayStation Store be done in a way that makes exploration seamless and enjoyable? You have to go through 12 pages to find the original Bandicoot game. That's a lot of searching when time is a precious commodity. The bonus, though, is that when downloaded, the old games can be played on either the PlayStation 3 or PSP. Play 'em big or play 'em small: It's your choice.
Since there's no way to organize them on the site, I want to list the old school games that are available for download: Tekken 2, Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2, Crash Bandicoot Warped, Siphon Filter, Medievil, Jumping Flash!, Destruction Derby, Rally Cross, JetMoto, JetMoto 2, 2Xtreme, Wipeout, HotShots Golf 2, CoolBoarders, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Spyro The Dragon, Wild Arms, Twisted Metal 2 and Warhawk.
You could get on a stump and yell to the Sony gods in the clouds, "Where are the rare ones like Carnage Heart, the Light Span games, Varnak, and the semi-rare Suikoden 2?" -- but 21 old-school games that include those in the list above isn't a bad batch from which to choose.
A passel of old games that can be played only on the PS3 (not the PSP) includes Q*bert, Lemmings, Mortal Kombat II, Gauntlet II, Rampart, Rampage and Joust, but these are games that are licensed almost everywhere. Even my old gig at VH1 Games included the Midway classics listed above. They rarely got any people playing, even though they were free to play.
The upshot? The games are still worthy. Sure, it was an immersive experience to go back and look at Wild Arms, especially since I like action in an RPG more than most folks, but I kept thinking about how much a pain in the ass it was to navigate the site. It just seemed not ready for prime time, like they thought of some things to do easily, but not enough.
Just before deadline, The Preacher passed along a press release to me that said the PlayStation Store is in the midst of a revamp, which is an f'in' great thing to read. Here's the deal: The updated Store will have "a new, more dynamic look and improved navigation. Currently an integrated online storefront, the PlayStation Store will live natively on PS3, enabling customers to more easily and quickly locate and purchase games, and download demos, game videos, Blu-ray movie trailers and other game-related content for PS3."
There won't be any new content like downloadable games until the new Store is finished, though you still can buy games. My hope? Maybe, just maybe, the new store will list old school game separately from the new ones. If it doesn't, expect a royal rant here next time.