Secrets of PlayStation Classic: Sony’s Hidden Menu, Support for More Games
Sony’s PlayStation Classic has not been reviewed particularly well. As we detailed in our roundup, the collective opinion of the community boils down to “bare-bones implementation with a so-so library.” There’s been plenty of speculation about why the system ended up shipping with such a weak selection of games, with the imminent release of various remakes and the difficulty of lining up appropriate music licensing for games that relied on then-current music but failed to secure the rights to said music for more than a few years. There’s also been criticism of the fact that many games are copied from the European PAL versions, which run at 50fps, as opposed to the 60fps PAL standard.
As hackers have spent more time with the machine, however, they’ve already found one genuine secret and data pointing to the possibility that a great many more games are compatible with the PS Classic than it actually ships with.
This video explains how to use a USB keyboard to open a secret menu on the PlayStation Classic, though not all keyboards are compatible. Thus far, only Logitech and Corsair keyboards have been confirmed to work (the Corsair K70 and K95 are confirmed). Plenty of models don’t work for this, even though the “this” is as simple as hitting Esc on the keyboard. There may be holes in the blacklist Sony used to prevent USB peripherals like keyboards from working, but the exact difference hasn’t been identified yet. Various publications and users have reported testing 10-15 keyboards and having no luck. Don’t assume yours will by default.
The new menu exposes a variety of capabilities, including RAM-based save states, the option to use CRT scanlines, and a frameskip setting (frameskip allows the machine to skip certain frames to improve performance, but since you’re skipping animation frames, it obviously impacts smoothness). There’s a host of options, some of which will require testing, and, in theory, could damage your PlayStation Classic. As always, be very careful before you go mucking about with hidden menus.
The PS1 Classic sized against the original PS1.
But this isn’t the only secret people have found in the PSC. Sony used open-source emulation software to build its products, which means it had to release its own version of the modified code on GitHub. Included in that source dump, in the title.h file, are a huge list of games that Sony apparently tested but didn’t see fit to release. Highlights include:
Colin McRae Rally
Crash Bandicoot (1 & 2)
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Medal of Honor
Parappa the Rapper
Street Fighter Alpha 3
Tomb Raider (1 & 2)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1 & 2)
This is only a partial list (you can see the full list here), but it’s striking how many games on the tested-but-not-included list are titles that people were actually looking for as opposed to what Sony eventually shipped. Presuming that these are the games that actually underwent some testing, it’s obvious that someone at Sony knew what people were looking for. They just didn’t bother to include it. There is, to be clear, no evidence that any of these titles are on the system. They’re just mentioned as having been tested.
According to Digital Foundry, the actual emulation in the PS1 is quite poor. John Linneman, writing for the site, describes it as “quite possibly the worst piece of console hardware Sony has ever released.” But he also offers a technical explanation for why the games look so poor — it’s a combination of the texture filtering choices Sony made and the decision to keep PAL versions of games (which ran at 50fps) but to output that 50fps at 60fps. The only way to stuff 50fps content into 60fps is to repeat frames. Apparently, it’s a major problem with the 9 games on the PS Classic that use PAL.
Frankly, given Linneman’s technical report, I’m not sure the PS Classic is even all that good of a console — if the emulation isn’t solid, there’s absolutely no point to playing with this thing as opposed to using a PC to start with. But for those of you who want one, hopefully additional functionality or better performance can be unlocked.