– The allure of CD technology brought
many new challengers to the home console
market in the early to mid 90s.
CD-i? 3DO? But only one had what it took
to cement itself as a new force in gaming.
To simply say that the PlayStation’s
success changed the gaming landscape
would be an understatement.
Sony’s unexpected dominance
reshuffled the major players,
pushed cinematic presentation,
and introduced RPGs to a generation.
With so many people owning
so many PlayStation games,
the PlayStation 2 would support discs from the
original PlayStation and later, so would the PS3.
It’s pretty remarkable just how many systems do
support the original game discs,
and download versions can
even be played on the go.
So the question of getting the
best experience with PS1 games is not just,
“How do I get the best picture out of my system,”
but WHICH system?
Welcome to RGB 206.
– Sony released the PlayStation in Japan in
December 1994, and worldwide in 1995.
“PlayStation” was originally the name of an
unreleased CD add-on for the SNES,
so the console is ultimately the result
of a soured relationship between
Nintendo and Sony.
When put up against its most
comparable competitor, the 32-bit Sega Saturn
is said to handle 2D graphics almost effortlessly,
while the PlayStation is generally considered
to be better with polygons.
The PlayStation’s 3D graphics are known for
having somewhat of a “jumpy” look?
warping textures and twitchy polygons.
This is due to the PlayStation building its worlds
with integer-based arithmetic,
which means that not all possible positions
of a point could be approximated,
The vast majority of PlayStation games
output at a 240p resolution,
which works great with
CRTs and upscaler boxes.
A very small handful of games do run at 480i,
which is kind of surreal to see in action
on a mid-90s console.
A few others, while running at 240p for gameplay,
may output the occasional 480i signal,
often only on the title screen, as is the case with
Wild ARMs, or for in-game menus.
Unfortunately, these few games can wreak
havoc with video scalers,
causing a sync drop during
the transition between resolutions,
rendering games with 480i menus like
Silent Hill and Chrono Cross nearly unplayable.
Some HDTVs may also struggle with this transition,
while CRTs handle it seamlessly.
Again, the vast majority of PS1 games
output a constant 240p signal,
so don’t get too discouraged.
But for games like Chrono Cross,
we’ll take a look at a workaround a bit later.
The PlayStation features an AV Out port with a
design that Sony continued to use up until the
PS4, when it dropped analog output.
On the original PlayStation,
the AV Out port can provide
composite, S-Video, and RGB.
That’s right,native support for RGB
on all models, worldwide.
RGB doesn’t work with North American TVs,
but we can use it with professional video
monitors and upscalers like the Framemeister.
It’s worth noting that the PlayStation cannot
provide a CSYNC signal for RGB.
When shopping for RGB cables,
you’ll want to look for sync-on-luma,
which is really just as good as CSYNC.
Sync-on-composite also works,
but is more prone to video noise
without proper shielding.
We understand that PAL region systems perform
poorly with sync-on-composite,
though some RGB devices may require it.
Component cables are not natively supported.
The PlayStation’s RGB output is really good.
Sharp and clean.
It stands well against RGB on any other console.
Though it may be fair to say that RGB and
higher-fidelity displays don’t do any favors
for the highly compressed full-motion video
that the system is famous for.
Dithering can also show up really strongly in a
few games, like Metal Gear Solid.
But overall, we really enjoy the clarity afforded to
most of the system’s graphics.
In addition to the AV Out,
the oldest PlayStation units also have standard
RCA jacks for composite video and stereo
sound, surely a convenient feature for a lot of
people back in ‘95, but needless to say,
we aren’t really interested in playing
with composite video today.
But it’s often said that the RCA jack
provides superior composite video.
We found that the quality between the RCA jack
and multi-out was indistinguishable,
in fact, compared to another console,
it’s a bit softer? which is arguably better,
but it ain’t great.
It is worth noting that these consoles
do have slightly crisper audio.
There’s one other cool advantage to the RCA
jack consoles, and we’ll get to that a bit later.
In 2000, Sony released the PSone,
that’s P-S-O-N-E, a much smaller version
of the original console.
Some say that it features the
sharpest video output of any PlayStation.
Going head-to-head with an older
PlayStation console, we do see that the
PSone has a minor advantage.
But when we compare the PSone
against another PlayStation,
the quality appears to be identical.
In truth, Sony simply started using better
video encoders at some point,
and it’s not specific to the smaller consoles.
Because the PlayStation has an insane number
of board revisions, no one to our knowledge has
done the research to really determine which
consoles might have this.
But it’s certainly no SNES situation,
where the older consoles
really are noticeably blurry.
We think you’d be happy with RGB
from any PlayStation console.
(Playstation 2 startup sounds)
– Alright, let’s talk about the PS2.
Or rather, PS1 games on the PS2.
The PS2 outputs PS1 games at the original
resolution they were designed for,
meaning the system will output the correct
resolution of 240p or 480i,
with no unwanted scaling or processing.
The AV Out on the PS2 appears to be identical
to the one on the original system,
and supports all of the same cables,
but on the inside,
it’s wired up for one important addition.
The PS2 is the first game console to support
YPbPr component video.
For us in North America,
it was the first time we were able get anything
close to RGB on our TV sets,
allowing a boost to PS1 image quality using a
simple connector that the original
PlayStation hardware can’t use.
But let’s not forget that the PS2 can do RGB,
just like the original PlayStation, again,
we recommend sync-on-luma cables,
because PS2 also cannot output
a pure sync signal.
So does the PS2 make PS1 games
look any better?
Well, the colors show up slightly differently,
but it’s not really in a way where I think you could
say one looks better than the other,
or that you would even notice if they
PS2 appears to be just as sharp
as the sharpest PS1 units.
Component video compares very well alongside
true RGB, and appears to be equally sharp,
however it does lose a small amount of contrast,
and the quality of the PS2’s internal YPbPr
encoding is not considered to be the best?
meaning there’s a bit of visual noise,
most easily spotted in large areas of solid color.
It’s believed that the earliest PS2 consoles have
the best component output.
If the noise bothers you, go for RGB.
If not, either is a fine choice.
If you’re using RGB or component video,
you have to specifically choose
the color space in the PS2 menu.
That’s RGB? or YPbPr if
you’re using component cables.
Choosing the wrong one will either screw up the
colors in a very distinct fashion,
or you may not be able to see anything at all.
If you need to navigate to the menu blind,
make sure no disc is in the system,
wait a few moments after turning the console on,
then hit down, X, wait 2 seconds,
down, down, down, X, right, X.
But it’s not all about image quality.
the PS2 is a good option for playing PS1 games.
The CPU from the original PlayStation is
on-board inside the PS2,
but the video circuitry is simulated
by the PS2’s graphics hardware.
This can result in minor rendering differences,
and a few games do exhibit glitches
that tend to be fairly benign.
Unfortunately, we haven’t found any lists of
documented issues that appear to be as reliable
or comprehensive as we’d like.
But most games do seem to run in a manner
more or less indistinguishable from
the original hardware.
The PS2 also has two options
for altering how PS1 games run.
Hit Triangle twice on the PS2
system menu to access them.
I feel like the texture filtering effect gets too far
away from the original intent,
but maybe it’s something you’d like.
There’s also the option to run PS1 discs
at a higher speed for faster loading,
but this can cause issues with certain games.
Oh, and let’s not forget the little ol’ PS2 Slim,
Which turns in pretty much
the exact same results.
Overall, we feel that playing PS1 games
on the PS2 is a solid option.
(Playstation 3 startup sounds)
– When Sony first launched the PS3 in 2006,
every system featured PS2
hardware on-board to support
backwards compatibility with PS2 discs.
To cut costs, this was later changed to
emulation-based backwards compatibility,
and by the end of 2008,
the feature was cut from
new consoles altogether.
It’s a common misconception that this measure
also removed backwards compatibility with PS1 discs,
and that is completely untrue.
From the beginning,
every model of PS3 has had the ability to play
PS1 discs as well as PSone Classics
downloaded from the PlayStation Store.
Discs and downloads both run via
emulation on all PS3 models.
This comes with the obvious benefit of digital
HDMI output at a 1080p resolution with no need
for an upscaler box like the Framemeister.
For a long time, I thought it just
couldn’t get any better than this.
But in truth, you can actually get sharper results
with analog RGB from the PS1 or PS2
with a good upscaler.
There’s also a smoothing option,
which just applies extra blur to the entire screen,
rather than only smoothing textures
like the PS2 does.
Now here’s a weird, cool thing.
Certain disc games will render sharper
than downloads, even compared to
downloaded versions of the same game.
In fact, it’s sharper than the original hardware
through the Framemeister.
However, scaling is uneven,
meaning that pixel shape is
inconsistent across the screen,
which can cause shimmering issues
with screen scrolling.
Scaling is more uniform at 720p, but not perfect.
Still, it is pretty interesting.
and this phenomenon does apply to a large
number of game discs that we tested, but not all.
We’ve been unable to find
any additional information,
and are uncertain what triggers
a sharper or softer render.
If you’re a CRT junkie like I’ve kinda become,
the PS3 unfortunately cannot output 240p at all,
not even with analog connections.
If you set the PS3 to output 480i to a CRT,
you’re going to be getting interlacing flicker in
240p games that shouldn’t be there at all.
So even if it’s imperfect,
your best bet when it comes to playing PS1
games on the PS3 is to just let it do its own
internal scale to 1080p on your HDTV.
Now remember when I mentioned that there was
another good way to avoid sync issues with
games like Chrono Cross that frequently switch
between 240p and 480i during gameplay?
Well, if you can’t use original hardware
on a CRT, then the PS3 is definitely the way to
go for playing these games on an HDTV.
It may lack the crispness of
something like the Framemeister,
but it’s certainly not a bad alternative.
If you’re sensitive to input lag,
be warned that there is some lag inherent
that PS3s PS1 emulation.
Maybe it sounds like we’re being hard on the
PS3’s backwards compatibility,
and we don’t mean for it to
come across that way at all.
For the vast majority of PlayStation fans,
the PS3 is in fact probably the smartest option.
They’re readily available,
you don’t have to worry about
whether your PS1 or PS2 still works,
you don’t have to have space for a CRT,
or shell out money for a Framemeister.
And it certainly beats plugging a PS1 or PS2
directly into your HDTV.
Some games do have issues,
as you might expect,
but it’s a solid PS1-playing machine
for the vast majority of games.
The PS3 may not be the best
but it is absolutely the most convenient.
(PSP startup sounds)
– Sony’s portable machines obviously don’t
support the original PS1 discs,
but they do offer some surprising possibilities for
playing PSone Classics downloads and not just
for the convenience and novelty of playing them
on a handheld device.
Believe it or not, you may want to consider them
for playing your downloaded PS1 games on your
HDTV or CRT, even over the PS3.
The PSP features a
480 by 272 pixel LCD display,
which means 240p will easily
fit within the screen.
Setting the scaling size for “original” keeps the
image looking its sharpest.
The PlayStation Vita has
a resolution of 960 by 544,
basically half of 1080p.
But what’s interesting is that the Vita’s resolution
is exactly double the PSP’s?
which means that downloadable PSP games,
including PSone Classics,
fit the Vita’s screen with a perfect 2X scale?
resulting in a truly stunning image.
Since Sony designed the Vita to fit PSP and PS1
games so perfectly, like wow,
seriously, just look at that.
It’s a bit surprising that the Vita’s microconsole
counterpart, the PlayStation TV,
is rather lacking in its scaling prowess,
and only supports 480p, 720p, and 1080i.
Unfortunately, Sony just didn’t do anything
impressive at all with PS1 scaling
on the PSTV at all?
what should’ve been a low-power,
low-cost alternative to the PS3,
is just a bit too blurry for our tastes.
But let’s go back to the PSP.
This is where things start to get interesting.
Starting with the first major redesign,
the slimmer PSP-2000,
Sony added support for video output.
PSP games appear very small on the screen,
and only play in a progressive resolution
over component cables.
The system does have an option
for an interlaced mode?
but PSP games can’t use it.
Now if you watched our episode
about gaming on CRTs and PVMs,
you’ll know that 240p is less like a proper
standard and more like a clever video trick that
just so happens to work with a 480i display.
So if you set your PSP’s output resolution to
interlaced, wanna guess what happens when
you launch a PSone Classic?
it outputs real-deal 240p and displays the game
at the correct size, just like on original hardware.
This makes PSP the only way to play
downloadable PSone Classics from the
PlayStation Store in their intended resolution,
which needless to say is fantastic for CRTs,
or for processing through an external scaler.
One downside is that,
while the PS3’s internal scaling eliminates issues
surrounding 240p and 480i switches,
the Framemeister has trouble with the PSP just
like any other console with 240p and 480i.
But what’s bizarre is that even CRTs don’t
handle the PSP’s resolution switch seamlessly
like they do with the PS1 or PS2.
If you set your PSP to progressive mode,
the 480p output will be scaled
in a bit of a blurry fashion.
240p works only when
the system is set to interlaced.
The PSP-3000 adds
interlaced support for PSP games,
and works just as well for PS1 games.
It gets better, though.
Remember how stupid you thought the PSP Go
was when Sony announced a premium-priced
device that could only play download games?
Well, the PSP Go gets the last laugh here,
not only does it output PS1 games
just as well as the PSP-2000 or PSP-3000,
but it’s the only PSP console that can sync up
with a DualShock 3, giving the advantage of
comfort and a full set of shoulder buttons?
making the PSP Go the
ultimate PSone Classics microconsole.
Just note that the PSP Go uses
a different set of component cables
from the PSP-2000 and PSP-3000.
Thanks to the output being unscaled 240p,
there’s so much potential to tweak and improve.
All the same, don’t expect the image quality to
blow you away, it’s a bit soft,
and sometimes there are weird dithering issues,
but it does look great on a CRT.
Even with the Framemeister,
I haven’t managed to get it to be
as pristine as a PS1 or PS2,
but I think I’m gonna start using the PSP
over the PS3 for these downloads.
But remember, not every PSone Classic that can
be bought for PS3 can be played on PSP,
and the system is well past obsolete
as far as Sony is concerned,
definitely double-check availability and
compatibility for your favorite games.
Much as I prefer physical copies,
I honestly can’t say no to having the option to
download The Misadventures of Tron Bonne and
play it in glorious 240p without paying
well over two hundred bucks on eBay.
I’d say that playing PS1 games
on the PSP is well worth a look.
– Let’s take a look at just
a few more considerations.
Remember how I said that there’s
a cool advantage to the RCA jack units?
Namco’s Guncon for the PlayStation
is maybe the coolest light gun ever made,
but it works a bit differently from
your traditional Zapper or Light Phaser.
Just like those, it only works on a CRT,
but it also requires a sync signal? which it pulls
from your console’s composite video.
Unfortunately, this kind of locks you into playing
light gun games in composite only?
but there are workarounds.
The simplest is if you have an RCA jack unit?
simply plug S-video or RGB into the Multi-Out,
pull composite from the RCA jack,
and enjoy some high quality light gun action!
Alternatively, you could try to track down one of
these AV passthrough dongles that I have,
or if you’re playing on PS2,
you can use sync from
the green component plug.
There are also generic cables that include both
composite and S-video.
retro_console_accessories on eBay also offers a
neat RGB cable that includes light gun support.
Remember, that these light guns only work
on CRTs or professional video monitors.
Speaking of cables,
there’s a bit of weirdness regarding how PS1
and PS2 RGB cables are designed,
in fact, they’re not supposed to be built in the exact
same way by Sony’s specifications,
despite cable-makers generally selling them as
universal PS1 or PS2 cables.
But in reality, you’re unlikely to run
into any perceptible issues.
A well-designed cable for PS1 should work just
as well for PS2, and vice-versa.
And lastly, let’s talk just a little bit about
PlayStation emulation on PC.
While emulators are not illegal in and of
themselves, there are cloudy issues surrounding
the use of the PlayStation system BIOS.
But it is pretty neat that you can use
legit game discs with a PC emulator.
Though performance may be imperfect,
we’ve gotta admit that it’s fascinating to see high
resolution 3D graphics from games this old.
– Three consoles,
two portables, one microconsole,
and a ton of revisions of each,
all supporting the incredible legacy
of the original PlayStation.
It’s such a shame that, for now,
this tradition appears
to have ended with the PS4.
But no matter what Sony may do in the future,
we’ve got no shortage of options
for enjoying the classics today.