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The US PlayStation Classic has several slower 50Hz PAL games

The US PlayStation Classic has several slower 50Hz PAL games

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Sony has confirmed that a large number of games on its new PlayStation Classic are based on the PAL versions, even on the North American version of the console. This means they’ll run at a slower 50Hz, rather than the NTSC format’s 60Hz.

If you weren’t in Europe or Australia during the dark days of conflicting global analog television standards, you might not know what the fuss is about. As a European who suffered through all of this, let me tell you: it sucked. PAL isn’t a worse standard than NTSC, exactly — it runs at a slower refresh rate but has a higher resolution, with 576 vertical lines to NTSC’s 480. But the reality of the video game industry back then was that Japan and the USA were by far the biggest markets, so most console games were built with NTSC in mind and had to be converted to PAL.

Sony has opted for inferior versions of the games

The result? Most games ran 17 percent slower to make up for the difference in refresh rate, and many didn’t update the resolution, resulting in a squashed image with big black bars on the top and bottom. Some developers did take the time to produce good PAL conversions that were timed properly for 50Hz and ran in the right resolution, but even in that best-case scenario, playing a PAL game on a modern 60Hz TV is likely to be pretty juddery.

Of course, no-one’s going to be playing the PlayStation Classic expecting a smooth, high-definition experience. And obviously, most Europeans did just bite the bullet and played these bad conversions back in the day. Many people will never notice the difference. But for the sake of preservation, it’s perplexing that Sony has opted for inferior versions of the games.

The PAL games on the PlayStation Classic are as follows:

  • Battle Arena Toshinden
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • Destruction Derby
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Jumping Flash!
  • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  • Resident Evil Director’s Cut
  • Tekken 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six

That’s nine out of 20. I can’t recall whether Cool Boarders 2 had a solid PAL conversion, if I’m honest, but I do know that playing the 50Hz version of Tekken 3 will be less than ideal. The upside is we haven’t noticed any egregious letterboxing in our time with the system so far.

Why would Sony make this decision? It’s possible that wider language support was a concern, or maybe the common long delays for European releases meant that the PAL versions ended up as the most stable builds. But it’s certainly odd to see these PAL editions show up on a North American product in any form, and it’s an unwelcome throwback to the pre-HD days when we actually had to think about this sort of thing.