Sony’s classic games blunder: Why PAL isn’t your friend

A video of the slower PAL version of Ape Escape running on PlayStation Plus.

Sony’s confusing new multi-tiered PlayStation Plus subscription plan has now launched in multiple Asian territories (outside Japan) ahead of a worldwide launch planned for the coming weeks. But users in those regions are finding that some of the classic games on the service are unexpectedly running slower than they remembered.

Video Games Chronicle has confirmed that first-party original PlayStation games (ie, those published by Sony) available on PlayStation Plus in Asia are the European versions designed to run on the PAL video standard. That makes some sense in countries like Indonesia, which natively used that 50 Hz video format during the original PlayStation’s heyday. But the PAL versions are also being offered for download in countries like Taiwan, which used the 60 Hz NTSC format of standard-definition TVs in North America and Japan, among other countries.

The result is games that run at slower and less consistent frame rates on modern displays, as seen in this sample video. Third-party classic PlayStation Plus titles, on the other hand, are available in the NTSC format.

If this issue sounds familiar, it’s probably because a similar problem affected first-party games on the PlayStation Classic plug-and-play console in 2018. As we noted in our review at the time, the difference between the 50 and 60 Hz versions was definitely noticeable in games like tekken 3, where the change threw off the muscle memory required for tightly timed moves and combos. A more detailed analysis by Digital Foundry highlighted the extra juddering and frame spikes caused by trying to run PAL games on modern HDTVs.

Sony has not responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica regarding the apparent change.

Emulated PlayStation classics on the PS4/PS5 offer a CRT filter that reintroduces standard-definition scanlines and fuzziness.
Enlarge / Emulated PlayStation classics on the PS4/PS5 offer a CRT filter that reintroduces standard-definition scanlines and fuzziness.

Some original PlayStation games are also now listed for individual purchase on the PS4 and PS5 in Asian markets under a “PS1 Emulation” heading. Those games have been “enhanced with up-rendering, rewind, quick save, and custom video filters,” according to the online store listings. Sony also warned customers that “there may be times where the title plays differently from the PlayStation version, or where some features may cause the title to not function properly. This version does not support the PlayStation console’s peripherals, [so] some functionality may not be available.”

A limited lineup

Classic region issues aside, the Asian PlayStation Plus rollout has given us our best look yet at just how many Sony games will include in its new tiered subscriptions.

A complete list of PlayStation Plus games in the Hong Kong region (which has been helpfully organized and collated by Eurogamer) includes 269 distinct titles. That includes 219 PS4 and PS5 games available on the mid-level “Extra” tier, while the high-end “Deluxe” tier in the region adds an additional 33 PS4 games. The Deluxe tier also includes an extremely limited selection of “classic” downloads: 12 from the original PlayStation, four from the PS2, and a single game from the PSP.

On the one hand, that list of PS4 and PS5 games is much more expansive than the partial list of 60 or so Sony announced last week. On the other hand, it’s still well short of the “700 titles” that, according to a recent FAQ, will launch across the membership plans.

Part of that difference comes from the absence of streamable PS3 games; none of the Asian countries that got the new PlayStation Plus will have access to streaming in the immediate future. But the Extra tier’s 219 PS4 and PS5 games are also short of the “up to 400” PS4 and PS5 titles Sony said to expect in March. Sony notes that “titles may vary by local market” and will “vary over time and plan” as well, so other regions may enjoy a more expansive title list.

For context, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription launched with just over 100 games in 2017. That list has since expanded to include 450 titles across Xbox consoles (350 of which are available via cloud streaming) and an additional 420 titles on PC for Game Pass Ultimate or PC Game Pass subscribers.

Separately, Sony also confirmed that PS3 games streaming on PlayStation Plus will not support any DLC originally available for those titles. Streamable games on Sony’s previous PlayStation Now service had the same limitation.

Listing image by Sony / Resetera

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