Is it ever reasonable to buy a pricey console for one video game? Does your answer change if that console is the enormous, ugly, awkwardly-shaped PlayStation 5?
In June of last year, following the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, I wrote about how I would (probably) never play it. This was, for the most part, due to a lack of time, energy, and enthusiasm – not because I wouldn’t want to revisit the bigger, better sequel to the best version of Hyrule there’s been in years – but I was sad about it all the same. The piece was my way of coming to terms with that fact, that you can’t play everything, no matter how much you want to.
In it, I wrote:
“Unless something fundamentally changes in modern life – like the threat of robots taking all of our jobs materialising, which would be a blessed relief, frankly – I just don’t have the energy or the attention or the time, the bastard time, to do Tears of the Kingdom justice. And for something this special, so obviously special, I’d rather do nothing at all than half-arse it. That means I’m (probably) never going to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and that’s (probably) fine. You can’t play every video game, after all.”
It was meant to make myself feel better, of course, but also to act as a salve for anybody reading it also suffering from fear of missing out. And do you know what? It helped. Articulating those thoughts, laying out those feelings, it did make me feel a little better. Hopefully it helped a few of you reconcile your own FOMO. (Adult men won’t go to therapy or take up journaling, but they will write their feelings into a 1700-word op-ed and publish it online for anyone to read. In an age where you can’t have a hobby without it becoming a side-hustle, that’s a bit on the nose, isn’t it?)
I really did mean it. Every single word. However… we all have our weaknesses, our Achilles Heels, our glowing weak spots that, if you hit just right, cause everything to crumble into a heap. And for me, that weak point is Final Fantasy VII. Whether that weakness extends to every other bit of the franchise of various quality remains to be seen (Crisis Core! Dirge of Cerberus! Advent Children! Not you, The First Soldier!) but it most definitely includes the Final Fantasy VII Remake which – after years of speculation and worry – actually turned out quite well when it was released for PlayStation 4 in April 2020.
The PlayStation 5 would release half a year later, in November 2020, followed by Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade – a spruced up, next-gen version for PS5 with some additional Yuffie content – in June 2021. Even then, it didn’t really occur to me that there might be an issue on the horizon. I had no real need to play Intergrade, having played the PS4 version in full, and it scarcely seemed worth buying a PS5 to play spruced up versions of PS4 games like The Last of Us Part II, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Final Fantasy VII Remake, among others. There are PS5 games other than touch-ups, of course, including Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Returnal, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but for someone with precious little time to play, it didn’t make sense to do battle with scalpers and pay £500 for an extremely elusive, very expensive paperweight. (And an enormous, ugly one to boot. I’ve made no secret of the fact I don’t like the look of the PlayStation 5, and I like its obnoxious size and shape even less. More on that later.)
But now the release of the second instalment of Final Fantasy VII Remake, officially titled Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, is just around the corner. Specifically that’s February 29, 2024, a little under two months away – assuming no last-minute delays, of course – and it will be a PlayStation 5 exclusive, with no PlayStation 4 version available.
Well, damn. Now I really have a problem. There’s a new nugget of Final Fantasy VII on the way, and I have no means to play it.
There are, perhaps, two glimmers, two golden shiny wires of hope in all this. The first is the news that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is possibly just a timed exclusive, and the second is that Sony has just released a PlayStation 5 Slim. So there’s a chance I might get to play it on some other platform, if I’m prepared to wait, or that I might be able to overcome my issues with the PS5 with a newer, smaller model.
For the former, Push Square noted that the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth trailer that provided the game’s release date also featured a little bit of smallprint that reads: “Not available on other formats at least until 05.29.2024”. Which, on the face of it, reads like good news. Yes, that does look like the clenched-jaw whisper of limited-time console exclusivity, but consider its predecessor. Final Fantasy VII Remake did end its PlayStation 4 exclusivity after around a year and a half, when it also released for PC in late 2021. (We’re not counting the summer 2021 PS5 release as a break in exclusivity, since it simply migrated onto Sony’s newest console.) But Final Fantasy VII Remake hasn’t come to the Xbox family of consoles, or Game Pass, at the time of writing, and the PC version is probably too much for my ageing laptop to handle.
It seems unlikely that when Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s PS5 exclusivity ends – and remember, that smallprint said “at least” three months – it will help me play it. Given Final Fantasy VII’s history with PlayStation and, more recently, the fact Final Fantasy XVI has also been a PlayStation 5 console exclusive, you wouldn’t bet on it coming to Xbox in the immediate future, if at all. That exclusivity is only likely to give way to a PC port. And a game developed for the PS5 first, rather than ported from the PS4, is likely to be far more graphically demanding than its predecessor, decked out with all the bells and whistles and real-time rays that my creaking laptop will be even less equipped to cope with. If I baulked at spending £500 on a PlayStation 5, imagine how much more expensive the requisite gaming PC will be!
So if other platforms aren’t coming to the rescue, it looks like I’ll need a PlayStation 5. A big, stupid, ugly PlayStation 5. That Brobdingnagian monstrosity of a console. I find this incredibly upsetting.
In the interest of balance, I should point out that the Xbox Series X is also a hulking beast of a thing – and I don’t own one of those, either – but at least the Xbox console has the decency to be an oblong. The fact it’s a uniform shape means you can put it in more places, you can stack it more easily, and you don’t need to buy an additional £25 “foot” to be able to stand it vertically at all. Plus, the Xbox Series X is a fairly nondescript box, where the PlayStation 5 looks like Tron’s air purifier. If the PS5 is a glossy energy drink, the XSX is a simple cup of black coffee, and I know which I prefer.
The Xbox Series S is a great size and shape, incidentally, and it’s significantly cheaper than its bigger brother, but that reduction in performance and loss of native 4K resolution is a kicker. That’s the trouble with releasing a cut-down console on day one, before you’ve had time to benefit from Moore’s Law and advancements in technology. Not that it matters if Square Enix never breaks that PlayStation console exclusivity, but we were discussing the relative size-and-shape merits of consoles.
Speaking of smaller console models, then: Sony has just launched the PlayStation 5 Slim! In the great tradition of PlayStation consoles, the Japanese giant likes to launch a svelte, skinnied, cheapened version of its consoles part-way through their lifecycle. When you consider the impressive size reduction in all of the previous-generation PlayStation consoles over the years, and how big the PS5 is to start with, you’d be expecting good things, right? And yet…
- PSOne is 49% the size of PlayStation by volume (1.06 L vs 2.16 L)
- PS2 Slim is 23% the size of PlayStation 2 by volume (0.98 L vs 4.35 L)
- PS3 Slim is 62% the size of PlayStation 3 by volume (5.47 L vs 8.76 L)
- PS3 Super Slim is 45% the size of PlayStation 3 by volume (4.00 L vs 8.76 L)
- PS4 Slim is 67% the size of PlayStation 4 by volume (2.98 L vs 4.44 L)
- PS5 Slim is 70% the size of PlayStation 5 by volume (7.42 L vs 10.55 L)
Not only is the PS5 Slim the least significant percentage size reduction of any PlayStation “Slim” model, it’s actually bigger than all the other full-fat, first-gen models through the years bar the PlayStation 3 (because that was also a bit silly, size-wise). It’s also exactly the same price – £389 for the digital edition, £479 for the disc edition, and still £24.99 for that stupid stand – which bucks the trend of the mid-generation “Slim” consoles being cheaper than their launch versions. Does that mean that, like the PS3 Super Slim, we’ll get a second mid-generation “Super Slim” model of the PlayStation 5 in a couple of years time, and that we might see a reduction in price on that version? Perhaps. I certainly hope so. But that doesn’t exactly help me with my current quandary, the imminent release of the only video game you’d think was guaranteed to get me off the bench and back into the game.
So where does that leave me? I’m not entirely sure. In a difficult spot, mostly. It takes me back to my childhood, looking wistfully at games in the Argos catalogue that I couldn’t afford the consoles to play them on, with the added twist that I probably can afford the console, though I resent paying so much for pretty much one game. And even then, I’d have scant free time to play it, just like with Tears of the Kingdom.
This piece was originally published on January 9, 2024, but has since received the following updates.
I have been reminded that I do have previous in this area. I actually bought a PlayStation Portable (PSP) for one game back in around 2008 or 2009. Admittedly the stakes weren’t as high – that was a second-hand console, bought for cheap off a work buy-and-sell noticeboard – but the point still stands.
And if you guessed that the one game was Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, you’d be correct. I think I have a problem.
Readers, I caved.
In my defence, it was about £60 off the MSRP; I think the cheapest it’s been since launch without having to brave the second-hand marketplace.
And to try and feel like I’m getting my money’s worth, I’m now wondering if I can rattle off a playthrough of the PS5-upgraded version of Final Fantasy VII Remake before Rebirth launches in a week and a half?
I definitely have a problem.