Saturday, 1 August 2015

Favourite Playstation Games


Back in 1995 before PS4, PS3, PS2 and PSOne there was Playstation. Originally a joint project with Nintendo as a SNES-CD console, Sony's first entry into the video games console market, which at this point was known as the fifth generation, proved to be a massive success and the best selling console of this generation against so many other competitors.

Competitors like Panasonic 3DO, Amiga CD32, Atari Jaguar, Neo Geo CD, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, and that's just the systems I can remember. I'm sure there were many more.


The Playstation was by no means perfect. I remember many systems having the CD laser head warp with heat and then it became difficult to read the data from the discs, unless you turned the machine upside down and placed a bag of frozen peas or similar on top of it. Well that's what worked for me.

However, here are some key points which I feel ensured the Playstation was more of a success than any of the other consoles I've mentioned above.

1. 3rd party software developers were embraced.
2. CD storage and retrieval media used rather than cartridges.
3. Marketing Playstation to teens and young adults rather than families.
4. Released on time. N64 was too late. Sega Saturn was rushed.


I was lucky enough to be one of the people that chose the Playstation over the other consoles. Even though it was said to be less powerful, only 32bit, than the N64 and the Saturn, both 64bit, it just seemed to have a larger and more varied catalog of games available for it.

So here are my fifteen favourite original playstation titles. Please be aware that they are not necessarily the best games for the Playstation, some of their sequels are much better, but these games are definitely the most memorable for me. It may surprise you that there are no Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid games in the list but at the time I just never got to play them.

To be fair the last two in the list are two games my wife used to play. She doesn't play that many video games so it's fun to hear her reminisce about the great times she had playing them even though I never did.


Tekken 2

The first true 3D fighting game I ever saw outside of an arcade. This was actually released a year after the arcade version. It included 17 Characters from the 1st Tekken game which I never played : Anna Williams, Armor King,  Devil Kazuya, Ganryu, Heihachi Mishima, Kazuya Mishima, King, Kuma Kunimitsu, Lee Chaolan, Marshall Law, Michelle Chang, Nina Williams, Paul Phoenix, Prototype Jack, Wang Jinrei and Yoshimitsu. Along with 8 New Characters : Alex, Angel, Baek Doo San, Bruce Irvin, Jack-2, Jun Kazama, Lei Wulong and Roger.

Tekken 2 had several modes of 3D fighting combat which included Survival mode, Team Battle mode, Time Attack mode and Practice mode where you could perfect your fighting moves and combo's. An added bonus which the arcade version never had was the CGI endings for every single character in the game. This was a very polished title went on to have a number of sequels, the third of which is supposedly the best.

Favourite Memory : Nailing Michelle Changs 10 hit combos and smashing everyone who dared to try and beat her.


Micro Machines V3

I really enjoyed this 3D top down racing game. What made it so cool was the 48 courses based on giant size versions of familiar real life environments such as a breakfast table, a pool table, a bathroom, a periodic table a dinner table, a school desk, an Indian restaurant, a garden, a sand pit and a garden pond. Each course let you race with one of the 32 available vehicles including hot rods, tanks, speedboats, hovercraft, jeeps, monster trucks and even ice cream vans. There was a whole host of power ups too, the best being the mallets, the missiles, the fire balls and the force field. The game had a whole host of racing options including multi player.

The cars handled really well and it paid to, know each course as well as possible as they each contained a number of useful shortcuts. This game looked so great that I almost enjoyed it just as much watching other people play it.

Favourite Memory : Wondering what the next track and vehicles were going to look like.


Colin McCrae Rally

I was never really into WRC and the idea of racing along a track against the clock instead of against other cars didn't really appeal to me initially until I tried this game. I was hooked instantly. The simulation was realistic but fun to play at the same time. It had the 'just one more go' edge to it that makes many games great. I even started to watch WRC on TV for a while after playing this.

The game actually had a stage in Indonesia, which is how I remembered playing this before Colin McRae 2, and there really was a WRC stage in Indonesia around this time but it didn't last long due to being withdrawn after civil unrest in the country. Little did I know back then that I'd be living in Indonesia 14 years later.

Favourite memory : The feeling of satisfaction and achievement when reaching the next stage


Vandal Hearts

This RPG appealed to me as it was simple, strategic and fun. The storyline was okay too. What let it down slightly was the difficulty level, it was just too easy. Having said that it may have been less fun had it been frustratingly difficult.

The game was turn-based when your group of characters got into a fight. Each encounter gave a different landscape where line of sight, flank attacks, rear attacks and attacks from higher ground all played a part in the battle strategy. When enemies were killed they exploded in a satisfying fountain of blood. You also met new characters which would be added to your party along the way. The game and story made you love these characters so your emotions would be at one end of the scale and then the other depending on what was happening on screen. To say I loved this game would be an understatement. In my mind it's a classic.

Favourite memory : The ship to ship pirate boarding fight


Grand Theft Auto

So this was the game that started one of the most loved and controversial video game series of all time. This was back when the game was in 2D with a 3D effect on some tall buildings and bridges. Stealing different vehicles and roaming around the open world city streets was the main attraction of this game along with all the different music tracks in whatever vehicle you decided to grab. The idea of an open world non-linear video game seemed quite new at the time and added to the games longevity, although I had experienced this before in a similar game for the ZX Spectrum called Turbo Esprit.

The Guinness Book of records states that it is the most controversial video game in history, with over 4,000 articles published about it regarding the games violent theme's leading to real life crimes. I'm pretty sure the developers were very happy with all that free publicity much like what I'd call the 'slow down of traffic after an accident' syndrome.

Favourite memory : Stealing the tank and smashing up as much stuff as possible.


Time Crisis

Like Tekken 2 this was originally an arcade game a year earlier famous for it's foot pedal cover system. The Playstation version had a story mode which affected which path the player took through the game.

I'd play light gun games before in the arcade but not this one. They were pretty bad, like clay pigeon shooting and that kind of thing so having not played this in the arcade I wasn't expecting that much from it. How wrong could I be. This game was awesome.

It was like being in one of those gun combat assault courses that I'd seen in loads of cop movies and on TV. The accuracy of the light gun was second to none and the introduction of the cover system was a masterstroke that introduced a timing and strategy element to the shoot em up which is still used in modern games today. This sure was way ahead of it's time.

Favourite memory : Having more fun than I thought possible with a plastic gun and a TV.


Tomb Raider

This game literally stood out due to the choice of main protagonist. If it had been a male Indiana Jones type character it would have been much the same and typical of any other adventure game around that time. After a slew of sequels and two movies I think the developers made the right choice in Lara Croft. a girl wearing a tight t-shirt top and shorts, carrying two guns and some rather large assets could be construed as sexist but it worked and the game itself was quite good too.

It was fun to traverse and explore Lara Crofts world. Sometimes it did get a bit boring but the sequel fixed this by having more creatures, people and things to do. But this is the game I remember first and it's safe to say it made Lara Croft as famous as Mario, Sonic and Crash Bandicoot in the video gaming community.

The fact that this game was born from Core Design who were based in the small city of Derby in the UK where I grew up means this game will always have a special place in my Playstation heart.

Favourite Memory : The T-Rex.


Oddworld : Abe's Oddysee

The developers created a very distinctive looking world of platform, puzzles and original gameplay which I got lost in for several weeks of my life. The initial story is a rip off of Soylent Green. Abe works in a meat processing plant and discovers that the boss is using slaves of Abe's race as the meat. Abe has to free a number of slaves from the meat processing plant. If he free enough slaves he is rescued by them when he is captured by the factory boss, if not he is executed by the factory boss.

The magic Abe has allows him to possess bad guys and get them to do certain things with mind control. Some of the puzzles were quite difficult but not too frustrating. The animations of the characters and the sound effects gave this game it's own unique atmosphere. It spawned a variety of sequels but this first in the series was the one I played the most.

Favourite Memory : The first time you take over the mind of an enemy character and get him to shoot his pals.


Colony Wars

The first and best space game I played on the Playstation. The CGI animation at the start was astounding and had a voice over that sounded like Darth Vader. The dog fights in space were amazing and some of the ships were absolutely massive. The game did make you feel that you were playing a part in a massive war between good (League Of Free Worlds) and evil (Earth Empire).

Each stage of the game is split into several three mission acts. One of seven unique ships was selected for you based on how well equipped it was to complete the mission. Different outcomes occurred throughout the game based on how well each mission was completed which led to five possible different game endings.

Favourite Memory : That intro and the warm feeling inside when a new path to a different ending was discovered.


Resident Evil 2

I never really played the first resident evil game as when I saw it I was not that impressed. It seemed to take an age to move from room to room and it was all set in a house with what seemed like very few creatures to contend with. The sequel was a whole different ball game.

The game was much quicker between scenes, had lots more action and a larger play area which included the great outdoors. This was like being in your own zombie apocalypse horror movie. You had the option to play one of two characters and each of them had two different ways to finish the game which extended the longevity of the game.

Several moments scared the hell out of me. The characters moved around the scenes in much the same way as that old PC game Alone in the dark only a lot faster and with more things happening.

I'll never get bored of blowing zombies away. I'll never get bored of playing Resident Evil 2.

Favourite memory - Jumping out of my skin the first time one of those 'things' dropped out of the ceiling.


V-Rally

Besides the slick car handling and fast graphics of this game there is one thing in particular that makes it stand out from other rally titles such as Colin McCrae. 2-Player Split-Screen Mode.

It was pure genius being able to race against your friends on the same screen. Much more satisfying than beating a computer opponent or the clock. Colin McCrae seemed a slightly more polished game but my friends and I played this a lot more just because of the two player option.

Favourite memory - Beating licensed car driving friends in two player mode.


Syndicate Wars

The second sequel to the PC Game Syndicate. This kept the isometric 3D view of previous games but allowed the player to rotate it for a better view of the play. Bullfrog created the game using an updated version of their Magic Carpet engine.

Again the player controlled four agents in a variety of espionage style missions set in a futuristic cyberpunk city. The game even had adverts on billboards for other games. The missions were a bit similar at times but they were always fun. Whenever I played this game it felt like I was in my own Blade Runner movie. 

Favourite memory - Blowing away as many people as possible with the minigun.


Driver

Released a year and a half before Grand Theft Auto 3 this title was the best available at the time if you wanted cops and robbers thrills and spills in glorious 3D. The timeline for all this actions is the seventies and it's no fluke that elements of the 1976 movie The Driver are present in the game. This gives the game a different feel to GTA3.

The game has a decent story element which leads the player through Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. It was just great to drive around a open world cityscape much like in Grand Theft Auto but in 3D. Also very satisfying were the cop car chases where it seemed like the entire police force were chasing you through the streets and various road blocks they'd setup. It was just like those seventies car chase movies as the developers had envisaged. The game even had an action replay mode so you could save particularly enthralling stunts and watch them over and over again. I played this game a lot more than GTA3 as the emphasis was on the driving and it just felt more crisp.

Favourite memory - The first time I saw a police blockade just like in the movies.


Crash Team Racing (CTR)

For some this so-called Mario Kart clone for the Playstation was better than all of the other kart racing clones out there including Mario Kart itself. At the start players can choose from one of eight characters and a further seven can be unlocked whilst playing the game.

The turbo system that players can use whilst performing a power slide is an additional feature not present in Mario Kart. Apparently if you mastered the technique for this it would lead to you winning a lot more than your fair share of races.

My Wives Favourite Memory - Probably beating her brothers who also played the game.


Harvest Moon : Back To Nature

Probably my wives all time favourite game during this period in history. It's a farming simulation but not only that. Characters in the game had their own personalities and lifestyles along with their own bunch of relatives. The story is that your grandfather who you visited at the farm when you were a boy  has passed away. You are back to turn your grandfathers run down farm into the thriving business it once was in three years. If you don't you have to leave the village. You also need to make friends with the villagers too.

Apparently the key to playing the game well is to divide your time between running the farm and getting to know the villagers equally. There are different seasons and weather which affect the farm and various activities such as gambling and attending festivals which occur in certain seasons. You can also date, get married and have kids.

Once the three years are up if the farm has been renewed successfully you are your family settle down on the farm for good and the game continues forever otherwise it's game over.

My Wives Favourite Memory - Getting a wife in the game that was easier to keep than everyone elses.


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