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The Sony PlayStation 20th Anniversary
Gaming starts going mainstream.
It was 1995. Sony was best known for consumer electronics like TVs (where we used to watch shows), VCRs (where we used to watch movies), and Walkmans (how we listened to sets of 10-15 songs at a time). Surprisingly it came out with its own game console, the PlayStation. The previous two generations were dominated by archrivals Nintendo and Sega, two actual game companies. What did Sony know about video games? Apparently enough to be the champion of its era, easily outclassing the immediate competition from the prematurely released Sega Saturn and the stubbornly cartridge based Nintendo 64.
The PlayStation succeeded for reasons that are self-evident: CD-ROMs hold more data and a HUGE game library that had something for everyone. Whereas the Nintendo 64 was seen primarily as a kid’s game console, the PlayStation was home to a wide variety of games with mature content. The marketing reflected that. Here's a sample of a billboard that basically said: "Hey, you don't need to feel ashamed to like video games at your age, bro!"
My Top 10 Fave PlayStation Games
10. Bushido Blade
The graphics were blocky. There were no health meters and no time limits. One hit kills. Bushido Blade was unique among the crowded fighting games genre with its hyperrealism. There were only six characters and a choice of eight distinct weapons, the combination of which held incredible depth. Some would call it clunky and slow paced, but if you were ever locked in a versus match, trying to read your opponent’s next move, very well knowing a single mistake could cost you your life, then you don’t know what tension is.
9. Twisted Metal 2
The original Twisted Metal was basically a demolition derby with machine guns and missiles thrown in for added destruction. Twisted Metal 2 refined it further. No wonder it was so popular. TM2 was the perfect game to just let loose and enjoy wanton, mindless destruction of other vehicles equipped with guns and missiles, and Sweet Tooth is one of the best homicidal lunatics this side of the Joker. I think if you break open the disc it would leak pure testosterone.
8. Silent Hill
When the Resident Evil series turned more action oriented, I got my psychological horror fix from Silent Hill. I remember reading in a magazine a short preview of the game, describing disturbing visuals, relentless fog, and facing “skinless children” or “inside-out dwarfs.” Is there something wrong with me if I said that it only served to peak my interest? Well I’m glad it did. The nightmarish visuals, disturbing sound effects, and haunting soundtrack caused my heart to race with fear. It remains the most frightening game I’ve ever played.
7. Omega Boost
Giant robots come in two flavors: slow, plodding tanks or blindingly fast and sleek machines that twirl while indiscriminately firing laser blasts, Robotech-style. Take a guess which I like better. That’s Omega Boost, a flashy, smooth-running shooter for those who love their giant robots zipping through space taking out swarms of enemies and the occasional space station. You even had a rival mech pilot that you fought in epic space duels. After each mission you were even treated to a cinematic replay of your mech piloting prowess. It’s a short but sweet underrated gem.
6. Tekken 3
I was never really good at Street Fighter, but with Tekken I can hold my own with some confidence. Tekken 3 offered improved visuals from the previous installments as well as introducing new characters to the growing Tekken roster, like the noob favorite Eddy Gordo, kickboxing zombie Bryan Fury, and series protagonist Jin Kazama. I still don't know what's going on in the story since fighting game plot lines are so convoluted, but it doesn't matter since the beat downs are so solid.
5. Medal of Honor
This is how the first Medal of Honor was “created”. While Steven Spielberg was filming Saving Private Ryan he was also playing Goldeneye 007 for the N64 and thus the idea for Medal of Honor was born. Unlike Wolfenstein where the Germans run at you with guns blazing, MOH played like Goldeneye, with the enemy taking shots from behind cover and behaving in a more realistic way. And there was no Mech Hitler. It was innovative at the time, punctuated by a John Williamsesque score and some incredible sound effects. It is the best first person shooter on the PS1.
4. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII catapulted the once nerds-only genre of RPGs to the realm of more mainstream nerds. The dark mood and more mature subject matter made it one of my favorite FF stories, when the tortured, psychologically unhinged protagonist wasn’t a cliché. I spent a good chunk of my 100+ hours with the game raising Chocobos, so I could get that awesome Knights of the Round summon. I raised all the characters to 99th level, but I still couldn’t beat Emerald and Ruby Weapon. They're still sitting there in my memory card, mocking me. Anyway, to accompany the screenshot here is YouTube sensation Smooth McGroove singing the background music A CAPELLA.
3. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the game that made me buy a PlayStation. It is a departure from the straight forward, linear structure of previous Castlevanias to what is now popularly known as “Metroidvania”. SOTN borrows the Metroid gameplay staples of exploration and power ups to get to previously inaccessible areas but injects it with stylish atmosphere, RPG elements, fighting game elements and the best soundtrack ever. Seriously, the game covers classical, jazz, hard rock, techno; all with a Castlevania feel to them. Wish I could say the same for the English voice acting, though. SOTN is a true definition of a classic; I never get tired of it.
2. Metal Gear Solid
I was simply blown away by this definitive stealth action game. The Metal Gear series hasn’t been seen since the 8-bit days, only to reappear like this: all gritty and well-acted. The story rivaled some of the best spy thrillers. From the opening credits Metal Gear Solid drew me in. It had an intriguing plot, pin-point control, and moments so tense you can cut it with a combat knife. Good voice acting is the norm now, but MGS was the first video game to take it seriously. Hero Solid Snake sounded just growly enough to be Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine but not too much to sound like Christian Bale’s Batman. Then there were those little touches, like boss Psycho Mantis reading your memory card and Sniper Wolf’s death scene. Oops, 17 year old SPOILER ALERT!
1. Colony Wars
You would expect the triple-A title Metal Gear Solid to be the top of the list, but not mine. That honor goes to the seminal space combat sim Colony Wars. It’s not without its glaring flaws. The graphics have not aged well. It has a poor saving system, only allowing you to save after every three missions. This made the final mission EXTREMELY frustrating because after dying I had to start over from the previous two, but with the rest of Colony Wars I was in heaven. The setup is against the backdrop of a war between the League of Free Worlds against the tyrannical Earth Empire and its Colonial Navy. It was chock full of exciting space dogfights. There were different ships to fly. The music and sound were excellent. The story and missions branched depending on your performance. There was even a detailed in-game database that provided background on every fighter, bomber, capital ship, planet, and solar system you encountered..on the PS1! Bioware, please make this a mini-game in the next Mass Effect!