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PlayStation at 25

The original PlayStation celebrates its 25th Anniversary in North America and Europe this month. Inspired by Steady Sphere’s YouTube video on PlayStation Memories, I though I’d put together a collection of my own. I had the Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo before it, but nothing captured me quite like the original PlayStation. I got my PlayStation for Christmas in 1997 after spending ages trying to decide between it and the Nintendo 64. I would eventually get a Nintendo 64 but I was delighted with my original choice as the range of games on offer was amazing. Nowadays, the majority of the games haven’t aged well. Their controls can feel stiff, the graphics ugly (and warped) and the voice acting is ludicrous but at the time it was something else. Below is a list of some of my favourite memories. I’ve excluded Final Fantasy as I’ve already covered those here. Enjoy.

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

I got two games with my PlayStation on Christmas, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. I don’t really have as much affinity for Croc as I do for Crash Bandicoot. I found its controls stiff and the camera jarring at the time. Crash Bandicoot 2, on the other hand, was a different story. With a fixed camera, I could concentrate on racing through the levels. The levels themselves had a decent variety to them. My favourites were always the ones with Polar. They were intense, fun and challenging at times. I was also amazed by the level hub. I know it’s a stupid thing to be impressed by but I hadn’t seen anything quite like it at the time.

I spent ages playing through Crash Bandicoot 2 when I got it, slowly making it further with each attempt. Sadly, I could never make it to Cortex himself. I could beat N. Gin but the difficulty of the later stages always stumped me. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it and even as I started to build my collection, I would go back to it just to try again. The game is now available as part of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy with updated graphics and controls. It now plays similar to Crash Bandicoot Warped and it’s easier to get through. Although I like the remake, there’s nothing quite like sitting in the kitchen with a small CRT television as you take in the early days of 3D graphics.

Fighting Force

Fighting Force was one of the games I bought just after I got my PlayStation. I had been a big fan of Streets of Rage so when I spotted what looked like a 3D version of it, I grabbed it straight away. The game is a fun beat’em up that is reminiscent of the Streets of Rage and Final Fight series but it suffers from a lot of issues that early 3D games had. At the time, I hated the camera, especially in multiplayer. When playing with a friend, the camera will just go all over the place during boss fights. The game also felt repetitive (and still does). Sadly, this is something the genre as a whole suffers from.

There is some replay-ability with the different routes you can take to the final boss but they can feel very similar. I did, however, get great fun out of the multiplayer mode. I would bring the game around to a friend every so often and just blast through it. It was great having someone else there as you beat down enemies with all manner of objects, from tyres to bottles. I did play it not too long ago with a friend, and while I can still see its flaws, it made me more appreciative of what it was trying to do: bring the beat’em up genre in to a 3D world.

Resident Evil 2

As a child, I was terrified of zombies (I still am). As a result, when a friend brought over the original Resident Evil I didn’t want to know about it. A few years later, I was reading a gaming magazine and Resident Evil 2 caught my eye. The city looked gruesomely horrific, the station was terrifying and the zombies looked… <shivers>. A few friends were telling me about how great it was so I decided to bite the bullet and track down a copy. I found a Platinum version at Dixons and was enthralled by the zombie on the cover. When I got home, I decided to play through Leon’s scenario first.

Everything I had feared was right there on the screen. The horrible moans of the monsters, the uncertainty of what lay around the corner, the haunting music… and I loved it all. I would slowly make my way through the Police Station avoiding enemies along the way, not because this was the best way to conserve ammo but because they terrified me. One part always sticks out to me, the boiler room. The zombies coming through the door scared me no end and they still do. Playing through it now doesn’t hold the same shock value as all those years ago but it is still a frightening experience. I do have the remake on Xbox One and it fills me with a new dread every time I boot it up.

Hogs of War

What do you get if you take a bunch of pigs, add in weapons from World War II and have it narrated by Rik Mayall? Turns out the answer is a bloody good time. I didn’t actually own a copy of Hogs of War when I was younger. Instead, I would visit my cousin who had a copy. There, we would spend hours blowing each other up on the various multiplayer maps, all accompanied by Mayall’s wonderful commentary. It reminded me a lot of Worms (for obvious reasons) but it was so much more than that. The 3D levels were a joy to navigate through and there was a large selection of weapons to cause damage to your enemies.

My cousin and I wasted so many hours on this game. We would often stay up late, promising each other we would stop after just “one more game”. I would later track down a copy for myself through eBay. When I tried the single-player game, I felt it was lacking the same “oomph” that had made the multiplayer game so great. It was still a great game to add to my collection and whenever I have a few friends over, I recommend we play at least one round of it. Thanks to its delightful commentary, colourful graphics and easy to learn controls, its one of the PlayStation games to have aged well.

Grandia

I briefly mentioned this one in my blog post about Final Fantasy but I thought I’d give a bit more detail. While waiting for a new Final Fantasy, I wanted to track down some more JRPGs. At the time, they were incredibly difficult to find where I lived. I remember reading about several different ones, including Grandia, but could never find them in my local GAME. One day, while I was in the Square, I found a copy of Grandia. Delighted with having finally grabbed another JRPG, I scanned through the pages of the manual to see what awaited me. When I finally got to play it, I was a little taken aback by its combat system and world map. It was completely different from what I’d played before!

I slowly started to make my way through its wonderful world, learning the ins and outs as I went along. The levelling system was something new and fresh to me. Not only did you earn exp normally but you gained weapon and magic stats depending on what you used in combat. It was a joy to see the story unfold and as characters will leave your party, it made me think about how to spend my Mana Eggs more carefully. I still enjoy going back to this. I love its art style and the dynamic combat is fun to master. Sadly, the voice acting isn’t great. Still, its definitely one of the finer JRPGs on the PlayStation.

Ridge Racer Type 4

I didn’t own a lot of games growing up. Instead, I would either borrow them from my cousin or rent them from my local video store. One such game I rented constantly was Ridge Racer Type 4. Like a lot of the games at the time, I found out about this one through a gaming magazine. It looked bright and colourful and the Grand Prix mode seemed really interesting. I remember finally getting my hands on a copy for a weekend and being delighted with myself. The first time I rented it, I blasted my way through the easy mode in Grand Prix. It felt exhilarating.

I was never really one to play through the harder modes in a game but when I rented this a second time, I was determined to experience all the Grand Prix stories. I remember racing through the normal mode without much fuss but got stuck on the hard mode. For those that haven’t played it, the difficulty mode is determined by what team you pick and where you place in the Grand Prix races. I had scraped through the second round for RTS so the last few races were tough but I persevered. I then decided to try something I was not used to doing, playing the expert mode. I sat playing until the early hours of the morning, surrounded by darkness, dominating my way to the Championship. When it was done and the final story credits appeared, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

FIFA: Road to World Cup 98

My friends and I were big into football at the time. We would stay up late to watch Match of the Day, trade stickers for our albums (remember those) and play Heads’n’Volleys on the street. It was only natural I got FIFA 98 for the PlayStation. I was amazed by the graphics and the different modes you could play. We would play indoor regularly, getting as many players sent off as possible. I would even recreate the team I played for at the time using the edit function.

Perhaps my fondest memory of this game is the Road to World Cup mode. Four of my friends and I decided to play all the way through, from qualifying to the final. Four of us picked teams from Europe (Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Ireland) and one from South America (Brazil). We slowly battled our way through, with two going out in the Qualifiers (Spain and Ireland). Me and two others had made it. I remember barely scraping out of the group, while another friend went out to Oman (Italy). I almost went out to Oman myself in the semi-final, scoring in the last minute from a corner. The final was me (Netherlands) vs Brazil. He was much better at the game than I was but he made a mistake and I scored. He then made another and I won 2-0. It had taken weeks, there had been tears (literally) but I was delighted to have finally won. This is one of my favourite memories of this generation.

Metal Gear Solid

I’ve saved the best for last. This is my favourite memory of the PlayStation and one that was mentioned in Steady Sphere’s video. It’s 1998 and I’m reading a gaming magazine. As I’m flicking through the pages, I spot this one game that the previewer is raving about: Metal Gear Solid. I go to my local store but they only have “TBC” as its release date. I ask my mam to check for when its out every time she goes shopping. One day, she’s going to do the weekly shop and I’m playing Apocalypse. She asks if I need anything and I ask her if she can check when Metal Gear Solid is released. It turns out the release date is my birthday. On my birthday, my mam drives up to Electronics Boutique and waits for it to open so I can have Metal Gear Solid when I wake up. I get up around 9.30 am or 10 am and there it is. Even before I put the disc in to the machine, I knew this game was special.

I start it up and am instantly amazed and baffled by it. I was blown away by the voice acting but had never played a stealth game before. It took me ages just to get on to the lift at the start of the game. I slowly advanced through the Shadow Moses base, enthralled by it all. The first sticking point I got to was Meryl’s Codec frequency. It never occurred to me to check the back of the actual game box. After finally discovering it, I made my way to Psycho Mantis. The boss fight was amazing and having to switch controller ports to beat him was something else. Finally, after much trials and tribulations, I beat Liquid Snake but didn’t save Meryl. By the time the final credits had rolled, I knew I had played a masterpiece. I would later buy a turbo controller to save Meryl (and it worked) but let’s keep that between you and me.

I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. There are a few more games I could have fit in to this list but maybe I’ll save them for the 30th Anniversary. What are some of your favourite PlayStation memories?

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