Thursday, December 3, 2009

Happy 15th Anniversary, Playstation.

It was fifteen years ago on this day that the original Playstation hit the gaming world and forever changed it. I remember my brother and I both wanting the system to play Mega Man 8 on it. We later found out the blasted system was a CD player, too! That floored us. The Playstation brand has seen some of the best games of all time on it, one of the best consoles ever in the Playstation 2, one of the biggest mishaps in the Playstation 3, and the myriad of marvelous memories that the PS logo, consoles, and games have given us. I thought I'd celebrate this occasion by rattling off some of my favorite original Playstation games.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

What is a man? A miserable, little pile of secrets! And this dialogue exchanged would be engraved in many a-players' minds and memories. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the first of many things in the franchise. It was the first Metroid-style game progression where gaining new abilities allowed our hero, Alucard, access to new areas of Dracula's caastle. It was the first to use an RPG-style leveling up system with stats as well as weapons to be equipped. Finally, and most obvious, it was the first Castlevania and the best of the Playstation era.

Crash Team Racing

Taking some inspiration from games such as Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing, Crash Team Racing was a terrific racers that some would call better than both games. While I'm not in that camp, CTR was pretty darned good. Naughty Dog did an excellent job creating a kart racer that felt familiar but was different enough to feel original. The track design was superb, the adventure mode was great having players take on each track before facing a boss after every world, and the power-ups were great fun to use. Crash Team Racing still holds up well to this day, so definitely pick it up if you haven't!

Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics was the first and best tactical RPG I had ever played. Both still hold true twelve years later. FFT followed the story of Ramza Beolouve, a young man thrust into the middle of a conflict between two families, the War of the Lions. This is presumably where the PSP port gets its subtitle from. Regardless, the game brought with it all the mythos of the Final Fantasy franchise with familiar monsters such as bombs and chocobos, familiar spells, and various terminology of the series. The greatest part of this game besides the excellent turn-based tactical combat is the soundtrack. It remains one of my absolute favorites.

Final Fantasy VIII

It'd odd. One of the most debated installment of the Final Fantasy franchise, and VIII just happens to be my favorite of the Playstation generation of mainline games. You played as the brooding hero, Squall Leonheart, who was more pouty and forlorn than your typical franchise protagonist. The game featured a junction battle system where you drew magic and spells from enemies and a sensational soundtrack including such titles as Liberti Fatali, Dance With the Balamb Fish, and Eyes on Me. It also included one of my favorite mini-games period-- the ever-addicting card game, Triple Triad. For a Final Fantasy experience unlike any other, check out Final Fantasy VIII.

Mega Man Legends

Mega Man in 3-D? My mind was ablaze with ideas and questions. Would it be like classic Mega Man only in 3-D? Would it be a continuation of the classic Mega Man series? Instead what we received was very much a competent action-adventure game feature a helmet-less blue bomber, a world filled with endless water, and the evil but lovable Bonne family as the general antagonists. I remember this game being difficult for me as a younger male, but finally beating the final boss was such a big moment for me. Forget seventh grade graduation or whatever grade I was in at the time!

Mega Man X4

The X series jumps ship from the Super Nintendo to the Playstation One and SEGA Saturn. While the Saturn version had more bonus content, the PS1 game was no slouch. This time around, you could choose as either X or Zero to play as. Each of these two had their own separate storylines, so playing through both was a must even though Zero's story was more difficult to play through. As always, eight new mavericks returned to the fray with levels taking X and Zero inside a volcano, in the Arctic Circle, and inside a densely populated Amazon jungle. Mega Man X4 remains one of my favorite games in the Mega Man series.

Metal Gear Solid

Before Hideo Kojima went absolutely nuts and isolated a lot of fans with Metal Gear Solid 4, the original Metal Gear Solid brought with it a Hollywood blockbuster approach for better or worse. At the time it was very cool, but seeing so many developers go for that approach now is disheartening. Thankfully though, this blockbuster in the form of a video game was fun, too, with its stealth-based gameplay. Sneaking around Shadow Moses Island, first seeing the opening credits, taking on Psycho Mantis... so many good memories to this great game. Perhaps some of us can forgive Kojima after all. Never mind just thought of Metal Gear Solid 4 again.

Spyro the Dragon

Platformers weren't as big on the Playstation as the Nintendo 64, but there were plenty of them. As a kid, I remember getting a headache from the graphics of such Playstation 3-D platformers, but still plugging away at them because they were so much fun. Spyro the Dragon is one of my favorites. It was created by Insomniac, the same group of fine fellows who would go onto make the excellent Ratchet & Clank franchise. After Insomniac was tired of flying, soaring, collecting gems, saving other dragons, and beating down bosses with their character, they sold the purple dragon off to Universal who have since destroyed the brand sadly enough. This was the same fate another Sony platformer had in Crash Bandicoot.

Star Ocean: The Second Story

One of my favorite Playstation RPGs was Star Ocean: The Second Story. Like Final Fantasy Tactics, this game also received a PSP port to it in Second Story. The game followed either Claude C. Kenny or Rena Lanford as the two search for a way to send Claude back to his own planet. Meanwhile, a sinister group of ten are looking to destroy the universe starting with Rena's home planet. The action played out in real-time battles with plenty of special attacks and magic to go around for everyone. The music is a high point of this game, composed by Motoi Sakuraba. It's coincidental that both games ported to the PSP have soundtracks that I am completely enamored with!

Wild Arms

I remember begging my mom for this game. Not because of the excellent story, the fantastic music, the fun combat, the early 3-D modeling, or the intriguing puzzles, but because you could name your own spells! Wow! That was such a foreign and provocative concept to me. Regardless, I ended up getting the game and definitely enjoying all my time poured into it. Sure, the battles are severely dated with the 3-D, but everything else is just as I remember it. It's a wonderful start to a franchise that would alter in quality with each installment.

To celebrate fifteen years, what are/were your favorite PS1 games? Let me know in the comments section!

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