Ok, to set the record straight, Martin has it wrong. Sure, the Mega Drive was a great console in during its time. But if you want to strike the perfect balance between retro and quality, look no further than the Sony PlayStation. Just hearing the intro makes me feel like a kid again.
When you think about it, the Sony PlayStation brought so much to the gaming community. Slick gameplay, next generation graphics, and memory cards were all part of the package. But what sets the Sony PlayStation apart from every other retro gaming console, are the games. There were so many incredible games available that just couldn’t be on the list. Classics like Resident Evil, Gran Turismo 2, Parappa the Rapper and Spyro all deserve to be here on merit alone. Narrowing it to just five is close to impossible task. But we’ve done our best.
Wipeout – Next Generation Gaming
Wipeout was one of the poster games for the Sony PlayStation when it was launched in Europe back in 1995. And in many ways, set the tone for what was to follow for the Japanese giant. The basis for the game was very simple. It was set in the year 2056, and allowed you to choose from a number of racers to compete in a futuristic race league. Try to picture Star Wars pod racing through Tokyo, and you’ll get the idea.
While it had the pod racing feel visually, the gameplay had an heir of Mario Kart about it. While racing around the tracks, you were able to pick up different power ups to help you finish first. Speed boosts, shield enhancements, and weapons were all there, available as random pick ups around the track. The soundtrack also set it apart from other games. Big hitters Orbital and The Chemical Brothers contributing to an acclaimed gaming soundtrack.
It was and is a seriously addictive 3D-racer that spawned numerous sequels across multiple platforms. Wipeout has to be in the collection of any self-respecting Sony PlayStation gamer.
Twisted Metal World Tour – Carnage in a Box
Oh, this brings back memories. If you had a copy of Twisted Metal World Tour, you were instantly one of the cool kids in school. The concept here is one of pure carnage, basically the Hunger Games on wheels. Set in 2006 in Los Angeles, the proclaimed ruler of the Earth, Calypso, has invited 14 of the world’s best drivers to compete in the 2nd Twisted Metal contest.
Twisted Metal represented one of the best things about the Sony PlayStation. The ability to pick up a controller and have fun within minutes of pressing the “On” button. If you have never played it, you are missing out.
Crash Bandicoot – Who Needs a Hedgehog!
While Crash Bandicoot has obvious links back to a certain blue-haired hero, there is little doubt that it paved the way for platform games on the Sony PlayStation. The plot centres around Crash, a Bandicoot who has been mutated by Dr. Neo Cortex. Crash must travel across the three Wumpa Islands to foil Dr Cortex’s plans for world domination. (Sound familiar at all?) Helping Crash along the way is a spirit guardian called Aku Aku, who has left traces of himself throughout the islands to make Crash stronger against attacks, and in some cases invincible.
What made Crash Bandicoot so great was that is entertaining. While the style of game was that of an old school rolling platformer, it touched on the 3D gaming potential of the Sony PlayStation. Sure, the graphics were boxy, and the storyline was borderline plagiarised, but it was still fun. I defy anyone not to play the “Hog Wild” level without a wide grin on your face.
Tekken 2 – Fighting Sim Royalty
Around the time of the launch of Sony PlayStation, the first iteration of the Tekken series was facing stiff competition from Virtua Fighter to be the best 3D fighter simulator available. The release of Tekken 2 soon put that battle to bed.
The game follows on from Tekken, where eight fighters competed to win the King of Iron Fist Tournament, and challenge corporate mogul and martial arts kingpin, Heihachi Mishima. Eventually, the story is that Heichachi’s son, Kazuya, wins the tournament and fights his father for control of the family business.
Two years on, and the Mishima Corporation are more powerful than ever. Kazuya rules his empire ruthlessly. Rumours of dark side emerge, and a second tournament is called for, with a course 100 times larger than the first. Calls are answered by the original competitors, and some new additions, as well as a father hell-bent on revenge.
Fighting simulators usually follow the same format, just with different characters, moves, and backdrops. Where Tekken 2 differentiates itself, is in a back story that would rival Game of Thrones. (Well, not quite, but it’s more solid than anything else out there). You find yourself playing while being genuinely invested in the paths each character takes.
It was also the first fighting game to have 2 characters hail from our own Emerald Isle, which was a nice touch.
Final Fantasy 7 – The Greatest Ever?
No matter what your personal gaming tastes are, there is no denying that Final Fantasy 7 is one of the best games released on the Sony PlayStation. The Final Fantasy series had been around for years by the time FF7 was released. This was the first of the series to use 3D graphics, utilizing the power of the Sony PlayStation at the time.
The story is built around Cloud Strife, anex-memberr of an elite military force Now turned mercenary, he is hired by a group called AVALANCHE, a sort of Greenpeace type rebellion. They exist to fight against Shinra, who, ironically, Cloud used to work for. Without giving much away, the story intertwines itself beautifully into an epic narrative that has yet to be surpassed by anything else since.
The gameplay is simple, yet addictive, flowing through as well as any RPG you can think of. The the turn based battle system allowed room for tactical combat. The Materia system is used to enhance your character abilities throughout the game. It could be as simple or as complex as you like, without compromising your chances of finishing the game.
There is no question that FF7 was a game that changed the RPG landscape. It also placed the genre at the centre of everything Sony PlayStation could do. The depth of the story, the 3D graphics, character development. All these elements lent themselves to a game that will be remembered by many as the greatest ever.
If you aren’t lucky enough to own a Sony PlayStation, Square Enix have recently released the full version on Google Play. Be warned, it will take up most of your free time, I don’t remember much else about 1997.