The PlayStation (officially abbreviated to PS, and commonly known as the PS1 or PSX) is a 32 bit home video game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. The console was released on December 3, 1994 in Japan, September 9, 1995 in North America, September 29, 1995 in Europe, November 15, 1995 in Australia, and Korea in 1996.
The Playstation is one of those consoles that changed the gaming landscape forever. No longer were we locked into the age of 2D sprites jumping in a 2D plain. Suddenly we had 3 dimensions to play with. Characters had depth and could move anywhere they wanted to within their world. Games were using the in-game characters moving in videos for the first time to tell their stories, not restricted to flat photos with text added to it. Sound went from being a bunch of bloops and bleeps to full CD quality sound and it was ear-shattering amazing! For gamers; this was an exciting time where anything was possible.
I can still remember the day I got my Playstation. My mother had a very good night on the Pokies (or Slot Machines for you Americans). She asked me one question that would lock me into a brand forever: “Would you like a Playstation or a Nintendo 64?”. I had to think it over for a while, but the answer was obvious: I was getting a Playstation. So we went to the local Mom & Pop video games store (This was before EB Games aka Gamestop ruled the lands) and got a deal on a brand new Playstation. It was the console itself with 2 3rd party controllers, a third party memory card, and two games of my choice. The games I got that day were WCW Nitro & Final Fantasy VII, both games I still have to this day.
I can remember getting home and hearing that now iconic boot up sound for the first time. It was like I was about to enter a magical world. So of course the first thing I did was play a wrestling game for hours on end. Screw your magical world Playstation, there was bodies to be slammed! Though after a while I did what was needed and popped in Final Fantasy VII for the first time and the magic truely began.
Of course, being a High School student, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income to use for video games. So like a lot of people did during that time, I got my Playstation console “chipped” (Installing a small chip that modified the Playstation’s security features to allow copied “pirate” games to be run in the console). I can remember having to ride my bike to this guy’s house in the same suburb I lived in, handing over my Playstation console, and for AUD$70 he opened the console up and soldered this little microchip into the system. He then closed it up and grabbed a label-less disc off his shelf and put it into the console. That disc was the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VIII, a game that I was really wanting to get my hand on.
Now as we all know, piracy is never something that should be condoned of even mentioned on gaming websites today; but back then, we didn’t think too much about the wrong we were doing to the industry and all that stuff. We just wanted the games NOW and at a cheap price, so just about everyone I knew had a “chipped” Playstation back then. Hell, my High School had several guys who would fill their school bag with pirated games to sell to other students during break times… I eventually became one of them back then too since I had a CD Burner back in those days.
Through piracy, I was able to experience games that I wouldn’t be able to afford in the high priced Australian market (Brand new Playstation games went anywhere from $60 to $80 at the time). I got my first taste of Japanese games because of piracy. Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout was the first time I heard Goku and friends in their native Japanese language, and the game wasn’t that bad either. I was able to get my hands on obscure titles like Evil Zone & Ehrgeiz. i was able to afford Final Fantasy VIII & IX because I was paying $20 for them instead of $90 each. Through this method, I was able to see and play games that I would only have dreamed about or read about in magazines at the time. I do not repent my days as a pirate, as they were some of the best moments of my gaming life.
But don’t get it twisted. I wasn’t some hardcore pirate that only played pirated games. I would help keep the Mom & Pop video game store I got the console from in business by hiring the latest games from there first. I got my hands on Dino Crisis from there and felt true horror for the first time. I remember a time where I rushed from school to the store just to get my hands on WWF Attitude, the newest WWF wrestling game at the time. I hired it for 2 nights and rushed home with my friend Matt and we started playing the game. Little did I know that only minutes after I left the store, my Mother had gone in and bought a copy for me for my birthday. She walked into my room with the game behind her back and saw me playing it. After confirming that it was the same game, she hid it away till my birthday. If I had only waited a few more minutes I would have the game for keeps instead of for 2 days.
The Console That Changed Everything
Games on the Playstation came in all sorts. I started my gaming experience with wrestling, then JRPGs. Over the years I was exposed to games of every sort. I played Gran Turismo 2, a racing game with the most customization for cars ever on the planet (I had tuned a 1995 Nissan Skyline GT-R to such specs that only I could drive it properly). I got the shit scared out of me by Zombies in the Resident Evil series and Dinosaurs in Dino Crisis. I explored mind-bending terror in that town called Silent Hill. I shattered controllers out of frustration against boss characters in fighting games like Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Final Fury: Wild Ambition. I bounced around colorful environments like a lunatic in Crash Bandicoot. I was sneaking under a box with Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid. I would juggle my opponents like crazy in the Tekken series. I was slamming dunks while on fire in NBA Jam and shattering bones in my first taste of American Football in NFL Blitz.
The graphics and sound that came from the Playstation got better and better as time went on. Polygons got smoother and more detailed, leading to more realistic looking games. While those games don’t hold up graphically to what we have today, the gameplay is still some of the best ever created for video games. No greater example of this was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. While the game defied physics in every way, it’s still a game where you can pick it up and play for hours in one level while grooving along to it’s licenced soundtrack… plus being able to play as Spider-Man due to Activision having the rights to the Spider-Man games at the time did help a lot. But that was another good thing about that era in gaming. You didn’t need to be on your toes all the time and wondering if you use something you have the license for would be Ok with another company, the developers just did it. To hell with lawyers! The people want entertainment and the developers were going to give it to them!
Reliving The Joy
Every now and again I would get the itch to play something old. Recently I thought that playing Final Fantasy VIII was a good idea. After all, I had the PS1 classics version of the game on my PSVita, and a remastered version on my PC. So I fired up the PSVita first and gave that a go. For some reason, playing the game on a handheld console just wasn’t good enough. So I switched to the PC. While the game looked better on the PC and loaded faster, there was still something missing. In the end, I downloaded the ePSXe emulator and a .ISO file version of Final Fantasy VIII’s first disc. Thankfully I have a Playstation controller program on my PC to have the controller work with the emulator. And there it was, Final Fantasy VIII, loading up on my TV in all it’s over-sized, pixelated glory. To me, I didn’t want to play this game on the go, I didn’t want a remastered version that ran smoother; I wanted the original style experience that I had as a kid: Playing a Playstation game on my TV.
While the ePSXe emulator was a fine reproduction of my childhood, it wasn’t the same. Without that grey box sitting there with a controller attached to it by a cable, I would never be satisfied. So off to eBay I went, in search of a Playstation console with a modchip in it so I could finally relive my teenage years… And I found one for $60. It now sits under my TV, awaiting the next time I want to play one of the many Playstation games I enjoyed way back when.
My Top 10 Playstation Games
Now just because I haven’t gushed over the Playstation enough, here’s a top 10 of my personal favorite Playstation games:
- Resident Evil 2
How could I not put this Survival Horror classic as number 1? The expansive RCPD building still has some of the best frights and moments from this Capcom classic. I would spend nights playing this bit by bit till I was so scared that I would shut the machine off and go watch something light and colorful before I went to sleep so the zombies would not get me during my slumber
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
Probably the best arcade port that the Playstation has ever had. It had a huge roster of characters and got me back into the Fighting Game Community scene. Not to mention the World Tour mode which was one of the most taxing modes ever put into a Street Fighter game. The final version of M.Bison was so tough that I once shattered the whole right side of my controller in a rage fit. It didn’t help that I had the Japanese “Zero” version of the game which was a lot harder overall.
- Final Fantasy VIII
I know people have a soft spot for Final Fantasy VII or even the more traditional Final Fantasy IX, but for some reason Final Fantasy VIII really resonated with me. Maybe it was the High School like image that the game presented itself with. Or maybe the overall more realistic look of the characters. Maybe it was the easy to exploit magic & summon system that I liked so much. Either way, this was the first and only Final Fantasy game that I have played till the end.
- Dino Crisis
The only thing that was more frightening to me than zombies coming to get me was the thought of Dinosaurs coming to get me. To this day I still cannot play the game all the way through. The scene that is the first encounter with the T-Rex, the one I posted a screenshot of in this article? That scene still scares the shit out of me as it is unpredictable! Now that is some good scary shit right there.
- Metal Gear Solid
The story, the characters, the gameplay. This game is the holy trinity of video game production and design. Enemy AI that tracks your movements through the snow if you’re stupid enough to leave tracks. Level design that only makes sense if you make LEGO replicas of the locations to help you plan your route through the place (Yes, I did make replicas of the first building out of LEGO). Metal Gear Solid was a game that redefined video game mechanics for generations to come.
- Silent Hill
A game that was designed with Japanese style psychological horror in mind rather than the Western style jump-scare horror. This game was atmospheric as hell. The fog really made the game something to worry about as you watch shadows dance in the distance. Then once you went into the dark world side of things, it just got worse. The scariest thing in Silent Hill was nothing at all, because your mind made the horror, not the game.
- Tekken 2
I know a lot of people prefer Tekken 3 over Tekken 2, but once again i just liked Tekken 2 better. I felt the roster was better, the 10 hit combos were easier to execute, you also had linking throw combos for the first time that were amazing to see when pulled off correctly, and it had Devil for the first time. From here on out the Tekken series was to become a weird bloated mess of a storyline, but Tekken 2 was simple and the weird characters were only there for fun, not for story.
- Evil Zone
Evil Zone was an anime series come to life in a fighting game. It has a simple control scheme that once worked out could be exploited for hours on end. Every fight was presented as an epsiode in a character’s personal anime series, complete with talking scenes and “next episode” style previews. It’s a shame it never got the release needed to have sequel or even a spin-off made from this game.
- Ehrgeiz: God Bless This ring
Another weird fighting game. Ehrgeiz’s main attraction was the inclusion of Final Fantasy VII characters as members of it’s fighting roster. I can’t remember too much about this game other than I played it for hours on end, not understanding a god damn thing about what was going on. It was fun, and that was all that mattered to me.
- Grand Theft Auto 2
The follow up to one of the most groundbreaking yet simple games ever released. Having to balance your respect between three different gangs was tough, but the game was fun as hell as you got to choose what you did in the game. Want to play through all the missions? You can. Want to spend all day just driving around exploring the huge city? You can. Want to go crazy and slaughter everyone both in and out of cars? You can! GTA2 was the best of all the top down versions and is still very playable today.
To me, that Playstation was the thing that kept me entertained for days, weeks and years on end. I never wanted for the Nintendo 64, nor did I marvel at the amazing machine that was Sega’s Dreamcast. For me, the Playstation was a gateway to any world on the planet, an escape from a life that was troubled, a friend when I had none around me. All I needed to do was pop in a disc and away I went on another adventure… Good times.