The Playstation brand just turned 20 in Australia, and that makes me feel old. What better time to dig out some of Sony’s first console’s more… unusual titles to play?
I originally wrote this last year to denote the 20th anniversary of the Playstation brand, which shows what kind of gap there used to be between Japanese and Australian release dates. I can still recall the original Playstation like it was yesterday, including the whole melt-the-laser-but-turn-it-upside-down-and-it-might-work malarkey, and a whole lot of brands that made a big splash at the time but are never talked about any more. Battle Arena Toshinden anyone?
No, I didn’t think so.
Still, while there’s a lot of well-deserved love for the Resident Evils, Final Fantasies and Gran Turismos that made up the Playstation’s era-defining titles, there’s also a lot of titles in the library that got less praise but are no less worthy of checking out. These are all games that I personally own, not just titles I’ve heard something good about.
With that out of the way, and in no particular order, here we go!
Twisted Metal World Tour
Twisted Metal is almost the black sheep of Sony’s IP library. Almost… but not quite, because unlike other efforts they have tried from time to time to reclaim some of the magic of the early games. They haven’t really succeeded yet. This is the sequel that really captured the magic of quite insane car-to-car combat, and it’s still eminently gripping today.
Die Hard Trilogy
Sure, it looks blocky as hell by today’s standards, and yes, the sequel is unremitting garbage, but Die Hard Trilogy captured the best bits of three classic action flicks and presented them in a way that’s just plain fun, whether it’s the third person first flick, lightgun second or wacky driving of the third.
The fact that there is NO high definition remake of one of the best combat games I’ve ever played remains one of the key mysteries of the universe. We’ll solve string theory first, I’m sure. Put simply, your life is not complete if you haven’t played Bushido Blade — and I say that without the slightest hint of sarcasm.
Speaking of series that seemed to vanish without a trace, whatever happened to EA’s “Strike” series, precisely? A mainstay of the 16-bit era, you’ve only got this and the equally fun Nuclear Strike to play, and then… nothing. Which probably means that EA’s planning on bringing back the Strike series as a Freemium smartphone game. Sigh.
The Raiden Project
This one is something of a sentimental favourite, if only because I spent the best part of three years searching for a copy, only to randomly find one in a tiny games shop near the Arc de Triomphe while on honeymoon. Yes, I have a very understanding spouse. That aside, just because it’s a classic arcade title shouldn’t eliminate it from contention, especially when it’s this damned good.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
While there’s a recent remake, this is where it all started. Hard as nails and twice as funny as watching someone inadvertently sit on a bed of them, Abe’s first adventure is a superb mix of platforms, puzzling, and many, many sight gags.
Tobal No. 1
I’m only including ONE fighting game in the twenty, and it’s Squaresoft’s little known brawler, because it’s excellent. The sequel is apparently even better, but that (to the best of my knowledge) never saw a PAL release. Sob.
The Playstation had a lot of platformers, largely because platform games where the style in the 16-bit era and there was a lot of imitation going on. Pandemonium was one of the first genuinely decent platform games, and the sequel especially so.
Speaking of platform games, you shouldn’t go past Tombi (or Tomba, depending on where on the planet you are), which combines a nifty dual-level platforming mechanic with pigs. Oh, so many pigs. It’s the brainchild of Tokuro Fujiwara, so there’s a fair amount of MegaMan/Ghosts ‘N Goblins style difficulty in here too.
The Playstation was also home to more than a few off-beat platforming ideas, like this little number, which casts you as a brilliant scientist… in the body of a spider. Just go with it, and play a very challenging but totally different game that even gets past my own not-terribly-latent arachnophobia.
Sure, everyone will tell you to play Final Fantasy VII. And you know what? They’re totally right, because you totally should. You should also play Konami’s Suikoden, though, which combines the slightly older style of RPG with some great setpieces, plenty of random combat and every other JRPG trope you can think of.
Vib Ribbon got namechecked at e3 2014, and I cheered. Then I went and dug out my copy to play, because it’s one of those rare titles that got a PAL release but not an NTSC US release. Not a graphical tour de force, but proof that you can grab simple gameplay concepts, match them to music — any music, because it’d take CDs (remember those?) and generate levels based on them. My worst mistake? Putting Prince’s “Lovesexy” on to really test it.
No One Can Stop Mr Domino!
You want weird? How about a puzzle game, all about sentient dominos who knock each other over, because… well, it’s all very odd, really, and I’m still not entirely sure that Mr Domino isn’t some mass-murdering Domino. That being said, I can’t see anyone greenlighting anything similar any time soon.
R-Type Delta is a great little shooter, and it also has a special place in my personal history, as it’s the very last game I purchased as a single man, the day before my wedding. Yes, I had my priorities in the right place, and a copy of R-Type Delta, which is like winning twice, but with lasers.
How well do you know the faces of a normal six sided die? You’d better learn them fast in order to get anywhere in this bizarrely structured puzzle game, where devils roam the face of dice to form puzzle chains. It’s hard to explain, and even harder to put down when you do “get” it.
I’ve been informed that I was wrong not to mention that this is my wife’s favourite Playstation game. She’s evilly good at it, which is my way of saying that the only chance I have to beat her at it is if I were to cut her Playstation controller cable first. Even then, she’d probably win.
Grand Theft Auto Collector’s Edition
Hey, what gives? I thought I said “no big franchises”?
Well yeah, I did, but you’ve got to let me have this one, partly because it’s a great way to review the history of the controversial franchise, but also because the early GTA games stand up pretty well even now, because they’re solidly different to what came later, with a much more freestyle approach to finishing missions and gathering cash than the later 3D efforts.
Silent Bomber owes a huge debt to the Hudson Bomberman games, because it largely does what it does in a Bomberman style, although unlike some of the later “gritty” Bomberman games, Silent Bomber gets it right.
Hogs Of War
Two words. Rik Mayall.
Wargames Defcon 1
By the time this came out, the movie upon which it’s based was already seriously dusty, but I’m thankful they bothered, because Wargames Defcon 1 is genuinely excellent action/strategy title that allows for decent single player and some genuinely hectic multiplayer split screen play as well.
It saddens me that there aren’t many truly great Muppet games, because there’s just so much scope for great gameplay. Muppet Racemania is about as good as it gets. It’s a shameless Mario Kart clone, but it’s a pretty decent one at a time when the Playstation didn’t have many very good Mario Kart clones to speak of.
Any retro rarities or offbeat unappreciated classics you reckon I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!