Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Tribute to the PlayStation 20 Years Later

Wow, it's been 20 years since the PlayStation was released in Japan back in 1994. For video games, that's literally an eternity. And it's been an eternity since this blog has been updated. I'd like to be more active and I intend to do so. I'd also like to create a proper site for this blog and give it a good design overall. I've already redid the logo and gave myself an avatar, so that's a start. But before I get into that, enjoy my thoughts and experiences of the Sony PlayStation!

As a Nintendo kid growing up in the early 90s, I didn’t pay much attention to the PlayStation when it was being talked about in Electronic Gaming Monthly (my magazine of choice) before its release around late 1993 or sometime after its release 20 years ago. I had my Super Nintendo and there were plenty of games coming out – Yoshi’s Island, Killer Instinct, Kirby’s Super Star, Tetris Attack, Super Mario RPG, and Donkey Kong Country 2 – why would I want the PlayStation? Plus, the Nintendo 64 was just around the corner with the amazing Super Mario 64 and Blast Corps. Of course I’m going to be picking that up when it comes out even though it’ll just be supported by cartridges. It’s Nintendo, who can do better than them?

I’ll admit, seeing titles like Tekken, Ridge Racer, Jumping Flash, and Battle Arena Toshinden made me want a PlayStation but not enough to demand it for Christmas. I did have the PlayStation rented from Blockbuster a few times; Mortal Kombat 3 and Soul Edge were the games I picked. As the years went by I was enjoying my Nintendo 64 with StarFox 64, GoldenEye, and Mario Kart 64. Plus Ocarina of Time was just around the corner, surely no game can match that! Final Fantasy VII did release recently and I was mildly interested in it but I wasn't completely into JRPGs at the time, so it fell off of my radar. It wasn't until the September issue of EGM (#110) with its amazing cover art of Solid Snake leaping onto an unsuspecting soldier that I became a PlayStation fan.

Ten pages of in-depth coverage of this new stealth action game from Konami. This was all pretty new to me and to video games in general actually. There hadn’t been game that emulated an action thriller movie so well until MGS. The way the article laid it out – Ability to sneak around and approach situations in different ways, creative use of the vibration in the Dual Shock, and a cast of really cool characters – showed me that this Christmas ’98 I needed to have the PlayStation and I needed Metal Gear Solid. It was all I could really talk about until that fateful, warm Christmas morning.

All my “letters to Santa” were answered as sitting underneath that joyfully decorated evergreen tree was a very large box wrapped in festive paper. Unwrapping it in joyful exuberance revealed a large gray box with the word “PlayStation” scrawled across the front, plus a sticker indicating that this contained the Dual Shock Analog controller. Next to the box was a smaller box that hid the game for the PlayStation – Metal Gear Solid.

I was overjoyed and promptly unpacked everything and set up everything in my parents’ bedroom to their new Panasonic TV. The low bass and chimes of the iconic intro filled the speakers as I loaded Metal Gear Solid. Already I was sucked in by the game’s chanting chorus and techno soundtrack. Except there was a problem, I was getting a prompt to insert a memory card. Shit. I didn't have one. I have completely forgotten about that and of course my parents didn't know that this machine need an extra piece of hardware in order to save my progress. The Super Nintendo never needed something like that and most games on the Nintendo 64 at the time used battery backup in the cartridges.

Never mind those details, I'll just go ahead and start playing as far as I can and get my dad to take me down to Toys R Us the next day so that I can get a memory card. This started my love of the PlayStation. I don’t know what games I got after Metal Gear Solid. Maybe it was Gran Turismo, one of the most realistic handling and looking racing games of the time. Or maybe it was Driver, the best attempt to make the Bullitt car chase scene into a game.

Regardless of what games I picked up next, it was the overall incredible and diverse library of the PlayStation that made it my favorite console of all time (sorry Super Nintendo). I had dabbled with RPGs in the past with Earthbound and Chrono Trigger but the range of RPGs on the PlayStation made me love that genre. I finally ended up getting Final Fantasy VII second hand at the now defunct, local Games Plus. I think I traded in a couple of games to get it or just got it for straight cash. I finally got to see what the hype surrounding this blockbuster was all about and I was hooked. I continued down the path of random encounters, linear story, and a large cast of characters with Final Fantasy VIII, Star Ocean: the Second Story, Xenogears, Persona, Vagrant Story, Parasite Eve, Lunar: the Silver Star Story Complete, and so many more.

As I got older, I started to collect video games in general more as a hobby. I didn't set out to have a complete collection of a console, I only wanted games that I intended to play and the PlayStation had a lot of games on there that I wanted to play. I did have the must-play titles but there were a lot of quirky titles that I wanted: There was the adventure game City of the Lost Children – based on the French film of the same name. Incredible Crisis – a collection of mini-games guiding a Japanese family through hijinks to make it to their grandmother’s birthday on time. Rising Zan: the Samurai Gunman – a mix of spaghetti western with samurai action flicks. RPG Maker – a clunky RPG creation title. Sentient – an open ended adventure game set on a dying space station. Spider – an action title with a scientist possessing a mechanical spider than can swap out its legs for guns and knives. Tail of the Sun – guide a small band of cave people through the world to build up their village and create a tower to the sun. Tecmo’s Deception – set up traps in a mansion for Satan. And those are just the ones I own so far!

Twenty years later, the PlayStation’s impact on pop culture can be felt. It thrust video games in the mainstream spotlight and made it “cool” for teenagers and adults to enjoy games. It helped create more franchises and helped launch a bunch of poor video game themed movies. With its library of thousands spanning across all genres, this is a console that is important to video games as a whole, even if it never did end up as the CD add-on to the Super Nintendo.

No comments:

Post a Comment