Earlier this week, Playstation turned 20 in the US. Yes, that little grey rectangle has hit the big two-oh, collectively making Playstation fans everywhere feel really old and miss the good old days of offline console gaming.
A lot of places have been running retrospectives of their favourite PS1 games, with the usual suspects of Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot and, my personal favourite, Metal Gear Solid. And while I could harp on about how Metal Gear Solid is objectively the greatest game of all time, I’ve instead been thinking about the PS1 games I remember fondly that no one else seems to recall.
The ones that when I mention them in conversation are always met with a “huh?” The ones that didn’t have successful sequels and became known franchises discussed on FOX News for trying to turns us all into maniacs. If you can find these gems on the PSN or on disc somewhere, the PS3 and PS Vita can still play them, so you should definitely give them a shot.
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
Klonoa is the first game that came to mind when thinking about the obscure Playstation days, mainly because its title is so strange sounding that people’s response to it goes well beyond “huh” and straight on to “the heck is that?!”
Well, strange as its name is, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile took the platforming puzzle style of Super Mario, applied it to a semi 3D environment and told an unbelievably adorable story that was also shockingly dark. Klonoa the big-eared, baseball cap wearing cat and his best friend Huepow, the wind spirit, are tasked with rescuing the prophesised saviour of the Moon Kingdom from the dark lord Ghardius before he floods the world with nightmares and despair.
See how that one sentence pitch just changes from cute to sinister? The whole game is like that! I don’t want to go further into it for spoilers sake (yes, I still respect spoilers 18 years after a game’s release), but what begins as a fun, colourful kids platformer ends up becoming probably the first tearjerker ending I encountered in a game.
Future Cop: LAPD
Back when EA was known as Electronic Arts (yes you youngins, that’s what EA stands for), they released this gem of a shooter on PS1. In the future, the LAPD have access to a kick-ass transforming death machine, which definitely comes in handy as they have to deal with the almost militia like crime syndicate gripping the city.
The campaign may seem a bit on the nose nowadays given the ongoing issue of excessive force from police in the US, but the true highlight of this game was the side mode “Precinct Assault”. Almost like a predecessor for the modern day MOBA, only it was, you know, fun. Players had to build and place turrets, patrol planes and tanks in order to protect their base from attack from the opposing player, where the first one to get one of their tanks inside the enemy base wins.
It was simple to play but incredibly strategic, as was devoid of all the overly complicated user-interfaces and number crunching of the likes of DOTA. Like I said, it’s actually fun.
OK, this one may be known by more people than the previous two. It had a sequel in 2000, a remake for PSP and the game’s protagonist featured in the Playstation All Stars Battle Royale roster, but even then I recall people asking me who the heck he was so it isn’t really a game synonymous with Playstation.
A goofy hack-n-slash, Medievil told the story of Sir Daniel Fortesque, the recently resurrected fallen hero of Gallowmere praised for sacrificing his life to slay the tyrannical wizard Zarrok. But in a surprise twist, Sir Dan didn’t actually kill Zarrok and was really struck down by a stray arrow as the battle commenced. His subsequent resurrection is the result of Zarrok returning and raising the dead to terrorise the land.
So yeah, you play as a false hero brought back to life to fight the guy you were supposed to have killed while maintaining the façade that you’re the legend everyone thinks you are. I can’t immediately think of many modern games that captured Medievil’s level of silliness in a sprawling cartoony adventure. The closest I can get to is Borderlands, and that comparison is never a bad thing.
Anyway, to celebrate Playstation’s 20th birthday, maybe give these games a chance. And if you can’t find them, then you know what to play instead: