Game Opinion Summaries: Playstation (Part 1)

This is an improved version of a list I first posted on several forums back in late 2012.  For some reason I never posted it here; not sure why.  I’ve been working hard on a second PS1 list that will cover the hundred-plus games I’ve either gotten for the system since, or owned but hadn’t yet played when I made the first list.  I thought about merging the two lists for the site, so it’d be one large alphabetical list, but for now, at least, I haven’t done it.  It’s not just that it’d be a lot more work, but also these summaries in this post are generally shorter than the newer ones, so I may want to go back and redo this list someday anyway.  That’s easier to do if the two are separate.  I should finish part two within a few weeks.

The first PS1 list was the first time I used the “Game Opinion Summaries” series name that I came up with.  I wanted to get away from using the term “review” in the main title because I only would use that for games I’ve beaten or at least played a LOT of.  The old term I used, “Short Reviews”. still has that word in the title, and these really are not reviews.  Maybe some people today review a game without finishing it, but I wouldn’t do that.  I just haven’t played the PS1 as much as some other systems, so I’ve mostly only beaten fighting games, shmups, Threads of Fate, and Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, on this system.  I’m a Nintendo fan and the N64 is my favorite console, and like Sega consoles too, but have never liked Sony or their consoles.  Regardless, I know that there are many good games on Sony systems, which is why I got a PSone in early 2006, and why I’ve kept buying games for the system since then.  I have more PS1 games than I do games for any other console except for the Genesis plus 32X and Sega CD all together.  I have 250 PS1 games, now (Genesis+SCD+32X is at 274 games.  Third place is the PS2, at 245.).  I only have more games for the PC.  Even so, do expect a somewhat different perspective from the one a Sony fan would give.

Note that all games covered in this first list are the US releases of the games.

Top 10 favorite PS1 games (from what I have) (this is just something I just put together, it’s nothing thought through too deeply.  The order is sketchy, but these are all at least games I like a lot.)

1. Threads of Fate
2. Star Ocean: The Second Story
3. Rollcage
4. Strikers 1945
5. Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
6. Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
7. Evil Zone
8. Grandia
9. Tempest X3
10. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Honorable Mentions: Mobile Light Force, Wipeout XL, Wipeout 3, Castlevania Chronicles, Bushido Blade 2, In the Hunt, DarkStalkers 3, WarHawk, Dead or Alive, Koudelka, Shooter: Starfighter Sanvein

Noteworthy lesser-known titles: Evil Zone (also above), Invasion from Beyond!, Sea-Doo HydroCross, maybe also Sanvein depending on whether you consider it lesser-known

Worst Games On This List (in no order): Psybadek, O.D.T., Yu-Gi-Oh!: Forbidden Memories, NHL FaceOff 98, Largo Winch, CyberSpeed, Moto Racer: World Tour, Motocross Mania

Summaries that need improvement / Are of games I have not played enough to say more about: I have written something about each of these games, included in the main text below, but I haven’t played them as much as other games here.  Of course, a lot of the games on this list are games I’ve only played for a few hours, but some I have played more than that, and other games you can get a better sense of in a short time than others.  The titles in this category are marked with [brackets] in the list below.  I thought that I wanted to write something for every PS1 game I have and have played at least some of, even if I can’t say enough to actually give it a real review.

Games:  Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy Tactics, King’s Field, Martian Gothic: Unification, Midway Presents Atari’s Greatest Arcade Hits Vol. 2, NHL FaceOff 98, and O.D.T..  Note that five games covered in this category in previous versions of this list, such as when I posted it on forums several years ago, have been removed because I went back to those games and entirely rewrote their summaries in new, much better forms.  Of the remaining ones, I did go back and improve many of these, so they’re better than they were in the Dec. 2012 version, but I still haven’t played most of the games much.  The five games that I’ve gone back to to re-cover, and will now be in the second list instead of this one, are: Dino Crisis, Fear Effect, Metal Gear Solid, Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire, SaGa Frontier, Yu-Gi-Oh!: Forbidden Memories.

I probably should have gone back to all of the games on the list above, but I just can’t bear the idea of having to play the Final Fantasy games particularly again, or I don’t know if playing it a little again will add anything to what I have to say about them.  Still, I did add some to the NHL FaceOff 98, O.D.T., King’s Field, Midway Presents Atari’s Greatest Arcade Hits Vol. 2, and Martian Gothic summaries.  These summaries are now better than they are in the 2012 web versions.  In the 2012 list, the two Namco Museum volumes that I have were in this category as well, but I’ve played those games more, and improved the summaries enough to not need the brackets anymore.  For these other games I did keep the brackets, but the summaries are better than they were before; they are staying in this post and not moving over to the second PS1 list because I didn’t entirely redo the summaries based on new playtime, I just added a bit to the old summaries.  Of course, the old version of this wasn’t posted here, but I think keeping a changelog is important.

Table of Contents: Games Covered (brackets mean not-really-reviews as listed above) – 139 games covered total

Activision’s collection of 30 classic games for the Atari 2600
Alundra
Alundra 2
Ape Escape
Army Men Air Attack 2
Assault: Retribution
Atari Anniversary Edition Redux
Ball Breakers
Ballerburg: Castle Chaos
Battle Arena Toshinden 3
BattleTanx: Global Assault
Beyond the Beyond
Board Game: Top Shop
Bomberman Fantasy Race
Bomberman: Party Edition
Bomberman World
The Bombing Islands
Brave Fencer Musashi
Bravo Air Race
Bubsy 3D
Bushido Blade 2
Castlevania Chronicles
Chrono Cross
Circuit Breakers
Clock Tower
College Slam
[Colony Wars]
[Colony Wars: Vengeance]
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Critical Depth
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
Croc 2
CTR: Crash Team Racing
CyberSpeed
Darkstalkers 3
Darkstone
Dead or Alive
Deathtrap Dungeon
Deception: Invitation to Darkness
Destruction Derby
Driver
Evil Zone
[Final Fantasy VII]
[Final Fantasy IX]
[Final Fantasy Tactics]
Gauntlet Legends
Gex: Enter the Gecko
Ghost in the Shell
Grandia
The Granstream Saga
Gubble
Heart of Darkness
In the Hunt
Interactive CD Sampler Disc Vol. 4
Invasion from Beyond
Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu
Jet Moto
Kartia: The Word of Fate
The King of Fighters ’99
[King’s Field]
Koudelka
Largo Winch: Commando SAR
Legend of Legaia
Lucky Luke
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (Four Disc Collector’s Edition)
[Martian Gothic: Unification]
MDK
Medal of Honor
MediEvil II
Mega Man X6
Midway Presents Atari’s Greatest Arcade Hits: The Midway Collection 2
Mobile Light Force
Mort the Chicken
Motocross Mania
Moto Racer: World Tour
N2O: Nitrous Oxide
Namco Museum Vol. 1
Namco Museum Vol. 3
Norse By Norsewest: The Return of the Lost Vikings
Novastorm
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
O.D.T.: Escape… Or Die Trying
Off-World Interceptor Extreme
ONE
Pandemonium
Pac-Man World: 20th Anniversary
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
Project: Horned Owl
Project Overkill
Psybadek
Punky Skunk
Putter Golf
R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
Ridge Racer Turbo Mode (R4 Bonus Disc)
RayCrisis: Series Termination
Rayman
Rival Schools: United by Fate
Road Rash 3D
Rollcage: Limited Edition
San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing
Sea-Doo HydroCross
Sheep
ShipWreckers
Shooter: Space Shot
Shooter: Starfighter Sanvein
Sled Storm
Sol Divide
Soul Blade
Space Griffon VF-9
Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels
Spin Jam
Spyro the Dragon
Star Ocean: The Second Story
Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha
Street Fighter EX2 Plus
Street Racer
Strikers 1945 (II)
Super Bubble Pop
Syphon Filter
Tales of Destiny
Tekken 3
Tempest X3: An Inter-Galactic Battle Zone
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins
Test Drive 4
Tetris Plus
Threads of Fate
TigerShark
Time Crisis
TNN Motorsports Hardcore 4×4
Total Eclipse Turbo
Tunnel B-1
UmJammer Lammy
Vandal Hearts
WarHawk
Wild 9
WipEout
WipEout XL
WipEout 3

Format: At the beginning of each summary I list the game genre, then then the number of players the game supports, whether it saves (and how many blocks of save space it uses in parenthesis), and what analog support it has.   At the end of each summary I list any other platforms the game is available on.  If there is nothing like that at the end, then the game is exclusive to the PS1 (not counting digital re-releases on the PS3/Vita/etc. and such, I rarely mention those).

For analog support, it’s important to know that the PS1 has seven different, entirely incompatible, analog control standards.  First, there’s neGcon mode, also present in wheel controllers and the Performance Dual Impact Gamepad (in Wheel mode).  This is usually used by racing games, but some paddle or flying games support it.  Second, there’s Playstation Analog Joystick mode, also present in the Playstation Analog Gamepad (in green-light mode).  It has a small library of titles that support it.  Third, and most popularly by far, there’s Analog Gamepad mode, in the Playstation Analog Gamepad (in red-light mode) and the Dual Shock (in Analog mode).  Next there’s the Jogcon, which is a unique controller only supported by a very few games.  There is also a Playstation Mouse, though most Mouse games only released in Japan.  And last, there are two different light gun standards, each incompatible with the other (apart from a few games that work with both): the Konami [Playstation, Green] Justifier, and the Namco Guncon (1).  Most gun games support the Guncon, but a few require the Playstation Justifier.  Unfortunately, figuring out which controllers a game supports is difficult, as apart from the Analog Gamepad and the light guns, none of the rest of these are usually mentioned in Western packaging.  I will list what other controllers I know games to support, but I’m sure I’ll miss something.

Reviews


Activision’s collection of 30 classic games for the Atari 2600

Classic Collection.  Two player, saves (1 block).  This is a fine collection of 30 Activision games for the 2600.  It does save, but only a game in progress — it’s just rom emulation here, no high-score saving here.  Write them down yourself or something.  That really is a problem with these games, most of which have no ending, you just play until you lose… I really don’t get why so many games back then had no endings.  I much prefer it when games do have endings eventually.  This whole “play until you lose” concept is kind of depressing when you think about it a bit… “save the world from the aliens!”  But actually you can’t, you and the Earth are doomed every time.  Ah well, at least the games are often fun.  As score-competition titles, this collection definitely includes some pretty good games.  However, that ties in to my other, and most important, complaint: In a modern collection of 2nd gen games, at least figure out how to save the scores.  That’s the only thing most of these games have, score, so it’s important to save it somehow.  I’d expect the collection to save my best efforts, but it doesn’t.  Still, the games are classics, and the emulation is okay.  The manual is nice and has a little blurb for each game, explaining the difficulty/game select options.  (Again, you can save a game in progress, but that’s all.)


Alundra

Action-RPG(2d).  One player, saves (1 block).  Alundra is an action-RPG in the Zelda mold.  The game is by some of the staff behind Landstalker, and while I definitely don’t think it’s as good as Landstalker, it is a pretty good game in its own right.  This game does not really play much like Landstalker, with more Zelda or Mana-style stuff in it than that game.  It also does not share Landstalker’s signature isometric viewpoint.  It does have platform jumping and some similar art though, so there are a few similarities.  The game is entirely top-down 2d, which is great.  The visuals look very nice.  This game is mostly set in and around this one town, where the dreamwalker Alundra has ended up.  He has the ability to enter peoples’ dreams, and is here to stop a demon invading the real and dream worlds.  The visuals and story are both dark and depressing; there’s not much happiness to be found in this town, or in this game.  The game borders on being overly depressing, really — expect a high body count and little happiness.  The gameplay is good though, with areas to explore, items to find, puzzles to solve, and monsters to fight.  The game has some fairly difficult puzzles in it, and some equally challenging combat at times, so it won’t be easy, but it is always well designed.  This game has a good reputation, and it deserves it.


Alundra 2

Action-RPG(3d).  One player, saves, Analog Gamepad support.  This is a bland and not that great 3d action-RPG.  The game stars a new main character, and really has very little to do with the first Alundra apart from the name and genre.  There’s nothing really special here, and the game is neither great or awful.  Average stuff really.  I haven’t gotten that far in this game… I know most Alundra 1 fans hate it, because it’s a somewhat cute anime-style game that’s a far cry from Alundra 1’s dark and depressing story and world, but gameplay-wise it’s not THAT bad.  Seems average at least, for the genre and platform.  And I don’t mind optimistic anime stuff, so the theme is fine with me.  Plus it has airships, which are usually cool.  But even so, this isn’t a great game, certainly.  The 3d world isn’t as fun to explore as the first game’s 2d one, the controls aren’t too good, and there’s no lock-on either.  I can see why the people who liked the first one don’t like this, but it is somewhat entertaining.  I don’t mind light anime themes like this one, myself, and don’t really think it’s worse just because it’s light instead of dark and depressing.  It’s worse because it isn’t quite as good of a game in either graphics or gameplay.  But still, it’s not actually bad, just okay.  Still, this probably is the least fun of the action-RPGs I have for PS1.


Ape Escape

Platformer(3d).  Two player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad required.  Ape Escape is a decently good 3d platformer game, and the first major title to require the dual analog controller, which obviously makes 3d platformer games much more fun than they are with d-pads.  It’s not the greatest game ever, but it’s okay.  The levels have a decent amount to do in them, and the platforming can be fun.  I didn’t get that far into it before quitting, though.  Ape Escape may be decent, but it’s also generic in gameplay and level designs.  The graphics are okay for PSX 3d, but aren’t great.  The gameplay’s no better.  Overall this is an average game.  It got attention at the time of its release because it was the only PS1 game that required an analog gamepad, but even the PS1 has 3d platformers better than this one.  It might be worth a look, but is nothing too exciting.


Army Men Air Attack 2

Flight Action(2.5d).  Two player, saves, Analog Gamepad support.  Army Men Air Attack 2 is a solid sequel.  Gameplay-wise it provides more of the same angled-overhead-view, 2d-plane-movement-only helicopter shooting game action from the first game, except with new levels and a lot more story this time.  The game is a helicopter action game, somewhat in the Strike series mold but simpler.  You fly around your attack helicopter, blowing up enemy tanks, soldiers, and vehicles and picking up stuff as you try to accomplish your mission objectives.  Quite the opposite of the Strike games, but like the first Army Men Air Attack, the game’s easy.  It’s probably too easy, really; this game may have 20+ missions, but few will challenge.  Still, it is fun while it lasts, and the Strike games can be very hard, so having something similar but easier isn’t that bad.  I like the gameplay in these games, they are simple but fun.  The story is told through CG cutscenes, and they’re decently done; the plastic people are amusing looking, and I like the “plastic WWII” theme.  Army Men was of course a heavily over-published franchise that generation, but the Air Combat games are probably the best games in the Army Men franchise overall, so it was great to see this sequel.

It is too bad that, unlike the first one, it didn’t come to N64 too, but the game does have some next-gen ports, as detailed below.  And that is probably the biggest issue with this game — there are also PS2 and GC ports of the game, and they are better than this one.  I haven’t played it on PS2, but I do have the GC version (it’s titled “Army Men Air Combat: The Elite Missions”, but it is a port of the PS2 version with 4-player multiplayer added and no other changes of note), and between the two, the helicopter controls are much better on the GC.  Sure, controls are decent on the PS1, but after playing both, I could really tell the difference between the two; you simply have better, more accurate controls in that later release.  The graphics are better there too, of course, though for the PS1 AMAA2 looks nice enough.  Both releases have some slowdown, for whatever reason.  I’m hoping it was intentional, particularly on the GC, with how bland it looks visually (for the GC)…  The PS1 version does have one thing missing from the GC and PS2 though: for some reason, one of the five multiplayer modes was removed from the PS2 and GC releases.  So yeah, there’s one PS1-exclusive multiplayer mode, though given that the GC is the only one with 3 or 4 player support, it’s the best multiplayer option overall even so.  Still, even though better versions of this game are out there, the PS1 version’s decent fun.  I would recommend getting the GC version if possible, but this one’s sure to be much cheaper and easier to find.  Also on PlayStation II and Gamecube (titled “Army Men Air Combat: The Elite Missions” on the latter system; yes, that is a port of this game.)


Assault: Retribution

Run&Gun(3d).  Two player, saves, Analog Gamepad support.  Assault: Retribution is a 3d run-and-gun played from a somewhat isometric angle.  As it’s a 3d game the camera moves around from area to area, but it has a side or overhead-style viewpoint.  In the game, you run along narrow, but not entirely 2d, environments, defeating enemies and avoiding obstacles.  There are several different weapons, two playable characters, and plenty of powerups to collect.  It’s straightforward stuff and works well.  The game was published (but not developed) by Midway in the US, and it’s a pretty good game.  The developer, Candle Light Studio, didn’t make any games other than this one, so I guess it failed, unfortunately.  Though jumping puzzles aside the game is easy on the default setting, the game is a decent challenge on higher difficulties, and is fun regardless.  The graphics are only average, too, but they’re decent enough to do.  Overall, I found myself actually having a lot of fun with this game.  Recommended for any run & gun fans — this game is better than its reviews suggest.  And yes, it has two player co-op, which is great.  The PS1 Contra games don’t have that.


Atari Anniversary Edition Redux

Classic Collection.  Four player (with multitap), saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad, neGcon, and Mouse support.  This is a collection of 12 Atari arcade games.  Yeah, arcade, not 2600.  This collection does save your high scores, and includes some interesting games; in addition to the expected Pong, Missile Command, Centipede, Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Super Breakout, Tempest, Battlezone, and Warlords, you also get Gravitar, Space Duel, and Black Widow.  Each game can be played windowed with machine art on the sides of the screen, or full-screen.  Unfortunately there is no tate mode for vertical-monitor games.  That’s really too bad.  The collection does include some promo art and video interviews with the original designers, so it’s not just a ROM dump collection, which is great.  I also like that it does save your scores and settings, and that it’s got some fairly good presentation and full sets of options and settings for each game as well.  The main problem I have with the collection is that many of these games are a little hard to read at the Playstation’s resolution, or something… the transition to the PS1 is not perfect, many of these games have small text and graphics which can be hard to make out.  Still, it’s a solid collection, and is worth getting for cheap.  Black Widow is a particularly interesting surprise; I hadn’t played it before, but it’s a pretty cool twin-stick shooter!  I love those.  The games all have good Analog Gamepad support, and paddle games like Pong, Super Breakout, and Warlords work with the neGcon as well.  I assume the mouse works great for stuff like Centipede and Super Breakout, too.  Atari Anniversary Edition Redux is a Playstation-exclusive remix of the PC/Dreamcast collection “Atari Anniversary Edition”.  The original creator video interviews are all new and exclusive to this version, and Crystal Castles (from the original collection) was removed and replaced with Black Widow.  However, I’ll bet that the screen’s easier to see in those versions… Still, some stuff is exclusive here.


Ball Breakers

Action/Racing.  Two player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Ball Breakers is a somewhat odd futuristic vehicular action/racing game.  The game’s concept is that in the future, some hardened criminal androids are being allowed to fight in this competition for future television.  If you win, you might get out.  The characters don’t have legs, though; instead, for a lower body they have a ball, which explains the title, and driving-game-esque, or perhaps rolling-ball-game-esque (Marble Madness, etc.), controls.  The game has solid rolling-ball physics for the characters, as well.  The game has a mostly-overhead camera and 3d polygonal graphics.  The game is made up of a variety of mission types, so different levels play differently.  There are races, gauntlet stages where you have to get to the end without dying, shootouts, tag matches, and more — seven mission types in all.  There are six playable characters, and ten areas full of missions.  The game’s variety and concept are its strong points for sure, along with solid controls and gameplay… and it originally sold for $10!  Sure, the game has some issues, such as some difficult and frustrating parts, and even though there’s a lot of variety in game styles they all have the same basic controls and the graphics, while nice, all look similar so it can get repetitive, but even so Ball Breakers is definitely a good game.  In the US this was only released on PS1, but in Europe it also had PC and Dreamcast releases which surely are improved over this one, at least visually.  In Europe the game is called “MoHo”.


Ballerburg: Castle Chaos

Strategy.  Two player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Ballerburg: Castle Chaos is a port of a PC game released under several different titles, including Ballerburg and Castle Siege Ballerburg. It’s a very late PS1 release from the last years of the system. Basically this is an artillery game, sort of Scorched Earth-style, crossed with some basic strategy game elements such as simple base-building.  So, you spend some of your time tossing projectiles at the other castle, and the rest of your time building up your base.  It’s a low-budget game and it shows, though, with mediocre at best graphics and sound. Also, importantly, the controls are frustrating — this game would be much better with a mouse! It’s not a particularly good game, but because I like the theme and concept I find it a little enjoyable. Shooting cannons and catapults at other castles, aiming to hit them taking wind into consideration, and building up your fortress are fun, even if not implemented here nearly as well as they could have been.  Also on PC.


Battle Arena Toshinden 3

Fighting.  Two player.  This is the third Toshinden game, and it’s the last one that got a release in the US; the fourth PS1 game, and the more recent Wii title, were both Japan only.  The first Toshinden was one of the most significant PS1 titles of 1995 in the US, though, so it’s interesting that the series had such a hard fall.  However, looking at this game, I can see why: Toshinden 3 is a mediocre game even for Toshinden, and was a worse game than either of its predecessors.  Yes, Toshinden 1 is a far better game than this.  There are lots of characters in Toshinden 3, and you can choose 30 or 60 frames per second modes (with limited graphics in 60 fps mode), but regardless of the framerate, the gameplay is just far too slow and not very fun.  Play a better fighting game instead of this one.


BattleTanx: Global Assault

Vehicular action.  Two player, saves (one block), Analog Gamepad support.  Overall, this is a mediocre PSX remake of the N64 classic of the same name.  The N64 version is a favorite of mine, I’ve played many hours over the years and really love it.  This one just isn’t the same, though.  First, the campaign.  There are more levels in the single player campaign in this version, but they are shorter and smaller, so the overall length isn’t that different.  The PSX version may be slightly longer, but the levels are more boring and less fun because of their reduced size and complexity, so overall the N64 version is definitely superior.  Cutscenes are fully voiced FMV now, instead of pictures with text; it’s really not an improvement, they made the story even stupider.  I mean, the intro before the first level… they made it so that now Cassandra personally attacks Madison and the baby, and Griffin shows up to save her, but instead of shooting Cassandra, who is just standing there right in front of him, he just leaves, “never actually defeat the bad guy” style.  Um, no, that’s not what happened in the original… on the N64 Cassandra never has a face-to-face meeting with our heroes, it’s just that her army is attacking.  The change was for the worse, that’s for sure.  And then from there you go to the new, smaller, less interesting levels, and it may be hard to see why this game was so great on the N64.  At least the graphics are decently good, for a PSX game.  However, multiplayer was one of the great strengths of BattleTanx on the N64.  The four player multiplayer, with numerous modes, and the two player campaign, were both fantastic.  Well, the game is two player only here.  Even though otherwise it’s not that different, some smaller map sizes aside, that limitation really hurts the game a lot.  Again, the N64 game is much better.


Beyond the Beyond

RPG(2d).  One player, saves.  Beyond the Beyond is a fairly early (1996) RPG from Camelot.  Camelot had started out on the Genesis, and did develop on Saturn, but made this game too along the way.  The game looks like a Camelot game, and the text font is nearly identical to the one in Golden Sun, for instance.  I liked Golden Sun, and Shining Force, so it’s interesting to see this in-between work.  As I said it definitely looks like a Camelot game, and that’s great.  The graphics are fairly simplistic, with barely-better-than-4th-gen visuals and not a whole lot of cutscenes or voice acting either, but I don’t mind that; I think the game looks fine.  Gameplay is very standard, with an average JRPG menu-based battle system, random battles, and such.  The characters are moderately interesting, and the story starts off generically, but well.  Overall, I think I like this game.  Its main problem is that it’s sure to eventually get frustrating or grindey, since the dungeons quickly start getting larger and there is of course no map.  I hate when games have that stuff, and random battles too… oh well.  Overall, this game doesn’t have the best reputation, but really, it’s a simple but solid early-5th-gen RPG.  Repetition is the main issue here; apart from that, it seems good.


Board Game: Top Shop

Boardgame.  Four player, saves (2 blocks).  Board Game: Top Shop is a 2d side-view, and Monopoly-esque, board game.  In the game, the players move around a three-story mall, buying stores as they land on them, stocking the stores, and forcing other players to buy stuff in their stores as they land on them.  The twist that you don’t just get money whenever someone lands on your shops, but have to actually stock shops so that they will have something to buy, adds some challenge to the game.  There are 40 different types of shops to open, and lots of goods, so this game has some nice variety.  It’s also definitely got challenge, too; the computer AI can be tough.  There are a decent number of anime-style characters to choose from, and the game has solid 2d visuals.  As for the gameplay though, that depends on how much you like Monopoly variants.  It’s certainly decent, at least.  The main downside is that it’s somewhat slow paced, particularly against the computer.  Games take quite a while.


Bomberman Fantasy Race

Racing.  Two player, saves (1 block).  This is an okay but not great 3d kart racing game with Bomberman characters.  Poor graphics, mediocre options… don’t bother, I think.  There are worse kart racing games out there, but there are also much better, even on PS1.


Bomberman: Party Edition

Action/Party(2d).  Five player (with multitap), saves (1 block).  This is a 2d, classic Bomberman game, with 5 player play.  There’s nothing original here; this is just a fine, solid top-down-2d-style Bomberman game.  The single player mode is actually a remake of the original NES Bomberman game, which is interesting.  This means that single player mode levels scroll, unlike the single-screen battle arenas, as you have to blow up all the enemies in each stage.  I don’t think that the first Bomberman game is one of the better ones in the series though, so I find the single player a little boring even for a Bomberman game.  Still, it’s okay, and does have better visuals than the NES at least, and saving of course.  Overall though, Bomberman Party Edition is average Bomberman, just like Bomberman usually is.  It is nice to have one 2d Bomberman game on each system, though.  It’s not too compelling in single player, but Bomberman is usually better in multiplayer anyway, so that isn’t a crippling flaw.  The graphics are solid, and it’s a fine, traditional 2d Bomberman multiplayer game.  This isn’t one of the best Bomberman games for sure, but it’s decent.


Bomberman World

Action/Party(2d).  Five player (with multitap), saves (1 block).  Bomberman World is the first PS1 Bomberman game, though it released after both Saturn titles and the first N64 game, and it’s decent.  The game has a sort of isometric view of the action, as you see things from the side at a slight angle.  The graphics are pre-rendered CG 2d, and look decent.  The game has a traditional Bomberman single player mode where you go through a sequence of levels, killing all the enemies on each stage to progress, and the usual multiplayer mode full of options.  I think I like this game a bit more than Party Edition in both graphics and gameplay; the game’s a bit more visually unique than that one is, and the single player’s more updated, as you’d expect from a new game (remembering that Party Edition’s single player is actually a remake of the original Bomberman).  This game, like the title above, is not original and pushes no boundaries, unlike the N64 Bombermans, but at least the formula it uses is a solid one.  I’ve rarely loved traditional Bomberman as a single-player series — I liked Bomberman GB for the Game Boy, but that’s about it really — but they are fun multiplayer games and decent single player games too, and this one has some decent graphics and solid level designs, too.  Don’t expect anything original here, but do expect good, solid, classic Bomberman fun.


The Bombing Islands

Puzzle(3d).  One player, saves.  A puzzle game from Kemco, this got some bad reviews. It stars Kid Klown, but unfortunately it’s not nearly as good as his earlier platformers. The game’s not terrible, but it’s not that good either. You move around the field, trying to figure out where to move the bombs to so that they’ll destroy all the bombs in one blast; somehow if they all go off at once you’re safe, but if you fail to destroy them all you get blown up. Huh. It quickly gets hard and frustrating. Very mediocre 3d graphics too.  This game has the same concept and basic game design as another Kemco game from that generation, Charlie Blast’s Territory for the N64.  They aren’t exactly the same in content, but they are quite similar.


Brave Fencer Musashi

Action-RPG(3d).  One player, saves.  This is a game I really should play a lot more before reviewing.  As far as I’ve gotten it seems pretty good, though the graphics aren’t great, but I got stuck not too far in and stopped.  I think one problem I have is that I played Threads of Fate first, which sort of is like a sequel to this game, and has better graphics and gameplay, so going back to this one is tough.  Still, it is a pretty good game.  It has a simple but amusingly comical story, and fun 3d plaform-RPG gameplay.  It feels somewhat 2.5d, as you are often going right or left, but areas are 3d and you do move around in 3d.  It’s a good mix and works well.


Bravo Air Race

Racing.  Two player, saves.  Bravo Air Race is a plane racing game.  The game is dated, with a simple look, narrow tracks, and not much space to fly around in.  All four tracks – and yes, there are only four – are in canyons of some kind or another, so there are no open areas.  If you go too high or low, you will be brought back into the flying area, too.  At first I didn’t like this game much, but after a few races I got used to it, and I do think that the core gameplay is fun.  The controls work well, and the planes control quite well.  Each plane handles differently, too, which is good.  The main problem is that simply this game has almost no content.  There are only four tracks, and you can play them in any order.  Only one of the four tracks challenged me much, once I got used to the controls, too.  Once you’ve finished in first in all four and get to see the credits, that’s pretty much it.  There really is no replay value here at all, unless you want to play it in multiplayer, but even then, it won’t last long.  Apparently the sequel, which sadly was only released in Japan, has more tracks and adds a much-needed circuit mode to add more play value, but this first one doesn’t have that, unfortunately.  As it is, this game is some fun to play despite being badly dated, but expect your time with this game to be very short.


Bubsy 3D

Platformer(3d).  One player, saves (one block).  Bubsy 3D is widely despised as one of the worst 3d platformers ever, so my expectations were absolutely bottom of the barrel when I got it.  Well, I was quite pleasantly surprised — Bubsy 3D really is not that bad.  The controls are a challenge, for sure — this is a d-pad only game, as expected for an early PSX title, and the controls really suffer for it.  It’s too bad that there wasn’t a version of this game released on some system with an analog controller, it’d make a huge difference.  Also, the controls are slippery so landing on platforms can be tricky.  Finally, for the graphics, at the time textures were the new big thing, so the fact that it has lots of shaded polygons instead, with only some that are textured, bothered people.  Today this shouldn’t be too much of a problem though, it gives the game a different style.  The graphics actually are reasonably good.  The game has a sharp, clear look that I almost never see in Playstation games — it almost makes me think it’s running in hi-res or something.  There are a good number of levels, and there are things to go back and find in them too, after you beat them the first time.  Really, once I got used to the game’s eccentricities, I found this game to be both fun and quite challenging.  It is frustrating and hard so it’s easy to give up when you die over and over trying to figure out your way through the complex, jumping-puzzles-between-lots-of-small-moving-platforms-over-bottomless-pits-filled levels. Still though, that kind of thing is both fun as well as frustrating, so it’s not all bad.  Overall, it’s really not that bad.  Yes, I can easily see why Mario 64 destroyed it in the press because Bubsy 3D is nothing like that and obviously is much simpler and inferior, but on its own, really, despite some definite flaws, it’s a decent game.


Bushido Blade 2

Fighting(3d).  Two players, saves.  This is a great, and original, 3d fighting game.  The concept is a more “realistic” weapon-based fighting game, where a single hit can kill.  The game is executed well, with a nice variety of characters, good controls, and compelling combat.  The game’s theme, though, is very much anime-styled, so the “realism” is only in the combat system, really.  It is funny seeing these anime-style characters killing eachother in one hit, that often doesn’t happen in anime… I like anime well enough, but a more realistic theme would have been cool too.  The final boss is particularly anime/videogameey in design, and I don’t know if it really fits with the rest of the gameplay.  Still, this is a very good game, unlike anything else except for the first one.  The challenge and uniqueness of the system really makes it interesting, and fighting game fans should consider this a must play.  It’s a lot of fun, and has good replay value as well.  It’s too bad that the series did not continue, it should have!


Castlevania Chronicles

Platformer(2d).  One player, saves (1 block).  This is a port of the Sharp X68000 (a Japanese computer) game Akamajou Dracula, or Castlevania as we know it.  This was the game’s first Western release, and it’s a great, but very difficult, classic-style Castlevania platformer.  The game has good 16-bit graphics and sound, a good length, and lots of challenge.  I haven’t finished it; it’s very difficult.  Still, if you can find it cheap, buy this game — it’s very good.  It’s great that we finally got this “lost” Castlevania game.  It’s not quite Super Castlevania IV in quality, but it is a good game.  I haven’t finished this though, mostly because it gets extremely hard, much harder than anything in SCIV or Rondo of Blood.  Still, great game.


Chrono Cross

RPG.  1 player, saves, Analog Gamepad supported.  Chrono Cross is the controversial sequel (of sorts) to the popular classic SNES RPG Chrono Trigger.  I’ve only played a handful of hours of Trigger, but it did seem reasonably good for a SNES JRPG.  JRPGs have never been my favorite kind of game, but I do like them more now than I did in the ’90s, certainly.  Still, even though I have many of them, I haven’t played most of them all that much, this game included.  The few hours I did play it seemed good, though.  The graphics are pretty nice for PS1 3d, and the music is good.  I like how it has visible enemies, like Trigger did; always very much appreciated!  The main problem with the game is that I’ve spoiled large parts of the stories for both games for myself, and really dislike some of what this game does to Trigger’s story… seems to pretty much ruin it, in my opinion.  This doesn’t really make me want to continue with the game, even if it’s good otherwise.


Circuit Breakers

Racing.  Four player (with multitap), saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Circuit Breakers is a racing game from Supersonic, the same developers as Micro Machines 2, V3, and V4, among others. This game feels like a Micro Machines game, except that instead of being from a top-down perspective, it’s sort of three quarters behind.  The result is it’s not directly behind the car, and not overhead, but something in between.  The most important difference between this and Micro Machines isn’t that, though, it’s that the tracks here do have walls; Circuit Breakers is not as free-roaming a game as Micro Machines is, so staying on the course isn’t quite as tough.  There’s plenty of challenge elsewhere, though.  The graphics are okay; definitely nothing special, but for the PSX it looks okay and has a decent style.  The game uses some nice visual effects, particularly for the weapons.  The gameplay is fun, anyone who likes Micro Machines as I do likely will like this game. It’s got a good challenge level, but isn’t impossible. Circuit Breakers is good.


Clock Tower

Adventure.  One player, has saving.  This is actually Clock Tower 2, the sequel to a Japan-only Super Famicom (also later remade for PSX, also Japan only) game called Clock Tower.  The Clock Tower series is a horror series, but the first three games for the SFC and PSX are not the Resident Evil clones you might expect.  Instead, they are classic style graphic adventure games with a horror theme.  There are two main playable characters and several secondary ones you play as for short periods of time, and there are many paths through the game — like the first game, Clock Tower 2 has lots of endings, most of them bad endings where the characters get killed, as you’d expect from a horror game.  Your goal is to survive the second appearance of the evil killer with the giant sissors who terrorized (and killed) his way through the first game.  This is a direct sequel, set several years later; it must have been be a little confusing for US audiences, given that we never got either version of the original title.  Still, it has its own story, and does stand on its own decently well enough that it works, and it’s great that we got the game — we didn’t get many graphic adventures on consoles!  Talk to people, pick up items, solve puzzles, try to avoid the killer, and try to defeat him somehow… I’m early in the game of course, but it’s fun.  Oh, it is slow paced — slow text speed, slow walking speed, only somewhat useful run.  Oh well.  The graphics have average prerendered/drawn backdrops (no Resident Evil quality stuff here) with mediocre 3d polygon characters.  It’s obviously not a big budget production, but it’s fun and well made.


College Slam

Sports.  Four player (with multitap), saves (1 block).  This is a good port of this “NBA Jam TE with college players” game Acclaim made.  And it really is NBA Jam T.E. with college players.  College Slam uses the same engine and has an identical set of options to T.E., just with college teams instead of pro.  That’s good, though, because T.E. is the best NBA Jam game, but this is not quite as good as the original.  This is a hard game, but I usually have difficulty with NBA Jam-franchise titles, so that’s really no surprise.  I like the games anyway, even if I’m not that good at them.  But even if it isn’t as good as NBA Jam T.E. due to the fact that the clone is often not quite the same as the original, and that I find the pro teams more interesting than these college ones, College Slam is a fun game, and does have 4 player multitap support, which is nice.  The 2d graphics also work well, and it’s got good scaling as you expect from the 5th gen systems.  Visually it looks great.  Also, it’s a longbox title!  I love those.  Also on Saturn.  Other versions of the game were released in Arcades, SNES, Genesis, and Game Boy.


[Colony Wars]

Flight Action(3d).  One player, has saving, has Playstation Analog Joystick and Analog Gamepad support.  Colony Wars is a pretty, but flawed, space flight combat game.  This game does work with the Playstation Analog Joystick, so if I ever get one I can play it with good controls… that’s cool.  The Analog Gamepad support isn’t so good unfortunately — I highly recommend playing this game with the actual joyustick if you can somehow find one.  With the Dualshock and such, the controls are simply far too sensitive — it’s obvious that they were designed for a much larger stick with gr3eater sensitivity than a gamepad’s analog stick has.  Also there’s no actual lockon in this game, so if your target gets off screen, reacuiring it can be a pain.  Yeah, I don’t like this game that much.  It’s okay, but not that great.  I also dislike how you have to play through multiple missions between save points, and it is VERY easy to fail missions — sometimes it’s as easy as one accidental shot, if you blow up an ally with a stray shot — this is not allowed, and causes an instant game over.  Ugh.  That’s no fun.  The story is only semi-comprehensible, too.  There’s quite a bit of it here, enough to make this a two disc game, but the game doesn’t do a good job of introducing the plot at the start, and it never entirely makes sense.  There is a branching mission tree, so that if you fail some missions you will keep playing in an alternate route, but that’s not enough to save this game.  Really, this game needed some kind of lockon/targeting system, so that you could get things like a leading indicator to show you where to shoot to hit the enemies and such, and so you could keep an enemy highlighted as they fly around, instead of this game’s “it just highlights what flies in front of you” system that WILL lead to confusion.  As it is, actually hitting them takes quite some practice, and I don’t find the game fun enough to be worth the effort.  The graphics are nice, but as far as gameplay, even the Wing Commander games are better than this.


[Colony Wars: Vengeance]

Flight Action(3d).  One player, has saving, has Analog Gamepad support.  This is really Colony Wars 2, and it’s very similar to the first game.  The analog gamepad controls are improved, fortunately (they better be, with how Analog Joystick mode is gone!), but otherwise it’s no better.   And yes, it still has save points that are multiple missions apart, and missions that are very easy to fail.  I played one mission of this game, a while ago.  I thought that space combat games like this are no fun with a gamepad, but really should be played with a joystick, and quit and never came back.  What it is, though, is a simple 3d space flight combat game.  Fly around and shoot the baddies.  It’s not much compared to an X-Wing or Wing Commander game, that’s for sure… not terrible, I guess, but nothing too interesting.  They’re nowhere near the level of arcadey console flight combat games like Rogue Squadron, either.  Bang! Gunship Elite (PC/DC) also blows this series away.  So yeah, Colony Wars 2 is pretty much the same as the first one.  I love space shooters, but these games just don’t interest me very much.


Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

Platformer(2.5d/3d-ish).  One player, saves (1 block).  Crash Bandicoot was about as close as the PS1 had to a mascot character, so like many good Nintendo fans, at the time I disliked him without ever actually playing his games (And no, I still haven’t played the first one.).  It wasn’t until the last year or so that I actually played a Crash game for more than a minute, really.  And indeed, I still don’t like Crash’s design. It really looks like they were trying way too hard to make him “cool”, but all they succeeded at is making him look kind of foolish… Mario or Sonic he is not!  The collecting focus in this series is on boxes, too.  Yes, boxes.  It’s pretty much impossible to imagine a more boring collection-item focus than “get 100% by destroying all the boxes in each level!”  But that’s how it is, for whatever reason.  Anyway though, Crash 2 has polygonal graphics and two basic level types, into-the-screen running, or side-scrolling.  The sidescrolling levels are fun and solidly designed.  I like that part of the game.  The into-the-screen running parts, though, just aren’t as good.  This is supposed to be an answer to Mario 64, or something comprable to it, really?  How?  It’s basic, plays like something the SNES could have handled a simplified version of (I mean, the SNES does have some isometric-path platformers, like that Kid Klown game), and doesn’t give you anywhere near the feel that true 3d exploration does.  Even just having you move around a linear sequence of 3d areas, such as Rayman 2, is far better than this.  Still, the visuals are okay to good, and there certainly is plenty of challenge here.  I do like that it mixes things up a bit with things like the parts where you have to run into the screen.  But yeah, the sidescrolling parts of the game are the best.  Overall Crash 2 is decent, but not great.  It can be some fun.


Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped!

Platformer(2.5d/3d-ish).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Crash 3, the final platformer Crash game on the PS1, is very similar to the first two.  This makes sense since only one year separated the releases of each title, but it is very much like the others.  If you like Crash, you’ll like it.  Otherwise, it’s not any better.  The main addition here is that there are some vehicle-based stages where you play as Crash’s sister instead of Crash himself, and some of them occur in slightly more dynamically 3d worlds than the straight paths of most of the game.  They’re still ocmpletely linear on narrow paths, of course, but stuff like the jetski-style level is nice to see.  The sidescrolling areas are the best part again, though.  This is a solid platformer, mostly held back by the same issues it shares with the previous titles in the series.  Due to being more varied it’s probably the better of these two Crash games, but it’s certainly still nothing that competes with the best polygonal platformers.  And yeah, Crash’s design is still not so good, and it’s aged too – he looks very ’90s.


Critical Depth

Vehicular Combat.  Two player, saves.  Critical Depth is a 3d sub combat game from Singletrac. It’s an arena combat game, essentially, except in 3d (underwater) space. There are 12 subs to choose from, a story mode where you go through levels (it’s very hard, limited lives…), and more. The d-pad only controls are an issue though, this kind of game badly needs analog control… Graphics are okay for the system, but nothing special for sure. It looks grainy and pixelated as expected. Still, tolerable visuals and the gameplay can be fun, this game’s alright. Getting good enough to not die, though, might take a while. You need to not just kill the enemies, but also keep them from gathering all five of the item pieces, because in the main (story) mode if you do that you can win immediately, if no one shoots you before you get to the portal. It is tough to do that without killing everyone, but it is possible. There are several other game modes too, though all of course involve shooting. Two player, this is the kind of thing you wish you could play with four people… still, a decent effort for the system.  It’s a good game, but would have been even better with four player support, analog controls, and improved graphics.


Croc: Legend of the Gobbos

Platformer(3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad Support.  I’ve always liked Croc.  It’s a 3d platformer game from 1997 that started development before the release of Mario 64, but came out the year after it.  I first played the demo of the PC version of this Argonaut classic back in the ’90s and liked it, and it’s just as good on Playstation.  The game is a 3d platformer made up of segmented levels that consist of a series of small rooms.  Indeed, Croc does not have any huge areas to explore, but it does have some decent graphics and solid level designs.  There’s plenty to collect in each level, too, as you need to hunt down the five crystals in each stage.  The game’s main flaw is that it does take a while to get used to the jumping, because making jumps can be a challenge due to perspective issues (the camera is right behind Croc, so it can be hard to see exactly how far you’ll jump) and the controls take a little getting used to; Croc’s controls are somewhat tanklike, as he rotates instead of just running freely.  The game does have good analog controls though, which is great for a game from ’97.  You do eventually get used to it, though. The nice graphics, cute and fun characters, and good gameplay and level designs hold it up despite the tricky jumping.  Croc is a very good game, in my opinion.  It’s a favorite of mine, and my favorite 3d platformer on the Playstation.  Croc is a ridiculously saccharine character, but I don’t mind, and the gameplay’s great.  Also on Saturn and PC.


Croc 2

Platformer(3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad Support.  Croc 2 has better graphics, better controls, and a bigger, contiguous world than the first game.  However, despite that, I don’t think it’s that much better overall than the first one is.  It’s not worse either though, which is good — it’s most just similar, with some things better and some things worse than the first one, but without the nostalgia value that I have for the first game.  Croc 2 is, obviously, another 3d platformer, and Croc has another adventure to go on.  The controls are definitely better this time, and the analog support is good.  I like the overworld too, it’s better than the simple level-select system of the first game.  The level designs aren’t as original as the first’s were, though; this game feels a bit more generic.  Still, it’s a great game.  It’s too bad that the Croc series didn’t continue and that Argonaut is out of business now, I’d love to see another Croc game.  You can’t have too many cute, high quality 3d platformers starring adorable cartoon-style animals. 🙂  Also on PC.


CTR: Crash Team Racing

Racing(Kart).  Four player (with multitap), saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad and neGcon support.  CTR is a good 3d kart racing game, in the Mario Kart mold.  Playstation fans like to say that this game is better than MK64 or DKR on the N64, but I definitely disagree.  It’s an okay game, and for PSX 3d the graphics are decent, but in both gameplay and graphics this game gets blown away by any of the Rare or Nintendo N64 kart racing games, no question about it.  The game mechanics don’t match up, first.  Kart controls here just aren’t quite right, compared to the near-perfection of Mario Kart 64 or Diddy Kong Racing.  The graphics of course aren’t even close, but I’d expect that.  At least it looks good for the system.  It does have 4 player splitscreen with a multitap, though, so at least there it is even.  This is probably one of the more popular PS1 multitap titles, and I can see why, but it really is a clone that isn’t as good as the original.  Few ideas in this game don’t originate from one of those two titles.  But yes, it’s a decent game.


Cubix: Robots for Everyone: Race’n Robots

Racing(Topdown).  Four player (with multitap), saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Cubix for PS1 is a top-down 3d racing game based on a childrens’ TV show license.  The game has simple, easy gameplay, a low difficulty level, and plenty of CG cutscenes in the style of the show I presume; I’ve never seen the show, myself.  The cutscenes and story are bland cartoony stuff.  There’s worse out there, but I’m not playing this for the story, certainly.  Given that this is a racing game, having even less plot might have been a good thing… the cutscenes are a bit long.  I got it because it’s a topdown racer in the style of RC Pro-Am and such, and I like top-down racing games.  In the story you play as generic hero boy, and race with your robot against the other kids and their robots.  You also defeat the villain eventually as well, also through races of course.  The game has fairly good production values for a game like this, and has decently-done CG cutscenes at the beginning and between races.  They’re mostly generic kids’ cartoon stuff, but are entertaining enough I guess.

Once you get into a race, the game plays decently.  As I said, this is a simple overhead racing game.  The game has average graphics, decent controls, and a solid variety of tracks to drive on.   The controls are very simple; turn left or right, use powerups, and that’s about it.  Don’t expect anything challenging at all here, but it’s a decent amusement with okay top-down-racing gameplay and conventional but fine track layouts.  There are nine tracks, but they’re short, so you will see all of them quickly and it doesn’t add up to much content.  The tracks do have speed/slowdown strips and obstacles on them, and weapons powerups too.  You can upgrade your robot between races as well.

There are obstacles to avoid on the tracks, and several weapon pickups also.  You can buy upgrades for your robot between races.  The opposition won’t put up too much of a fight if you’re any good at racing games at all, but it’s fun anyway.  Zoom around, learn the tracks, and blow away the opposition!  I like topdown racing games, and this game exceeded my low expectations.  For a licensed PS1 racing game for kids, a maybe slightly above average game like this is about the most I could hope for.  Cubix is simplistic but fun stuff, particularly for topdown racing game fans.  I’d never call this game good, but it’s okay, particularly for top-down racing fans.  The short length and lack of challenge are the main drawbacks, but it’s fun while it lasts.  There is also a GBC game with the same title, but it is of course a different game.


CyberSpeed

Racing(Futuristic).  One player, saves.  CyberSpeed is a futuristic racing game with a twist.  A bad twist.  While futuristic racing games are one of my favorite kinds of games, this one is one of the few of them which really isn’t very good at all.  CyberSpeed is a racing game on a rail, essentially — and literally.  You see, while the tracks look like tracks, you cannot actually fly around them.  Instead, all you can do is spin around a wire.  You cannot detach from the wire; the entire game is just about spinning around that wire while adjusting your speed and firing weapon pickups when opponents are in range.  This makes it feel like a tube racing game, but the problem is, this game isn’t anywhere near as good as good tube-racing games like Ballistic (PC), the tube parts of F-Zero X or GX, or Tube Slider.  Here it more feels limiting than anything else.  There is some skill required, as learning where to be on each turn does matter, and the game is actually fairly challenging, but still, this game really isn’t that good.  The lack of any multiplayer is unfortunate as well.  Expect little from the graphics too — this game is an early release and looks it.  At least that longbox box looks cool…


Darkstalkers 3

Fighting(2d).  Two player, has saving.  Darkstalkers 3 is a great 2d fighting game.  This version isn’t the best version of Darkstalkers 3 (Vampire Savior in Japan) graphics or load times-wise, but it makes up for it with an unbeatable in the series lineup of extras.  Saturn Vampire Savior may have shorter load times and better graphics and animation, but the PSX version is the only one with multiple hidden extra options menus, modes to play the game with the “Vampire Hunter 2” and “Vampire Savior 2” rulesets instead of the basic original “Vampire Savior” one, music options so you can play with any version of the soundtrack from the original game up to Darkstalkers 3, the Original mode where you color-edit a character and then build up their level in fights from 1 to 99, and more.  It’s a great package, and any Darkstalkers, or 2d fighting, game fan should get this.  The Darkstalkers series isn’t as well known as Street Fighter, but it’s a great series of simple but fun fighting games.  Darkstalkers characters are unique and really cool looking monsters with simple, straightforward movesets full of basic quarter circles and stuff — this is not a hyper-technical fighter, but one designed to be easy to play and fun.  It works, the game is fun and the characters are just awesome.  Have the manual though, as with most fighting games of this era, that’s where the moves are listed, there’s no ingame movelist.  Based on the arcade games.  A better-playing, but less feature-rich, version is available for the Japanese Saturn.


Darkstone

Action-RPG(3d).  One player, has saaving (6 blocks), has Analog Gamepad support.  This is a port of the PC Diablo clone dungeon crawler action-RPG of the same name.  It’s a decent game with solid gameplay and large dungeons to explore.  The PSX version is a little cut down from the PC original, losing things such as the voice acting in towns (on the PC townsfolk all talk, here it’s just text) and more, though, and the game requires a full six blocks of memory card space to save, but it’s a decent Diablo clone, and fans of clickfest action-RPGs should give it a try.  It’s not too bad, flaws aside, and while the graphics are quite simple and low detail top-down 3d, they work and look decently good.  Also on PC.


Dead or Alive

Fighting(2.5/3d).  Two player, saves (1 block).  DoA for the Playstation is the most feature-complete version of this classic 2.5d fighting game, and going against general opinion, it is my favorite version of the game as well.  Like Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive is a Sega Model 2 arcade game with polygonal graphics, but no real 3d movement — the 3d is mostly for show.  It is a fun game, though, surprisingly so — I wasn’t expecting to like this game that much when I got it as I do not like Virtua Fighter very much, but I got hooked and played it a lot.  The game has its own style and isn’t that much like Virtua Fighter, aside from the hardware and superficial basics.  It’s a fast, fluid fighting game with a decently varied character list and a good amount of stuff to do.  You have a punch button, a kick button, and an “avoid” button that sort of is 3d movement, but not really, and takes some time to learn how to use.  Simple, but it works.  Arenas are squares, but instead of VF-style automatic loss when pushed out of the arena, the outer area has an explosive floor and if knocked down there, the hit player takes damage and gets blown into the air.  It’s a cool effect, and makes for some different gameplay.  While graphically the PSX version is even with or slightly below the Japan-only Saturn version of the game, some opinion is involved because the two have different looks to them, though most do seem to prefer the Saturn’s visuals.  Features-wise though the Playstation blows the Saturn away — it has one new character, Ayane, who in my opinion is the best one in the game, and increases the costume count from two to four costumes each to three to twenty.  The female characters in this version have 20 costumes each, and the male ones 3-8 or so each.  You unlock one costume each time you beat the game with the character, so you’ll need to beat it a lot of times to get them all, which I did, eventually, because it was fun.  Other than arcade mode costume unlocking there’s not a lot here, but it’s a fighting game so what do you expect?  It’s got some odd “30 battles” and “100 battles” where you fight that number of fights in a row and see at the end what your win percentage is, but you can’t unlock costumes (or anything else) there so it’s of limited use before you’ve gotten them all, and even then, 100 battles is a lot and gets boring played all in a row.  Oh, yes, the breast bounce in this game is truly crazy, it’s by far the most in the series when on.  It is optional, though, the game has a great options screen with all kinds of options for not just that but also arena size, making the whole floor explosive, etc.  Overall, it’s a good game.  DoA is simple, but fun.  This is the best version — the many added costumes and Ayane more than make up for the perhaps slightly weaker graphics.  Another version of the game is on Saturn and Xbox.


Deathtrap Dungeon

Action-Adventure(3d).  One player, has saving.  I’m only a few levels into it, but so far I actually like this game. It’s a little bit like a fantasy Tomb Raider, but it’s also enough different that it’s its own thing. It’s a fantasy medieval dungeon crawling game where you choose to play as a male or female character braving the dungeon. You explore dungeons, kill monsters (most die in just a hit or two, which is different, bosses excepted), solve puzzles, find switches, jump between platforms, and more. The digital-only controls are frustrating though, I really wish it had analog. The graphics are similarly iffy, it’s not awful looking for its time and platform but, well, most 3d Playstation games haven’t aged well, and this isn’t one of the best looking ones. Still the good art direction does shine through, and the game has a good sense of atmosphere. I can see it potentially getting frustrating, as even in the early levels the puzzles can be tricky, but it seems pretty good really, I’m surprised.  Also on PC.


Deception: Invitation to Darkness

Strategy-Action.  One player, saves (9 blocks).  Deception 1 is the first of four Deception games on the PS1 and PS2.  This series, set in a fantasy world, is about people in trouble who go to this mansion to hide from their enemies.  Instead, what they find is a demonic power.  The core gameplay of all four titles is about setting up traps in that game’s mansion in order to kill everyone who enters.  This game, unlike the sequels, plays entirely from a first person perspective; you’re some prince (the only male lead in any of the four games), but he’s never seen.  As usual in these games, you start out apparently as a victim, a decent person forced out of your position by enemies, but once he gets the power of the mansion, he (and you) become cruel, killing or capturing everyone who sets foot inside.  Considering how easily they turn to darkness when pressed, maybe these main characters (in the series) weren’t so good after all…  Also, each enemy has a name and backstory, and while many are soldiers sent there to kill you, some are just random people who entered, or people angry about others who you killed earlier; regardless, all of them will need to be killed or captured.  Some need to be killed; others will try to escape, but you won’t get money if you let them go.  Kills get some money, but captures get the most.  Captured people can be killed, imprisoned and turned into monsters, or you can steal their souls for magic.  Yeah, this franchise is like that.  The gameplay is a strategy/action cross, as you strategically set up the traps, and then run around trying to lead the enemies into them and such once they attack.  The system works fairly well; I don’t love the gameplay, but it is unique, and the game is good.  The graphics are basic, early-PS1 stuff, and that save file is crazy-large, but overall,  this is a good, and challenging, game.


Destruction Derby

Racing.  One player (two player via system link cable only), saves (1 block), analog via neGcon only.  A good, early Playstation racing game.  It has the bad 3d graphics you expect from the early Playstation, and no multiplayer without a system link cable, and is only analog with a neGcon or wheel, but the gameplay is much better than the visuals.  I remember playing the demo of Destruction Derby 2 for the PC back in the mid ’90s and really liking it, but while this game isn’t quite as good as the second one, it is still good.  Destruction Derby is a racing game where car damage is central.  Cars all have damage zones, so different areas take different damage, and you, or your opponents, will be eliminated if you or they take too much damage.  The amount of damage you can take is not too high, so the first two Destruction Derby games really are quite challenging.  Still, it’s pretty fun, and I definitely like the game.  There are both racing series and crash arena modes, and both are fun.  But yes, the graphics are pretty bad.  It’s also too bad that the multiplayer is system link only.  Still a game worth playing, though.  Also on Saturn and PC.


Driver

Racing(Mission-based).  One player, has saving, has Analog Gamepad support.  Driver is a port of the PC game of the same name.  I got the PC version of this game back in 2000 or so when it came out and loved it, with one major qualm — the game was insanely, “not fun anymore” hard.  The first mission, in fact, is probably the hardest first level of any game I have ever played in my life.  The “tutorial” level is a complete nightmare that will haunt your dreams…  As for this PSX port, it’s the same thing as the PC game, but with the expected much worse graphics.  The graphics are okay for the Playstation I guess, but Playstation 3d looks pretty bad compared to PC 3d of the same age, so that’s not saying much.  At least you do get the same huge cities to drive around in and the same driving action, though.  Driver 1 is by far the best game in its series, because it’s the only one with no guns and no killing — Driver is not Grand Theft Auto, but its own thing, entirely focused on driving missions where you get from point to point and evade the police along the way.  You can’t run over pedestrians either, they’re there but always avoid your car.  Instead of trying to be GTA like the series has tried to do since this one, Driver 1 is focused and great at what it does.  It’s far too hard, but a great game — though play it on the PC if you can, the graphics there are far better.  Also on PC.


Evil Zone

Fighting(3d).  Two player, has saving (1 block).  Evil Zone, or Eretzvaju in Japan, is a great, and quite original 3d fighting game from Yuke’s, who mostly makes wrestling games but made this as well.  I don’t like wrestling games at all, but this is, in fact, my favorite PS1 3d fighting game.  In the game, you control one of a variety of warriors who have traveled to Eretzvaju in order to stop Ihadurca, the “ultimate existence”.  The game is both simple and complex, with many moves that have very basic, unified commands, and utterly unique gameplay.  There is really nothing else out there like this game, and that’s too bad because it’s probably my favorite 3d fighting game on the Playstation.  Evil Zone almost feels like a projectile-heavy 3d fighting game version of Super Smash Bros., in its simplicity — moves are all done with a single or double tap of a direction arrow and then a button press, no complex button moves (not even quarter-circles) here — and there are only two buttons, an attack button and a block button.  That’s all.  Despite that, there are over 12 moves at your disposal, including different moves for single and double taps of a direction followed by a press of the button, plus several moves that change depending on how far you are from the other character, and a few that change depending on how you press attack — the long-distance grab for example has two attack patterns, and you switch by pressing attack again after you start the move.  Once I learned how to do all of the moves, I realized how much depth this game has.  Yes, there is a learning curve, bu it really is quite well designed.  Once learned, the action is fast, fluid, unique, and rewarding.  The game’s mixture of simple action and a fascinating variety of original move types sets Evil Zone apart from, and above, most PS1 3d fighting games.  The characters and story are heavily anime styled, and all characters are based on an anime stereotype.  In fact, the Story mode for each character is designed like an anime series, with different, and character type appropriate, plots, “episode intros”, and “next episode previews” before and after each fight.  Story mode fights are one round matches, so the game moves quickly and you only need to win once to move on.  There aren’t a huge number of characters, but there are enough and they are varied enough; the base moves are similar for all characters, but each one has their own twist on things.  There is also an ingame history section where you can read text descriptions of all the characters, and about the strange world, the “Evil Zone”, that they’re fighting in.  My only real complaint is that episode endings are often vague, so sometimes I didn’t entirely know what had happened, or even whether they had killed their opponents at the end of the match or not — the game’s not clear on that.  Annoying.  That’s about the only flaw with this game that I can think of, though, story or otherwise.  Otherwise, it’s fantastic!

But returning to the gameplay, it’s very difficult to describe Evil Zone to someone who hasn’t played it, really — it just plays so differently.  You need to learn all the different kinds of moves to get good.  While the controls are simple, the great variety of moves available means that the game is by no means simple or easy.  The moves include a long-distance grab (that can be avoided by moving outside of the target circle or attacking the other player), normal projectile attacks (done just by hitting attack from a distance), stronger projectiles, a jumping attack, a move where you fly towards the opponent fast and try to repeatedly hit them, the charge move (hold the button) which charges a meter in your health bar, so that the less health you have, the faster you charge up meter levels — a great and balancing mechanic that gives the player who is behind a chance, the super attack (a projectile which uses a level of charge power) which does huge damage if it successfully hits the enemy (plus there’s a special animation for each character if you finish someone with the super attack, sort of the “fatality” move of the game), melee attacks, and more.  It may sound confusing, but using the moves is simple and you learn them with time.  Great game, lots of fun.

Oh, one last thing — Titus, the Western publisher, did censor the game.  They changed all characters under age 21 to be listed as “21”, and censored Erel’s (one of the female characters) outfit as well, to cover more skin through a texture color change.  It’s kind of lame, but oh well.  Comically, they did not change her character art, only her polygon model.  Yeah.  Oh yes, and the voice acting is kind of bad, but it fits with the game perfectly — perfect bad English voice acting for the somewhat lame, stereotypical anime knockoff stories the various characters have.  It’s good stuff. 🙂


[Final Fantasy VII]

RPG(2-3d).  One player, saves (1 block).  I first played FF7 when the demo of the PC version first released.  I remember thinking that the story seemed interesting, but the battles were boring.  Yeah, I was not a JRPG fan in the ’90s to say the least.  Well, I have more of an appreciation for JRPG combat now than I did then; higher tolerance for boredom or something maybe, I don’t know, but I do; but still, I’ve only played an early part of this game.  And indeed, the story’s somewhat interesting, but the battles aren’t so much, and I’ve never liked Square’s menu design styles either; somehow they always turn me off versus the menu styles used in other peoples’ games.  Square games usually use similar design and font choices which I think are kind of bland.  I also prefer RPGs which either have strategic combat (that is, where you can move around), or at least where the characters appear to be in a field, instead of Square’s preference for two straight lines of characters who jump out and hit eachother.  Yeah, FF12 is probably my favorite game in the franchise.  But still, this games’ battle system does work, and the game seems fun enough what little I’ve played.  I can see why this game made such a big impact back in ’97.  Of course the actual polygonal elements look bad, but they try to cover for that by making all of the backgrounds 2d.  It helps, a lot, but it is true that the actual polygon graphics (and battles) are ugly.


[Final Fantasy IX]

RPG(2-3d).  One player, saves (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  FFIX is an okay game.  It’s got very nice backdrops, but those Playstation 3d polygon models… they tried, but there’s only so much you can do wih PSX 3d.  Yeah, the bad polygon visuals definitely stand out on the nice CG backdrops, and battle mode looks worse.  I also always have disliked that Final Fantasy style of “two lines of characters jump forward and hit eachother” battles, and the amount of grind always required in this game.  Still, it seems okay.  Nice graphics, okay story, some decent gameplay, through the first few hours.  I don’t know how much I’ll actually play it though.  I’m not exactly a series fan, as I said above…


[Final Fantasy Tactics]

Strategy.  One player, saves.  This classic is an isometric-3d square-based strategy game with RPG elements, much like Tactics Ogre.  Because I am a strategy game fan you might think I’d love this, but … eh.  This was one of the first Playstation games I bought, but I’ve barely touched it in all that time, and I didn’t get past a couple of missions into the game before quitting.  It’s okay, but not great.  The 3d visuals are not so good looking, the story is quite depressing, the camera can be a real pain…  I love strategy games, and this IS a good one, but I’d rather play something else.  Also remade on PSP.


Gauntlet Legends

Action-RPG.  Two players, saves (1 block per character), Analog Gamepad support.  Gauntlet Legends, a multiplayer-focused action-RPG with levels to explore, enemies to shoot, secrets to find, and monster generators to destroy, is an old favorite of mine from both the arcades and the N64.  I love the sequel, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, as well.  See my Gauntlet Legends/Dark Legacy thread for the full details of how each version differs — almost every one has something different in it, it’s pretty interesting.  I won’t list all the details here (see that thread), but PS1 Gauntlet Legends is both good, and bad.  On the good side, this version has an exclusive level that does not appear in any other version of the game.  It is one of four levels unlocked at the very end, after you beat the game.  Two of those levels are from the Dark Legacy arcade game, and the other new one was added to the Dark Legacy console ports, but one is exclusive to PS1 Legends only, unfortunately.  It’s really too bad that it was left out, but it does give a reason to play this game.  Other than those unlockable ones, the rest of the level set is the same as the earlier N64 version.  The base gameplay is exactly as you expect it to be, too; this game plays well.  However, on the bad side, this is a limited game.  First, there are absolutely no difficulty levels here.  Don’t expect to be able to change your difficulty level; you can’t do it.  This is the only version with only one difficulty setting, and it’s both unfortunate, and way too easy.  Disappointing!  Also, this is the only version with only two maximum players; all others support the full four.  And the graphics are worse here than in any other versions, as you’d expect.  At least this game does have full item storage (can save your items, instead of having them just time out like the arcade game) and does let you buy health in the store, unlike the later Dreamcast version.  Overall though, thanks to the removal of difficulty levels (and that the one setting it has is kind of easy) and the lack of 3-4 player play, this version is not recommended except for hardcore Gauntlet Legends fans like me who want to see every level in the series.


Gex: Enter the Gecko

Platformer(3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  The first Gex, which I have for Saturn and was also on 3DO and PC, was a good 2d platformer.  This sequel, released several years later, has gone 3d.  Yes, this is a 3d platformer.  Expect to do the usual running, jumping, and item collecting.  I like 3d platformers, but unfortunately, it’s not a particularly good one; this is average or below average across the board.  As with the first game, you play as Gex the TV-obsessed gecko.  Each world is themed after some television or movie.  It’s a decent concept and it works well enough.  However, the camera here really isn’t very good.  I’m fairly tolerant to mediocre 3d platformer cameras (Epic Mickey doesn’t bother me, for instance), but this one really is annoying; it really is Sonic Team levels of bad and will kill you.  The controls aren’t great either; it works, but but not as well as other 3d platformers.  The thoroughly average level designs don’t help at all either, certainly.  The graphics are also completely average.  There are some nice platforming parts and scenes, and worlds are good sized, but have low expectations for this one: the game is playably average, but nothing above that.  Gex 2 was considered decently good when it released, but it wouldn’t be anymore.  Also on N64 and PC.


Ghost in the Shell

Vehicular Combat.  One player, saves (1 block).  Ghost in the Shell is a 3d vehicular action game.  Yeah, they decided to make a GitS game, and decided… to have you drive around one of those little sentient tank things, here called a Fuchikoma.  Yeah, it’s an odd design choice.  The cutscenes between levels look quite GitS-like, but the actual gameplay’s not too much like the show.  Fortunately, though, the game is actually good!  Yeah, it may be strangely designed, but it IS in fact a good tank action game.  It’s unfortunate that the game does not have analog controls, but even so, you have good, quick control of your tank.  In this game you can drive along almost any surface, so you can drive on walls and ceilings, which is pretty cool.  The game’s challenging but well designed, with missions that are long but not too long, and good enemy designs and layouts too.  As for the visuals, though, they’re earlyish Playstation stuff.  Don’t expect much.  The draw-in is pretty close as well, and can be annoying.  Still, GitS is good thanks to the good controls and fun, high quality action-heavy tank combat that makes up the game.  Recommended.


Grandia

RPG(2-3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad Support.  Grandia is a fantasic RPG!  This is one of the best RPGs of the generation, no question.  I’m pretty far into it, maybe 30 hours (that’s almost halfway, this is a long game — I’m near the end of disc 1…), and it’s one that I keep going back to now and then to get farther in.  The characters, music, world design, and artwork are fantastic.  It’s an upbeat, uplifting game most of the time, which I like in RPGs — among JRPGs, after Skies of Arcadia, Game Arts’ Lunar and Grandia games are my favorites. It’s such a great counterpoint to your usual depressing Final Fantasy grindfests.  The negatives are few, but important — the game is fairly easy, so most of the time there is little challenge.  As a result, even though the battle system is great and actually has some pretty interesting depth, annoyingly, you are rarely actually required to learn it — you’ll barely have to even think about learning the depth of the battle system through most of the game, because it’s so easy that just setting everyone to basic attack will work 95% of the time.  It’s unfortunate, really.  I mean, I would not want grind, I hate that far more than the game just being a little easy, but I’d like if it was challenging enough that you did have to think and use the depth of the system. I prefer thought in my RPGs, JRPGs are just too mindless and repetitive for me to find them fun way too much of the time.  Grandia does not escape that.  The game also has a horrible, horrible dub job; it’s not even funny bad, it’s just painful.  Also, though the art design is fantastic, the game has 3d polygon environments, and they are technically iffy, due to the limitations of the platform.  The characters, which are 2d sprites, look better.  The rough graphics are distracting, but not everything is perfect, and overall, Grandia is a very, very good game.  Justin, Feena, and the others are great, likable characters, the story is good, and the game has a sense of adventure and exploration matched by very few other JRPGs.  It’s a great game that I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in JRPGs at all.  The Saturn version is slightly better, but it’s not in English, so this is the one to get.


The Granstream Saga

Action-RPG(3d).  One player, saves (1 block).  This game is an action-RPG from some of the people behind SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma.  It’s not quite as good as any of those three games, but it is good.  The 3d graphics are somewhat simple, and some people complained that the people’s polygon models do not have faces, but it’s really not so bad, and the game is fun and has a solid anime-style story.  My main complaint would be that it’s too easy to get lost in the dungeons, and you do not have a decent map, as you really do need.  It can be frustrating and made me want to stop playing several times, due to the irritation factor of the dungeon designs.  Still, it’s a pretty solid game, probably a little under-rated.  There’s plenty of good gameplay here to be found, if you can manage to navigate the dungeons.


Gubble

Arcade Action.  One player, Analog Gamepad support.  Gubble is an arcade game in the early-80s mold.  The game is okay, but has one critical flaw.  The game is isometric 2d, and is a static-screen game where you have to get all the stuff in each maze before moving on to the next screen.  You move around the screen as this weird purple alien, and use some kind of tool to remove the items from the screen.  At first you have a screwdriver attachment and have to remove screws from the field, for instance.  It’s odd stuff, but that makes things more interesting.  There are also minigames occasionally.  The isometric look is fine, and the graphics are basic but decent.  The music is okay but odd.  The concept is a fine, classic one too; it’s obviously inspired by games out of the Pac-Man mold, but why not make a new game in the style of classics?  That’s a fine idea, and the game works fairly well.  Gubble isn’t great, but it is decent to good.

However, as I said earlier, this game has a critical flaw, and it isn’t about the gameplay.  It’s about the fact that the idiots who published this in the US removed the save system.  Now, this is a Western-developed title, first released on the PC, but if you want to play this sanely, you’ll need an import-capable Playstation, because you’ll need to get the Japanese version if you want to save.  And no, it wasn’t a later release there; actually, the PS1 version released in Japan several years before it did in the US.  I don’t know what kind of total idiot would remove all saving — and not just memory card support, there are no passwords either — from this game, but it was a very, very bad decision. As a result, if you want to play through this game, and it’s not short, you’ll need to just leave on the system until you’re done.  I know that’s how a lot of 8 and 16 bit games worked, and I like many of those games, but I really like being able to save in games, and there’s absolutely no excuse for this.  I don’t know what they were thinking, but they were wrong.  The actual gameplay, though, is fun enough maze-game stuff.  Also on PC and iOS, and also remade in Gubble HD on iPad and PC (www.gubble.com).  Play the import or one of the other versions if you want to play this game; it’s worth trying if you like classic arcade games.


Heart of Darkness

Platformer(2d).  One player, saves (1 block).  This game was long in the making, and released on PSX and PC in 1998 after many years.  It was made by Eric Chahi, the developer of Out of this World, and has quite similar gameplay to that classic platform-puzzle game.  Like in Out of this World, the graphics are beautiful, though hand-drawn here instead of polygon style, and the game is a sidescroller where you need to figure out the right action at each moment or you die. Once you figure out what to do it’s easy, but before that point it’s quite hard.  The game has a fun, cartoony story and some nice cartoon-style character designs and cutscenes, as it tells a story of a boy trying to save his dog from monstrous shadow creatures which kidnapped the dog and took it to the heart of the world of shadow.  It’s a two disc game because of the cutscenes.  Good stuff.  Play it. 🙂


In the Hunt

Shmuplike(2d).  Two player, saves (1 block).  In the Hunt is a submarine-themed Irem non-autoscrolling shmuplike with fantastic, Metal Slug style 2d artwork. The game has great gameplay, good level designs, lots of stuff to destroy, and more.  The shooting action is frenetic and extremely well designed, with lots of variety and challenge.  Some of the boss fights are particularly interesting.  It’s an all-around great game; the only blemish is that once you’ve learned the game, it is a little easy, particularly compared to Metal Slug titles.  Yes, this game is actually beatable on Normal with the default 5 credits per player setting.  Still, it’s very good and is a must play, and it’s not easy; it just isn’t Metal Slug hard.  This is the best version of the game out there, too.  The Playstation version is by far the superior version, versus the Saturn one — that version has only the original arcade PCM (chiptune) soundtrack, while on Saturn the game saves your high scores, has a Playstation-exclusive CD audio soundtrack option as well as an option for the original PCM music.  Unlike the PS1 the Saturn version also has no saving for scores or anything else, and a LOT of slowdown.  The PS1 version does have a little bit of slowdown, but not much.  Essentially the PS1 version has the least slowdown, the arcade original is in the middle, and the Saturn port has the most.  Not good for the Saturn there, for sure; it’s really too bad.  At least this port is good, though!  In the Hunt is one of the last games that the people who would later leave to form Nazca and make the Metal Slug series made for Irem before leaving the company, and it really does play sort of like “Metal Slug: Submarine Edition”. The art design is the same, and has that same extremely detailed and amazing looking style.  This game is kind of hard to find (I was lucky to find a cheap copy), but is highly recommended!  Anyone who likes shmups or Metal Slug must play In the Hunt.  Also in arcades and Saturn, but best on PS1.


Interactive CD Sampler Disc Vol. 4

Demo Disc.  One player, menu requires digital control, while some demos have Analog Gamepad support.  Yes, you’ll have to switch your gamepad to digital mode for the menus, and then back to analog mode for the demos with analog support such as Ferrarri, Steel Reign, and others.  It’s quite annoying.  Apart from that though this is a good, demo-filled demo disc.  The disc has demos of Porsche Challenge, Steel Reign, Intelligent Qube, Ace Combat 2, Armored Core, Parappa the Rapper, and CART World Series, and maybe more.  I particularly liked Intelligent Qube and Steel Reign; I’d like to get both of those games.  Steel Reign is a tank action game with nice graphics, fun gameplay, and plenty to destroy.  Feels like a late ’90s PC game; indeed, it might have done better there, with how this seems to have been the studio’s only game.  Regardless, it’s good stuff.


Invasion from Beyond

Flight Action(2.5d).  One player, saves (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Invasion from Beyond is an obscure and somewhat strange game.  As the title suggests, the game has a ’50s sci-fi alien UFO invasion movie theme, and it’s appropriately silly and not at all serious.  The game is sort of like Defender gone third-person and topdown but with additional missions, so maybe Defender crossed with Desert Strike?  In the game you control a plane from behind it, but can’t actually fly up and down — you can only fly in a 2d plane in this game.  Levels wrap around on all four sides, so even though they are small, you can fly from one side to the other easily.  As you play you are given mission objectives, and have to go there and kill those enemies, rescue those survivors, or what have you.  The missions usually make sense, but sometimes it might take a few tries to figure out what to do.  Make sure to read the mission objectives screen, as you do in Strike series titles, but this game is more straightforward than those games, which is good.  Still, the game has a good challenge.  The game does also allow you to use a targeting cursor to aim better than you could with just “fire forward” or something.  It also has strafe controls, thankfully.  Overall, Invasion from Beyond is a reasonably interesting game that most people probably haven’t heard of, but should consider checking out if you like this kind of game at all.  It won’t be easy, but it is worth playing.


Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu

RPG(2-3d).  One player, saves (1 block).  This is an RPG I knew little about before playing.  I haven’t gotten far, but based on impressions from playing for a few hours, it’s actually pretty good.  The story is fairly generic JRPG stuff, your usual story about a boy who has to save his home village from the threatening evil, but it is told well, better than many certainly.  The background art is prerendered CG, and looks fantastic — this is a good looking game.  As always the polygon characters look awful in comparison, but oh well.  The gameplay is simple JRPG fare with a Pokemon monster-collecting theme, but it works well enough.  This is a somewhat darker game than Pokemon, though; don’t expect all light-hearted fun, it has a somewhat serious plot.  Still, it’s not incredibly deep or complex, but it’s a decently good game.  Worth playing.


Jet Moto

Racing(Futuristic).  Two player, saves (1 block).  Jet Moto is an early Playstation game from Singletrac.  It’s a futuristic hover-ski racing game.  The game has an interesting concept and is some fun, but the early release date does show.  The horrific early Playstation graphics hold the game back for sure, and do impact fun.  The bad controls do not help much either — this game needs analog gamepad support!  Really, this game isn’t that great.  Maybe if you don’t mind the visuals and can get used to the controls it could eventually be fun, but I didn’t have that much patience… it’s this kind of thing that is why I disliked the Playstation back in the day, really.  I had a little hope for this game, but it’s not that good.  The PC version is much improved all around, with much better visuals and analog support too.  Play that version.  Both versions have the same generic soundtrack, though; it’s quite unexciting.


Kartia: The Word of Fate

Strategy.  One player, saves (1 block).  Kartia is a somewhat little known strategy-RPG, but it’s good, I think.  One of the game’s top claims to fame is that it has art from Amano, the same guy who did the art for the early Final Fantasy games, and does all FF logo images too.  I only got a few missions into it, but the story’s somewhat interesting anime style stuff, and the gameplay is fun enough for a Tactics Ogre/FFT-style game. It seems pretty good.  As usual for JRPG fantasy worlds the world makes no sense though, the mixture of stuff from different ages is so bizarre… I know Japanese fantasy settings almost always do stupid stuff like this one does (random coffee cups and Victorian elements in “medieval” fantasy!), but it’s always inexplicable.  Still though, as far as the actual game goes, Kartia is a good game.  Not the greatest, but good.  This game is fairly standard for its genre, but at least it’s on the good side of standard.


The King of Fighters ’99

Fighting(2d).  Two player, saves (one block).  KOF’99 is the second and last KOF game released on the PS1 in the US.  KOF ’99 is the sixth King of Fighters game, and is the first of the three Nests Saga titles (’99 to ’01).  It’s much better than the other US PS1 KOF game, but still, while KOF’99 on the PSX has some nice added features, like color edit mode, it still has load times that are just too long.  I love the KOF series, and SNK fighting games in general, so this was one of the first PSX games I got when I got the system in early 2006, but while it is still good, the loading is very annoying and makes it so the game just isn’t that fun.  You wait too long.  And supposedly KOF’95 (the other US PSX KOF release) has even worse loading… I do not want to even try it.  Play this on a platform where you don’t have to deal with all the loading — KOF ’99 is a fantastic game, great fighting game all around.  This game doesn’t have any of the Dreamcast version’s (still exclusive) extras, either, like the two new strikers, the 3d polygonal stage backgrounds, and more.  Get the Dreamcast release, KOF ’99 Evolution.  That version is much, much better, even better than the Neo-Geo original in some ways.  You can find the Neo-Geo version of KOF’99 on the PS2, Wii, etc. in collections/download services, but if you want the best version, play it on Dreamcast.


[King’s Field]

Action-RPG(3d).  One player, saves.  I bought this game a while ago, but never have really played it for more than a few minutes… it’s a first-person action-RPG.  Doesn’t look incredibly intresting, but I haven’t played it for long either.  This is a very hard and punishing game which rewards patience and exploration.  The graphics are poor early-PS1 stuff.  This is actually the second game in the series, the first one was Japan-only (and also was on Playstation).  Today this series is perhaps better thought of as the predecessor to the Dark Souls series, becuase it is somewhat similar and is from the same developer, From Software.  I don’t like Dark Souls much either, though, so that doesn’t make me like this game more.


Koudelka

RPG.  One player, saves (1 block).  Actually the first game in the Shadow Hearts series, this four disc game stars the female character Koudelka, who is also on the cover.  It’s kind of a horror RPG, and that’s the problem — it’s half survival horror game, half random-battles JRPG, and the battles ruin the pacing and tension of the survival horror side of the game.  Still, it is a good game.  The story’s interesting survival horror style stuff, I like the characters, and the battle system is a pretty good, strategic combat system with a grid your characters move around on, but the issue between the contrast between battles and survival horror style tension really is an issue that hurts the game.  It’s also somewhat short, despite being on four discs.  Still, it’s not bad, and overall I like the game.  Koudelka herself is kind of cool and a good lead.  It’s really too bad that none of the Shadow Hearts games have a female main character, and drop Koudelka’s great strategic battle system for much more generic menu-only JRPG combat too.  Despite its flaws, I actually like this more than Shadow Hearts for those two reasons.  Good game.


Largo Winch: Commando SAR

Third-Person Stealth Action.  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  This complete disaster of a stealth game shouldn’t be played by anyone except the absolute most desperate stealth game fans who have played everything else and simply must play all of them.  Even they should consider passing on this waste of time, though.  The game is based on a French comic book series that is obscure everywhere else; I’ve never heard of it, for sure.  You play as Largo Winch, super-rich billionaire and spy extordinaire.  In this game’s short seven level campaign, you play through a story where Largo has to resist evil terrorist groups, stop villains from doing their dastardly deeds, etc.  The usual.  The game has extremely bland and dated graphics with low-poly environments and a short draw distance.  Note: this is a 2002 release!  Your character couldn’t look more generic, either; James Bond Largo Winch is not.  The controls are extremely sluggish and slow too; Largo moves at a very slow pace most of the time.  The controls are bad, with awkward, no-fun fighting controls, annoying jumping, and more.  Cameras and guards are hard to avoid too, as there are no on-screen indicators of where they can see; you just have to figure it out by trial and error, pretty much.  Have fun (you won’t).  Overall, this game is awful.  There were various other Largo Winch titles in Europe (on the PC, PS2, Xbox, GC…), but only this one released in the US.  It’s probably too bad that it was…


Legend of Legaia

RPG(3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Legend of Legaia is a fairly average 3d JRPG.  The game is good and playable, but isn’t something special.  Still though, the game is fun enough for its genre.  The story of this game is that in the game’s world there has been an apocalypse, essentially; killer fog, and monsters in the fog, have spead across the land.  Your character, the boy who will save the world naturally, lives in a small town surrounded by a wall that holds back the fog.  As usual in RPGs, things go badly, and then you’re off on a journey to see the various kingdoms of the world and save them from the fog.  It’s a slight variant on the usual RPG story.  The battle system works well — at its core it’s pretty much a menu-based system, but instead of normal menus, each button is mapped to an action, so you can get through rounds quickly, which is nice.  The game has a “fighting” theme, so moves are done through fighting game-esque inputs, and the longer the input string required the stronger the move, but underneath that it is a conventional turnbased JRPG.  You have a decent cast of anime-style characters to help you too.  The fully polygonal graphics are average at best, but the art design is good.  Even though I wasn’t really expecting to, I moderately liked what I played of the game.


Lucky Luke

Platformer(2.5d).  One player, saves (1 block).  Lucky Luke is another game based on a European comic book series, but the comparisons to Largo Winch (above) end there; this one is a 2.5d platformer, and a decent one too.  Lucky Luke is not a great, or particularly memorable, game, but it is a decent, sometimes fun platformer experience.  You play as Luke, an Old West cowboy, and have to stop the bad guys.  The Wild West theme is a fun one, and the level designs are okay.  The game does have some minor puzzle elements, so you don’t just walk right and shoot the baddies; you do have to figure out how to progress at times.  It works reasonably well.  There are also some minigame-esque elements between levels.  Overall this game is average.  Don’t expect too much, but it might be worth a look for cheap, if you like platformers.  It’s okay, and I think I like it more than the GBC Lucky Luke game.


Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (four disc collector’s edition ver.)

RPG(2d).  One player, saves (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Lunar SSSC is an anime-style RPG with a simple plot, some romance, and plenty of good design.  Ah, Lunar 1, a true classic and one of the best RPGs of the 16-bit console generation… this 32-bit remake is arguably the best version of the game.  Some people prefer the Sega CD original, but while that version has some advantages over this one, I like the PSX version more overall, I think.  Some of the changes, like making Luna playable for many hours instead of not at all, was definitely for the better.  Making the enemies visible instead of having random battles is also fantastic, that’s a great change that makes the game a lot less annoying.  The redone visuals are also great looking — the game’s 2d and looks fantastic.  The battle system is the same as in the original version, and is just as great here as it was on the Sega CD.  The music is outstanding, too — I really love the Lunar game soundtracks.  The characters and story are great, too.  The story is a classic by now of course, but it’s a good one, sweet and romantic with lots of optimism and a human focus.  It’s really too bad that the game’s a little expensive, because it’s a very good game; any JRPG fan should definitely try out Lunar and Lunar 2 for the Sega CD or Playstation (or Saturn, if you know Japanese)!

Compared to the original Sega CD version, Lunar SSSC’s biggest changes are to the story, where some controversial changes were made that series fans are divided over, and to the character lineup, where one major change was made, which I mentioned above: while on the Sega CD Luna was never in your party, in this remake she does join you through the first quarter of the game or so until she gets kidnapped.  I think this is worth empathising because it’s the single best change in this version of the game, both making that first part of the game much more fun (that sewer level is so hard on the SCD, where you have no healer!), and makes the main pair’s relationship deeper and closer, too.  On the SCD you barely ever saw Luna, so it was harder to tell why he liked her so much.  This version fixes that.  The visible enemies and little puzzles that have been added to some dungeons are good stuff too; I like that it’s at least got a little bit to the dungeons other than just mazes and monsters.  It’s not much, but it’s something.  This is my favorite version of Lunar 1.  I like Lunar 2 even more than Lunar 1 (and I do like that one best on SCD, not PS1), but the first is still a pretty good game.  It’s simple and straightforward, but it’s good. Other versions of Lunar 1 are on Sega CD, Saturn, Game Boy Advance, PSP, and iPhone, but apart from the PS1 and Saturn ports, which are the same, all of the others each have some differences between them.  Again, this and the SCD original are still the best ones.


[Martian Gothic: Unification]

Survival Horror Adventure.  One player, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Martian Gothic is a Resident Evil or Alone in the Dark-inspired third-person, cinematic-camera-angles adventure game set on a Mars base.  Apart from the setting, really the only unique thing here is that you control three characters at once which you will have to switch between.  That’s an interesting mechanic, as you can unlock things with one character that then allows you to progress with another.  That makes things more complex, and this game is supposed to be hard, but that is potentially interesting.  Otherwise, this is a standard puzzle-heavy survival horror game.


MDK

Third-Person Action.  One player, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  A port of Shiny’s PC game of the same name, this is a 3d, third-person shooter with some platforming elements, essentially.  The game is an action-heavy title where you play as Kurt, a guy in a super suit who has to kill the aliens which are wiping out humanity at a rapid pace.  The graphics aren’t as good as the PC version of course, and definitely are questionable, and gamepad controls are not as good as mouse and keyboard, but still, it’s pretty good, as it’s a competent version of a good game.  MDK has good art design, lots of fun and varied shooting action, jumping, puzzles, and more. I like MDK2 better than the first game, as the first one isn’t nearly as funny as the second and it has less variety too.  I really like what Bioware did with the series in that game, and it’s really a shame that it didn’t continue from there.  This game would benefit from having more humor like that game, and some of its variety too.  Shiny was known for humor thanks to Earthworm Jim, but while this game has some, it’s nothing compared to the sequel.  Still, while too much of it is serious, or just focused on the action, there are some silly moments at least.  The game’s a bit short, but is good while it lasts.  This first MDK game still holds up.  Also on PC.


Medal of Honor

FPS.  One player, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Medal of Honor is a WWII FPS, and was a quite popular game when it released, and I can sort of see why.  While the game has aged very badly and really isn’t all that great, for a Playstation FPS, it is ambitious — it’s got nice graphics, good dual-analog controls, a cinematic design, and more.  Unfortunately, it also has horribly close pop-in, completely linear level designs, and formulaic shooting.  The game is quite playable, and is even fun at times, but I can really see the limits of the system when I play this game. The level designs are somewhat bland because of how linear they are, for one, and that popup is distracting, and makes the game harder too.  I do like the video clips — the presentation is pretty good — but the actual gameplay isn’t on that level.  And while this is completely genre-standard, it is silly how you’re this secret agent supposedly sneaking around… while you slaughter hundreds and hundreds of Nazis.  Yeah, that makes sense.  Also, while you theoretically are helping some French Resistance fighters, don’t expect to ever see actual allies, or civilians for that matter; only Nazis to shoot.  Still, for its platform this is a decent game.  It’s nowhere remotely as good as most any N64 FPS, but for the Playstation it’s decent, and as I said, can be fun in bursts.  And yes, the dual-analog controls do work well, for people who like that control style.


MediEvil II

Third-Person Action.  One player, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  I’ve owned this one for a long time, but quit early on and never have gone back.  I didn’t like it that much at the beginning, and didn’t keep going.  The graphics are your usual PSX 3d bad, and the gameplay’s average to subpar.  I also dislike that this game drops the original’s medieval theme for a modern setting; it’s called MediEvil, darnit, not “ModernEvil”!  Sure, you still control the medieval knight Dan, but the scene change is unfortunate.  More unfortunate is the gameplay, which is the same mediocre, poorly-controlling mess that was the first game.  First game, second game, or PSP remake of the first game, this series has bad targeting controls, small levels, and subpar gameplay.  I’m not quite sure why this series was popular.  People who didn’t own PCs or N64s, perhaps?  But there are much better 3d action games on PS1 than this… oh well.  Average at best, probably below that.


Mega Man X6

Platformer(2d).  One player, has saving (1 block).  I like Mega Man and the various Mega Man platform-action series a lot, and got both X4 and X5 for the PC back when they originally released.  I loved X4 and liked X5, but had to wait a long time, until I got a PS1, before I could finally play X6.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, with how I’d heard that it was by far the worst of the three, and indeed, it is by far the worst of the three, unfortunately.  As a series fan I had to get it, and I don’t regret that as the game has some interesting stage designs, but it’s quite flawed.  Mega Man X6 is also far too hard.  That is the main thing I get from the game, it’s too hard.  The game was clearly a rushed production, releasing less than a year after X5 and late in the Playstation’s life.  The story is the worst of any Mega Man X game up to that point, and the difficulty level was jacked up again; X5 was hard enough, but this goes too far.  Only Mega Man 9, the Mega Man Zero series (Zero 1 particularly), and Mega Man & Base compare to X6 in difficulty, as far as Mega Man games go.  The levels are varied and interesting though, and really are the best thing about this game.  The gimmicks in the various stages are unique and different.  There’s some pretty cool stuff here, and it’s great to see another 2d Playstation game because it actually has good graphics, unlike so many 3d games on the platform.  It’s just too hard.  I haven’t even gotten to the Sigma levels.  Also on PS2 and GC in the Mega Man X Collection.


Midway Presents Atari’s Greatest Arcade Hits: The Midway Collection 2

Collection.  Two player, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  The Midway Collection 2 includes seven games: Root Beer Tapper, Moon Patrol, BurgerTime, Blaster, Splat!, Joust 2, and Spy Hunter.  The emulation is about as good as you’ll find on the PS1, which is nice.  There is also some bonus material including developer interview videos for some games.  There’s even a trivia game exclusive to this release that you will have to beat in order to see the videos.  The actual videos, art, etc. are mostly also available in Midway Arcade Treasures 1, which also has five of these seven games in it, but still, it’s a nice inclusion.  But those other two games bear special mention.  While many of these titles have re-appeared in other Midway collections, two have not; you won’t find Burgertime in any more recent Midway collection since that Data East original that Midway had rights to for a while reverted to Data East liscencing years ago and thus now is in Data East collections, and Moon Patrol similarly is a game that Midway had rights to for some time, but somewhere around 2001 lost the rights to.  Moon Patrol is also in the second Dreamcast Midway collection, but that was the last time that the game has been re-released anywhere, I believe.  There must be some rights issue, because it hasn’t been released on any videogame console since the DC.  There was a 2005 cell-phone release called Moon Patrol EX, but that’s it for anything after that DC collection.  So for Moon Patrol in particular, this PS1 collection is actually interesting; this is one of the very few accurate home console releases of the game.  The other five titles, though, are also available in better forms in the first Midway Arcade Treasures collection for GC, Xbox, and PS2.  Also on PC.


Mobile Light Force

Shmup.  Two player.  “Mobile Light Force” is actually Gunbird, a good 2d top-down bullet-hell shmup from Psikyo.  Gunbird has a somewhat silly, cute theme, and is a hard but entertaining game.  The game has seven difficulty levels and you need to play through two loops before it ends and you can input your name, though of course it won’t save it unless you write down the score or something, because the port was was butchered in localization and is much worse than the Japanese Playstation or Saturn versions.  Still, the core game is still here and is fun.  All of the levels are intact, and it’s still a good game.  Still, the major alterations, most notably the removal tate mode, the cutting of the entire story, the removal of high score saving (and any other saving too), hurt the game a lot.  They even changed the names of several of the characters for no good reason.  Really, import the Saturn version, or play the English-language version of the arcade game, if you want to understand the endings. If you just want to play the core game though, this is there in the US PS1 release.  The levels themselves, at least, haven’t been changed, and the actual game is great Psikyo (a company founded by the Sonic Wings/Aero Fighters series creators) shooting action.  It’s hard but great fun as you try (and fail) to dodge the screens full of bullets.  I like 16-bit style shmups better than this bullet-hell-ish stuff, but still, Psikyo shmups are great, even if I’m pretty bad at them.  Arcade port also on Saturn (Japan only) as Gunbird.


Mort the Chicken

Platformer(3d).  One player, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Mort the Chicken is a short, easy, and low-budget 3d platformer.  In the game you play as a chicken in an alternate world where chickens are sentient.  Specifically, you are Mort the Chicken, a childrens’ TV show host, and evil cubes have invaded and kidnapped all the chicks.  Obviously you can’t have a show without them, so you’re off to rescue them all from the evil cube menace.  Yes, really, that’s the plot.  The story is told through CG-rendered cutscenes between levels, and they’re one of the highlighs of the game, as they can be silly and amusing at times.  Yes, expect a lot of chicken jokes, but at least they’re sometimes funny.  This game was clearly a budget title.  Still, though it’s got a lot of problems, the core platforming is actually okay, and during the (very short) time that this game lasted, I did in fact enjoy it.  The graphics are good for the system, and the levels are laid out well and it will take some thought to collect everything.  It’s hard to actually die, but collecting all of the required and optional pickups successfully will be more difficult.  However, each level is small, and there aren’t very many of them in the game, so this really is a game that will only last a couple of hours at most.  Don’t pay more than a few dollars for this one.  I can understand why it got low scores.  Still, I was entertained enough that I don’t regret playing this game; it’s short, easy, and small, but it’s fun in its low-budget, simplistic way.  I guess I like this in the same way that I enjoyed games like Rock & Roll Adventures or Anubis II on the Wii, except here there are moderately silly CG videos as well as low-budget 3d platforming.


Motocross Mania

Racing.  Two players, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Motocross Mania is a bad, low budget dirt-bike racing game.  As the name suggests, in this game you race on motocross circuits.  The graphics are poor, controls are not that great, and track designs largely uninteresting.  While it is a later PS1 game, this game looks older than it is.  Overall this game is not at all worth playing.  There’s nothing here to interest much of anyone, I think.  Despite that this game was apparently successful, because it has several sequels that I have not played.


Moto Racer: World Tour

Racing.  Two players, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  While this game is theoretically the third game in the Moto Racer series, really it has nothing at all to do with the first two.  While Moto Racers 1 and 2 are outstanding arcade-style motorcycle racing games that I very highly recommend, particularly on the PC (MR2 is one of my favorite PC racing games of the ’90s!), World Tour ditches that entirely for a more realistic (and less interesting) design style and arcade/sim hybrid controls.  It also drops the videogame-style tracks from the first two games in favor of boring real-world style tracks.  The game does still have both motocross and superbike modes, so you can race both racetracks and superbike dirt courses.  Neither type are interesting compared to the fun videogame tracks from the first two games.  The controls aren’t that interesting either; very average slightly-simmish stuff here.  Again, it’s absolutely nothing like Moto Racer.  Even though I went into this game expecting it to be not very good, I still was very disappointed simply because it was the first of the games that ruined what had previously been, in my opinion, the best motorcycle racing game franchise ever.  I imagine there was some kind of audience for this game, but I’m not in it.  But even sim-racer fans can surely find a much better PS1 motorcycle sim than this one; it’s not exactly a hardcore sim, but it’s no good as an arcade game either.  Skip this and get the first two on GOG.com.


N2O: Nitrous Oxide

Tube shooter.  Two player, has saving (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  N2O is a tube shooter. It was somewhat inspired by Tempest 2000, but it’s nowhere near as good as that classic.  I was hoping for this game to be good, but I just don’t like it very much.  I haven’t played this game as much as maybe I should, but I find it somewhat boring and not as fun as it seems it should be.  The game’s speed is somewhat slow, so you don’t feel like you’re going really fast.  On the other hand, once your speed does increase, as it will gradually (very gradually…), it is sometimes too fast, because the enemies can zip past you and kill you without you ever being able to see them.  The balance just isn’t that great.  Honestly, a static setup like Tempest 2000 probably would have been a better idea.  I do like the graphics though, the game has a great, moving “psychedelic” look to it, obviously T2k inspired.  There’s two player multiplayer too.  It’s just… not fun enough, and feels slow.  Play T2k (or Tempest X3) instead.


Namco Museum Vol. 1

Classic Collection.  1 player, saves (1 block).  Namco Museum volume 1 was Namco’s first collection of some of its classic games.  There are only six (sort of seven) games in this collection.  Unfortunately, most 5th gen classic collections only include two to six games, very rarely more.  This collection includes Pac-Man, Rally-X and New Rally-X, Galaga, Bosconian, Toy Pop, and Pole Position, so seven games technically, but the two versions of Rally-X are very similar.  Toy Pop is obscure and I hadn’t heard of it, but the other ones are more popular.  The ports are mostly good, but games that originally had vertical monitors, like Pac-Man, aren’t quite as good looking here as they are in the arcade, or in newer, higher-resolution releases.  That’s really the main issue with this collection; while it was pretty cool back when it first released, now all of these games are avaialbe in newer collections with more control options, more accurate ports of the arcade games, and more features.  The game does save your best scores at least, which is nice.  However, there is one thing that makes the PS1 Namco Museum collections interesting, and that is the “Museum” element.  Each Namco Museum game has a 3d museum you can wander around, full of objects related to the games in the collection.  Many classic collections include a gallery of images of artwork, posters, etc. related to the games, but not all of them do; even many Namco Museum collections omit the content present in the PS1 versions, and the 3d museums themselves are PS1-only, for better and worse.  Is it good, though?  Eh, it mostly just makes accessing things slower, if you choose to go to them through the museum.  The graphics are extremely basic, too.  Still, it’s nice to have stuff related to the games to look at, and the museum aspect itself was a new idea at the time, at least, which makes it interesting for that. But as an actual classic collection?  These versions of the games are okay, they play fine, but there’s absolutely no reason to play them here over the sixth and seventh gen collections which these games are in, and all of these games are available in newer Namco collections.  This game is very common, as Namco Museums 1 and 3 were re-released.  The original-label releases are uncommon, but the re-releases, which I and most people have, are everywhere.  I wish I could find 2, 4, and particularly 5, but you never see them,  Ah well.


Namco Museum Vol. 3

Classic Collection.  1 player, saves (1 block), neGcon supported.  Namco Museum 3 is pretty much the same thing as the first volume, or any of the six original-series Namco Museum entries on PS1, except with different games.  This time, you get Ms. Pac-Man, Phozon, Pole Position II, Dig-Dug, The Tower of Druaga, and Galaxian.  As before, the game has a 3d museum with “artifacts” related to the games, such as posters, ads, art, and such, and the games, and saves your scores and options.  Namco did nothing new here, it’s just the same kind of collection with new games.  And once again, these are all games available in newer collections on newer hardware more able to emulate the look of the arcade screen and controls.  At least Pole Position II does have neGcon support for analog turning, so get out your neGcon-compatible controller for that one!  It’s MUCH more fun in analog than with a d-pad.  Beyond that though, once again, this is a fine collection that doesn’t have much of a reason to be played today because of the many newer Namco Museum collections.  The only essential US-released PS1 Namco Museum game is the fifth one, because Legend of the Valkyrie, a great game, has not appeared in any Namco Museum collections since.  Sadly it’s uncommon.  I have the first and third ones because they’re cheap, but there isn’t much reason to play them much today.


[NHL FaceOff ’98]

2 player simultaneous, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported.  NHL FaceOff was Sony’s hockey franchise.  It seems to be pretty bad.  I admit that I didn’t try very hard at the game, but it didn’t seem at all worth it.  The game has okay graphics, but I can’t figure out how to play it; the controls are so ridiculously complicated that since I don’t have the manual, and there is no ingame control listing, I can’t make any sense of them.  Maybe if I can ever find instructions online (I haven’t seen any) or something this game will be playable, but as it is, it seems overly complex to an annoying degree.  Seriously, do you REALLY have to use pretty much every single button for a hockey game?  Why did sports games need to move past their simple 4th-gen 1 to 3 or so button setups, they were so much better that way!  Beyond the confusing controls, this game has all the teams and players, and the usual season and single game modes, as expected at the time.  The graphics are fully polygonal, unlike some games of the time.  But really, there’s no reason to play this game.  It isn’t simple and approachable, so it doesn’t have that classic sports game simplicity that makes some older sports games still fun, but as a simulation it has surely been surpassed many times over by just about any newer hockey game, I would imagine.  Don’t bother with it.


Norse By Norsewest: The Return of the Lost Vikings

Platformer(2d).  Two players, has saving (1 block).  Now, the original The Lost Vikings, Blizzard’s first original title, is a great classic.  I highly recommend playing it, whether it’s on PC, SNES, or Genesis.  The game is a puzzle-platformer with three very different characters, each with a single specialization, who must work together to succeed, and survive.  The interplay (hah) between the three characters is really what made the game great.  I love how each character has a defined role, with almost no overlap.  It really makes each one matter.  The game’s funny writing, good graphics, and general great game design all helped as well.  Only the Amiga and Genesis versions have multiplayer (for up to the full three players, on Genesis!), and the Genesis version has four exclusive levels added in as well, but the PC and SNES have the best graphics.  Still, because of all that added stuff, the Genesis version is worth having.  But that’s the first game, not this one.

Well, Norse By Norsewest is a PC/PSX/Saturn port of the game’s sequel, Blizzard’s The Lost Vikings 2 for the SNES.  Unlike the ports of The Lost Vikings to the PC, Genesis, etc., Blizzard didn’t make the ports of the second game internally, unfortunately; the only did the SNES original.  The base The Lost Vikings 2 game was not nearly as good as the original TLV, though, and that is where the core of the problems lie, but the external port added some more, such as the sometimes iffy quality of the now CG-rendered graphics; on the SNES, the game is all drawn sprites, just like the first game.  At least the console ports do not have some of the flaws of the PC version (that version had no gamepad support, ridiculously, and a few other problems), but still, somehow it’s just not the same.  At least this time all versions do have co-op multiplayer, which is great, though the lack of a 3-player mode is somewhat unfortunate.  But again, TLV2 itself is the core of the problem.  The Lost Vikings 2 simply is not as good as the first Lost Vikings.  The humor is still here, and it’s as funny as ever, but the gameplay and level designs aren’t even close.  Most importantly, I don’t like how the characters are given too many overlapping powers now.  In the first game, the whole point of the game was that the three characters each had different, and complimentary, abilities, and that you’d have to use all three heavily in order to get through.  In the second game though, everyone has some kind of jump or swing move, most characters can attack (Olaf is the only one who can’t), Baleog’s jump/swing move is a has an annoying, hard-to-use grappling hook that sadly replaces the first games’ quite nice bow, and more.  The two new characters, a worlfman and a small dragon, are the worst offenders, as both can both jump and attack and are so versatile that really the only reason to use the Vikings is for the sections which require them.  There are many such areas, but still, this game just does not feel right, and the three orignals, as I said, were changed far too much too. TLV2 is just not anywhere near as good as the first game.  The pure puzzle nature of the original game is heavily watered down with a lot of generic platforming action thanks to the added moves and characters. The game’s not terrible though; it is a decent to good 2d platformer with some puzzles and character switching, and it is fun.  The humor is back too, and is even funnier in the CD release thanks to all the reasonably good voice acting in Norse by Norsewest that the SNES didn’t have — some of the jokes in this game are pretty good.  “That said ‘Do Not Touch’, not ‘Doughnuts’!”  😆  Also on SNES, PC, and Saturn.


Novastorm

Rail shooter.  One player, no saving.  Novastorm is a rail shooter where you control a ship on screen while flying over FMV backdrops.  The game’s an enhanced port of a game previously released on the Sega CD, PC, and 3DO.  The PS1 version is better than any previous versions, though — it has higher quality video and runs at full screen.  As a result is on two discs instead of just one like the previous versions.  This game is also a longbox-only release — it didn’t get re-released in a jewelcase. As a result, it’s not all that common, but it’s not expensive.  As a game, Novastorm is okay.  This is defintiely not a great game, but it manages to be decent, anyway, and I do like the good video quality.  The game has no saving, so you’ll need to play it in one sitting, which is annoying — while it starts off easy, the game gets harder as you go in, and it can be frustrating.  It’s often hard to avoid taking damage, and this kind of “shoot at enemies over video” game has limited interaction.  They can be fun — I do like Starblade, and that one doesn’t even let you move around like Novastorm does, you just control a cursor — but because of the video backgrounds they’re limited compared to games like Star Fox.  I didn’t have the patience to keep playing Novastorm until I was good enough to get to disc two.  Still, the PS1 is a system with a surprisingly weak rail shooter library, so if you want an okay rail shooter for your PS1, maybe look up Novastorm.  It’s not great, but it is an okay sci-fi themed rail shooter with some decently interesting environments, and it is the best version of the game by far.  Also on Sega CD, PC, and 3DO.


Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee

Platform-Puzzle(2d).  One player, has saving (1 block).  Oddworld is another 2d platformer on the Playstation, but it’s a different one from most of the others.  It’s from the Out of this World, Flashback, or Blackthorne school of platformers, but it’s somewhat different from any of those games.  Oddworld is a bit more open-ended, and much more (often dark) comedy-centric, than any of those.  The concept, of Abe the Mudokon, a humanoid creature who needs to escape from villanous tycoons who are planning on killing his whole race in order to use them as flavoring for a soda.  It’s good stuff, and Abe is a good character.  In the game, you solve puzzles, avoid or defeat enemies in a very Flashback or Blackthorne manner, and rescue other Mudokons.  The game uses a system called Gamespeak, where Abe can ‘talk’ to the other Mudokons to give them orders, ask them things, etc.  I’ve never really liked Gamespeak, though; it’s got five or six commands and is kind of confusing, and I just never gave it the time that it’d take to really get used to using it.  Overall, Oddworld is a good game, but be prepared to spend some time learning how to properly play it.  Also on PC.


O.D.T.: Escape… Or Die Trying

Platformer (3d).  1 player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported.  O.D.T. is a horrible atrocity of a 3d, third-person action-adventure platformer game from Psygnosis.  There are four playable characters, and the game is set in a potentially interesting world with flying airships.  However, the good stops the instant the game starts.  I guess ODT is trying to be sort of like Tomb Raider and games like that, but with a pathetically short draw distance, subpar graphics, annoying controls, and uninteresting gameplay, this title turned me off immediately.  The frustrating, no-fun-to-explore large mazelike level designs that you run into right from the start of the game finished off any remaining interest I had.  Mazelike levels might work in a game that’s actually fun to play, but in one like this, it just makes a terrible game even worse.  I regret buying this game.  Psygnosis made O.D.T., and while they made some great racing and puzzle games, their attempts at 3d platform/action games on the PS1 mostly are quite awful, as O.D.T., Psybadek, Rascal, and Rosco McQueen all show (I don’t have those latter two, but they’re bad for sure.).  It’s odd that a company which made great classics like Wipeout and Rollcage couldn’t manage to make, or even publish, a 3d platformer that generation that wasn’t a complete and total F-grade failure, but unless Kingsley’s Adventure is actually decent (haven’t played it), they couldn’t.  If you want a playable Psygnosis platformer on the PS1, get The Adventures of Lomax, a pretty good-looking 2d platformer. I want it!  It’s bascially a spiritual sequel to their quite good 4th-gen platformer Flink.  But O.D.T., this game is AWFUL, a pretty much unplayable disaster.  Also on PC.


Off-World Interceptor Extreme

Racing-Shooter(Futuristic).  Two players, has saving (1 block).  Off-World Interceptor was originally a 3DO game.  It runs in the Total Eclipse engine (see my review of that game below), but plays differently — instead of being a rail shooter, this game is a sort of sci-fi racing/shooter.  I’ve heard that the PS1 and Saturn ports (which add “Extreme” to the title) are a little different from the 3DO original, but I’ve never played that version, so I can’t say exactly how they changed things.  As for this PS1 version, it’s okay to good.  The graphics are dated; you can tell that this started out as a 3DO game. Still, it looks okay.  The game has incredibly cheesy live-action-video FMV cutscenes.  Apparently you’re a bounty hunter of sorts here to blow stuff up, but the military doesn’t like bounty hunters, and they mostly die anyway.  Well, you at least won’t be doing that, at least not if you keep trying that is.  The game actually has Mystery Science Theater 3000-style talking heads on the bottom of the screen commenting on how ridiculous the acting and story are, so it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.  That’s nice to see, given that this game is from the era where everything had FMV and people apparently thought it actually was cool.  As for the gameplay, it’s decent to good.  Again the game has no analog support, annoyingly, but it is an early game, and a longbox title, so I guess that makes sense.  Still, joystick support would have been cool.  The game, again, is sort of a hybrid between a shmup and a racing game.  In each level, the main goal is to reach the end of the level, alive, and before time runs out.  Secondarily, you can try to blow up stuff, destroy the competition or enemies along the way, and such.  You can buy weapons between levels.  For a “racing” game it’s very action-heavy, but for a shooter, it’s got more of a driving component than you’d expect.  The hybrid does actually work, though.  The game starts out moderately challenging, but the bosses are much harder; expect to have to put some time into this one if you want to progress.  It’s cool that it does have a two player splitscreen mode as well.  Overall, this is a solid game.  It’s not amazing, but is somewhat good.  Also on Saturn and 3DO (slightly different on 3DO versus the other two).


ONE

Run&gun(3d). One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  ONE is a run-and-gun shooter.  The game’s levels are each on a narrow, but not flat, path, so you have some 3d space to run around in, but generally not full 3d environments — this game is heavily railed.  It was obviously inspired by Contra, and Assault: Retribution is also a bit like this, but One’s levels, which do have a legitimate platform-jumping element as well as shooting, are a bit different from those games.  Unfortunately, some of that jumping is a pain to get right, and you will find yourself frequently dying in jumps that you thought you’d make.  Dying sends you back to the last checkpoint, too, and checkpoints are often far apart.  Overall though it is in that category of games, and like most of them that generation, it’s got issues.  The graphics are average, for one thing.  The game does try to keep the tempo up with some exciting scenes, as you run away from pursuit or go to defeat your opponents, but the quality of the gameplay doesn’t quite match up to the tempo of the presentation; the music is exciting and explosions constant, but it doesn’t keep me coming back thanks to the actual gameplay.  Essentially they were going for a sci-fi action-movie look, and got it, but it’s a lower-tier movie, not one of the top hits.  Bosses are fought in arenas and can be challenging.  Overall this game isn’t great, and could have been a lot better.  The bland visuals, sometimes annoying level designs, lack of multiplayer, and decent but not great gameplay put this squarely in the middle ground overall.


Pac-Man World: 20th Anniversary

Platformer(3d isometric).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Pac-Man World is an isometric 3d platformer. You view the whole game from the side, moving Pac-Man through various standard 2d and 3d platformer-style situations. Kill the enemies, collect the dots, jump between the platforms, etc. Graphics have decent style, but the usual awful Playstation 3d look that make them look not very good. The isometric perspective also can be tricky, some jumps are hard to determine thanks to the view. However, the game’s not bad. It’s definitely got some fun platforming, and eventually you get used to the perspective. I like the Pac-Man-esque touches like the areas where you stop and collect all the dots in a mazelike area, hunted by ghosts. It’s an alright game that is some fun, graphics and controls aside. Still, the second Pac-Man World game, for PS2/Xbox/GC, is probably better overall.  This game is good, but the strict side-view-isometric camera, and level design, hold the game back.  The not-so-great graphics don’t help either.  3d platformer fans should give this game a look, though.


Pandemonium

Platformer(2.5d).  One player, saves by password only.  Pandemonium is a 2.5d platformer, which means polygon graphics with 2d gameplay.  It’s got nice graphics for early-gen Playstation 3d, good cartoonish art design, fun graphics, and a lot of challenging platforming.  That last point is the game’s downside too, though, as Pandemonium is simply far too hard.  I’ve never been able to get very far in Pandemonium; I don’t know if I’ve even beaten the third or fourth level, actually.  At the start of the game you only have two hit points before you die, and health-ups are quite rare.  The levels are long and full of obstacles, enemies, traps, and tricky jumps, and the result is a ridiculous difficulty level.  It’s too bad, because apart from the difficulty, I like this game a lot — the game looks nice, is fun to play, and has a decent soundtrack.  I love how the levels, though entirely side-scrolling, twist around through a 3d environment.  It’s a cool look and it works well.  I just wish it was a little easier, Pandemonium is way too hard for me.  I’d like to play the sequel.  The password-only saving is kind of lame, too.  Also on PC and Saturn.


Persona 2: Eternal Punishment

RPG(2-3d).  One player, saves (3 blocks per file), Analog Gamepad support.  Persona 2 is an Japanese RPG with a modern day theme.  Specifically, it’s a grind-heavy game with a dark story set in the Shin Megami Tensei universe, where demons frequently enter the human world causing havoc.  It’s the sequel to Persona 2: Innocent Sin, a game not released outside of Japan (though now it does have a fan translation patch for the game, I believe), so part of the backstory is lost.  The US did get Persona 1 (as Persona: Revelations for the PS1), but not the first part of Persona 2.  As for this game though, it’s a little unique in starring a 20-something woman, not a teenage boy like usual for a JRPG.  This is because it is a sequel, and in the first game the characters were teenagers (and you played as a boy, though this girl was a character in the game).  That’s cool, it’s a little different from other JRPGs, Personas 3 and 4 included, where you play as high school students.  The game has 3d environments with 2d sprite characters, and looks decently good.  However, the game has some major problems that make it, for me, absolutely no fun at all.  First, it’s a grind-focused game.  In SMT games, you grind, and then you grind some more, and then you grind some more.  I just do not find dozens of hours of repetitive, identical battles at all fun, and so I can’t enjoy this game.  I want to be strong enough to fight the boss when I reach them, I don’t want to have to wander around levelling for an hour every time just because.  That kind of thing gets me to quit playing games, and that’s exactly what happened here.

Also, I find the game a little disturbing.  In the battle system, you have the choice of either talking to your demon enemies or fighting them.  If you talk to them, you can, if you choose the right dialog options, convince the demons to leave and go home.  Each type of monster says different things and requires different dialog options to convince.  Honestly, this was my favorite thing about the game.  Talking to the monsters and convincing them to leave was much more fun than the standard repetitive battles.  However, you can’t do this much, because if you convince an enemy to leave, you get no XP.  Needless to say, you need lots of that to deal with the mountain of grind, so you usually just have to fight the enemies.  My problem was though, the characters never have any kind of moral issue about this.  I mean, it’s normal in RPGs to kill all kinds of baddies, sure, and then have the characters return to being normal nieve 14 year olds afterwards… but you usually can’t convince enemies to leave like you can here.  If I don’t have to fight them, why should I?  They’re not all irredeemably evil… but no, the entire concept isn’t even mentioned.  Oh well, I think this was just me. 🙂  Oh, I got this game (as one of my first PS1 games) because it’d just been re-released, and I thought that it’d be impossible to find in the future for anywhere near the $30 I paid.  That is true.  However, gameplay-wise, I think I’d have enjoyed that other game that had just been republished, Rhapsody, more… Also on PSP (Japan-only remake).


Project: Horned Owl

Light Gun Shooter.  Two players, saves (1 block), digital or Konami Justifier (Playstation) control.  Project: Horned Owl is a light-gun shooter from somewhat early in the Playstation’s life. This game is from the always-moving school of light-gun shooter design, as opposed to being a sequence of static screens.  Your character is always moving, usually in a set direction such as forwards or sideways.  There is a little camera movement, but not too much.  It’s sort of like Starblade, except on land, and with sprite enemies. The game does not have dynamic 3d camera moves like you see in Virtua Cop or Time Crisis.  It’s also mostly about moving — you’re not standing in place shooting all the enemies on a screen most of the time, which is nice.  I like the changing environments, even if the polygonal 3d environments are quite basic.  Those 2d sprite enemies do look nice enough though.  Overall, apart from the polygons, the game barely feels 5th gen.  But despite the dated design, Project Horned Owl is a fun game.  The graphics may be average, and the game doesn’t push any new ideas, but what it does do it does well.  The game has anime cutscenes between levels, too, which is cool.  The English voice acting isn’t great, but is tolerable.  There’s some radio chatter during the levels, too.  This is a fun game and I like it; I’d rather play this than the other PS1 light-gun shooters I’ve tried, even if in absolute terms it’s probably not as good as some of them.  Note that the Playstation Justifier, or a third-party gun compatible with it, is required if you want to use a gun, so you can’t use this with the Guncon.  I don’t have a PS1 Justifier.  I don’t really mind though, I’m so horrible at hitting anything with light guns that I do at least as well, or better, with the pad.  So yeah, simple but good game.


Project Overkill

Action-Adventure(2d isometric).  One player, saves (1 block).  This game is a not too well known early Playstation game with isometric 2d graphics.  The gameplay reminds me the most of the Crusader games, No Remorse or No Regret.  You run around, collect ammo, solve simple puzzles, kill enemies, and die a lot from the high difficulty level.  Ammo is quite limited, so don’t waste it!  You really don’t want to run out, you’re a sitting duck if you do.  This is a pretty good game, though.  It doesn’t have the depth of the PC Crusader games, but nor did the console Crusader game, so it’s about even probably.  The controls definitely do take some getting used to, as is common with isometric games, but once you get used to it it works.  There are several playable characters and plenty of game to get through, too. This definitely isn’t the greatest game around, the graphics are decent but nothing amazing and the gameplay can be frustrating, but it’s interesting enough to probably be worth a look.  The controls really will take a while to get used to though, they’re somewhat odd and clumsy.  Stick with it and learn the game, conserve your ammo, and use the map!  There is a good game here once you get used to it.


Psybadek

Racing-Platformer.  One player, saves (1 block).  Psybadek is, essentially, a quite bad 3d platformer/racing game on hoverboards.  It really is a terrible game, and is one of the worst games I’ve ever played published by Psygnosis.  Yeah, it’s right up there next to O.D.T. on that list.  The controls are just abysmal; sure, since you’re on hoverboards all the time you might expect slippery controls, but even so, these are horrible!  There’s no analog support, and slipperier controls would be hard to find. Sure, the graphics are nice enough for Playstation 3d (there’s pop-in, but overall it looks good), and there is some variety to the missions, including races, collection-focused stages, boss fights, and minigames, but none of it is even remotely fun.  The races are an excercize in frustration thanks to the controls, and the other stages are even less playable — trying to collect items in this game is horribly unfun!  The trick system is simplistic and not worth bothering with, either.  The theme is odd too; the “cool skateboarders” theme doesn’t fit well with the cutesey environments.  There are two playable characters, male or female, but they’re both equally bad.  There’s no multiplayer to be found either.  Don’t bother with this game, play something else (almost anything else) instead!  A GameFAQs review called the game “Psybadreck”.  Indeed.


Punky Skunk

Platformer(2d).  One player, saves (1 block).  Punky Skunk is a very SNES-ish 2d platformer with a garish early ’90s color scheme and an animal mascot hero with attitude.  But wait, don’t leave, it’s actually decent. 🙂  The game does have saving on the map between levels, but other than that and the CD audio, it’d be easy to mistake this for a 16-bit game, from the not very next-gen 2d artwork — Punky Skunk is no competition for Rayman, graphically — to the Genesis-era Sonic-inspired “cool” anthropomorphic skunk hero.  The game, though, is good.  It’s not very long, and isn’t that hard either, but while it lasts the game is good, solid 2d platforming fun.  In Japan the character was just supposed to be cute, not “tough” as the ‘Punky’ name suggests; they tried to make him cool by giving him the name Punky Skunk, but the saccharine cuteness of the actual game is unaltered.  If you like cute, fun mascot platformers, though, this one’s probably worth looking up, because it’s a fun game.  Punky has various costumes he puts on in different levels, so in one level he’s in a bright pink rollerblading costume, then in the next a neon green flight suit or something like that.  Yes, this game is very early ’90s.  It’s simple, but fun, and I like it.


Putter Golf

Sports.  Four player (with multitap), saves (1 block).  Putter Golf is a budget 3d minigolf game.  Originally from the Simple 1500 line, it released in the US for even less, I believe.  The game has a small number of holes, and I beat the game in a short amount of time.  Do not expect length from this game; there’s a little bit of replay value, to try to do better on the holes, but not too much.  It’s also too bad that the game is digital control only.  Fortunately, however, while it lasts, the game is fun.  Each hole has a different design, and some have some interesting, and somewhat challenging, obstacles to figure out.  These include things like warp holes which will send the ball somewhere else in the hole, bounce-limiting walls to keep you from hitting over a barrier, and conveyor belts which will move the ball to the end of the belt if you land it on it.  Sometimes these things are good, other times bad.  I liked the challenge of figuring out how to get a passing score on each hole.  It’s unfortunate that the experience is over so, so quickly, but still, for a very low budget, cheap game, this game isn’t that bad.  The main problem is the very limited amount of content, but at least what’s there can be fun.  This game was a pleasant surprise, I liked it.


R4: Ridge Racer Type 4

Racing.  Two player, saves (1 block), has neGcon, Jogcon, and Analog Gamepad support.  The fourth game in the Ridge Racer series, R4 is popular among Playstation fans, but I don’t think it’s that special.  I don’t like its graphics as much as Ridge Racer 64’s, and the gameplay is classic Ridge Racer, which means extreme frustration as you try to catch up to that guy in first who you might, if you race nearly perfectly, catch on the last turn.  This game has more content than the previous games in the series, with more tracks, more cars, a real campaign mode for the first time, and more, but the gameplay is what matters, and I just don’t like Ridge Racer’s style that much.  R4’s new drifting controls are more controllable than RR64’s auto-drifting, but the controls are only slightly better overall.  It’s still Ridge Racer, and though it’s okay, I still don’t find it that fun.  There is 2 player splitscreen.  Unfortunately the game doesn’t work in neGcon mode with the Performance Dual Impact gamepad; menus work, but ingame you can’t move.  It will work fine in Analog Gamepad mode, though.


Ridge Racer Turbo Mode (R4 Bonus Disc)

Racing.  One player, saves (1 block), neGcon only for analog.  The Ridge Racer Turbo Disc is a bonus disc that came with the game that includes a demo of the original Ridge Racer for PSX, and a 60 fps version of it as well showing what they could do with the Playstation now.  This really shows how ridiculously limited in content RR was, it’s got about 1 1/3 tracks and that’s all apart for mirror and reverse modes.  This disc’s version is even more limited, because there is only one other car on the track; at least in the original release you had a full field of opponents.  Maybe they couldn’t hold up the 60 fps with more than one other car?  Whatever the reason, it’s kind of lame.  Also, there’s still no multiplayer or Analog Gamepad support.  Um, why didn’t they at least put in Analog Gamepad support?  That would have been nice.  And like R4, this disc doesn’t work with the Performance Dual Impact gamepad in neGcon mode, and there’s no dodge here; for analog you’ll need a wheel or real neGcon.  Argh.  The best thing on this disc was definitely the Klonoa demo.  Heck, that was probably the best thing in the whole package, R4 included.


RayCrisis: Series Termination

Shmup(2.5d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported.  RayCrisis is the third and last game in a shmup series that also includes RayStorm (the second game; aka Layer Section II) and RayForce (the first game; aka Galactic Attack or Layer Section).  The original game is a slightly gimmicky but great 2d shmup, but the other two are 2.5d, so the graphics don’t hold up nearly as well.  RayCrisis is a decent to good game, but I don’t think it’s nearly the game that Galactic Attack is.  The basic gameplay is similar, though — you fly along in a ship with both a gun and missiles.  You can use the gun, but most of the time you’ll be using the missiles, which lock on to targets in the background.  Many enemies start in the background before coming to the main plane, so if you’re good with the missiles, you won’t use the guns so much.  If you fail to kill enemies, the game will actually put fewer on screen as you progress, so the game will make itself easier for people not as good, or harder for the reverse.  The game has a cyber theme and which looks decent, as the entire game is supposed to take place inside a computer, but for that I’d probably rather play Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth for N64 (that game had a cyber-style level in it).  Like that game, this one also has three ships to choose from, each with different weapons, and one is better than the other two.  Also, the game is even shorter per playthrough than most shmups, as the arcade mode is only three stages long.  You choose which three of the levels you play through each time before starting, essentially.  There is an added mode where you play through all the levels, but it’s easy, as you have full weapon power there at all times.  Still, with many paths to take and the challenge of trying to get through while killing more of the enemies and thus seeing the harder route there’s plenty to do here if you want to master the game, and it is a good shmup.  Worth getting, but not for too much (I paid only a few dollars).  The first in the series is the best.  Also in arcades and on the PC.


Rayman

Platformer(2d).  One player, saves (1 block).  Ah, Rayman… Rayman 1 is a classic 2d platformer from the mid ’90s that was released on a variety of platforms. I got it for the PC back around 2000, and found it incredibly difficult and frustrating, but beautiful graphically and very well designed. It’s the same on Playstation as it was on PC, a very nice looking game with incredibly difficult and frustrating gameplay. The limited lives and continues are also a real pain, sure you can save but eventually you run low and have to beat levels with very few lives, increasing the difficulty even higher. I’ve never got anywhere near the end of Rayman, it’s just too hard. Band Land is particularly insane in challenge.  That’s too bad too, because the concept, graphics, gameplay, and design are all great… they just went overboard with the challenge and frustration.


Rival Schools: United by Fate

Fighting(2.5d).  Two player, saves (2 blocks, one each for each disc), digital only.  Rival Schools is a 2.5d fighting game from Capcom.  The game has a Japanese high school theme, as each group of characters comes from a different school, literally.  As wtih most of Capcom’s polygonal fighting games that generation, it’s a side-view game, so there’s no real 3d environments here.  I haven’t played it a huge amount, but from what I have, I think that it’s mediocre and not as good as I was hoping based on the pretty cool packaging.  It’s not awful, but I just don’t find it that fun.  The game’s kind of slow, the graphics are ugly, the gameplay thoroughly mediocre… games like this are why 2d fighting games were so, so much better that generation, really.  For a polygonal fighting game that gen this isn’t THAT bad, I guess, but I don’t like this very much.  The pacing, moves, speed, game flow… somehow it just doesn’t work, compared to, say, a 2d Street Fighter or Darkstalkers game.  C-grade stuff, maybe.  Why is this two discs with two different save files, again? They’re not that different… in the original Japanese version the second disc has an exclusive mode where you can train up a character, but because it had a lot of Japanese text in it, Capcom cut it out instead of bothering to translate the thing.  Jerks.  The result is that the two discs are so similar in content that it’s hard to tell why they needed two; the main differences are just in minor balance changes and pretty much nothing else of note.  It’s the same unintersting game on either disc.  This game’s sequel, Project Justice for the Dreamcast, is a true 3d fighting game, and is also a vast improvement over this one, and is a truly great game (though it too also has a cut, but interesting sounding Japanese-only text-heavy mode, annoyingly).  Play that one, and skip this unless you really want to see Project Justice’s backstory.


Road Rash 3D

Racing.  Two players, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Road Rash 3D is not a very popular game.  The first of three polygonal Road Rash games on the PS1 and N64, this game is blamed for being the first of four straight poor Road Rash games that eventually would cause this once-popular series’ demise.  The first 5th gen Road Rash, though, the 2d-sprites-in-3d-environments 3DO Road Rash game, is widely popular with the series’ fanbase, and is considered probably the best game in the franchise.  However, while I think it is an okay game, I do not love Road Rash (3DO/etc.).  It’s probably because I don’t like any of the Genesis games either; they’re just too flawed, in my opinion.  The 3Do one may have much better framerates than the Genesis, but it still has the annoyingly cruel crashes where if you crash near the end of a race you’re doomed, which is annoying with races as long as it has.  I don’t find the fighting all that exciting either.  I have 3DO Road Rash for the PC, and it’s decent, but has never interested me enough to hold me for more than a couple of races.

So, when I picked up a copy of this game for a dollar or so, my expectations were very low.  Well, it exceeded them.  Indeed, this is probably actually my favorite Road Rash game, oddly enough.  Some of the reasons why I see this one criticized online are reasons why I like it, in fact, most notably that this is a game more focused on the racing, and less on the fighting, than better-reviewed games like Road Rash 64 or 3DO Road Rash are.  Well, Road Rash 64 may have gotten better scores than this game, and it did, but I don’t think it’s very good, while I like this one.  That this game focuses on the racing, while that one is much more about combat, is certainly part of why.  Still, Road Rash 3D does have some downsides.  First, the graphics aren’t very good.  The 3d polygonal visuals have aged very badly, and like games like Test Drive 4, the game is highly pixelated.  There’s no other version of this one to play, though, it’s PS1 exclusive.  Also like Test Drive 4, this game has the absolutely insane design decision that in analog mode, acceleration and braking are done by the right stick ONLY.  The buttons do nothing.  It’s so, so horrible!  I mostly play this with the d-pad.  Still though, this is a decently fun motorcycle racing game.  The tracks may be ugly, but they are fun to drive through and the game grabbed me right from the start in a way no other Road Rash game has.  The course designs, which like the later Road Rash 64 are a network of roads that are sectioned off into segments you will drive on, a design also seen more recently in games like NFS High Stakes 2010, for instance, works well.  There’s plenty of challenge here in both the course layouts and enemy AI. Overall Road Rash 3D has some problems, but while it may be a mediocre Road Rash game, it is a fun arcade-style racing game, and I, at least, much prefer the latter to the former.


Rollcage: Limited Edition

Racing(futuristic).  Two players, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad and neGcon support.  Rollcage is a racing game from Psygnosis that was developed by ATD.  It’s a fantastic game, maybe even better than Psygnosis’s great Wipeout series, and really is a series that I wish would come back.  I first played the demo of Rollcage on the PC, and bought Rollcage Stage II for PC back when it came out, so I haven’t bought the second one on PSX, but I did get this one because I didn’t have it for PC.  That was a good decision, as this game is great.  Rollcage has great, challenging gameplay, great graphics, variety, style, music… Rollcage has it all.  There really isn’t anything negative to say, except that the sequel is even better.  One major change between the two is that in this first game, you only get championship points for your finishing position.  In Stage II, however, you also get points for damage done to both other cars and buildings in the environment.  That change makes Stage II a much more varied game; you can shoot at other cars in this one, and blow up buildings, but as you don’t get much back for it, it’s a much better strategy to try to stay on the road and win the race.  And on that note, getting used to Rollcage’s handling takes time, because it’s very tricky and you spin out with barely a tap.  You can drive on walls and ceilings as well, and will go flying in any imaginable direction on a regular basis.  Don’t give up though, because it’s that handling that makes Rollcage what it is.  I wouldn’t want it to be any different.  It does make the games hard, but it also makes them great.  Oh yeah, and the flashy weapons are fun, too. 🙂  This Limited Edition release comes packed with a soundtrack disc.  Also on PC.


San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing

Racing.  Two player, saves, has Analog Gamepad and negCon support.  San Francisco Rush for the Playstation is known for being a horrible port of this great arcade classic.  Most reviews of the game completely tear it apart.  Now, SF Rush for arcades is one of my favorite arcade racing games ever, and may indeed be my overall favorite arcade racing game.  The N64 version is fantastic as well; sure it has blurry textures and is incredibly difficult, but otherwise it’s fantastic.  The N64 version added three new tracks to the game too, which are also present in the second arcade version, SF Rush The Rock, too, for a total of eight (including one hidden track from the Rush the Rock arcade machine).  This version… is not Rush the Rock, let’s just make that clear.  Playstation SF Rush is a port of the original arcade game only.  There is one new track added, but it’s nowhere near the quality of the three new tracks from the N64 game, so it’s not a big loss that it’s only available here.  And why are the Rush the Rock tracks not here, when this version released some time after the N64 port?  It’s obvious that Midway didn’t care about the PS1 as much as they did the N64.  I’m fine with that, but it did result in some bad Playstation games.  The graphics of this version are indeed poor, the popin much too close, and the gameplay nowhere near as good as the arcade or N64 versions of the game.  However, it IS still Rush, so I do still enjoy it; even if it’s ugly and lacking, the core of SF Rush is intact.  There’s no real reason to play this version, but even so, I’m happy that I have it.  It’s actually a little better than I was expecting, compared to all the criticism I’ve seen of this game over the years.  It is indeed poor compared to the other versions of the game, but on its own, and for the PS1, it’s not THAT bad.  For the Playstation, it’s more just below average than anything.  That is indeed disappointing, but this game is playable, and occasionally even a little fun.  I would highly recommend playing a better version of the game instead, though.  One odd note: while the game is supposed to have a purple disc with the word “RUSH” printed on it, mine is a misprint or something and it’s uncolored and has no logo at all.  The only text on the disc is the ESRB rating and the copyright text.  Yeah, it’s odd.  The game itself plays fine, however.  Other versions of the game are in arcades, N64, and in Midway Arcade Treasures 3 for the GC, Xbox, PS2, and PC.


Sea-Doo HydroCross

Racing.  Two players, saves (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Sea-Doo HydroCross is effectively the sequel to the previous year’s Polaris SnoCross.  While that game had a later N64 port, the N64 port of HydroCross was, sadly, cancelled.  Screenshots exist, but not the game.  This PS1 version was released, but probably thanks to its mid 2001 release date and the studio’s mixed history, it got very little coverage and even less attention.  Polaris SnoCross is an okay game, and I do like it, but it didn’t exactly get great reviews.  As for this one though, I can’t even find a single review on the web, or even a Youtube video of gameplay!  So, before actually playing it, I was unsure about if we’d (N64 fans, that is) actually missed anything of note with this one, or not.

Well, now that I have played it, I’d say that we did: Sea-Doo HydroCross is good!  The game has good graphics, music, level designs, and gameplay.  It’s a bit short, but is a somewhat low budget, but well-designed, quality game.  It has good visuals for the PS1, and the level designs show that.  It does have popin, and doesn’t really have wave effects, so don’t expect anything that tries to match Wave Race 64’s unparallelled wave effects and physics.  Even so though, for a flat-water water racing game, the physics are solid.  Overall the graphics are pretty good, and the music is great as well.  HydroCross has a good soundtrack that keeps the tempo up and fits the game well.  The eight tracks are also good.  Tracks like Venice and the Paris Sewers both look good and play well.  I particularly like that some of the tracks do have shortcuts and multiple paths, as was also true in SnoCross.  Some tracks are tough, but it’s good to have some challenge, and with practice you will get better; memorization helps!  Each track looks completely different, too; it’s great that it has variety.  As for the difficulty, sure, it’s not very hard to get through the first half of the game, but it does get more difficult once you get to the second circuit, so it’s not quite as short and easy as SnoCross was.  Despite the challenge in the second half this game is still short overall, but at least it’s a solidly fun game while it lasts.  The one real problem I noticed was that I had a lot of trouble pulling off the stunts with the analog stick; they seem to work fine on dpad, but almost never worked on analog.  Oh well, stunts really aren’t necessary.  Overall, this is a good game.  You race around a nice variety of water courses on your jetski, trying to beat the competition and win the races.  As with SnoCross, you can save between races, which is nice.  Overall, good game.  It’s not too long, but is fun.  I don’t know if this game is quite a hidden gem, but does deserve better than to be completely overlooked and forgotten as it has been.  This game may be unknown, but it shouldn’t be.  This games’ limited budget does show, but even so it is one of the best water racing games on the PS1.  Only Hydro Thunder compares.


Sheep

Puzzle.  One player, saves (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Sheep is a puzzle game, port of the PC game of the same name.  It’s a top-down 2d game where you, well, herd sheep.  There are several characters to choose from, including a rocker version of Bo Peep, a sheepdog, and several more.  The game has a silly sense of humor, which is nice.  The plot is entertainingly odd, for instance — the sheep aren’t normal Earth sheep, you see.  They are actually aliens who just look like sheep, but are stupid and easily misled, much like real Earth sheep, or more gameplay-appropriately, Lemmings.  A top-down take on Lemmings was the obvious major inspiration here.  That’s fine though, considering how great a game Lemmings is.  Sheep isn’t quite up to Lemmings’ level of quality, as the budget just wasn’t there and the puzzles get frustrating sometimes due to how difficult herding your sheep in the correct way can sometimes be.  It gets quite aggrivating when they kill themselves over and over while you’re trying to keep them away from those obstacles.  Even so, overall it’s a good puzzle game with some amusing graphics and challenging and (usually 🙂 ) fun gameplay.  Also on PC.


ShipWreckers

Vehicular Combat.  Four player (with multitap), saves (1 block).  ShipWreckers is a Psygnosis game also released for the PC. As such, it has the usual reasonably good graphics (as far as the PS1 can do anyway) Psygnosis PSX games usually have, which is nice. This one has good gameplay, too.  It’s a 3d, top view pirate ship action game. You sail your little ship around, shooting at baddies, picking up weapons and powerups, and wiping out the enemies. You can fire left and right, with your left and right broadsides, each on a different button. The levels are large and get complex, and have plenty of exploration and stuff to find in them.  There is a nice variety of weapons, too. The game’s challenging, as expected from them, but a lot of fun. This is a pretty good game.  Sailing around the game’s levels, defeating enemies and finding the way forward, is fun and the game is well designed.  I only wish it had analog support, the digital-only controls hold the game back versus the PC version.  Also on PC.


Shooter: Space Shot

Shmup(2.5d).  One player, saves (1 block).  Space Shot is a very low budget shmup.  The game has 2.5d graphics and anime-style prerendered CG cutscenes, in Japanese with English subtitles.  The designers tried to put some depth in the game system, but it’s not needed to actually beat the game — just basic moving and shooting will do fine for that with minimal trouble.  It’s only in the trial mode that some of that depth in the game system comes out.  The graphics are budget, as you’d expect.  The story is generic anime stuff told with prerendered, and dubbed, anime-esque CG cutscenes.  The three characters are all male, I think, but with one of them I can’t quite tell (the manual says he’s male, but who knows).  The story is not original, but it was decent enough that I did want to finish the game.  Of course though, that did not take long.  The shooting action is okay, but nothing great.  So yeah, this isn’t a great game.  It’s not that awful either, though, just a product of its budget.  For something that I don’t think was over $10 new, it’s not that bad.  It won’t hold your interest much longer than it takes to play through once, though.  If you do really like it, the trial mode is probably where most of the depth lies.  It’s quite strange that they put these interesting systems into the game and then made a game which doesn’t require you to use them at all, but that’s how it is.


Shooter: Starfighter Sanvein

Arena Shooter(2.5d).  One player, saves (1 block).  Shooter: Starfighter Sanvein, or simply Sanvein, is a pretty good and unique game.  While also part of the same budget line as Space Shot above, this is a very different game, much higher quality and much more interesting.  The game has good presentation and some cool looking menus.  Very stylish stuff.  Sanvein is an arena shooter, pretty much.  You control a spaceship, as expected, flying through space.  The game uses 2.5d polygonal graphics viewed from an overhead perspective. Except instead of just flying up or right, when starting you are presented with a hex grid.  You start from one point, and the goal is to defeat all of the boss enemies, which are on specific hexes of the grid.  The rest of the hexes have generic, weaker enemies in them.  The battle on each hex, boss or regular, is a single-screen affair where you and the enemies fly around, trying to destroy eachother. The uniqueness comes from two things: first, you have a time limit which only increases when you beat bosses, so you do not get time back that you spend playing non-boss hexes.  Second, however, your weapon power in any given hex depends on the number of adjacent hexes you have beaten, and bosses are tough enough that greater weapon power is often advisable.  Also, you don’t get game over for dying, but lose time instead.  So you need to deal with beating as many hexes around a boss as you can before your time runs out and you get game over.  It’s an interesting system.  The difficulty increases as you progress from level to level, too, as you would expect.  The graphics are average at best, but I do like the menus and sense of style.  Sanvein is an interesting game that’s worth checking out.


Sled Storm

Racing.  Two players, saves (1 block), has Analog Gamepad support.  Sled Storm, from EA, is one of the few snowmobile racing games ever made that is actually a pretty good game.  With solid graphics, good course designs, and good controls, Sled Storm is the decently-budgeted snowmobile racing game that, other than here, has arguably never been made.  Yeah, it’s hard to find a snowmobile racing game that isn’t low budget, but this one is just that.  I was told that this game was good, and indeed, it is.  This is not one of the PS1’s best racing games, but it is a good game.  The game has a circuit-based design and gradually gets harder as you go.  The tracks have some branches and shortcuts, so there’s some variety within each track.  It’s not the longest game, but it’ll take a decent while to beat, longer than something like Polaris SnoCross for instance for certain.  The good controls are nice to see, too; no issues here!  There is a minor trick component in this game, but it’s mostly focused on the racing, just how I like it.  I’ve heard that the game’s PS2 sequel is much more like SSX, so I don’t know if I’d like it as much as this one; I prefer a racing focus to a stunt focus in snow racing games.  So yeah, Sled Storm is good.


Sol Divide

Shmup(2d).  Two player.  Sol Divide is a 2d, side-scrolling fantasy-themed shmup from Psikyo.  It’s one of their less-regarded games, but as I love fantasy stuff, I do like the game.  It’s frustrating and you randomly get hit a lot, but the game has good anime-style fantasy graphics and artwork, varied environments, characters, and enemies, and interesting (if a little flawed) game design, with various different spells to collect and use.  There are three different playable characters, and the game has some home-exclusive content too, with both the original arcade game and a second, original mode where you have levels, items, and more going through a longer quest.  Interesting stuff.  Annoying sometimes, as the game is quite hard and isn’t the most predictable, pattern-based shmup around, but fun anyway.  The base game is good.

However, XS Games completely failed in the localization process.  Even though it gets much less attention for it, this game is every bit as horribly mangled as “Mobile Light Force”.  Perhaps even worse, actually.  In that case what was lost were the funny, entertaining stories and endings, some of the character names, high score saving, and the art galleries.  Sol Divide is similar — saving and the story are gone.  The endings are intact this time, but they are left in text-only, untranslated Japanese, which is no better, particularly with how all story before that point, with one line excepted (at a point where you can choose two different routes — the only such point in the arcade game), was cut out.  All the items in Original mode do have their names and item descriptions translated, but that effort was utterly wasted with the game’s biggest flaw — the removal of saving.  You see, in the Japanese PSX and Saturn versions, you can save in Original mode at the beginning or at regular checkpoints in the levels.  When you die you get sent back to the start and lose all of your equipped items as in a roguelike, and the Original mode game is long and full of branching paths, so saving is absolutely essential.  When you mess up, you can load your save and try that part again, without losing your stuff that will be hard to replace, and without having to start from the beginning of the game again.  But… there’s no saving in the US version.  None at all.  This means that when you die, you always lose everything, and get sent back to the very beginning.  It’s absurd that the game actually shipped like this, and that they’d actually do something so stupid as to remove saving… what in the world were they thinking?  I mean, removing the story is one thing, but they utterly ruined a huge part of the game by getting rid of save support!  Ridiculous.  Don’t buy this — import a Japanese copy instead, maybe for Saturn because it’s easier to play imports there.  You’ll have to figure out what items do just by memorization, but at least the game is playable.


Soul Blade

Fighting(3d).  Two player, saves, digital only.  SoulBlade is a 3d fighting game from Namco.  It was pretty popular at the time, and is the first game in the long-running SoulCalibur series, but the first game isn’t very good, at least not anymore.  The game is slow, has iffy graphics, and is just boring.  I have beaten it with a couple of characters and maybe even beaten the adventure mode, but I didn’t like it very much, and this is not a game I ever go back and play.  It’s bland, boring, and not much fun.  Don’t bother with this unless you have strong nostalgia value for the game.  Even then, this might be one best left to your memories… play Soul Calibur instead.  Any Soul Calibur.


Space Griffon VF-9

Mech FPS.  One player, saves (9 blocks).  This game is an early Playstation release, which means a longbox title. Cool, those cases are so much better looking than small jewelcases… As for the game, this is a mech first person shooter. The game’s about a team of people told to enter a colony that has lost contact with the outside world and find out what went wrong. The game has lots of story, as the characters talk to eachother as they explore the place. Fortunately the English dubbing isn’t too bad, and the story’s decent enough anime-ish stuff. There are only a few actual cutscenes, most is just in-engine with talking heads, but it works. The gameplay itself is slow and heavily maze-based, as you wander around the game shooting enemies and going to your next objective points, but it’s decently fun. There is an onscreen map, which is an extremely important part of why I find the game good — no getting lost in this game!this game’s draw distance isn’t too good, but that’s very common in 3d games from this time, and it’s enough to be playable.  While the concept may sound similar to Robotica on the Saturn, in practice the two games are quite different because of different maze design styles, movement speeds, and area layouts.  That game is about going from room to room, while this one is more about corridors.  I’m not sure which one is better, though.  Robotica probably has better graphics, but this one might be the better game.  You can save your progress in this one too, unlike Robotica.  Yeah, overall I kind of liked this game. It’s not bad, nothing amazing for sure but fine at what it does and fun to play.  The story’s decent, and the game’s moderately fun.  Overall, this is a good game.  The worst thing about the game is the crazy amount of memory card space it requires.  Otherwise though, while repetitive, I like it.


Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels

Strategy-FPS.  One player, saves.  I’ve owned this game for years now, but never did play it much… this is definitely something that would be a lot more fun with a PC and a mouse, it’s complex and has a lot of buttons.  The game is a first-person game, but it’s not just a shooter, it has a big strategy component too.  This is a very hard game where you have to manage a squad of soldiers in this Warhammer 40,000-universe game, fighting off huge numbers of Genestealer aliens.  Basically, think marines vs. Aliens, as in the movie Alien aliens.  Your guys are powerful but die easily; the key is killing the enemies before they reach you, but they approach from all sides so repeat play and good strategy will be required to get anywhere in this game.  You can control one character, but also give orders to the team, and this is essential.  The game looks interesting, but playing it with a gamepad isn’t much fun at all thanks to the complex interface.  Oh yeah, and don’t even bother without the manual.  The game is complex and there is no tutorial.  This game was originally released on the 3DO, but I suspect the PC version is probably best.  Also on PC, 3DO, and Saturn.


Spin Jam

Puzzle.  Spin Jam is a simple, low budget puzzle game that rips off Bust-A-Move, but with its own unique twist. In the game you shoot bubbles at a spinning wheel centerpoint. The bubbles will stick to that point, but then by shooting 2 or more bubbles they will pop. When they do this, bubbles on the other side of the spinning wheel will fly off, away from the circle. Your goal is to get bubbles into the colored “petals” surrounding the spinning wheel. As a result, what you try to do is shoot the other side of the wheel from where you want to shoot at, when the bubbles are lined up right to hit the outer edge (I haven’t played this in a few weeks so the details might be slightly off, but that’s about how it works). The game’s alright, but limited — that’s all you do in this game, and it just doesn’t have the depth of better puzzle games like, well, Bust-A-Move. The graphics are pretty average too, the art’s not exactly the best (it’s European “anime-style” art, and has the questionable quality you expect from such things). It’s a low budget puzzle game, though, so how much can be expected… this game does get repetitive, but it’s okay I guess.


Spyro the Dragon

Platformer(3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad supported.  Spyro the Dragon is probably the Playstation’s other best-known platformer franchise, after Crash.  Unlike that series though, the Spyro games are true 3d platformers.  The levels may not be as large as N64 3d platformer stages, but for the system it is a pretty good effort.  The controls are good, and you can hover, charge, and breathe fire too.  You play as Spyro, a small dragon, who has to save all the other dragons from capture.  The game has a very cute theme and was obviously aimed at a younger audience.  The plot is that Spyro is the only dragon who did not turn to stone when the villain tried to turn all dragons to stone, and now he has to rescue them all.  Saving dragons is this game’s version of Mario 64 stars, so you progress by figuring out how to rescue dragons and getting to them.  The game has fairly good graphics for the PS1, and it does a nice job of making some of the areas moderately decent sized, though others are too small.  I do like Croc better than this, but Spyro is a simple, fun 3d platformer.  Probably thanks to the voice acting and conversations between Spyro and the dragons he rescues this feels even more cutesey than that game.  Spyro is also much easier than either Croc title, unfortunately; this game is not very hard at almost any point, and is only average (or shorter) length too.  That is an issue.  Still though, even if it isn’t challenging, it is fun to play.  Spyro is not N64 3d platformer quality, but it is light fun.


Star Ocean: The Second Story

RPG(2-3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad Supported.  Star Ocean: The 2nd Story is one of my favorite Playstation games.  I admittedly haven’t finished it, though I did get to the second disc (of two) so I got well into it compared to most other games on the system.  Star Ocean 2 is an action-RPG.  Developed by tri-ace, the game is a sequel to the Japan-only SNES original (now available in the US in its PSP remake), and comes from the same roots as the Tales series.  The two series indeed have some strong similarities in style and combat, but have their differences as well, some good and some bad.  On the good side, this game is better than most any Tales game.  But on the bad, Star Ocean games never have multiplayer, unlike Tales.  But again on the good side, this game has two main characters, male or female, and the two are actually different — if you like the game it’s worth replaying as the other one, because some parts will be different.

Star Ocean 2 has good sprite art and 2d dungeons and towns along with a 3d world map.  The world map looks ugly, but fortunately you’re not on it all that much, and the drawn elements look good.  In addition to the combat, the game also has a deep skill system.  There are many skills and abilities to learn, including both combat abilities and non-combat ones like painting pictures or learing music.  These abilities also often require items to work, like canvass for painting.  Yeah, it’s a deep game, and I like that about it.  The battle system is good, and you can control any party member while the others do their thing.  Combat is in a 3d area, so you can move around, attack enemies, and cast spells freely.  After battle you can cook various kinds of food to recover some health, if your characters have that skill and you have the right ingredients in your inventory.  You can switch between characters during combat of course.  In addition to the two main characters, who are always in the game, there are eight other possible characters who can join your party, of which you will have six in each game; some are missable, or either/or choices.

Like many Japanese RPGs the game is anime-styled.  The game has a good anime-style story with many twists and turns along the way.  It is mostly following a linear story, but you do make choices along the way, so the game will not play the same way every time, at least not in the details.  There are little side scenes with the characters that add more to their characters, too.  The ending will be made up of a large number of different elements, depending on what you did and which characters you’re closer to.  That’s great to see. Overall the game is deep and complex, but not too hard to learn or understand either, the mark of a great game.  I have heard that there is some extremely difficult optional content at the end of the game, but that the main game itself isn’t so bad.  Star Ocean 2 is a great game, and my favorite action-RPG for the system.  The game has a remake on the PSP that I have not played, but I dislike its redrawn artwork; the original character art is better.  The female lead looks much younger in the new artwork, for instance. It doesn’t really work.  Get this version.  Also on PSP.


Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha

Fighting(2.5d).  Two players, saves (1 block).  The Street Fighter EX are 2.5d Street Fighter games.  That is, side-view gameplay, but polygon character models.  The games were actually outsourced to Arika, so Capcom did not make them internally.  The EX games were not overly popular at the time and don’t seem to be overly well remembered, but they do have a few fans.  I came into this with low expectations, but it is a decent game.  The game isn’t as good as Capcom’s 2d fighting games from that generation, as polygon graphics generally just weren’t quite good enough that generation for fighting games on par with the best 3d fighters, but it is playable and runs at decent speed at least.  The game has a good-sized character selection, including many Arika made and that are as a result exclusive to the EX series, as well as a few from the main franchise.  The game also has some amusing CG FMV cutscenes when you beat it with each character.  Despite being somewhat pleasantly surprised by the gameplay though, it might not really have been worth getting, considering that I got the second game (below) at the same time and that feels like an expanded version of the same thing, but there are a few things in the first game but not the second, most notably a couple of characters that were removed from the second game.  Yeah, I have no idea why they cut Sakura (yeah, the Sakura from Alpha) and Kairi (new character) from EX2, but they did.  So I guess there’s that.  But apart from her and the few other characters that are in EX1 but not EX2, there really isn’t much else going for why to play this game over the second one.  They’re very, very similar games, except in all but two ways (2 missing characters, removed CG endings) the second one is better.  One last thing though — that title sure is silly.  I mean, it’s a Greek “Alpha” symbol at the end, not the word Alpha.  Apparently there was an arcade “Street Fighter EX Plus” release, but still, this title is silly.


Street Fighter EX2 Plus

Fighting(2.5d).  Two players, saves (1 block).  The second and middle Street Fighter EX game, this is the last one on the PS1; EX3 is a PS2 game.  While you might think that because it’s just “Plus” and not “Plus Alpha” it’s a worse game than the previous one, but it isn’t!  Seriously though, this game is very similar to the first one, so it’s another 2.5d side-view fighter.  It is improved, though, with better gameplay and graphics than the first one.  Two characters were removed, as I said in the above review, and four added, so there are more overall.  It’s too bad some were removed, and also unfortunately those CG FMV ending cutscenes have been dropped in favor of just some text boxes, but overall this is definitely the better game.  It runs better, too.  It’s no 2d Street Fighter, but it’s actually not bad.  This series’ 2.5d style is something like that of the Street Fighter IV series, except not quite as good as those games.  Still, it’s decent; this is probably about as good as a PS1 2.5d fighter will get.  I was expecting worse.


Street Racer

Racing(Kart).  Eight player (with multitaps), saves.  Street Racer is an Ubisoft racing game that was first on the SNES, but also saw Genesis (Europe only release), Game Boy, Playstation, and Saturn versions.  The Genesis and GB versions are entirely different, but the PSX and Saturn versions are upgraded versions of the SNES game, which is a pretty good, Mode 7, Mario Kart clone with a 4-player splitscreen mode.  The SNES version is great, and this port is okay.  Unfortunately controls are still digital only, but otherwise it’s good.  However, the Saturn version is quite superior visually to this Playstation version, but it unfortunately didn’t get a US release so it’s import (Japan or Europe) only.  Both the PSX and Saturn versions do have 8 player splitscreen multiplayer with two multitaps, though, which is pretty cool — it’s the only splitscreen racing game on either system with support for more than four players.  All of the other 8-player PS1 racing games are Micro Machines-style ones where the players all share one screen.  Even if the Saturn version looks nicer, PSX Street Racer is still a fun game.  Gameplay-wise it’s still pretty much flat, Mario Kart style, so do not expect Mario Kart 64, but it’s a good game. I’m not sure if I actually like it more than the SNES game, because just because it has better graphics doesn’t mean the gameplay is better, but it is a quality title for sure either way.  Fun game for kart racing fans.  Look up the SNES and import Saturn versions too, though.


Strikers 1945 (II)

Shmup(2d).  Two player, saves (1 block).  This game is actually Strikers 1945 II, but as the first one didn’t have a Western release, Agetec renamed it to just Strikers 1945.  The Strikers 1945 series is a series of shmups clearly descended from Aero Fighters and 1942, and are from Psikyo.  As with those games it is a vertical scrolling shooter with 2d graphics and great, classic gameplay.  The 2d artwork is great and the game runs very well — this is definitely some of the better 2d work I’ve seen on the Playstation.  It’s short but hard and has lots of replay value, like all the best shmups.  The options are similar to the other Psikyo games I have for PSX, Mobile Light Force and Sol Divide, except Agetec didn’t completely butcher this port like XS Games did to those two.  They didn’t remove the high-score saving, most importantly.  There’s no autosave, so you need to remember to save, but at least the feature is there.  This game is great, probably my favorite of the shmups I own for PSX. It was also the first Playstation shmup I bought, the day I bought the system in Jan. ’06, and it was a great choice, I haven’t seen it very often since.  The only removed feature from the US version is Tate mode, for vertical monitors, and it’s quite unfortunate that that mode was cut, but overall it’s a great game, very highly recommended.  Do get an import copy if you want tate mode, though, and that is always the best way to play vertical-orientation shmups like this one.  Arcade port, also on Saturn in Japan though the PS1 version is said to be slightly better.


Super Bubble Pop

Puzzle.  One player, saves.  Super Bubble Pop is a low-budget puzzle game released on the PSX, GBA, GC, and Xbox.  The game got extremely low scores, but I enjoyed it.  The basic game is the same on all platforms, but there’s only 2-player multiplayer on the GC and Xbox — the PSX and GBA don’t have any, annoyingly.  It’s a puzzle game, I expect multiplayer.  What is here, though, is a cheap looking, but somewhat fun and addictive, puzzle game.  The game is sort of 3d, with a polygon character shooting colored bubbles.  You move left and right on an isometric plane, and fire towards the arrays of bubbles.  The bubbles move towards you slowly in patterns, and they pop when you line up three in a row vertically or horizontally.  You can’t shoot up though, so you need to pop a bubble below in order to pop a differently colored one above.  Making horizontal chains is hard, because as soon as the bubbles move forward from the back wall they start from, when you fire to the left or right of a bubble you’ll shoot all the way to the back, and bubbles will stack up, not really allow you to fire again and fill in holes, so to speak.  As a result you mostly make vertical columns.  It’s a little odd, but the simple, classic design works, and despite the abysmal scores this game got, I found myself having fun.  It’s not a puzzle game you’re going to be playing for years, but if you find it cheap it might be worth a thought.  I like Super Bubble Pop.  Also on GC, Xbox, and GBA (with 2 player splitscreen on GC and Xbox, and 2 player link support on GBA).


Syphon Filter

Third-Person Stealth Action.  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad support.  Syphon Filter is a third person shooter with a mixture of stealth and shooting gameplay.  Sometimes you have to sneak around, but most of the time the solution involves shooting people and getting in gunfights.  As third person action games are not a genre I generally find particularly interesting, and modern-day shooters are something that interests me even less I had pretty low expectations for this one, but it turns out to actually be a decent game.  Syphon Filter’s graphics are very Playstationey, so they look bad by modern standards, but for the system it looks okay.  The controls take some getting used to — some functions are not intuitive, and I got stuck at one point late in the first mission because I didn’t know about some of the controls worked and they are not all explained ingame (the manual would help, I hope, but sadly I don’t have it) — but once you get them down, it works, particularly with a dual-analog controller of course.  The controls are a bit clumsy, but the shooting action does mostly hold up.  The level designs are solid, too; they’re mostly linear, but there is often at least a little openness in the designs, and sometimes you can do mission objectives in different orders too.  Overall, okay game.  Better than I was expecting.


Tales of Destiny

Action-RPG(2d).  Four players (with multitap), saves (1 block).  Tales of Destiny, the first of two (US-released) PS1 Tales games, was the first Tales game released in the US.  As with all Tales titles, the game has a traditional JRPG world with action-RPG combat.  The game has the usual overworld, towns, and dungeons layout, with the occasional puzzle to make things more interesting, and follows through a quite Tales-style story.  It’s fairly standard videogame RPG stuff, about a boy with a heroic destiny (of course), but it is decently well told, as usual in the franchise.  The game starts with your hero as a stowaway on an airship, but it’s not much of a spoiler to say that it doesn’t take long before the usual RPG-hero-escapes-burning-village-at-the-start syndrome hits.  Why does almost every RPG have to start that way… oh well, at least they made things slightly different, with the airship and all.  Battles are side-view 2d on a flat plane, as with the first game.  You can move forward and back, fighting the monsters and using abilities.  Like the original SNES version of Tales of Phantasia, in this game you can only ever control the main character the generic warrior hero guy — any other party members will always be AI controlled only in single player.  This is very annoying, as every Tales game since the third one has allowed you to play as any character you want, including the much-maligned GBA remake of Tales of Phantasia.  Unfortunately while this game does have a PS2 remake that fixes the issue, it was only released in Japan.  Too bad.  At least he is a decent character with a somewhat varied move set, unlike, for instance, the Radiata Stories guy, who you were also forced to play all the time but really wasn’t very fun to play as at all… and also unlike that game, ToD has a hidden 4-player mode, which allows other players to control the other three party members, if you have the special item that allows human-controlled other party members that is.  Stahn will always need to be human-controlled though.  Anyway, Tales of Destiny is an entirely 2d game, and it doesn’t exactly push the PS1 much.  Really, this could have started out as a SNES game and I wouldn’t be surprised.  Still, there’s nothing wrong with that, because 2d PS1 games generally hold up well, even if they don’t push the hardware, and indeed, that is true here too.  ToD is a good game.


Tekken 3

Fighting(3d).  Two player, saves (1 block).  I don’t really like Tekken, any of them.  Somehow the series’s style just doesn’t quite work for me, and I would not rank Tekken very high at all in my list of the great 3d fighting game franchises. Tekken 3 here looks great, has very short load times, plays fast and fairly smooth, and has a good amount of stuff to unlock including hidden characters and a beat ’em up mode, but somehow it doesn’t work and I just don’t like it that much.  The beat ’em up mode was fun, but the main game isn’t really.  This is a case where a game is obviously good on an objective level, but I just don’t like it that much.  This is the only PS1 Tekken game I own, I don’t want to spend much for games I just don’t find all that fun.  Beyond the above, I have two major complaints with Tekken: first that the game is too fast.  Matches are over in seconds, while I much prefer fighting games that are a bit slower, like 2d SNK games or the Street Fighter series.  Tekken matches are irritatingly brief; DoA’s fast, but even that series’s rounds take longer than Tekken.  And second, I prefer games with more videogamey movesets and designs, like Street Fighter, to games trying for some faux “realism” like Virtua Fighter or Tekken.  I don’t like 5th gen VF any more than I do Tekken, that’s for sure.  Still though, this is at least better than Soul Blade, certainly, so it’s probably Namco’s best PS1 fighter, though that isn’t saying very much.  I do have Tekkens 4 and 5 on PS2, but they’re just as uninteresting as this game is, or worse because they don’t have beat ’em up modes.  The Soul series improved massively that next generation, but Tekken, not so much.  I guess they thought it was good enough as is; I know lots of people agree with that, but I’m not one of them.


Tempest X3: An Inter-Galactic Battle Zone

Static Shooter.  Two player, saves (1 block).  Tempest X3 is the slightly inferior Playstation port of the Jaguar great Tempest 2000, which is the best game on the Jaguar and one of the best games of the entire fifth generation.  The CD audio soundtrack is pretty cool, but the gameplay changes, including adding many more levels and increasing the difficulty level through changes like making spikes extremely hard to destroy, do not improve the game.  Tempest X3 is still a great game, with good techno music and great psychedelic-style visuals paired with good, classic arcade gameplay, but anyone who’s played the Jaguar version knows that the original really is the best.  I love this game even so though, I’d put it in the upper tier of my Playstation games for sure.  The Jaguar original would rank higher, but this version is still very good.  Interplay slightly messed it up in the porting, but enough of the brilliant T2k shooting and flying action is here for this game to still be an amazing experience.  Even in this altered form Tempest 2000/X3 is one of the best shooters ever.  Also on PC and Saturn as Tempest 2000; all three are the same, despite the name difference, and are not exactly the same as the Jaguar original Tempest 2000.


Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Third-Person Stealth Action.  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad Support.  Tenchu is a simple stealth game.  It’s not little of the depth of a Thief, but for a console game in 1998 did a good job with a stealth system.  You play as one of two ninjas (male or female), each doing a set of missions.  Both characters go through the same environments, but some missions do differ slightly between them; still, replay value is somewhat limited.  In the game, you sneak around killing people from the shadows.  Fun stuff.  Explore the levels, figure out guards’ patterns and how to sneak up behind them, and kill them.  It’s best to avoid getting detected when you can.  The game has an okay story, decent to good gameplay, and average 3d graphics.  It’s definitely got issues, with the sometimes mediocre graphics, with the draw distance, with the controls, and with the simple, pattern-based nature of the gameplay, but it is fun and works.  The voice acting deserves special mention, it’s in that great zone of games with voice acting so bad that it’s good.  Some parts of the game are pretty entertaining due to the sometimes iffy script and awful voice acting… 🙂 I actually beat this game, as I said at the top.  That says a lot.


Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins

Third-Person Stealth Action.  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad Support.  Tenchu 2 is like Tenchu 1, but with slightly improved graphics, a very, very annoying forced-stealth-only first mission, a skimpier costume for the female ninja Ayane, a third unlockable character to play as, and better (and thus much less entertaining) voice acting and script.  Oh, and the controls were changed, and for the worse; I liked Tenchu 1’s controls better.  The base gameplay is the same as the first one, though.  Tenchu 2 is a decent game, but could have been better.  It’s okay, but I like the first game more overall.  The control change is hard to get used to, the first level is just awful, and the “better” script and voice acting don’t have the entertainment value the first one’s did.  Tenchu 2 is still good, though, and overall very similar to the first.  This is a pretty good game.


Test Drive 4

Racing.  Two player, saves (1 block), has Analog Gamepad or negCon support.  The first Test Drive game in some years, Test Drive 4 was the first of a new set of Test Drive games from the later ’90s to early ’00s.  The game shares some things in common with the three original games, but drops any attempt at simulation in favor of a purely arcade-based driving style.  I think that works fine.  TD4 has mediocre but smooth graphics and a decent draw distance.  Expect a LOT of pixelization here.  The game is still a linear-path racer, just like Test Drive 2, and you still go through five checkpoints in each stage.  Test Drive 5 would add some circuit races, but this one does not have them, it’s one-way races only.  Track designs in Test Drive 4 remind me more of Outrun than anything 5th gen; don’t expect full-scale environments here, just a strip of road to drive down, as you try to make the turns and not crash into the oncoming traffic.  That task is much more difficult than it might sound, though, as TD4 is oldschool levels of hard; expect a challenge with this one!  The controls are weird in analog gamepad mode, too — if you want to use the left stick to turn, it forces you to use the right stick for acceleration.  Horrible, horrible design!  I hate having to use a stick for acceleration, it really does not work at all.  Good PS1 racing games might have that as an option, but let you use buttons too.  Unless you can get used to it I’d recommend using the d-pad instead, or a wheel, neGcon, or Performance Dual Impact Gamepad, as with these the acceleration is on a button as it should be.  The Dual Impact Gamepad is great for this game.  Whichever control method you use, though, getting anywhere in this game will take a lot of practice.  In order to finish tracks you will need to be good, memorize the courses as much as possible considering how long they are, and not mess up much.  It is a good game, and I like it, but it is tough.  Regardless, TD4 is a good, under-rated game, much like its two sequels, but with an even more oldschool design than either of them.  Also on PC.  The PC version plays the same, but has much better visuals as you’d expect.


Tetris Plus

Puzzle.  Two player, saves.  Tetris Plus is a puzzle game, obviously.  It’s a port of the arcade game of the same name and had an Egyptian tomb exploration theme.  It includes both a classic Tetris mode and a new puzzle mode where you have to get the professor down to the exit before the slowly dropping ceiling crushes him, by making lines to clear a path for him to drop down.  It’s simple, with straightforward 2d graphics and not that many options or modes, but it’s fun classic Tetris action and plays quite well.  I do kind of wish it was Russian themed, though, that fits Tetris best…  Also on Saturn and Game Boy.


Threads of Fate

Action-RPG.  One player, saves, Analog Gamepad Support.  Called Dewprism in Japan, the US title is much more serious.  I like the Japanese name more.  I’ve finished this game, and it’s a fantastic game that is easily one of my favorite games on the Playstation; indeed, it might be my overall favorite PS1 game.  The game is a platform-action-RPG much like its predecessor Brave Fencer Musashi, but simplified in some ways down to its core.  The somewhat confusing timing and day elements of Brave Fencer Musashi are gone, for instance, replaced with a much more straightforward system where time passes as you progress through the game.  You get two playable characters, each with a completely different storyline and very different play styles as well, improved graphics, and lots of great gameplay throughout.  Threads of Fate has a narrow focus, not a wide one — instead of exploring the world, you have one single hub village from which you set out on various missions in the area.  You revisit many areas multiple times, taking different routes each time.  I really like this design, not every game needs to be about travelling around teh whole world and seeing every country.  JRPGs much overdo that theme, really; PC RPGs have been more likely to use this kind of design than Japanese games.  They should try it more, it works really well when done right, as it is here.  The game is on the short side, but it feels absolutely right, like any more length would just be padding and instead they designed it for the perfect length for the story.  The only reason I could possibly complain is because I liked it so much that I wished it’d last longer, but that’s much more praise than anything else.  It lasts the right amount of time.

Also, there’s replay value by playing as the other character, because the two play quite differently.  Mint, a very spoiled princess, has a quite funny story about how she was thrown out of her kingdom due to her sister and the royal advisor’s scheming.  She has a a weakness, you see… 🙂  Now, she wants the ultimate power of the Dewprism (of the JP title) to get revenge and take over the world… whatever exactly the Dewprism is, nobody’s quite clear on it, except that it supposedly has great powers.  She uses magic spells, and as you progress through the game you gradually get better and better spells.  Rue, on the other hand, has a sadder story.  He is a boy with no memory, who woke up in the middle of nowhere.  He met a woman living there, and he was staying with her, when they were attacked and she was killed.  He’s trying to figure out who he is and who attacked them.  He uses a power that allows him to take the form of his enemies, so instead of upgrading in skills you just find stronger enemies as you go along.  I find Mint’s side much more fun, the entertaining story fits the game better I think, though there is a definite serious side to the story no matter who you play as.  The game does a great job of mixing funny and sad or nostalgic moments, and it never feels wrong.  Every element of the game is done brilliantly, from the platforming to the stories to the action to the RPG elements to the music.  Fun platform jumping, great, memorable bosses, cool dungeons, interesting gameplay mechanics, a good story, and more… Threads of Fate is outstanding.  Play this game!


TigerShark

Vehicular Action(3d).  One player, saves.  TigerShark is an extremely hard 3d undersea combat sim.  The graphics are not-very-good-looking earlier Playstation 3d, the d-pad only controls are not good, and the challenge level is immense.  It feels like a game that could be pretty fun if I could get into it, as I like futuristic vehicular combat sims like this (it’s a bit like a space sim underwater), but the difficulty level makes that hard.  The PC version, with joystick controls, would probably be more fun.  Also on PC.


Time Crisis

Light Gun Shooter.  One player, saves (1 block), GunCon 1 light gun support.  Time Crisis is a port of the first game in this now long-running light-gun-shooter series.  I’ve never loved Time Crisis, but it is a decent game, with the usual cover-based lightgun Time Crisis action you see in all games in this series; you can hide behind an object and be safe, or pop out and shoot at the badguys, so it’s not entirely static.  The PS1 version here adds a new Playstation-exclusive mission, in addition to the arcade original.  The graphics are average for the system, and as usual for the genre the game’s not too long, though the additional content helps.  There isn’t much variety here, though; there’s one gun, no powerups or anything to be found.  The biggest problem with this game, beyond that I’ve never liked this series that much, is that in order to make up for the length, Namco decided made this home port crazy-hard.  The game has a strict time limit, and when you die you get sent back to the last checkpoint.  By the end of the first level, it’d gotten so hard that I found it nearly impossible to progress.  And the game has limited continues too.  Yeah, I haven’t gotten anywhere near the end of this game, and I doubt I ever will.  And there’s no multiplayer support to help you out here, either; this is strictly a single-player experience.  With lots of fire coming at you and a strict continue limit, this game’s difficulty level is up a bit too high.Time Crisis is average or below, overall.  Any Sega light gun game is a far better game than this, and I’d rather play Project Horned Owl too, but this game is okay, I guess.  I wouldn’t really recommend it though.   (Yes, I’m critical of yet another Namco PS1 game.  I’m sure by now people reading this are shocked. :p  Klonoa is the only truly great Namco PS1 game I can think of… maybe also Tales of Destiny.)


TNN Motorsports Hardcore 4×4

Racing.  One player, saves, analog is negCon only.  This game is an early PSX racing game.  Between the poor 3d graphics and the bland, uninteresting gameplay, I doubt many people today will play it for long.  I haven’t.  It’s not the worst thing ever, there just are very few reasons to play it of the very many much better racing games you could be playing instead.  Maybe fans of 4×4 truck racing would get a bit more out of it than I can.  I prefer hovercars with turbo-jets, myself. 🙂  Even 4×4 racing fans probably will find this one disappointing, though; far from being an off-road adventure, in Hardcore 4×4, you’re driving down canyons at all times.  Yes, there are high walls on both sides of the track almost all of the time walling you onto the track.  This visual style was one you saw in the mid ’90s, but it has aged quite badly, and in this case never looked, or worked, very well to begin with.  The game also doesn’t work with the Performance Dual Impact Gamepad in Wheel mode; you’ll need a real wheel or neGcon for this one.  Or better yet, play a different game.  Also on Saturn.


Total Eclipse Turbo

Rail Shooter.  One player, saves (1 block).  Total Eclipse Turbo is a 3DO port rail shooter.  The graphics look about what you’d expect considering that it was originally supposed to be on the 3DO, and the gameplay isn’t much above average for the genre.  It isn’t a bad game — I like rail shooters, and the game is fun — but it’s clearly early and suffers from some definite flaws, most notably the very close, and distracting, draw distance.  You really can’t see very far in front of you.  Also as usual d-pads are not good control schemes for 3d games… still, it does have a good challenge, some variety of settings and environments, some nice weapons, and some cool challenges, such as when you’re going through narrow tunnels.  The biggest enhancement here over the 3DO original is that this version has a save system, while on the 3DO you had to play the whole thing in one sitting.  Important improvement there indeed!  Still, overall, it’s only okay.  The game is definitely a product of its time, and its 3DO roots show through.  Still, on the good-rail-shooter-starved Playstation, Total Eclipse Turbo is worth picking up.  The game has a sequel, Solar Eclipse for the Saturn (and PS1 in Japan and Europe only; the game was called Titan Wars in some regions).  Solar Eclipse has even more live-action FMV video than this game, and better gameplay, but the basic concept is similar.  Enhanced 3DO port.


Tunnel B-1

Vehicular Combat.  One player, saves (1 block).  This review is copied over from my Saturn review because, well, the two versions are pretty much the same.  The gameplay and graphics are pretty much the same on both systems.  Tunnel B-1 is a first-person vehicular combat game.  In the game, you control a vehicle of some kind and have to drive through tunnels, cleansing them of a plague of evil robots and such.  Yeah, it’s a fairly generic concept, and is generic in execution too; there are plenty of other games that do something similar to this, and often a bit better than this one too.  However, it’s not a bad game, just average.  If you like vehicular combat games, you well might enjoy this one.  Drive around, shoot stuff, collect better weapons, try not to die, and make your way through the increasingly complex tunnel networks.  You start out with only basic weapons and in tunnels with only a branch or two, but it gets more interesting farther in.  The game is a challenge from early on, so don’t expect it to be easy.  Still the game never reaches greatness, but it is average shooting entertainment, at least, and can be fun to play.  I enjoyed it just enough to buy the Saturn version even though I already had it for PS1, but I do enjoy vehicular combat games.  Also on Saturn.


UmJammer Lammy

Music.  Two player, saves (1 block).  This is a music game where you have to press the buttons in time.  It’s a spiritual sequel to PaRappa the Rapper, except with a lamb character this time, and rock music instead of rap.  It’s also very difficult; I’m utterly horrible at it and can’t beat a single level.  The graphics are good and the songs funny, but I’m utterly hopeless at this genre.  Even my cousin, who liked PaRappa (I’ve never played that one, but I imagine I wouldn’t like it at all), had trouble with this game… apparently it’s harder than that game is.  The songs and lyrics are silly, amusing stuff, but I’ll probably only ever see them in videos.


Vandal Hearts

Strategy.  One player, saves.  Vandal Hearts is a tactical strategy game of the Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics style, but simpler than those games.  Vandal Hearts has 3d environments and 2d sprite characters, like FFT.  The game is more straightforward than that one, though.  I think it’s pretty good, it’s got enough depth to require definite strategy and thought, but isn’t so complex that you feel that you need to play with a guide by you at all times in order to make it worth playing at all, like games like FFT and the Ogre Battle games often seem to be like.  It’s a good game, a little under the radar but definitely worth checking out.  I like this game; it’s got a good balance of simplicity in design and solid strategy gameplay.  Also on Saturn, though that version is Japan-only.


WarHawk

Vehicular Combat(3d). One player, password only saving. WarHawk was considered one of the best early Playstation games in 1995, and I can see why. The game is great, and is definitely one of the best of the early Playstation lineup along with Wipeout. Warhawk is a futuristic 3d flight combat game from SingleTrac where you fly a helicopter around, destroying enemies and doing missions in order to save the world. Each level is an open area, so this game is not railed, it’s free flight. The graphics certainly look like the early PS1 visuals they are, but still, the style, good design, and great level designs still hold up. WarHawk is a lot of fun to play, as you fly around shooting enemies and trying to accomplish your mission. I like this kind of game, and this is one of the better flight combat games on the PS1. The game has live-action-video FMV cutscenes, which are entertaining enough but not great. They work I guess, but are a product of their time; it’s the gameplay that really makes this game good. WarHawk definitely has aged from 1995, and in visuals and gameplay you can tell that it’s an early Playstation game, but the high quality of the game shines through even so and it is still quite fun. The password-only save system is annoying, though, why couldn’t it just use the memory card? Still, this is a pretty good game, as long as you keep in mind that it is from 1995.


Wild 9

Platformer(2.5d)/Vehicular Action(3d).  One player, saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad Support.  Wild 9 is a 2.5d platform-action game from Shiny, the makers of Earthworm Jim. Advertised with the slogan “Torture your enemies!”, the game was aimed at an older audience than their past titles, and didn’t do as well as Shiny hoped. The game’s okay, but not great. The graphics are mediocre polygonal Playstation 3d, which means not that good. Sure, there are hardware limits, but the system can do better. Despite that though the game can be fun. Levels are large and full of enemies and some puzzles, and there are some bike shooting stages to mix up the platforming. It’s fun until it starts getting repetitive, which it will eventually, as the game somewhat lacks in variety. Your weapons are definitely entertaining, they focused the advertising on them for a reason — it’s obviously a major focal point of the design, and it works, some of the time — whacking the enemies around can be amusing for sure. Still though, maybe they should have spent more time on the gameplay, less on the weapons? Also, the “extreme” tone of the game gets annoying fast, as does the main character. Earthworm Jim this guy is not… Overall though, it’s at least an okay game and maybe better (graphics aside), and is another decent platform-action game in the Playstation’s library. The PSX really doesn’t get enough credit for its substantial 2d and 2.5d platformer library, I think… it’s actually pretty good.


WipEout

Racing(Futuristic).  One player (two player by system link only), saves (1 block), analog by neGcon only.  Wipeout is the original classic, the most influential futuristic racing game since F-Zero years earlier.  It helped spark the futuristic racing genre’s rapid growth, and the series is still around and great.  This is a series I’ve often loved.  The original game, though, has some real problems thanks to a few bad design decisions that were improved on with each successive release in the series.  On the positive side, Wipeout has very good graphics with some flashy special effects, great track designs, decent controls for a d-pad racing game, and outstanding design, music, and style.  However, the game is hard and incredibly unforgiving.  For some reason, Psygnosis made it so that when you hit a wall you lose almost all of your speed.  This single problem has a massive impact and makes it so that in order to win, which you must if you expect to finish the game, you must be perfect.  Memorize the courses exactly. Use your left and right airbrakes at the right time on each turn, and hope you don’t mess up.  It’s just too unforgivingly difficult, and I have never even finished the first, and easier and slower, of the game’s two circuits.  Also you can’t save during a circuit, and in the harder circuit you only go to the last track if you’re in first place overall after the first six tracks.  You only get three chances at each track to finish in the top three, or it’s game over.  Brutal.  The game has multiplayer, but system link only, lamely.

The game also was ported to PC and Saturn.  I’m not sure about the PC version, but in the Saturn version made a critical improvement in speed loss when you hit walls — instead of your acceleration going to zero as on PSX, on Saturn you just lose a bit of speed.  It makes the game incredibly more fun and playable.  The Saturn version has worse graphics (the effects particularly look less impressive), no real analog (even with the wheel it feels digital), and no system link multiplayer, but in gameplay it is vastly superior.  That is my favorite version of the game.


WipEout XL

Racing(Futuristic).  One player (two player by system link only), saves (1 block), analog by negCon only.  Wipeout XL is probably the most popular of the Playstation Wipeout games, and it is indeed a great game.  The first half of the game has you play each race as a single race, with saving between races.  Once you’ve beaten all six of these, though, you reach the second part, where you have to go through a circuit, Wipeout 1-style, and beat all six of them with only one try for the whole thing and limited continues.  This is, like with the first game, crazy hard; I’ve never managed it.  It’s a nasty design change, and is even harder than Wipeout 1’s circuits because you only get three tries for the whole thing, not three tries for each track, regenerating once you beat the race.  It’s just crazy hard at that point, I wish they’d stuck with the design of the first part of the game throughout.  It wasn’t until Wipeout 64, and then Wipeout 3 after it, that Psygnosis finally stopped it with the circuits, and went to designs where you could save after every race.  I just wish they’d started sooner.  Still, this game is a true classic, and definitely is something worth playing.  Despite its flaws it’s a great game.  I wish that the whole game allowed you to save between races, that’s such a better design for games like this… oh well.  It is still a great game, certainly.

As with the first game you have to use the d-pad or neGcon/racing wheel, and racing wheels just aren’t that great for Wipeout, I’ve found.   The game is easier with d-pad than a wheel, which means much less precision than an analog stick has, and it does affect how much fun the game is, particularly compared to Wipeout 64, which has very similar graphics, but analog controls and 4-player splitscreen.  The solution to this is the Performance Dual Impact Gamepad; turn it to Wheel mode, and this becomes almost a whole new game!  WOXL with the Dual Impact is outstanding; it give the game the great, precise analog controls that it needs.  This game is incredibly fun with the Dual Impact, and I would regommend getting one for this game alone.  I still do think that Wipeout 64 is better than Wipeout XL on game design grounds, though; I really find these “beat 6 races with a 3 continue limit per race unless you earn credits by finishing second or third” circuits, as this game becomes after its first section, overly frusterating.  WO64’s championships which let you save between each race are better designed.  Plus, four player splitscreen!  Still, WOXL is a great, great game.  The graphics are good, better looking than the first game in many ways, and the gameplay is similarly improved.  It is, as with most Wipeout games, a very difficult, challenging game which can be brutal and unforgiving, but if you have the skill, there is a lot here to like.  I do think other Wipeout games are better than this game, but it is a pretty good one.  Also on PC and Saturn (released in Japan and Europe only on Saturn), though the music was replaced with different stuff in those versions, and the Saturn port has no multiplayer as well.  The Saturn port does, however, have good 3D Controller analog support.


WipEout 3

Racing(Futuristic).  Two player (four player via system link with two players on each system), saves (1 block), Analog Gamepad and negCon support.  Wipeout 3 has outstanding, high resolution graphics for the PS1, a lot of content, multiple gameplay modes, two player splitscreen, analog support on the dualshock controller so that finally PSX Wipeout has controls about as good as the N64 version, and more.  Featureswise it sounds outstanding, and it is.  Some of the tracks are very cool looking, and the graphics do impress me a lot for the system.  As with all Wipeout games, it’s very good at its core.  However, gameplay and design wise the game is somewhat disappointing.  First, again, the game is insanely hard and technical.  This is perhaps the most technical game of all the 5th gen Wipeouts, and that’s even including the PSX version of the first game.  The courses are narrow, twisting, and require great precision, skill, and memorization to master.  The addition of a turbo boost that drains your shields doesn’t help either, the game expects you to use it but it makes things harder more than anything. I wish they hadn’t put it in, really.  The loss of the Quake weapon is also unfortunate, I liked it.  The biggest problem with the game, though, is the amount of technical skill it requires to get good at.  This is a much, much harder game than Wipeout 64 or Wipeout Fusion, and is definitely harder than XL as well.  When it’s good Wipeout 3 is very good, but it’ll be frustrating and tedious much more of the time as you fail again and again until you get good at each track and speed.  The question is, do you have the patience?  Ultimately, it’s great, but I wish it was a little easier, like 64 and Fusion.  WO3 is for the hardcore fan.  Still, it’s a must-play.  There’s an enhanced version of this with more tracks, Wipeout 3 Special Edition (also for PS1), that was unfortunately only released in Europe.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
This entry was posted in Classic Games, Dual Impact Gamepad, Game Opinion Summaries, Lists, neGcon, PlayStation, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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